One of my biggest fears when I’m going through an especially tough bout of anxiety is the affect that my disorder has on my loved ones. It’s hard dealing with the disorder, sure, but the swirling thoughts about the pressure it puts on my family are especially debilitating.
I start to wonder if my mother and sister are just sick of hearing the same shit all the time, constantly being reminded about the things that scare me. Or if my repeated inability to go out with my friends is going to finally push them away for good – aren’t they just going to get tired of my inability to stick to plans, or my constant noncommittal answers to their requests to hang? Worst of all is the pressure I imagine it puts on my husband. He didn’t sign up to be a single parent, so when I’m especially anxious my thoughts automatically rove to how he’s going to react if I need time to lie down or be alone, leaving him to cope with a toddler on his own.
So, this blog post is going to be a treatise of all of my insecurities. I’m going to open up in a big, and frankly super scary way, and show you you’re not alone in your fears. Maybe I’ll even give your, and my, loved ones a peak into what it’s like to be the anxious version of you.
When I’m at my sanest (I say sane, not because I’m actually insane, but because when you’re in the depths of your most anxious, you start to very much feel like you’re crazy) I understand that my family is there to help me, hold my hand, and support me – no matter what state I’m in. I understand that my friends know my situation, and that the real ones will always keep asking if I want to hang, no matter how many times I’ve had to cancel or haven’t been able to show up to a gathering. I understand that my husband sees all the good in me, all the positives, and has no problem picking up the slack when I’m not able to – just as I’m willing to do for him.
But anxiety is a fickle thing – it has very little to do with logic, and everything to do with 0 to 100 panic, real quick. It’s hard to remind yourself that the people who love you will see past all of the bullshit you’re experiencing, and be able to remind you that the storm will soon pass, and the real you will shine through again.
A note to all those loved ones – be patient. Our behaviour is not a reflection of our feelings for you. We are not being distant, or evasive, because we don’t love you. We are not being difficult and frustrating because we want to. We are literally OUT OF CONTROL. Remember all the good you see in us, encourage us, hold our hands. You know we would be doing the same for you in a moment of crisis.
My husband has been around for almost 10 years now. He’s seen me through probably 3 bad periods of anxiety, and 1 disastrous period of anxiety. We’re talking agoraphobia – inability to leave the house, can’t see my friends, can barely function, going to work is almost impossible, and frankly I don’t know if I was acting like it, but I felt like a goddamn baby. I would need to be chaperoned and chauffeured everywhere, and couldn’t even stay at home by myself for fear of having a panic attack and being unable to calm myself.
I can imagine it’s not easy seeing a loved one shrunk to such a meek state, especially when there are no physical symptoms that you can see. There is no ‘cure’, there is no way to fix the situation. All of this turmoil goes on in my own head, and he can’t see it, and probably can’t understand it. I know for him the hardest part was being unable to physically help in any way. But I’ve told him before, and I’m writing it out again now for everyone to see, he was my rock. He would do whatever it was I told him I needed in order to make it through that day, hour, minute. He would hold my hand, sit quietly beside me, shuttle me to my mother’s house when I couldn’t be at home alone. All of it. Would he get frustrated with me? Yes. Was that understandable? Hell, yes. He’s human. I’m human. We happen to have rather human emotions and reactions to stressful situations.
I put this much focus on my husband because he’s not blood related – and somehow in my head (may be anxiety induced) I imagine that non-blood related loved ones are the ones that are more easily able to leave. My Mama isn’t going anywhere, so although I feel intense guilt when I’m putting her through the paces of my disorder, its nothing compared to the sheer terror I feel when I’m putting my husband through it. He has the option to give up and run for the hills. I mean, he’d be missing out on all my awesome too, but maybe the two don’t balance out? But he sticks around, because he sees something in me, he sees I’m worth it. When I’m at my best – like I am now – even I know I’m worth it (I’m pretty damn awesome, I think it’s all the crafts I do :P), but that’s not the case when the anxiety takes hold.
My anxiety disorder started when I was in the 6th grade. It was a nightmare. Throughout my teenage years my mother had it WAY worse than anyone else in my life has had it. I remember her spending entire school days parked in the school parking lot, working out of her car, just so I would have the confidence to attend my classes. We’re talking in the car in 35 degree Celsius and –20 degree Celsius weather, no AC or heater on because the janitors would yell at her for idling her car. That’s a level of strength and determination I am still awed by, she was superwoman back then and she still is today. That’s not even mentioning the money my parents spent (that they totally could not afford) on therapy, voodoo, shamans, and any other kind of possible solution to the possession by this anxiety disorder neither they nor I could understand. I mean, this wasn’t a thing in mother USSR – they had no clue what the hell we were dealing with… they just, in true parental fashion, wanted to fix it, or at least make it easier for their child.
Was it hard being superwoman? Hell yes. Did she freak out sometimes, lose her patience, cry, question the gods on why they sent her a nut case for a kid? Most probably! But she was there – absolutely always. Sometimes I think god sent me a toddler as Karmic relief for all the crap I put my mom through (note: for those of you who can’t read sarcasm, this is a joke – I love my child, he is not actually a monster, he’s the light of my life – it’s called comic relief people!). Today, as a relatively sane adult, I feel immensely guilty for everything she had to put up with. As a mother – I know I would do the same thing for my kid, in a heartbeat.
Growing up, becoming a parent, it has changed a lot of my perspective on the disorder that I’ve lived with for more than half of my life. I know how to cope better, I can recognize thoughts that are anxiety triggered rather than reality based. Most of all, I know how important it is to show my love and appreciation for my loved ones. Remember, you’re the one with the anxiety disorder, but you’re not the only one going through it, they are too. They are right there, by your side, in the trenches, helping you fight. Remind them you love them. Loved ones – remember, if we forget to tell you, you have changed our lives, you have helped us survive – THANK YOU.
So, I guess the purpose of this post is to do three things. 1 – show you that you are SO not alone if you’re experiencing all these intensely debilitating emotions, and you are NOT crazy, you’re just anxious. I’ve been there too. 2 – to thank my family for sticking by my side throughout all the turmoil I put them through, and continue to when I’m not at my best; and to remind you that your loved ones, your real family, will put up with everything you throw at them, and will love you through it all. 3 – to show you that you can get through this tough patch, because I was REALLY low, and I did. And if I fall again – I’ll just grab a chocolate bar and get myself right back up again.