Anxiety for me is a large, encompassing mass. It has many forms for in my life. A simple trip to the grocery store can turn into a panic attack before I even get out of my car. A family outing to celebrate a birthday can come to an abrupt end when I have to be escorted out by my husband because I am trembling with fear and unable to walk out on my own.
I can remember the first time my boys (14 & 16 at the time) witnessed one of my panic attacks. They were mortified and embarrassed because they had no idea why I was all the sudden crying and hyperventilating in the middle of Peter Piper Pizza. They had just ordered pizza and were ready to sit down and enjoy it when I was paralyzed with a fear I could not explain. In my head I kept telling myself to chill out and I was okay. I remember thinking I just needed to get up and go to the bathroom until I could get myself together but I couldn’t move. I was yelling at my body to respond and it just sat there shaking. My older brother looked at me and asked me if I was alright but all I could do was shake my head no. Then my oldest son walked up, took one look at me and knew I was not okay. He tried to get me to talk to him and all the while in my head I was responding with, “Please help!”. He could only see the message in my eyes. He went running for his dad and the mere fact that he left me, even to get help, sent me over the edge into a full blown, hyperventilating, sobbing uncontrollably, panic attack. Everyone surrounded me wanting to help but that just made my need to escape, to hide, even greater. Finally my husband was by my side, lifting me out of my seat and pulling me towards the door. My boys followed and I collapsed just outside the doors into a ball. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t see because I had my eyes so tightly closed and they refused to open. Somehow we made it back to the car and I sat there as my sweet, gentle and patient husband buckled me in even though I had my legs pulled up into a ball.
My boys were mad, confused and scared. They had never seen this side of me. No one had actually, except my husband and for him it had been a while. I had been having these same kind of attacks but they were usually in the privacy of my home or car. I had never had one in public.
We got home from Peter Piper Pizza and my husband got me to the couch to lay down. The family members I left behind were already blowing up my phone wanting to know what the hell happened. Yeah, they were not privy to my secret suffering either. As I began to gain control over my own body again my boys finally approached me and asked me what happened. I explained as best I could what my anxiety was and how I was so sorry they had to witness and be hurt by it. They said they understood but I knew they didn’t really. I was okay with that for now.
I can understand the confusion for them. To my boys and everyone around me I was a rock. I was confident, brave, and I stood up for myself and what I believed in, fiercely. I showed the outside world no weakness, no flaws. I was a solid.
What people didn’t know is that many years of childhood trauma, reaching depths most can’t believe, had torn a huge hole in my life. A hole I kept trying to pretend didn’t exist. A hole I would try and fail to fill with the “normal” life. Every attempt at normalcy would end in my heartbreak as I realized I couldn’t “feel” normal. I married the love of my life nearly 18 years ago but being his new bride was traumatic for me. I had to allow someone to touch me intimately and feel love but all I felt was fear, pain and shame. Becoming a mother was one thing I had wanted my whole life and when it finally happened for me I couldn’t emotionally connect to my child. I had an immense fear of hurting my precious baby like I had been hurt and felt like I couldn’t trust myself because my anger would consume me when things didn’t go as planned. Trying to make friends was the loneliest endeavor because I couldn’t emotionally connect with women, as the most important woman figure in my life abandoned me in a way I will never comprehend.
I was struggling to live life they way I felt everyone else expected me to live it. Yet, I kept the mask up in public. I smiled when appropriate, I laughed right on cue. All the while I was dying inside.
Ending it all was an ever-present thought. Convincing myself no one needed or wanted me around was easy to do. So many times I have walked right up to that cliff and every time God’s hand pulled me back. Someone would reach out to me at just the right moment. Countless times my husband would say just the right words to snap me out of it or my boys would tell me what a great mom they thought I was when I would tuck them in at night.
As you can imagine, I’ve had a lifetime of therapy and counseling. I am prayerful and have surround myself with people I know care about me. I have had to leave certain relationships behind because they were literally killing me but now I can see through the fog. I have clarity, most days, on my feelings and know when I’m getting too close to the path that leads to “that cliff”.
I have found that the way I eat , how much I sleep and what I am doing to take care of my mental health are key to maintaining a healthy state of mind. I changed the way I ate a few years ago but I have learned, within the last year, how to fine tune it in order to give me the most clarity of mind. I take therapeutic grade supplements to support my mental health daily. I know when my game is off on my nutrition, sleep, self care or supplement regime I will have a dark day. I will have to fight hard to be “normal” but the crazy thing I’ve discovered in the last 9 months is, I’m okay not being normal, I’m learning to love who I am now. Now I am just trying to nourish my abilities for today and that is my new “normal”.
There is so much more I want to share with y’all. I want to share my hope, my recovery journey, and my message that it can and does get better. I want to share the knowledge I now have about mental health and how the food you put in your body can be your poison or your medicine. More to come on this, I promise!