Anxiety and Me

2 Nov


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.



6 Responses to “Anxiety and Me”

  1. franhunne4u November 2, 2015 at 1:12 pm #

    You are absolutely right not to be ashamed for your Happy Pill! You take care of yourself, that is not worth shame. Like a diabetic needs insuline, your brain needs Prozac as it does not produce enough of the endorphines it should. So no shame. It is medication, prescribed medication. And you take a sound dose, not “many pills make me very happy” … You are ok, Phoebe, even when you are not … that means even when you are not perfect – we all are not perfect. And your anxiety is you just not being perfect, but being human. Better that than having anger management issues.

  2. Caroline November 2, 2015 at 1:21 pm #

    ve this, I am too a special needs mom, I have suffered with anxiety since I was young. It has unfortunately due to circumstances gotten worse. It’s exhausting and draining, sometimes I welcome the depression that hit because it gives my body and mind a break from the anxiety.

  3. laura November 2, 2015 at 2:11 pm #

    OMGsh, I think we might be the very best of friends.

  4. Darcy Pennington Arnold November 2, 2015 at 2:34 pm #

    Phoebe, I know (if you believe in reincarnation) we were sisters. You make me smile, laugh and cry. You so coherently (in spite of having anxiety) put your thoughts and feelings out there and I so relate. Happy pill – how would we survive without them? LOTS IF HUGS!!

  5. Joy M Newcom November 2, 2015 at 3:56 pm #

    I’ve been doing the special needs parents life-style for nearly a quarter of a century. Like you, I’m blessed with an incredibly supportive husband who is more than an equal partner in all things special needs PLUS regular “stuff.” Last December, he fell 40 ft but lived to tell us about it – while walking around. (Thank, God, because two in a wheelchair with bathroom cares and without an ability to think as clearly as most of the world does really WOULD do me in.) On top of everything, at the time of his fall/recuperation, our youngest was about to head to China (his first time abroad). Of course, anxiety is my life.

    Now … here’s the __?__ part (can’t use “crazy” or “messed up” so maybe “bizarre” or “ironic”?). I tried to get counseling with a noted area counselor (one everyone swears by) just to be sure I WAS coping as well as I thought I was in the weeks prior to my husband’s fall. It was a 50th birthday present to myself. However, after four sessions (of eight planned for), I learned that – contrary to what the counselor believed (because I had asked previous to coming to counseling – just not asked the people who really knew), our insurance would NOT cover sessions for a mental health checkup. (That would make too-the-hell-much-sense.) Not only that. She couldn’t diagnose me as clinically depressed or with any other diagnosis that would get the almost $1,000 in counseling paid for, because when laying my life bare, I hadn’t given her such indications. Apparently, in her words, I … “have a great deal of things to cause anxiety and high levels of stress, but you do an excellent job managing your coping.” I didn’t have time or opportunity to argue with her in subsequent sessions.

    Therefore … when my husband fell AND while I waited to be sure his life would be saved (thank you, St. Mary’s/Rochester-Mayo Clinic) AND while my son and I were holed up in a hotel nearby where I could care for him and his special needs as seamlessly as possible WHILE being as present as possible for my hubby plus dealing with investigations/lawyers/insurance – AND when calming our other son with reassurances that, yes, life would be fine enough for him to spend a month in China guilt-free on a college learning trip … I had at least THIS to hold onto: Apparently some counselor thought I had my $h!# together enough to manage. Whoop-de-ding-dong-dolly.

    I have spent the last year attempting to yoga-meditate-dark chocolate-occasional glass of wine-writing courses-exercise-community theatre-singing loudly-angrylettertothegovernoraboutMedicaidchanges my way from day to day. It’s exhausting. I repeat: Coping … is … exhausting.

    When I asked the counselor how I would know if she was wrong, if I really was NOT coping as well as she thought, she told me, “You will know.” Great, I thought, I now have THAT to worry about: Will I really know? Really? I guess my anxiety will answer that for me.

    Anyway … thanks for laying your life out there regularly. It’s great to have someone like you in the blogosphere who knows the level of anger created when another mom (one of those dime-store varieties who doesn’t have a child with special needs) listens to what your day might have been like (and it has included poop and pee disposal for an adult son who weighs more than me every four-hours using unconventional means) and then she answers: “Oh, I know. We’ve all been there.”

    Actually, I think I’ve finally gotten rid of all of those friends … I’m left with some pretty good ones who just know to listen and say NOTHING other than, “Would you like to come over for wine and chocolate?” Maybe during the next quarter century, I’ll find more to replace the ones I wear out or move away. Maybe … hopefully …

    In response to answer your last question: “Happy pill – how would we survive without them?” Yes, hugs … but a whole of a hell lot more too. HUGS PLUS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    A sincere thank you to you for blogging. Of all the blogs I follow, I always read yours. Come to think of it you might officially belong in my list of coping strategies. THANK YOU!

  6. Edna November 2, 2015 at 7:24 pm #

    Thanks for sharing. I have anxiety too. I never realized how much until I recently got married and someone lived with me close enough and in the middle of the night enough to get to see my worry about. . . the house catching fire or my headache that is, I’m sure, a brain tumor, and. . . Anyhow, you are not alone.

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