By now most of you probably know that I have anxiety. It is something that has been with me all of my life. Social anxiety is how it manifested; I spent many of my school years quiet as a mouse, observing everything but only speaking in situations I was comfortable with. “Sarah’s such a good student,” my teachers would write in my report cards, “but she is so quiet!”
It was never what I would describe as a problem until college when I began having panic attacks. As a freshman, I would sit in the very back, in whichever seat was closest to the classroom door, in case I felt that I had to bolt. I was uncomfortable in crowds, uncomfortable speaking in front of others. After a month I pretty much quit going to my classes and slept all day; whatever other time I had was spent in the library or one of the dorm computer labs on the internet. If you haven’t guessed, I failed my first two semesters and my parents were really pissed.
I got through it and the next few years of college, even studying abroad by myself. Anxiety became something that was occasional, but not daily until I was pregnant with my second child. After he was born I felt overwhelmed by the demands of having a baby and a toddler, not having any time to myself, working full time in a stress-filled position, and coming to grips with the fact that I was the same person that I had been before kids but at the same time I wasn’t.
I knew it was time to talk to my doctor and try medication when anxiety would make me impatient and quick-tempered, something I had never been before. I would be at home multi-tasking, trying to manage the chores, trying to breastfeed, getting screamed at by a baby and dealing with an ornery toddler when out of nowhere I would get angry and blow up or just sit and cry. The same thing would happen at work when the people I manage would knit-pick at the finest details, argue, repeat questions I’d answered multiple times in hopes of getting a different answer. I felt like I was going nuts. To make a long story short, I’ve tried a couple different medications and feel like I manage better now than I did before. I still have to work on being patient, breathing, or taking my time before I answer sometimes. I’m a work in progress- but so is everyone else, really.
A few days ago my husband had to travel out of town to attend a software training hosted by a vendor he works with. That night the kids and I video-chatted with him and afterward went to bed. Abby insisted that I lay with her in her bed, so I did. Then she wanted a story and a song; she needed a drink; she needed to go to the bathroom; she needed a Kleenex; she wanted her back rubbed; on and on… It had already been a difficult evening any my nerves were shot, but I wanted to lay and snuggle with my sweet girl.
As I was attempting to get her to sleep, I kept hearing a creaking sound which sounded eerily like footsteps coming down the hallway towards the bedrooms. Abby heard it too and said she was scared, but I assured her that the sounds were being made by the wind blowing and moving the branches of the tree right outside her window.
Of course, I knew it was most definitely the wind and the tree, but my anxiety and overactive imagination kept telling me that it was someone in our house. Each time I heard the creak I would feel butterflies in my stomach and my heart would pound. Quit it, I thought. You’re supposed to be the brave adult here. Get yourself together and quit being silly.
Had my husband been home, I would not have felt that way, nor would I have let my anxious mind run wild. He makes me feel safe and protected. He is my constant. He is the rock we depend on for strength, security, and love. I trust that he would do anything he could to protect me and our children. He is incredible. His presence in my life feels like a warm blanket wrapped tightly around me.
Later as I was lying in bed alone, I thought about the situation and how silly I had been getting worked up by noises and my imagination. It struck me that the way I depend on my husband is the same way that my children look to me and him.
As a parent, they depend on me for guidance, love, safety, and comfort. Their fears and anxieties are quelled by my presence. Their hurt is softened with a kiss and kind words. Their hearts and minds are calmed and comforted by my arms around them. With us, they feel safe and secure and able to take risks and test their boundaries and limits, reassured because they know Mom and Dad are always there.
I realized that night that I must retrain my brain to view things from a different perspective. So when I feel annoyed because I need sleep but I’m woken for the third time at night, or if I am trying to make supper but my son won’t stop trying to cling to my legs, I can remember what I am to them. I can remember what and who they need me to be. I can endure the tough times to be support for them. The time they are small and dependent on me is short in the grand scheme of things and one sad day it will pass. I must stop thinking about how something may be bothersome to me and instead accept and acknowledge all of the blessings that I have been given because my children truly are a blessing. I may not be able to choose what happens to me in my life, but I can choose how I see it.