I write lists. I update them every day. They are full of things that I must get done, things I should get done, and things I am being overly optimistic about getting done. Honestly, I don’t know if I make those lists because I am so overwhelmed that I am afraid I won’t remember to do these things unless I write them down (which is true) or if I make them so that my anxiety will have more “stuff” to do. So that I am busy busy busy and don’t have time to sit down and realize that I am anxious.
I start obsessing about money and stocking up on things. I plan out our expenses for the month and even when we have enough money, we never have enough money. I take inventory of our house supplies (food, cleaning supplies, toiletries etc) and decide we need more. Even if we have back up of a certain item, I decide it won’t be enough. I re-add and re-subtract and re-budget and re-allocate for all the possible scenarios of the month ahead. If it turns out we do have enough money comfortably left over, then its time for me to think of all the things that COULD be expenses. And I re-add and re-subtract and re-budget and re-allocate again and again and again.
I am trying, aching, grasping at anything to give me some sense of control. Because I can’t control the thoughts one after another after another. So I have to control something. I have to.
When I have anxiety I hate the go-with-the-flow people. Hate is a strong word, but it is pure jealousy and anger and frustration I feel towards you. I hate you if you are able to say “oh, it will work out, I’m sure.” I hate you for being able to be calm and not being as worried as me. Then I feel like I must take on your worry. Because if you aren’t worrying about it, that means I have to. And I will resent you. Because I already have anxiety right now and YOU ARE MAKING IT WORSE.
I know when I am getting anxiety because suddenly everything irritates me. Our couch cushions aren’t fluffy enough, our comforter on our bed no longer looks new and it drives me crazy. I suddenly want to throw out everything we own. All my clothes need to go. Our kitchen needs to be turned on its side and emptied out. Gia’s toys are suffocating me. I need more boxes to hide them because if I have to look at another stuffed animal on the floor or stacked against the wall I. MIGHT. LOSE. IT.
My husband gets it. My best friends get it. My mom gets it. Sometimes my anxiety calls for me cancelling all “fun” plans and just trying to make it through the day. It sounds dramatic but it really isn’t. If you didn’t know me well, you would never be able to tell. “Making it through the day” might look like me dressed up and out on a date with Will or running errands or working on a huge work assignment. But in my head it is constant thoughts, constant stress, just trying to let go of thinking thinking thinking every second. Sometimes my anxiety calls for me to have a strong drink with a group of our friends so I can just step away and stop thinking so much. It looks different all the time.
The worst part is who I am to the people who love me. To the people in my life who don’t know the thinking thinking thinking feeling, to my husband and my daughter. I am with Gia 24/7, but I am not with her when I have anxiety. I am watching her play and feeding her and talking to her and singing to her but I am not really doing any of those things. I am thinking thinking thinking of whats next. I need to clean, I need to unload the dishwasher, I need to pay that one bill, I need to make that appointment, I need to get more work done and there are still two hours until nap time. How can I make it until nap time?
She snaps me out of it sometimes. Like today, I felt like I was suffocating in the house. I felt a force field of tension surrounding me like a stretched-too-thin bubble, threatening to pop if Gia happened to throw a fit or pull every book out of the book case. So I took her outside, with a blanket and some bubbles and a ball. And I sat her on the blanket and she immediately crawled onto the grass and started crumbling leaves and dirt in her hands. I lunged toward her to put her back on the blanket and pry the dry grass blades out of her fingers when I caught myself.
I stopped. I turned my head up and let sunshine soak into my cheeks. I felt the bubble that rides around in my chest when I am on an upswing of anxiety. And I looked back at Gia. Gia in the moment and Gia who doesn’t know what anxiety is but probably knows exactly what anxiety is. She knows when I am there and when I am really there. The thoughts racing through my head that there could be spiders or stray dog poop in the grass or something poisonous that makes its way into her mouth or a mean dog that jumps the fence or a creepy guy staring at us through his window consumed me. I wondered how we would make it through the summer with my bee phobia. I thought about how blissfully happy she is to explore the ground, the grass, the outdoors. How she literally squeals with delight when the wind blows her hair off her face. I worry that I will rob her of those moments with my fear. With my worry. With the anxiety that comes and goes. Some years I may only have some sporadic days here and there where it starts creeping up before I notice. Some years it is months. This year it has been months.
I don’t want her to remember this part of me. But it is a part of me. It has been as long as I can remember. Sometimes it is just a little, tiny part of me, not even worth mentioning. In the pie chart graph of my life, at times anxiety would take up less than a 1% sliver. Those are times of no lists, or lists only seldom glanced at. Those are times of letting things go and lots of laughter and really being there – smelling and tasting and feeling and listening and enjoying. Other times it is a large pie slice, one that I can’t ignore and pretend away. Today I am riding a wave, hoping it is taking me back to those 1% days.