And I love it.
I started about three weeks after our daughter was born. She was our second so I was confident we had all the parenting bases covered.
Then she got RSV. Her 2½-year-old brother simultaneously came down with pneumonia. It was January.
My new friend anxiety came to stay.
I found myself unbelievably bad at coping with a lack of control over these illnesses that would probably be OK but could be potentially devastating. My active imagination turned on me.
The kids recovered, as kids tend to do, but now my body recognized and welcomed anxiety. The habit had formed.
Things were not going back to the way they were.
After a year or so of living with this heightened awareness of possible tragedy, I felt heart palpitations. Well, this is new. What are these? Is this bad? Why is this happening? Am I going to die and leave my children motherless?
I found a doctor. It was not an underlying heart disease. It was me. My brain.
Maybe the increased anxiety would’ve come with age anyway, but I blame our children, in the best possible way. Nothing mattered this much before. They shattered all my delusions of control.
Every day we are tasked to keep these children safe and nurtured, and every day there are surprise twists to the challenge and a million possibilities for failure. Though this task is beautiful and humbling, it can only be so because it’s hard. Really hard.
Ideal circumstances for anxiety to flourish. Unknowns. High stakes. Sleepless nights.
I finally followed through on a recommendation from a friend and called a counselor. I had never been to therapy before. We set up an appointment.
It was transformative.
As Mom, I want to bear all the burdens. I don’t want to add to anyone else’s emotional load. But I couldn’t be a burden to this objective professional. There was a freedom in saying things out loud to someone who had no personal investment in what I was feeling.
So I talked. I vented. I confessed. My counselor pushed my thinking. She gently guided problem-solving, suggested breathing techniques, provided the space to fall apart and reassemble.
Things got better. Not fixed, but better.
Therapy is a luxury. I’m fortunate that I only have a co-pay for each visit. My husband is able to watch the kids during the workday for an hour a month so I can go talk about myself. I have friends familiar with therapy who gave me the nudge to make the call.
I’m blessed. And I still need professional help.
A big takeaway my counselor has given me is that three of the best things to enable good mental health are sleep, exercise, and talk therapy.
Talk therapy is inconvenient, hard, and can be expensive. For me, it’s necessary.
I’m still well-acquainted with anxiety. No doubt we’ll be bosom buddies for the rest of my life. I plan to use every healthy coping mechanism available to combat this toxic relationship, including time with a mental health professional.