NOTE: If you suffer from anxiety, I’m sharing this post for you my friends. But I also know that sometimes these sorts of stories can cause anxiety too, so I’m acknowledging that at the outset.
It was a lovely day; I felt tired but in good spirits. Not only did I feel happy, but I was in a productive mood, and was smashing through my to-do list: one item was to make an appointment with the doctor for travel immunisations.
Before the appointment, I sent a quick email to my husband at his request. He had a presentation at work this day and forgot the slides.
I rang him.
“There was nothing with the file name you said. I found something named similar so I emailed you that. Just have a quick look and let me know if it’s the right thing.”
He said sure.
I didn’t hear back from him at that point so I assumed it was what he was after.
A good hour later, I glanced at the clock and decided to leave early enough to grab a coffee on the way to the appointment. Fifteen minutes later, would see me sitting happily waiting in the reception area. Does anyone else enjoy those forced waiting periods when you can just sit quietly (without kids)? That sounds rather desperate, doesn’t it.
Anyway, so I’m sitting there, sipping my coffee and scrolling through emails on my phone. Content. Enjoying the moment.
My phone rings.
“Hello!”I said brightly.
It was my husband.
“Hey, I looked at the file and it wasn’t the one I needed,” he said casually.
Immediately, the happy feeling was replaced with a deep sinking feeling, and my mind raced. He forgot to look…he didn’t know I would be out…I knew his talk would be on soon…and I wouldn’t be home in time…I knew I couldn’t help out. All that ran through my head in a millisecond.
The phone felt hot against my ear.
“Sorry love. I’m out now,” I said simply, “I won’t be back home for another hour or so.”
I’ll add in here that it was really out of my control AND my husband wasn’t in the least bit upset (he had an older copy of the slides he could use). So, it REALLY wasn’t a big deal and there wasn’t tension in the conversation, but I couldn’t help but feel like I let him down. It’s part of being a sensitive soul.
While I was talking on the phone, I glanced straight ahead of me to nothing in particular, but an image caught my eye as I said goodbye to my husband.
What I saw made me immediately nauseous.
I quickly looked away from the picture and down at my feet, desperately fighting panic. Below is what I saw. Oh, it still gives me a sweat. I took a quick picture before I left the surgery…and it was so hard to do so but I wanted to write this post, to share how anxiety plays out in life and how to overcome.
I looked down. The image of needles and skin magnified in my mind and I felt both the strong impulse to both LOOK at the picture and the desperate fight of NOT wanting to look. Needles stabbing skin. My mind distorted the image into an ugly mass of skin, and needles pulling at it. I looked up again, confronting the poster in an effort to dispel the sudden fear but it was too late. I looked to the ground again.
I kept my eyes down and carefully rested one arm on my knee while slowly placing the coffee cup under the chair. If you would have been sitting in the waiting room with me, I don’t think you would have noticed anything amiss.
But inside me, a war had began: between me and my body. The bluish-green carpet at my feet began to blur and swirl before my eyes. My breathing grew heavy like I had a pile of bricks on my chest, my skin pricked with a sudden heat and I grabbed my knees tightly with my hands. I was holding my knees in an effort not to fall. Fall where? I don’t know. I felt a deeply nauseous.
A wave of frustration come over me at how my body betrays me sometimes against my will! Because the thing is: honestly, I was totally fine with everything that happened moments before. It was just normal stuff. I felt frustrated because this sort of panic for me is rare now, because I have developed a host of skills over the years to mange anxiety…and this time, it sprung on me without any warning. I’ve sat in the same spot many times, and seen that picture many times without it being a problem.
I’ve been down this road a long time. In this instance, it was combination of deep happiness replaced with the sinking feeling (it’s part of the joy and burden of being a person who experiences emotion very deeply), plus tiredness, but a hit of caffeine, plus the bright lights (that seems all of a sudden very bright), and the heat of the phone (which all of a sudden seems very hot), and the picture of the back with needles. It all happened so fast and all of those things combined as an assault on my person and I didn’t get a chance to regulate myself. I am objective about my anxiety and so I can write about it quite freely because of that.
Fear…anxiety…it’s been with me all my life. When I was a child, I was terrified of the dark and was often plagued with vivid nightmares. I’ve come to accept that anxiety as part of me. And it will never totally go away. Most of the time, Anxiety and I live quite harmoniously together. Yes, that is possible. I’ve learned to manage it very well, but it’s always there lurking. For the most part, I shut anxiety down in the very early stages so I’m rarely plagued with full-on panic these days…but it can still happen…and that moment at the doctors is testament to that.
So I sat there in the reception area, waiting for the doctor, and forced myself to breathe deeply. It was quite a long wait so I made an effort to calm myself and pray. I tried looking at the picutre a few times in this period but I couldn’t overcome the nauseousness at this point. I debated with myself whether to move out of view of the picture or not. I didn’t move. I felt frozen. The picture as a focus point was fixed now…so I stopped fighting it, and let the anxiety be there. I’m not sure how long I sat there before I looked at my phone again to read articles to distract myself. By the time my name was called, I was more calm but the flickers of light in my eyes signalised the onset of a potential migraine. The rest of the day was okay…but a lot of effort on my part was about compensating for the blip.
I tell this story to demonstrate how anxiety can play a part in every day life…even when I’m okay, and I know many others struggle in this way too. Anxiety also plays a part in parenting…and I’ve had to learn two main things: one is not to be motivated by anxiety when I parent and the second is how to be the mum I want to be when I’m struggling with anxiety. Below are some main points:
1. Be Aware
I don’t enjoy public swimming pools. I still go with the kids sometimes, but I prefer the beach. If I’m struggling with anxiety on a particular day, then I won’t put myself in a position (unless I have to) that will make it a lot worse. So, as an example: if I was having a bad day on school holidays, I might go to the beach, or have a quiet day at home with the kids rather than going to the pool. Awareness is so important when it comes to combatting anxiety, and this is not to limit what you do, but more about giving you the power to do what you want in a positive way. I wrote about the things that set me up for a good week here.
2. Be Objective
I think the biggest challenge with anxiety is it can so easily become part of your psyche. It can really MESS WITH YOUR HEAD! I treat anxiety like I would if I had an ankle sprain. If I sprain my ankle, I would elevate, put ice on it and rest it…knowing it would get better eventually. In the same way, I do helpful, edifying things that help my anxiety rather than ignoring it (being strong which often makes it worse) or letting it mess with my head.
3. Love the Moment
I developed the love the moment series a couple of years ago as a tool to help me when I was anxious. They were just little achievable things to weave into my day that are now a beautiful (fun!) and effortless part of my life. Being intentional about small woven moments is a great tool to practice. This practiced beauty is so important when you’re sometimes clouded by depression, or in my case, anxiety.
4. Insecurities vs Intuition
I wrote an entire post on this called trusting my gut. I can so easily can let anxiety cloud my parenting decisions, which is no good, so I’ve learned how to distinguish between being motivated by anxiety, and making good decision based on applied knowledge.
5. Trust Someone
It’s so important to have a fall back in someone you trust. I adore having a partner for life and parenting in my husband. Sometimes, if I am struggling in a decision because of anxiety, I will run it by him for his objective opinion. I also rely on my faith as a grounding foundation in my life.
I think if you have a few children, there’s a good chance that one of them will be prone to anxiety. I would say that most people (even if they are not prone to anxiety) will suffer from it at some point in their lives. There’s always an opportunity to give your children a head start on combatting anxiety and helping them to develop tools they can take with them throughout their life. No better way to do this than modelling it in your own life and gifting the knowledge to your kids.
Know. Know there are better days, or moments ahead. Know that you’re not really, really crazy (just maybe a little bit). Know that anxiety is often a by-product of a positive personality traits like sensitivity, the ability to see attention to detail and insightfulness. Embrace that! Know that you are beautiful.
Meet my companion, Anxiety. I don’t fight it anymore…or hope it to be gone. There’s beauty in acceptance, because then you find ways to work around and with a situation, rather than fighting against it.
And to end this post, here’s a random set of pictures of my sister and I. Which is a bit strange when I call this post, ‘Meet My Companion, Anxiety’. Shazz, it’s not a subliminal message to you, okay? You see, I couldn’t put this post together with just THAT one horrible picture that affected me…so I’m including this one, because it makes me happy.