This essay was written much earlier this year during a very difficult time. I’m choosing to share now as to be a voice for those coping with anxiety. It’s personal, so it’s even harder for me to put this out. Its an attempt in bravery.
This is for the worrier. This is for the one who is struggling daily or occasionally. This for the one who feels alone. This my story that I’m sharing to demonstrate that we all struggle with one thing or another, at one time or another.
Sometimes you don’t have control, despite your best efforts. There are times that just maintaining is a success. That’s okay. Keep on, keeping on. Please know you are never alone. May we be kind to one another, as we never know the private struggles that each of carry.
Don’t worry, be happy
If only it was that simple. It suggests that I have a choice. For as long as I can remember I’ve been a worry wart, often making a mountain out of a mole hill.
I’ve always managed through with prayer and self logic, but recently worry and fear have consumed me. This, I believe is the true meaning of anxiety. Not just a hyper examination of potential outcomes, but the belief and preparation of your greatest fears coming true. As if that wasn’t enough, add on grief, life stresses, and the lack of control that life can bring. “Don’t worry about the things you can’t control.” What else would I worry about? If I can control it, I know it will be okay. I can manage that. It’s all of those things I can’t control, including my worry, that bring me anxiety.
I worry about my children, their lives and choices. I pray that they are guided and grounded by the Holy Spirit and my father’s hand. I worry about the health of our global society that they will inhabit. I worry about my husband. He’s been my rock since I’ve met him, and now more than ever. I worry about my mother her health and wellbeing, and if I’m a good enough daughter. I worry whether I’m fulfilling God’s will. I worry about my relationships with others, and if my actions and words are synonymous with my intentions. Now I worry about my health, and the effect I may soon inflict upon my family.
I may have cancer. Yes, the c word. After losing 3 family members in the course of 6 months, and several neighbors all to the big C, I’m truly terrified. So terrified that only a select few are aware of my situation. I’ve hidden my situation out of protecting my family, not wanting to be the source of gossip, and having to provide answers and explanations when I myself only have questions. I’m exhausted. I have no energy to be social. The grief of last year combined with this potential diagnosis has created an all encompassing, debilitating level of anxiety.
I continue to work. Only my room mate there knows of my situation. I put on a brave face and pretend I’m ok. I try my best to not project my worry and stress onto my children. So I continue to pretend. My visits with family are staged. We talk, but I’m very careful to not discuss myself. I dodge anything personal and inquire about my family member to refocus their attention.
Although my husband has seen a couple of my panic attacks, I protect him, too. I don’t complain and hide most of my tears. Instead, I listen to him. I allow him to vent about his very stressful job, because I know how essential it is to be heard. I do rest. I rest a lot. If one was to look for me, I can easily be found on the couch under the blanket. And my husband, he picks up all the pieces for us. I’m a mess and he is our care taker. So if and when he needs to vent, I listen. It’s literally the least I can do.
Occasionally I get invited for a social gathering. That’s a no win for everyone involved. If I don’t get invited, I feel left out. If I am invited, I feel pressured and overwhelmed, and rarely accept the invitation. I am in no state to be social. I have nothing positive to contribute. Who would want to listen to my current events of grief, loss, stress, fatigue, worry, Doctor appts, MRI, ct biopsy? No one. This is not cocktail conversation. So I politely decline. I appreciate being thought of, since most often I feel forgotten. I can no longer blame those in my circle. How many times do you invite someone who never accepts? They’ve surely met their obligatory quota. The loneliness feeds the monster that is my anxiety.
Don’t worry. You don’t know yet. But that’s it. I don’t know. I don’t know, after 6 months of testing, X-rays, and consults with arguably the country’s best doctors, I still don’t know. I don’t know if I will continue to live my normal middle class life, undergo treatment, or have a terminal diagnosis. This is real, and my experiences have taught me that the worst is possible. I watched my father pass. It is terrifying to me that my children, as children, will be forced to do the same with me. I’m terrified that my mother will lose her baby, all after losing her husband and two siblings to same disease.
Recently when my brother lost a dear friend, and I asked how I can help, his response was simply, “stay alive.” Stay alive? I’m trying my best.
So I hide, pretend, protect, worry, rest, and pray.
Update: No cancer, healed from surgery, still being monitored, still worrying-but much less so. Still learning, still alive, and counting my many blessings!