Today, I was told “I worry too much”
I was told, that I should relax more.
By now, at this stage of the anxiety game, I am accustom to being told this. I am far too familiar with being told that I am overreacting, or things are “all in my head”. However, I was also told that I shouldn’t let these “what if” scenarios decide how I am going to parent. I was told that things get “blown out of proportion” by research, and that everything would be “just fine”. I was told that I worry too much. And I can understand why it looks like that to someone on the outside. To someone who doesn’t live with anxiety, and experiences PTSD symptoms. To someone on the outside, I do worry too much. I am making mountains out of mole hills, I am feeding my own anxiety with research and facts. I can understand where this opinion of me comes from.
I am not writing this because I feel the need to justify my decisions – frankly, I couldn’t give a damn what people think. I do however, feel the need to write about this for the sake of promoting understanding. To give a glimpse into the truth about anxiety – the real truth, not the pretty Pinterest quote, not the slight nervousness that is so often labelled as anxiety. I mean the real truth – the never ending race-track of thoughts. The hamster that never gets off the wheel. When the uphills are mountains and the downhills are cliffs. When the trauma is the backpack you carry along with you, despite your so desperate desire to leave it at home. Because the truth is, I would love to be “care-free” and taking everything as it comes. I would love to be able to experience a moment, or look forward to the future without worrying about catastrophe – but that isn’t who I am. . It’s not how I was made. My anxiety is the alarm bell screaming “DANGER” when everyone else is completely chill. It goes off at a pitch only I can hear. It runs shivers down my spine, and has me constantly looking over my shoulder. It is the voice whispering the worst “what if” imaginable. It is not my friend. But it is my roommate. The experiences along the way have shaped me – and I have learned to live with my anxieties, and most times I do so without allowing them to consume me. To find space in my life for both hope, and fear. For me, there is never one without the other – and that is okay. It is not a bad thing – it’s just who I am.
” I am learning to forgive myself, for the things I didn’t know. For the moments I never predicted. I just did the best I could, in the situation I was in, with what I had.”
The hardest part about being a parent, is the moment you realize that you can’t always fix it. That no amount of love, of knowledge, of experience that you have can change the situation your child is in. That no matter how hard you try, and how much you want to – you can’t fix it. You cannot change it. It is the harshest reality to come to, and sometimes, this lesson comes to you in cruel ways. Maybe for you, it was a broken heart, or an illness, maybe a failed test, or a bad decision – or maybe, if you’re lucky – you haven’t had this moment yet. You still feel like super-mom (or dad) in the respect that there’s nothing in your childs’ world that you can’t handle – that you can’t fix. But for me, this lesson came down hard. In a manner that shattered my world, and quite literally took my breath away.
I was a nervous mom, right from the get go. That fact wasn’t really surprising to me – I have struggled with severe anxiety most of my life, and I knew that in being a mom, it wouldn’t be any different. My anxiety would still be there. So I read all the books, I did the research. I was constantly checking for tips, tricks, and safety concerns. I asked doctors an abundance of questions. For the first few weeks of Addison’s life, I was too nervous to give her a bath on my own – I would wait until Richard returned home, more comfortable in the idea that we were both there, and then nothing would go wrong. I tried with shaky hands to swaddle her the first few times, terrified to do it wrong. Slowly, over time – I got a little more confident in my own abilities – but I was constantly vigilant. Always triple checking things. We were so very careful with her.
So imagine, if you will, how terrifying it was the day she passed. How the crowd of police officers and paramedics in our home was a stark realization that this was something I couldn’t fix. How I had tried, with everything I had – to save her. To fix it. And was met with the horrendous truth, that there was nothing I could do. How entirely helpless I was in that moment.
I do not share these details for pity. I share them with the intent to promote understanding. There I was, a nervous mom who had done everything right, and yet tragedy struck anyways- SIDS doesn’t discriminate. Tragedy happens whether you’re prepared or not. And the logical side of me understands that I truly did everything I could. That nothing could have changed what happened that day – and yet, my anxiety will rear its’ ugly head, and cause me to question. Cause me to wonder daily, if perhaps, I could have done more. Perhaps there was something else that could have changed things. I relive that day, on a daily and nightly basis – even more frequently as we near closer to Peanut’s arrival. I spend a great deal of time trying to quiet my own mind. Trying to keep myself calm, and unafraid. But in reality, that fear will always exist for me. Because I understand so deeply that there are things I can’t always fix. That things can go wrong, and I cannot change that. That fact alone is terrifying to me.
Here we are, over 10 months later – anticipating the birth of our second child, while still navigating the grief we carry. Still, I question myself – my choices that day. Everything that has gotten us from there to here. Everything that will come once Peanut is born. My anxiety runs on a constant loop, telling me that “I’m not ready”, and I re-run through the list to ensure we are in-fact prepared to bring her home. My anxiety runs on the constant loop, telling me all the terrible things that could happen, and I re-run through the research I’ve done, and the steps we’ve taken to prevent such things. The point is – for me, it never goes away. The trauma of that day, reinforces the anxiety I have and turns it up to max.
So yes. I worry “too much”. I spend too much time thinking of the “what if” scenarios, the possible outcomes, the risks of everything. And I did this before I had Addison – the only difference is, now we have lived through something horrendous. We have walked a path I pray for no one else to ever take – sometimes, life is a cruel teacher. People are not wrong in saying I worry too much, but my question to you is this:
After everything that happened, wouldn’t you?
“Do not judge my story by the chapter you walked in on…”