fear 2.

Monday, January 23, 2012

i dealt with low-level anxiety the best way i knew how,
for years and in quiet.
and now, with hindsight clear as day,
i realize how intertwined in my daily being, it really was.
like, one of the many times i went to visit my best friend from high school in north carolina,
where she was attending college (one of my FAVORITE trips each year, no less,)
for some reason, the last trip, (and for the first time EVER,) i couldn't get on the plane.
no idea why.  no bad experience, pre 9/11, just a thought.  a fearful thought.
and it swept through me like hurricane.
somehow i boarded, but then learned my connecting flight was on a puddle jumper.  
stuck in atlanta, i almost took off and ran to rent a car to drive the rest of the way,
but my mom talked sense in to me.  
however i sat, white knuckled and eyes closed.
i obsessed about my flight home the entire visit and THEN couldn't even go through with it.
hitched a ride back with my friends' family members to avoid flying.
THEN took a train home from chicago.
so out of control.
or the time i had accepted a job to work on a small cruise ship off the baja peninsula, for six months.  the opportunity of a lifetime.  had my uniform and everything.  
but i never went.  the fear and 'what if's' too overwhelming.
so i had an intense fear of flying.  big deal, you say.
nothing special, right?  i agree.  we all fear something.  
and everyone else thinks we're weird for fearing that one thing(s).
but for me, this 'state,' this 'nervous' state,
tarted to fester in to something more as we were wedding planning.
(and let's be honest. . . I did the planning.  and that was fine.  i love to organize and plan things.)
and brian and i agreed we would do most of it ourselves.  and we did,
wanting so much to take the burden off our parents so they could enjoy the day without stress.
but the stress i put on myself was all-consuming and nearly did me in.
causing what i THOUGHT, was a nervous breakdown.
i don't know that i became bridezilla, i was just so entrenched in making sure every detail was taken care of, that every last corner was covered.  i wanted it to go flawlessly, and it did.  we had a huge wedding party and a huge invite list.  and i wanted everyone to be happy and comfortable and relaxed and prepared.
but i was unraveling. 
i got my first glimpse of REAL anxiety, beyond the nervous and fearful thinking, the jitters that flying brought on,
lasting about a week, months before our wedding.
i was at home and remember feeling so weird. . .kind of out of my body.
my head felt so full and thick.  not in pain, but just. . .foggy.
it became a brain tumor, in my mind.  maybe an aneurysm.
this was it!  i was going to die.  before my wedding.  
i could picture the headlines, a game i'd played so often. . .
"young woman dies from a brain aneurysm.  found face first in her wedding planning binder."
yes, crazy.  and irrational.  but that was the state of my mind.
i remember taking a walk with my mom, who coaxed me out of bed.
"you're ok, liz.  you're going to be fine.  you just need to slow down."
those words were comforting, but didn't give voice to what i was feeling and WHY?
what did these symptoms mean and why weren't they going away?
was i sick?  was i just tired?  i didn't understand any of it so just continued to deal.
it panned in and out in the upcoming weeks prior to our wedding.
the night before our wedding, i shook uncontrollably at dinner with friends and later, as i tried to fall asleep.
my body felt numb.  i had no appetite.  the fog was thick and heavy.
i felt weak, physically.  cold.  tense.  alone.  like i was stuck under something.  unable to focus or even hold a conversation.
our wedding day, i pulled myself together.  i hid it.  i had the normal wedding day jitters on top of it. . .nauseous, agitated, tense.  thought i was going to pass out.  didn't know how i was going to make it down the aisle.  
but i did, somehow.  a smile on my face.  no one ever would've known.
and of course, i just kept telling myself, "if i can just get past this day.  this moment.  i'll be fine.  i'll be over this anxiety for good."
i remember walking back down the aisle, brian's hand in mind, fighting back sobs as the mass ended. 
 (can't tell, can ya'?  so easy to hide.  and THIS was the most relaxed i'd felt in months.):)
"thank GOD it's done.  it's over.  now i can finally relax."
but then there was the foreboding flight ahead, our honeymoon.  
even during our reception, i was obsessing over our flight in two days. . .
one of my biggest fears again. 
"well, we've had a lovely wedding, but what if?  what if our plane goes down?  what if all of this planning, all of this fun, done?  we never make it to hawaii?  we never see our families again. . ."
it was so ugly.  i've spoken with so many brides who all say how magical and amazing their wedding day was.  "the best day of my life."
i have never been able to say that with total honesty.
it was seamless.  it was filled with love and family and friends and dancing that didn't stop.
and i took moments, throughout the night, to breathe it in and soak it up.
and i was so excited to FINALLY be getting married to brian, who i loved so much.
but it was so overshadowed with fear, that all the beauty and REAL joy in the day was sucked out.
despite all my talk about 'no mistakes,' i can't say i wouldn't redo some things in life, now knowing what i know.  i don't necessarily 'regret' anything that's happened, because they've all been learning experiences, but oh,
THAT day, i would do all over again, if i could.  now knowing what i want and what i'm capable of, now being who i am.  it would've been simple.  quiet.  intimate.  just the two of us and our immediate family.  or maybe even just us.  on a dock over a lake.  or in the mountains. 
when my middle sister got married, having a sweet, cozy barn wedding on a crisp fall evening, i was overwhelmed with appreciation and adoration and a "holy shit.  "THIS is how to do it.  THIS is how we shoud've done it.  THIS is me.  THIS is what i would do."  (or something similar.  maybe a little northwoods cabin wedding. . .ahhh. . .i digress.) 
but i mean that in the best way possible.  it was perfect.  so filled with love.  no anxiety.  so clear and stress free and just for them.  it was such a blast and so genuine to who they are as individuals and as a couple.
but hey, as i stated in my last couple blogs, no mistakes, right?  i've learned so much from my own experiences, good and bad.  and now i will just make sure my children, should they choose to get married, will do it that way. . .
anyway, going off on a tangent there. . .
our honeymoon, 2 weeks in hawaii, was amazing.  but again, i spent a lot of the in-between moments, worrying about our flight home.  or getting into a car accident there.  or, God, you name it.  my mind is creative and makes up the craziest of stories.  my grandmother, passed away in hawaii decades ago, well, i'm not going to lie.  those thoughts crossed my mind too. . ."surely, that will be me!"
can you see?
this didn't stop.  i couldn't turn it off.  in my mind there was always something lurking around the next corner.  and my worrying, would, i thought, stave it off, or prepare me for the worst.
we survived the wedding, we survived the flights.
and in my harried mind, it worked.  it sucked, it was a shitty way to live, but it was working!
i'd had a relatively illness-free, accident-free, pain-free life.
and within a month, we were pregnant.  
i was over the moon with joy and excitement over this.  for the first time in. . .my God, forever, GENUINELY excited about something, without fear.
and i am thankful for that blessing.  
i felt (and, have always felt,) so at home in pregnancy.  totally uninvolved with myself, 
and living for someone else, finally.
THAT was a magical time for me.  my naivete and ignorance about all the what if's of carryin a baby, delivery, raising a child, was a blessing and brought me great respite from the months i'd spent in a hazy fog, planning our wedding, worrying about flights, brain tumors, heart attacks, whatever.
becoming a mother, if you are one, well, you know this already.
is a shock to the system.
no matter how prepared you think you are, how many items you got off of your registry from your multitude of baby showers,
how many books you read, birthing classes you took, babysitting jobs you had as a teenager,
none of it matters.
the minute you give birth, you're propelled in to an alien world.
one, where NONE of that, let's be honest, really aids you in your battle of raising a child.
oh sure, boppy's are nice (although, i hated them. . .never used 'em,) bottle drying racks were great (i don't know why. . .i loved those things.)  loved my breast pump.  but the rest. . .whatever.
there's no bottle drying rack big enough for all the tears shed, those first few months, due to sleep deprivation, frustration over a baby that won't eat, or who's tummy is simply upset or they won't stop crying and you don't know why or what to do, so you just cry with them.
and as we know, the joys, big and small, help to alleviate the pain and heartache, disappointments and frustrations.
although i truly felt 'called' to being a mother, wanting it more than anything.
for THAT job to become my career, i was just as ill-equipped as the next.
walking out of the hospital was. . .otherworldly.  
(now, obviously, people, i'm dramatic in my words.  not to create drama or exaggerate my experience, it's truly how i see things, which is different, i understand.  
when i say something is magical, i mean it.
or amazing.  or ridiculous.  i mean it.
unless i'm being sarcastic, which is my other way of being.  and you'll pick up on that right away.  jack told me the other day, that's how my voice always sounds.)
. . .another tangent.  anywho. . .
i am KEENLY aware, even today, of people, my surroundings, the moods and vibes of certain situations.   
so for me, EVERYTHING is monumental. . .probably where a lot of my fear got its upbringing, my view of life.
regardless, something as simple as walking out of the hospital with a new baby, 
was a spiritual experience.  i remember walking out, on a beautiful august day,
being HIT with light.  the kind where you have to shield your eyes or cover your face.
as if i'd been isolated in incarceration for 10 years.
or had been born again, only this time, there was two of us.:)
everything was SO green and amazing.  same car.  same husband.  WHOLE new world.
it was awesomely terrifying.
i bawled the whole way home, the realization of the magnitude of what we now had to do,
holding me down in the back seat, as i sat cradling jack's car seat, 
protecting him from. . .whatever might hurt us on our car ride home.
my fear was so great.  it only lasted the ride.
a few comforting words from brian, helped me stand up and move forward.
and that's the funny thing, i've learned about fear, no matter how paralyzing it feels, 
IF you keep moving, physically.  your mind will follow.  no matter how crappy you feel,
how tightly you feel squeezed in its grip.
you always move past it and out of it, if you yourself, keep moving.
i wiped away my tears and that was it.
i was a mom.
post partum depression never made an appearance.  i feared it, of course.
had friends who had dealt with 'IT.'  even took medication for it, but not me.
i was tired.  overwhelmed some days, totally exhausted, but never found it hard to get out of bed or function.  i was grateful for that.
never felt numbness towards my baby.  only love and adoration and total vulnerability.
but so easily, that can swallow women up whole, throwing them in to despair.
but i plugged along nicely.
settling in to one, two, three babies, with ease.  (laugh.)
i just did it and i did it (and do it,) the best i can.
but all along the way, there was an underlying current of fear, progressing with the birth of each child.  
a fear that had started with jack. . .that i could never leave him.  never.
i suddenly had the most intense fear of leaving them, that i thought i would never break out of.
and this is totally normal, among mothers.  in our minds, WE are IT!
without us, they're screwed.
how would they cope?  how would they get by?  how would they function?!
with jack and even after grace, that fear kept me from doing a lot of things. . .vacations, babysitters, i didn't trust anyone.
i remember we had to fly out of town for a wedding and i obsessed over it for a YEAR, people.
every day, i tried to figure out how we'd get out of it, or how i'd get out of it, because i hated to fly.  HATED to fly.  anything else sounded better.  breaking a leg.  falling from a three story building. . .getting sick.  i was so terrified.  i prayed to get out of it.
but i didn't.  and i went.  and i had fun.
and i kept thinking, if i can just get through this, go and come back in one piece, 
i'll be fine.  i'll be cured.  i'll never have to fear anything again.
that's not how it works.
and that was my pattern. . ."if i could just. . .if i could just. . .i'll be fine."
this is life.  there's ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS something else to replace an old fear with a new one.
and that's what i did. . .if it wasn't flying, an upcoming trip, it was terminal illness.  it was bacterial meningitis.  it was a mild stroke.  it was a pulmonary embolism. 
it was anything i'd heard about on the news happening to me.
now, if you can see here, people who are anxiety sufferers, or 'nervous sufferers' as i've learned to call it now, are SO self-absorbed.  very narcissitic in our thinking, it almost seems.
but unlike narcisism,
we'd prefer another life than our own.  one less wrought with personal anquish. 
we'd much RATHER be focused on others and THEIR happiness.  life in general, not ourselves.
a life free of fear and full of fun and excitement.  no vanity.  no power.  just free.
but i had just reserved myself to the fact that this was my life.
this was my cross to bear.  that occasional bouts of fear were a part of me, maybe even genetic.  that i would just deal.  everyone has their lot in life. . .this must be mine.
but things that we need to change, or need to get rid of, often have a way of working themselves out. . .or at least nagging at you until you finally wake up to what you're missing.
this was getting old and i was hell bent on making a change, no matter what it took.


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