I get real quippy about my anxiety sometimes. Because it’s easier to be glib and light-hearted about anxiety than to admit that sometimes it threatens to suck all the air (and joy) out of my world.
I’m fortunate that, over the years, people (qualified, professional people) have given me tools to cope with my anxiety, to reign it in, to flourish in spite of it. Sometimes, it’s relegated to the dark recesses of my mind. And, sometimes, my anxiety lives much closer to the surface. Close enough to remind me what it felt like to exist under it’s really shitty, tyrannical rule.
Because, let’s face it: anxiety is an asshole.
And anxiety really likes to harp on one particular topic: Jane. Which is some unmitigated bullshit.
Parenting is hard enough as it is, without anxiety getting all irrational. But that’s what it does–plays on your darkest fears, destroys your peace of mind, robs you of your joy.
Unless you say, unequivocally, unwaveringly, NO.
When I was pregnant with Jane, I coexisted–decidedly unpeacefully–with the fear of stillbirth. I’d miscarried once. And it had taken us TWO years to conceive Jane (doctors visits, shots, blood draws, inseminations). And now I was absolutely terrified of losing her. My therapist knew these things. But she also believed something I didn’t–that I deserved joy. And that Jane deserved a mother who was ruled by love, not fear. She gave me this brilliant piece of advice that I’ve carried with me since:
“You are afraid of stillbirth. Then she’ll be born, and you’ll be afraid of SIDS, cancer, accidents… When will it stop? How are you ever going to feel the joy of being a parent, if you live in constant fear?”
And in that moment, it became clear as day to me: fear is the death of joy.
But she wasn’t finished yet: “Our children aren’t really ours. They are on their own journey, entrusted into our care. Our job is simply to help them grow toward who they were meant to be. The job of a parent is to start letting go the minute they are born. Because they are only loaned to us for a short time.”
Every time my anxiety tries to keep Jane locked down, without enough freedom, too close to me for her own independent nature, I remember that she isn’t mine. It would be tragic for my fears to impede her journey. Wildly unfair. And I won’t let it happen.
I’m letting Jane go on an adventure with one of her friends this coming weekend. And I’m hella anxious about it. Like my brain keeps screaming, “HOLY SHIT! I CAN’T LET HER DO THAT.” But I can. And I will. Because she deserves great adventures and joy. And so do I.
“The dark does not destroy the light; it defines it. It’s our fear of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows.”― Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are
Bad things happen every day in this world. I am not naive. But I also know that fearing pain and loss don’t keep them at bay. Instead, they take the joy out of the NOW. Which is all we really have, isn’t it?
So, I’m gonna suck-it-up-buttercup & let Jane have a big adventure with her buddy. I’ll feel the way I feel. And I’ll let that shit go. I’ll keep my anxiety in its own lane, and let Jane navigate the world free from its fetters.
She’s so very worth it.
Heartwarming. It’s nice to think of anxiety as a partner that goes on all of your journeys, including parenthood. Is it possible to have crippling anxiety to the point you feel you cannot parent, ever? I don’t think I can parent without making my anxiety worse. I have years to decide, though. I’m only twenty.
So, if anything my anxiety is better since I became a parent because I have to deal with that shit. Because if I don’t, it will impact me AND my daughter. So, parenthood is excellent motivation to stay on top of my mental health. And, sure, I have moments where I can barely breathe–but I push through them. Anxiety is a bastard. I won’t let it win.
Holy moly, that’s great that it can be inspiration to you! We find ways to deal with our mental health, little by little. and you found yours. A lifelong and urgent way!