With the exception of “Learning to Love My Skin“, I don’t typically open up on my blog. I usually reserve my random musings and #keepingitreal moments for Instagram and my personal Facebook page. I’m not sure why. Maybe because those posts get buried in everyone’s feeds and then we move on… But recently I was inspired to open up about anxiety after sharing a brief blurb of my experience with Charissa (I’m sure you’re familiar with @nocookpaleo – she’s also the rock star chief operating officer behind team Paleo Mom) on Instagram.
I’ll break up this post into two parts because both anxiety and fear have had a relentless grip on me for (too) much of my life and I believe often times they work in cahoots together.
Anxiety is something I’ve dealt with for nearly half of my life – and I say that because even though I’ve not experienced an anxiety or panic attack in years (thank the gods); anxiety is a stealth and sneaky bastard. Even now, I feel like its potential to resurface is still there and the memories are clearer than I’d like them to be.
Let’s cut back to my early twenties when I was living with roommates, I was dating The Mister at the time, I worked my tuchus off but had a complete blast at my job, and I felt like I had it pretty good. There was much to be thankful for. Yet, some nights an overwhelming wave of unexplained panic crashed over me. I felt like I wasn’t able to breathe, I felt helpless – it was a fight or flight feeling I couldn’t control. If The Mister was at my apartment, he’d calmly reassure me that I *was* breathing and we’d usually go for a walk to get fresh air until I felt more at ease and the attack passed. We’d return, I’d collapse, and he would stay to be sure I’d settled and fallen asleep okay.
These attacks continued over the years; throughout milestones, feeling vulnerable and fragile. Us moving in together, our wedding (I hoped like hell I didn’t have one before the ceremony), even at times during my first pregnancy (which was a stressful pregnancy). At some point, after giving birth I was able to better control the anxiety. I think it was because I could focus on Luv and could kind of “flip switch” so I didn’t lose my cool in her presence, but it still simmered somewhere within. I remember going on a drive with The Mister and a toddler aged Luv and feeling its presence. Like some ghost haunting me. I immediately whispered to The Mister that I felt an anxiety attack coming. He was surprised, but held my hand and opened the windows to let the fresh air in. It didn’t last long thankfully. But those wicked reminders continued… like an ex you have just about forgotten, but then out of the blue, you receive a text message from them.
Cut to post Bugsy’s birth… I’m glad (read: relieved) to say that I’ve not had an anxiety attack. I’ve changed many things in my life since then, and I do believe inflammation, gut health, and our overall health is tied to our mental health. Perhaps my experience shows that. I’ve also been healing myself internally. And I’m not talking leaky gut. I mean emotionally. I’ve led an imperfect life just like everyone else. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve been reminded time and time again about that well-known hindsight adage. And I’ve let fear control me and hold me back countless times. Which leads me to my most recent healing challenge…
For the past few weeks, I’ve quietly been tackling my biggest fear. One that might receive a raised brow by many, but it’s a big deal for me. You see, I never got my driver’s license. I’ve always taken transit to school or work or lived close enough to work to walk. Always. I truly do enjoy walking no matter the weather. Growing up in the Seattle area set me up to know the difference between needing a hoodie and an umbrella. 😉
But as our family grows, I felt the pull to challenge myself. I’m not sure if this will make me a “better” momma to our kids, but there’s always room to grow and change. So I’ve been practicing. I know it does seem weird, but that’s what I have to call it. The written tests for me are a breeze. It’s the act of driving that scares me. I’ve actually had people tell me “Well if 16-year-olds can drive, so can you.” I don’t think they knew how hurtful that remark was, but it stuck with me like some stench I couldn’t rid myself of.
I knew if/when I was going to drive, it would be when I was ready. Not because of someone’s quick judgment and it certainly wouldn’t be because I was “inspired” by someone’s nagging (by the way, The Mister has been more than understanding and probably too tolerant in the 15 years we’ve been together). But here’s the cool thing. I’ve driven more in the past three weeks than I have my entire life. At first, my hands shook, I felt like I could vomit at any moment. But I did it and continued. Then I practiced parallel parking (ugh). And I did it. Then I practiced “alley backing” which is such a pain in the tuchus and I knew that part of the test would be one I didn’t pass. I’ve gone on our local highways, merged, tackled three-point and two-point turns, and handled the downtown one-way beasts like a boss (I’m allowed to brag a little). I’ve also been dangerously cut off and had an elderly man come into my lane, forcing me into the double turn lane to avoid getting hit. Pits and peaks, right? I scheduled my observed driving test yesterday morning. And I freaking passed. And I have The Mister, Luv, and Bugsy to thank for their unwavering support, patience, and encouragement throughout this entire process. Especially the kids. Spending hours driving got a bit boring, I totally get it.
Throughout this process, I kept writing down musings to turn to in moments where I felt I couldn’t do it. Some you can feel the fear coming out as a release – those served as my “snap out of it” musings. Here are some of them:
1) Every fiber of my being is saying “no, this is too much, too uncomfortable, too scary.” 2) Keep telling me you’re proud of me. I need to hear that. 3) Just breathe. 4) I can’t simply get over this fear. I have to go through it. Every uncomfortable piece, every doubt, every worry is laying my path to get through it. Facing the ugly chaotic thoughts, honestly acknowledging them. In the end, I will be stronger. I will be standing taller. I will be more than “okay”.
The fear itself is smaller, more controlled now. Okay, I admit – I still prefer the 25-30 MPH roads, but I can get Luv to her new school and run errands with confidence. I.did.it!
Love and Light
An amazing thing happens when the grip anxiety and fear have on you lessens. You free up space for more growth. More self-reflection. More empowerment. More love and light.
I hope sharing a deeper part of me sparks some inspiration or helps you in some way. It’s okay to be scared, it’s okay to feel anxious – those things do not define you. But it’s important to remember, the thoughts flying through your head when anxiety and fear are tapping you on the shoulder – those thoughts aren’t true. It’s deceiving. Anxiety and fear are liars.