Monday, January 26, 2009

Anxiety and Motherhood

Last night I woke up every hour, heart pounding, a little confused, upset. Anxious. At one point I leaned over Lola and touched her cheek, it felt too cold, I turned her, she didn't move or budge or blink and so I pushed my hands under her nose and her eyes flew open

Mommy? What's wrong, Mommy?

I'm sorry honey. I...thought you had an owie. She put her hand on my arm, smiled. Mommy if I had an owie, I'd wake you up and tell you, it's OK Mommy. And she went right back to sleep.

My fear stirs it's hydra head now and again at different levels of aggressiveness, and I do all I can to keep it from poisoning my children. Too much coffee on Sunday, the juggling act of full-time work, parenthood, marriage- sometimes it is beautiful work and sometimes it is graceless stumbling. Traumatic events of my childhood, of friends lives, or even strangers on the nightly news stay finely drawn and felt in my mind, and at times rise darkly. Last night I was thinking of my friend Anna as I leaned over, and her son Jordan. He died at age 21 a few years ago, at home in his own bed, in the bloom of health as far as his mother believed; he had been sick for a week but a doctor had checked him out and found nothing alarming. The reason for his death was eventually understood to be a heart attack resulting from an invasive virus. I have turned and turned the image of Anna coming into her son's room and finding him there, turned it in my mind, trying to focus my prayer on her, her grief, her son. Still, as I lay in the darkness, I could not help but find Lola, touch her skin, and fear her loss.

" Dread is a sympathetic antipathy and a antipathetic sympthay. ' - Kierkegaard

I take a small dose of Zoloft to avoid panic attacks, chronic debilitating anxiety, the kind that causes enormous, roller-coaster worthy jets of adrenaline to pour into my abdominal area ( home of the 'second brain', the producer of hormones that rule our emotions ) and make me feel light-headed, out of breath and terrified. It's my conclusion that this is the result of a genetic predisposition to mental illness ( runs on both sides of my family in all stripes ) and the chronic abuse and fear of my childhood. This is probably also why my thyroid went bad at such a young age- 22 - because the constant rush of hormones ( adrenaline, cortisol, testosterone ) 'kills' your thyroid and your adrenals. I've had a number of physical problems that are the direct result of my childhood. A wonderful book, if anyone is interested, on this cause and effect is called The Body Never Lies, by a Canadian psychologist who has researched the connection between abusive childhoods, the retaining of guilt and fear, and disease.

' Perfect fear casteth out love. ' - Cyril Connolly

Today I will work out after work, at 6:30pm when I least want to. I will drink decaf tea. I will pray, although I don't have faith. I will let my husband hold me and kiss me. I will make it my job to strengthen my spirit and lessen the fear, so that I can lead my children into life with a brave heart and upturned chin, and not a night spent wasted on what might be. What will be, will be, and I don't want to waste a second of this beautiful life on the anxious machinations of my mind.

' Anything scares me, anything scares anyone but really after all considering how dangerous everything is nothing is really very frightening. ' -Gertrude Stein



Amber said...

Oh man, I have had those times when I shake my babies and just know they are gone, only to frighten the daylights out of them. If they sleep really good through the night, I walk slowly to their room calling their name to hopefully rouse them before I get there. Sometimes my fear is insane. I can imagien it is much more real when you've been abused, and I'm sorry about that.

The Panic Room said...

wow.

I have always linked all of my stomach problems with fear since a very young age. I totally get this post. I loved this post. Keep that chin up.

anymommy said...

A huge challenge for any mother and you have more fear, just from history, than some of us do. I hope the exercise and the hugs and the tea were calm and healing and you and your beautiful daughter slept well.

steenky bee said...

I've had those moments where I almost have to dare myself to go peek at my child that's been sleeping contently for far too long. Nothing is as scary as that walk down the hall to their bedroom. It's unlike any feeling I've ever known.

Maggie May said...

you guys are great. thanks for your words of empathy.

Ms. Moon said...

Maggie- I am walking down that same path. My anxieties are crippling, despite being on medication. My children are grown but I worry constantly about them and about everything else.
This is a dark place. Let's keep looking toward the light.

Petunia Face said...

You know I'm right there with you, a valium hidden deep in the bottom of my purse along with a tampon, chapstick, a few quarters and a packet of drying wet wipes, JUST IN CASE. Never a girl scout, but always prepared.

Breathe in, breathe out, hugs to you :)

Vashti said...

you know after reading this post I prayed. Fear is something that takes away from the life that you are supossed to be living. as a mom I know how fear can become overwhelming, and from reading you blog i know how much you adore your babies. DO what ever you need to do to push awaay the fear, tell it that it has no place in your life.
Much love.
vx

Captain Dumbass said...

Cognitive dissociation is my poison. Along with congenital hip displacement. So I can bury my issues but I can't run from them. HA! I should really use that. Thanks for inspiring my crazy with yours.

Laughing at it is better than screaming because of it.

yolanda said...

i had the same fear in my childhood.
i have anxiety now and then.

i send you love and strength!!!!
as always.
much love
yolanda lola

Jeanne said...

When my daughter was 10 or so, I once called the cops because my sister (my SISTER, mind you) had kept her out long past when I expected her to return. Another time I waited curled up in the fetal position for her to return from a Girl Scout hayride.

The good news is, at least for me, this all got much better as we both got older. Now she's a mom herself, and the only time I really get freaked out is when I see stories on TV about hate groups targeting gays. The thought of what Matthew Shepherd's mom went through is enough to make me catatonic. So then I call her, and she reassures me she and her partner take good care of themselves and their kids. And the black monster retreats back into his cave for awhile.

shabby girl said...

It's really hard to love someone so much and not be afraid of losing them. Does a mother ever "get over" that? I doubt it. I haven't yet and my kids are grown.
But you break whatever chain holds your past. Sounds like you are a great Mom!
Thanks for visiting my blog!

ButtonHole said...

I'm not being facetious here when I say this: You mean, I'm not the only one who kept checking to make sure my child hadn't died in her sleep? Really, I don't think I've ever heard anyone talk about this.

Colour Me Happy said...

I am not a mom but my sister tells me that everytime she gets ridden with anxiety she thinks about Eckhart Tolle's teaching and just being present. I don't know if you participated when Oprah did that course with him but I highly recommend this book. I love that you wrote this, so real and human, just like all of us!

a mouthy irish woman? ridiculous! said...

we must be on the same wavelength. i woke up in a breath taking, heart racing panic, and had to do a couple walkthroughs to check that everyone was breathing and safe.

i felt so much with this post.

onward warrior woman. onward.

Lola said...

I'm the same way, but it's mostly from my job. Hearing all of the horrible things that can and do happen to people makes for a very anxious mommy.

I've found that coffee makes me so much worse, so I avoid it unless it's absolutely necessary.

The only thing that works for me is exercise and just talking myself down. I hope you feel better!

Maggie May said...

love to you all. thank you for your empathies and suggestions! i do feel much better. the excercise, as Lola said, is key for me too. and avoiding too much coffee :) which is SO hard!

thanks for the prayer (vashti:) and the support. let's stick together in this world. it's much less scary when you're armed with companions who get it!

Erin said...

Beautifully said. I've felt fear and panic before, but never so all consuming as imagining that my sleeping, breathing baby isn't sleeping and breathing.

Annie King said...

Hi Maggie, I just read your post and everybody's comments. I used to "overidentify" with everyone else's pain, and I had to keep saying to myself, "It's not happening to you." It helped me, to deal with the reality of what I could control, and not what I could not (if that makes any sense). It's good how you dealt with things, in terms of your daughter, so she wouldn't have to worry about your fears.

Collin Kelley said...

Sending my support as well, although it looks like you have a lots of shoulders and friends here. :)

molly said...

really sweet post, maggiemay, my mind can take over my body at a minutes notice...but i'm always working on it, probably telling myself: this is temporary and not always real. it's a strange thing, isn't it?

You are my fave... said...

Ummm, I love that your little girl's name is Lola. So cute.

Braja said...

Ms Irish sent me here...and I love Vashti's comment, that it's taking away from the life you're meant to be living. I know it's cliched but like JFK (?) or someone like that said, we have nothing to fear but fear itself...and it is true, it eats...

Pray.

Irish Gumbo said...

You know how sometimes you look in a mirror and it startles you because you think who the hell is this person that I know, why would I be shocked to see myself?

This post was kind of like that for me. Scary/beautiful, and very similar right down to some of the symptoms.

Sometimes I slip into my daughter's room and put my ear close to her face so I can hear her breathe.

Wow. just, wow. Came here from mouthy irish woman. She's got good instincts, she does. :)

Awareness said...

Dread from intrusive thoughts surge inside me with fear too....and I have to check on my kids.
Keep writing about it.....:) it does help

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