Let's Talk About Anx-i-et-y.

 Sis, do you know about anxiety?

Well, of course those of us who live lives know about worries and anxiety. 😜 That is, unless we live in a cave (which, would also provide some level of concern). A lot of us though just "deal" with the anxiety we face or try to avoid it (raises both hands).

I never realized how truly anxious I was until I studied the Enneagram in law school and started talking with a professional counselor a few years ago (how millennial of me πŸ’‍♀️). I didn't know what anxiety really was. I pictured anxiety as Julia Roberts in "Runaway Bride", breathing heavily into a paper bag, blowing bubbles while swaying in front of a fan. As someone raised by a strong woman to be a strong woman myself, AIN'T NOBODY GOT TIME FO DAT. On the outside, I would probably be classified as calm and collected. Most things roll of my back. I laugh often and have a positive outlook on life. I do not worry about what is around every corner. I don't buy into fear mongering. I feel prepared for 80% of the situations I face, and often look at the other 20% as an opportunity to learn flexibility and/or make a memory. I work hard to provide security and stability in my life. I don't hyperventilate. I am happy.

Yet, I have anxiety. The inner-workings of my brain (like many of us) are always on go. Many of my motivations and behaviors, while mostly productive and done with a smile, are driven by fear. It wasn't until I walked through my emotions and behaviors with a counselor, and she gave me some next steps, did I start feeling freedom from the anxiety that was slowly crippling me as a person, a wife, and a mom.

Without the help I've received I wouldn't be able to do what I did yesterday (stay with me). Over the weekend, my toddler slipped and busted her lip. Also, my 7-month-old hit herself in the eye with a wooden puzzle piece, leaving a small red mark on her eyelid. Obviously, I hated they were hurt but knew they would be ok after lots of snuggles and kisses and ice packs. Seemingly unrelated, the next day, a friend posted that "(A certain way of raising a child) IS CHILD ABUSE (expletive, expletive a parent can be thrown in jail for it)". I read her words and fell into a puddle. My brain started going into the most OVER of overdrive. We love our daughter and want what is best. While I don't think we should draw emotions from the opinions of others, the thought that I would be classified as a child abuser based on how I parent wrecked me. (Anxiety level 1) I also knew I would see this friend the next day at workout class. (Enter level 2...) So, out of fear, I hired a sitter to keep my girls (instead of taking them to gym childcare) so that she wouldn't see their lip and eye and call the police on me.
That, my friends, is anxiety. While I'm not saying this is wrong, I'm also saying you don't have to live this way if it's leaving you feeling unhealthy and depleted.

You may find yourself facing anxiety like me. From my personal experiences, this may look like (but is most certainly not limited to):
-Feeling exhausted yet not being able to "shut off" your brain to fall asleep
-Waking up with a feeling of dread; hitting the floor running 100mph
-Inwardly spinning "into a tizzy" if you don't complete your to-do list
-Feeling guilty for small things; unable to shake guilt
-Striving to make everything you do perfect or close-to-perfect for yourself and those around you
-Analyzing everything you just said (or typed!) and apologizing/over-clarifying
-"Feeling heavy" by the burdens of others (helping carry burdens and having empathy are important and necessary, but this is a step further)
-Acknowledging how wonderful your life is, yet also often feeling a "pit in your stomach" for no apparent reason
-Avoiding situations because of fear
-Avoiding telling others, even loved ones, about your worries for fear of bothering them or facing retribution
-Holding your breath when a certain person or topic flashes on your incoming call/feed/TV
-Dealing with constant tension in your neck/head/chest
-Experiencing your brain go from a typical thought to the worst-case scenario in a matter of seconds (while this makes for a good lawyer, it's not always recommended)
-Saying to yourself that the above instances are "just part of" being a mom, having a career, losing someone, living life, experiencing bad things (insert something here) and you just have to live with the choices you've made

GETTING BACK TO THE STORY (FINALLY)- Some of this happened yesterday and the days prior because of my anxiety surrounding how I parent. I, like many of you, think hard about and try my best to raise my children to experience love and kindness, and to show the world those things in return. Thanks to the help of a professional counselor, this is what I did:
-I quickly jotted down how grateful I am for many, many things
-I wrote down the things about which I was deeply worried
-I prayed and spoke my both my gratefulness and worries aloud (God has both the capacity and compassion for all of it)
-I reached out to the friend (Going back to the drawing emotions from others, I wasn't blaming my anxiety on her actions. Yet, I felt compelled to say something. She stood by her words. That still stung. But I put it out there as opposed to my natural inclination to avoid her altogether, making things worse in the end).
-I set a boundary and unfollowed social media sources that would negatively impact my family
-I went outside and took some deep breaths
-** Then, I began speaking TRUTH over the things running around in my brain ** "I love my children. I am not a perfect mom, but I am their mom. My children are safe. My children are surrounded by adoration and care. I am 99% sure I'm not going to go to jail for my toddler's lip and baby's eye." (am I letting off too much crazy yet? πŸ˜† ) While I wish I would have done those things earlier, I'm glad I finally did. Am I saying the things above "cure" anxiety? Not at all. Yet they helped me arrive at a better place.

ALL OF THIS TO SAY - You're not broken for having anxiety. In this day of ** you can either be a special, offended snowflake that suggests everything offends everyone and must be stopped OR a strong, independent person who can man-up and get over it ** I would love to find some middle ground. We are all in charge of our own emotions and feelings AND some of us could use a little help from time to time.

As a private person (except within my circle, and well, BLESS Y'ALL) , this was difficult to write. Yet, I hope it helps someone. If you think you, too, are stuck because of anxiety I'd love to tell you 1. You are not broken nor are you alone and 2. It's OKAY to work on yourself through a form of professional therapy. You are worthy of learning your next steps towards a more fulfilled life. Bonus- If you're a tightwad like me, many services are covered by insurance! Thank you for coming to my porch talk. xoxoxo