Yeah, I have anxiety. It’s not that much of a shocker if you live in my head or share a house with me. By the way, have I mentioned lately how patient my husband is?
I try hard to hide it, mainly because I fear that if I let it all out, people will realize that I really really have anxiety. Though my husband knows and he still hasn’t run away. No, he patiently gets up and checks noises for me at night, and understands if I just can’t do something.
Because sometimes, I can’t.
My particular brand of lifestyle doesn’t help my anxiety. Being a special needs mom opens you up to a whole world of stuff you never knew you had to worry about. An added bonus is that people send you links to stories about other children with issues, sometimes life threatening, and then you worry you might come across as unfeeling because you choose not to follow the story of the child fighting brain cancer. Even though the reason why you don’t follow is because you’ll feel too much, and when you feel too much, you end up rocking in a corner or not getting out of bed – which isn’t very good for your lifestyle.
I also believe that anyone living with a person with an illness or disability has a form of PTSD. Except that you’re never post-trauma, not really. Something will come up. Something will always come up. It’s one of the guarantees in this life.
Add to that, things that help anxiety are things like plenty of sleep, taking time for oneself, a hobby you can enjoy – all that self-care stuff that can be very hard to do when you have a child that wakes up at 5 am no matter what, or who needs constant supervision.
Really, my lifestyle is exactly the opposite of what is needed to keep anxiety at bay.
“But Phoebe, you’re so happy all the time! You don’t seem phased by things!”
Yeah, I know. Because I make that effort at times. I choose to put that smile on my face because my options are find the ridiculousness or do the ugly cry. I usually don’t have time for the ugly cry anyway. I choose to not let certain things bother me. Messy house? Well, if you don’t like it, clean it, I’m too busy surviving. Cereal for dinner? Hell, it’s good enough for breakfast, right? You want to wear those clothes again? Well, it’s Saturday, we have no plans, go for it. My laid-backness is a coping strategy as much as it is a personality trait.
Honestly, it’s exhausting at times, being in my head. I have more conversations in my head than I do with other people (and if you’ve ever been around me and know how much I can talk, then you’re now really impressed!) I have that voice in my head that points out all the doom and gloom and wants to fixate on the scary things. I have to talk that voice off the proverbial edge all the time, or at least make it deals.
Like last night. I woke up at two a.m. for no good reason. I thought I heard someone at my bedroom door so got up to see if Maura was wandering the house. She wasn’t. But someone left a light on and as I flipped the switch, there was a tiny crackling noise at the switch. My brain instantly went to “OMG, I’ve just set the house on fire!” and realized I was going to be awake for a while now. I eyed the smoke detector a few feet away from the light switch and prayed the battery was still good. I eyed the sleeping dog, hoping she’d alert us to any blaze that might occur from a faulty light switch. I went back to my bed and watched “Serendipity” – because if one must be up at 2:30 in the morning, it might as well be with something nice, like a John Cusack movie. My brain wandered to things like “Do we even have a carbon monoxide detector near the furnace? I know we have one, but is there one near there?” and made safety checklists for the next day and thought about all the coffee I’d need once I was truly up for the day.
I’m on my second cup by the way. Which is a bit stupid because caffeine can heighten anxiety. But I like to live dangerously, and also, I hope the prozac works well today.
That’s not a joke – part of my own self-care is taking a happy pill every day.
I’m sure there are other ways to handle it. I do those things to. Well, maybe not the “exercise releases endorphins that make you happier” part. I should probably do that.
I’m not writing all this for pity or compassion or the like. It’s just part of my weird normal that I’m sharing, because if so many of you come to this blog because you can relate to our life with Maura, then you’re probably relating to all this as well. It sort of comes with the glamorous lifestyle that we lead. My smiling face and sense of humor aren’t masks to hide the pain, they’re defenses against the anxiety that tries to overtake me at times. Every time I can find the humor in the situation, even if I’m laughing at myself, means I win another round in this constant battle. Every time I can admit that I can’t do something and ask for help, I like to think that somehow, I’m actually winning. I’m not forcing myself to be something I’m not. I’m embracing all the parts of me, the ones that do silly dances in the car with her teen daughter to Taylor Swift songs and the one who needs to get up to make sure she really locked the front door. The one who can maintain optimism despite all life throws at her.
I have anxiety. I have optimism. I have no shame about either. It’s just all part of my life. And at the end of the day, my life is pretty damn good.