Breathe

It's impossible to describe anxiety to someone who hasn't experienced the heart-clenching, endless buzz of intrusive thoughts. I tell Shawn the angry bees are too loud to make any sense and to his credit, he tries to make space for what he doesn't understand. But kid stuff and work stuff and school stuff and band stuff are doing their best to keep us submerged. 

Life is a bit overwhelming right now is what I'm saying.

We're all busy. That's life now, isn't it? With out constant attachment to technology and 24/7 connection, we're never really "off." It makes it difficult to focus on the root when we're constantly swatting away the urgent/asap/quick question/stat/just a secs. 

I started seeing a new therapist, which in itself is a giant victory because of the many (tiny) hard steps it took me to get to my first appointment. She's big on mindfulness and checking in and being in the moment. Last week she had me close my eyes and focus on my breath and not do anything else for five minutes. It was torturous. (And not just because that five minutes cost me almost twenty bucks.) I could not sit still, with myself, by myself for five minutes. It was a depressing thing to discover. 

Mental health can be challenging to talk about. I can tell you about the terrible cold I had or how I stubbed my toe so hard it turned purple and made me hobble for a week, but telling you my brain feels broken terrifies me. But...I'm not alone. I know the angry bees are haunting so many people and maybe if we all start to talk about it, even just a little bit, we'll feel less alone. 

 

Spiral

One month ago I had a small surgery on my eyelid. I had a weird lump and my plan of googling eye cancer and hoping the bump disappeared on its own didn't actually resolve the problem (funnily enough). So I saw my doctor, was referred to a specialist, and then waited for three months for my appointment. 

I had never met this doctor before my appointment. For various reasons, the appointment did not go great. At the end of the day, the surgery was completed and the lump is gone so it was technically successful. But at one point the doctor and nurse were literally holding me down and sticking needles in my eyelid and I panicked. Nothing was explained to me before or while it happened. It was all very abrupt, brusque, and coldly efficient. I'm not such a special snowflake that I need to have my hand held through medical procedures but I do like to have advance warning when things are going to happen to or on my body. 

The surgery happened a month ago and my eyelid has healed beautifully. But I'm stuck in this bizarre anxiety spiral where I constantly feel like I'm on the brink of imminent doom. It doesn't help that two weeks after the surgery I had my bi-annual checkup at the cancer centre (something that sends me down the anxiety spiral anyway).

I feel like the last month has been spent on tenterhooks. My brain is not a very comfortable place to be right now. My feelings are itchy. I drive to work and every car is about to cross the centre line and hit me head-on. I tuck Grady into his bunk bed and wake up five times during the night thinking I've heard him fall out. I don't hear from friends and think I've done something to offend them and now they hate me. I feel like I'm unravelling at the seams. 

This probably comes across as more woe-is-me than I intend. The last month has also been full of shining moments and a lot of fun. It's not all anxiety and doom all the times. That's the thing with anxiety; it creeps up on me. I've been trying to ignore it out of existence for a month but it's not working so here I am, laying it out and leaving it in 2017. 

Fade

I used to love that moment in between sleep and being awake, when my brain would stretch and my body would unfurl and for a minute or two I could enjoy the silence of the day. Lately, though, as soon as I am conscious, my thoughts explode in a whirlwind of what needs to get done, and who needs to go where, and how much time I have to do it all (spoiler alert: not enough time, not even close, hang on tight, things are about to get bumpy).

The mental load of motherhood is not a new concept, and is certainly not unique to my situation. I know I do not come even close to winning the Misery Olympics, and to be honest, I am not interested in competing. I love my life. I’ve got an attentive partner, an amazing support system, privilege oozing from every crevice of my duct-taped-together days, and yet here I am, exhausted and overwhelmed.

I’m trying to make life less chaotic. I’m writing lists and creating routines and constantly “prepping” (oh my vodka, so much prepping) to try to make my days run as smoothly as possible. I am one “10 Ways to Hack your Morning Routine!” listicle away from keeping a stash of protein bars beside the shower so I can fuel up and get my 28 essential micronutrients while I get ready for work at the same time.

But I am not more organized. Our days are not running smoothly. I am left feeling like I can’t take a full breath because my chest cavity is full of “what ifs” and “what nexts” trampolining on my heart.

Maybe I should get back into meditating, I think. Or yoga. I should dust off my juicer and fill my face with spinach juice instead of Skittles. I should up my protein intake. Cut carbs. Lift weights, go for a walk, get a massage, read a book, light a candle, start a bullet journal, clean out a closet. Maybe then I will feel like I’m in control, like I’m not careening headfirst toward disaster.

I don’t want my kids to remember me as the crazy lady who was constantly hissing at them to walkfasterthesecondbellisabouttoringdoyouwanttobemarkedlateagain?. I want to be serene. I want to go with the flow. I want the flow to not be so soul-crushingly unpredictable and tumultuous. I want to able to accept this season of life for what it is: messy, noisy, and fleeting.

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An Ode to George

 

Dear George, you don't know much about me, other than my name is Hillary, I have two little kids, and recently I've developed this embarrassing habit of crying in your store.  

Last week I took both kids grocery shopping and spent the entire trip telling Grady he couldn't have any treats, and then listening to Grady whine about how he "never" gets any treats (oh child, you don't want to play that game with me. I'll show you never.).  By the time I made it through the checkout with my whiny kid and my screamy baby, I was a strung-out bundle of raw mama nerves. The cashier asked if I wanted help taking my groceries to my car and I gratefully accepted. 

You're the manager of the store, George, but you grabbed my cart and happily chatted with Grady and then loaded my bags into my car. As I thanked you, you hesitated for a second and then kindly asked if I was okay.  

I was not okay. I was having a tough day. Your genuine kindness hit me in a soft spot and I started to cry. I thought I probably scared you a little, what with the parking lot blubbering and all, but you were kind and encouraging and I drove away feeling uplifted.  

Today was another tough day. I say that a lot lately. I wish I didn't. It's almost like my default setting. When I say sorry to Shawn and Grady for being snippy snappy, or when I'm fumbling to apologize for another dropped ball / missed email / scatterbrained moment, or I'm trying to explain why everything feels so chaotic and beyond my control, I say: "it's been a tough day." It sounds like an excuse but that doesn't make it any less true. 

I lost my patience with Grady over lunch (IwillnotfightaboutfoodIwillnotfightaboutfoodIwillnotfightaboutfood) and then when Shawn stepped in to help, I felt unsupported and frustrated and hopeless. I drove to the grocery store and cried angry, hot tears the whole way there. 

I was torturing myself in the greeting card section, reading Mother's Day cards full of beautiful sentiments that I do not deserve, when you walked by. You greeted me with a friendly hello and a big smile. I wasn't sure if you were just being store manager friendly or if you recognized me as the woman who became unravelled in your parking lot. "How are you doing? Are you feeling better?" You asked, answering my question.  

You told me you'd been worried. You'd told your wife about our "conversation" as you so tactfully called my breakdown, and you'd reminisced about how hard it is to live with small children. You told me you thought maybe I struck a nerve with you because you have a daughter my age (bless you, George, for telling me that and then telling me she's 24 years old). I'm not great with the talking. I'm awkward and anxious and given a choice, I'll take written communication over spoken all day, every day. But speaking to you wasn't weird or uncomfortable, even though we were two strangers talking about an intensely personal subject. 

George, I have been struggling. Last week and today, you saw my struggle. You saw me. You said hey, this is really hard, how can I help you? and I believe you genuinely meant it. You reached out with sincerity and kindness, and I appreciate the gesture. Thank you for refusing to live in the bubble, ignoring everyone outside. Thank you for connecting. I promise (I PROMISE) the next time I'm in your store, there'll be no tears from me.