Today I drove on the highway. Big deal, right? It actually is a big deal for me. I have not driven on the highway since I had my daughter, 6 months ago. My Husband drove us on the highway one time which resulted in a panic attack. I have not been on it since.
I’ve always struggled with anxiety. As a teenager, I was diagnosed with OCD. Which is not what everyone thinks it is, where everything has to be in order or clean. Sure, sometimes things have to be in order. But if you saw my house or my car you’d question whether I really had it. Instead, I might have to put something in order, only because inside of my brain I’ve been told if I do not comply, something terrible will happen. It is not just because I do not like the way the “out of order” looks. It controls me. I run late to things because I am constantly checking and worrying over things. I live in a state of fear because I know that the compulsion will not prevent something terrible from happening, but the mind game continues.
After I had my daughter, my anxiety decided to take it up a notch (or fifty). My jaw tightened, my breaths got shorter, and my muscles got tenser. I was living in a constant state of fear. I went through a difficult labor to a terrible time with breast feeding. I also had someone new to worry about.
My biggest fear in this world is death. It runs my OCD. I worry so much about losing people I care about that my body cannot function sometimes. It literally drives me insane. So now, I have a tiny human depending on me to keep her safe and healthy. I worry over everything. The torture of it all is that I am aware I am doing it about 90% of the time. So I know my thoughts and actions are not logical and that I look like a damn nut case. It is beyond frustrating. It feels like fighting the devil. I don’t want to be the control freak Mom that does not let her daughter do anything. I want better than that for her. There were times that I wanted to leave. Not because I was not happy, but because I felt like my husband and my daughter deserved better. I thought maybe I could watch from afar as she grows up so I do not ruin her. It was a terrible place to be in. I felt guilt (still do) and despair. I did not feel worthy of this life. I have an amazing husband and a beautiful daughter that I absolutely adore, but I felt like I was not good enough. I felt like I had failed them in every way possible and it only deepened my depression and anxiety.
I realized I hit a low when we needed to go to DC and I realized I could not get myself in the car to get on the highway. When I stepped on the scale and realized all the weight I had lost after having the baby was quickly creeping up on me, I knew something was not right. I realized it when I cried over nothing or when all emotion I felt were too much to bare. I realized it when I watched my husband enjoy every minute with our daughter, while I worried over everything which was taking away my joy. I knew something was not right when I laid awake every night after a terrifying nightmare of someone trying to harm us. I had to sleep with lights on everywhere because I was so afraid. I panicked driving home at night to the point where there were times I almost did not make it. I could literally feel my jaw locking and my teeth hurt from the clinching. I felt no safety or security.
I hit the point where I needed help.
Since I have reached out for help I started taking medicine and seeing a counselor several times a month. My jaw is starting to relax. I am starting to feel joy in my life. I am enjoying moments with my daughter, rather than waiting for something terrible to happen. I started to get more sleep, although nightmares still come sometimes. I have even lost some of the weight I had quickly put on. I am starting to feel like me again.
Through counseling I am learning to understand myself a little bit more. I was probably always predisposed to have anxiety. However, there has been a lot of things throughout my life that amplified them. Now that I am in a happy, healthy relationship and have the family I always wanted, some of the terrifying things that happened want to be remembered. I am working on some of the things and it has made me have more panic attacks. However, it is like quitting a bad habit, it is going to be harder before it will ever get better. I try to think of anxiety as an abusive relationship. It wants to control you to your core and turn your life upside down. You have to fight through some pretty difficult things to be able to break that relationship. So I am fighting, like I’ve never fought it before. I survived one abusive relationship and now I have to survive the one that is fighting myself. I will, because I cannot and will not allow something else to control me. If anything good came out of some of the hell I’ve met throughout my life, it is that I am strong. I can be so incredibly weak sometimes, but I will always fight that with my strength.
So for today, I won. Tomorrow I will have to toughen back up to win again. And then the day after that, the same fight. It is a fight I will not give up on because my daughter deserves a Mom who can drive her on the highway and enjoy every minute with her, instead of wasting her time in her head thinking of all the terrible things that can go on. I do not want this life for her and I am going to have to fight it to help her fight it too.