Hope for the best and prepare for the worst

My research suggests John Jay wrote “To hope for the best and prepare for the worst, is a trite but a good maxim,” in 1813. So I will credit him to this quote knowing I didn’t make it up myself.

It’s always been one that I stand by as my anxious brain plays out the worst-case scenario of every situation that crosses my path. Today at my son’s soccer practice someone brought a puppy who wiggled out of his leash. My first thought was this dog was going to run into the road and get hit by a car. The road is on the other side of the school and up a hill so it would have had to run a good distance. I know this, yet it’s still where my mind goes.

I’m an over-packer when it comes to going anywhere I’m weighed down. Add three children to the mix and I basically pack my entire kitchen. I carry four bottles of water when we hike in addition to snacks, extra clothes if it’s chilly, sunscreen, bug spray, I won’t bore you with the list but it’s long and heavy.

At night my mind fills with worries and hopes for the next day. It can keep me up and I’m unable to turn off the repetition. It seems once I’ve gone through all the scenarios I can think of (both glorious and tragic) I start to repeat the circumstances. Thoughts bore into brain making a nest so knotted I can’t undo them.

A night out turns into several wardrobe changes. I put on three different pants and six different tops and then change everything again when I realize my shoes don’t go with anything I have on. I stare at the colorful articles hanging in front of me and think, “I have nothing to wear,” which is bullshit. At times I think about what to wear days before the event to spare myself this agony yet often I do it anyway.

The stove is broken and a maintenance person needs to enter our house while I’m alone. It will most likely be a man. He will most likely be stronger than me. I will need to make small talk and pretend I want a stranger in my house. Inside I tell myself he won’t murder me, he’s probably a normal guy with a wife and kids. It’s going to be fine. To this day, it’s always been fine but I still worry.

So many worries and hopes to prepare for, I can’t imagine what it would be like to be that person who just wings it all the time. Someone who goes with the flow. Steady Eddie. I have been able to let go of a few things through therapy and exercising restraint. It gets easier to turn off my overthinking brain when I remind myself almost nothing good comes from trying to pinpoint everything.

I think I’m going to try to keep preparing but not just for the worst. I’m going to refocus myself to preparing for the next step.

I can leave the kid’s stuff in the car, I look FINE and can wear whatever I try on first, the maintenance person just wants to get the job done and then leave, the thoughts keeping me up at night can wait until the morning. Maybe. Just maybe.

Photo by me on a beach day that was supposed to be sunny and warm yet we had 30 mph winds and rain. The sand was blasting our ankles and the lifeguards looked miserable in Avalon, NJ.

Melisa Peterson Lewis is a blogger at Fingers To Sky with over two-hundred personal essays, book reviews, gardening, and details on her writing process as she works through her first sci-fi novel. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

I’m Gonna Worry About Me

When a person I care about does something I don’t agree with, I become overly vocal. I force myself opinions on them so they know exactly why they are wrong. Not all the time, only when something feels crucial. Taking on stress from others causes me great anxiety. It’s as if I’m trying to prevent them from making a big mistake.

Why do I do this?

Because I hate when I fail, of course. When plans don’t pan out, I fall off the happy path and down a deep dark hole of anxiety. Then my mind experiments with “what if” scenarios.

  • What if I did this differently? Could I have prevented this?
  • What could I have done to avoid this?
  • Why didn’t this work out?
  • Why am I so stupid?

I don’t mean to be the person who inserts themselves in others’ lives when they don’t ask for it. Actually, I loathe when people do it to me. So much so, that those who voice their unwanted opinions are the same people I avoid. Too many talking heads aimed in my direction adds to my stress and anxiety.

I know I deserve to worry about myself as much as I worry about others. Recently a few people in my life have had some major life-changing events that have caused me to spiral into worry. I was losing sleep and could feel them pulling away when I tried to warn them of their mistakes. So, instead of focusing on their problems I decided to turn around and look at my own. 

My intentions are good but the outcome is almost never good. I’ve been projecting my own fears and failures onto others. It’s easy to get wrapped up in other people’s drama so I can avoid my own.

Wow, being honest about all this stings a little. I should be smarter, more capable of seeing what my actions do, and find a better way to resolve things before I damage a relationship. 

Anxiety’s been a big player in my life since my late teens. In my early forties, I’ve learned to shut it down quicker than in the past. Practice, patience, and never giving up allows me to give anxiety the middle finger. It may not resolve a quickened heartbeat or flush of dizziness, but I look at anxiety in the face and move on once the grip has lessened. 

I have enough personal anxiety to last me. There is no reason to take on stress from others. Especially when it has no real effect on my life. Furthermore, I’d like to keep the friends I have. In the future, when I can tell my concern is falling on deaf ears, I’m going to step back. I’m opinionated. People ask me for advice and I’m going to keep giving it to them. Though now I think I’ll look for their hesitation and learn when to shut my mouth. 

 

 

Melisa Peterson Lewis is a blogger at Fingers To Sky with over two-hundred personal essays, book reviews, gardening, and details on her writing process as she works through her first sci-fi novel. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

Photo by Caleb Jones on Unsplash

 

 

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Six Months of Silence from You  

Maybe I should be grateful you’ve disappeared from my life. Though it’s hard to think that way, you’ve been a friend since we were pre-teens. Our lives both treacherous, though yours more so. A horrible mother who abused you, a stepfather who cried when he saw you because you reminded him of his dead daughter, a sister who turned everything into gold.

I wanted to be there for you, and as kids, I helped you escape. We’d run through tunnels under the highway to play in the stream on the other side. Take boxes from the back of the supermarket to make forts as big as mansions. I helped you write Mike a note and put it in his mailbox so he’d know how cute he was. Then I ran with you when his mother caught us and yelled, “I better not see you girls messing around here again!”

High school divided us. Our social circles drastically changed and pulled us apart, but we still kept in touch. The first time you were sent to the “nuthouse,” as you called it, I got a phone call. I pictured you behind bars eating nothing but slop. I wanted to come to get you, but at fourteen there wasn’t much I could do but hate your mother alongside you. Before you were able to return to school your parents moved three hours. You vanished. It might as well have been the moon.

Silence grew between us for over a decade, but we reconnected on a random night at the beach. The crowd was rowdy and you hated being pushed around, so you left. I knew where to find you, walking alone on the beach. That night I knew we’d always been friends, even when we had distance between us. Off and on we’d see each other after this, and often email several times a day/week, depending on the reason.

We shared our anxieties and fears. The difference was I sought help and you remained in denial. I wanted to tell you what was working, but you wouldn’t hear of it. I let this slide, because I loved you.

At times you’d disappear, but I knew you’d come back when ready. We’d read each other’s stories and talk about the horrible and good things our husbands did. You’d tell me how proud you were to raise two boys, even though you never wanted kids. I cried to you when I couldn’t conceive, and you did your best to understand.

The years went by like this. We’d hug once or twice a year in person, your smile infectious and warm. Then it was all taken away when I saw you at your worst.

Paranoia struck you so hard. You called me in a panic, your voice quivered and you spoke with no brakes in your sentences. I’ve heard this before, only on mentally ill people that have gone beyond an immediate return point. The flags were waving, I begged you to go to call, email, text a professional for help. You continued to lay it on me though. Claiming stories so bazar I felt lost. I called in our mutual friend, who pushed you harder than I would to get help. You needed her, not me, but you didn’t want either of us. You claimed she wasn’t who she said she was, and that you would report her to the police.

My own anxiety rushed through my veins, tingling and frightening every second of my day. I absorbed your delusional ride and let it take me down until our mutual friend dragged me back.

We made a pact without you. We told ourselves we would give it one more push, involve your family, give you resources, but then we had to walk away. You were being so vicious I didn’t know you. I told myself it was your illness; I still know it was.

That was five months ago. I didn’t know where to go after that. You didn’t trust who I was. I walked away saving myself. Now I know nothing about you and every day it kills me.

On February 8, 2019 I wrote. How Do I Get My Friend Help? She read it and in rapid-fire sent emails attacking me. She found my bruise and pressed her thumb into it, twisting and poking. From the day we met she brought up things I don’t remember; assaulted me as a mother, wife, friend, and human. I couldn’t read the entire emails, though I saved them. I don’t know why I’ve saved them. Maybe to remind me not to contact her? I want to though. At least to know how she’s doing. To see if she’s alive.

Melisa Peterson Lewis is a blogger at Fingers To Sky with over two-hundred personal essays on book reviews, her writing process, gardening, and soul searching. Follow her on Facebook or Instagram.

Photo by Julia Caesar on Unsplash

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Nightmares While I’m Awake

I lay in bed, my brain twisting with horrible thoughts. This weekend my husband takes two of our small children to a baseball game without me because I’ll stay home with the baby. A thousand scenarios race through my mind days before they leave. I can’t sleep and know I won’t be able to until they are home.

Someone could try to kidnap one of my children. There could be a bomb. My husband could be robbed at gunpoint in front of them. He could be hurt or killed.

My legs twitch and the pit in my stomach grows. Why do I do this? Worst case stories pile up. Which one is the worst? Because that’s the one I’ll play from start to finish multiple times. I hate myself for allowing these images to take over.

They could get in a car accident, killing everyone, leaving me with no family. There could be a random shooter.  

At therapy, this is explained to me as irrational thinking. My anxiety revs up when things are out of my control and I allow the news to intertwine with life. Does it help that my mother in law used to send me articles about children being snatched from grocery stories when their mothers turned their back for just a minute? No. And I’ve asked her to stop sending those. She just sent me an article about bacteria in the ocean killing people, though. I’m not sure we’ve made progress.

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They could be crossing the street and someone could run a red light. One of my kids could wander away and my husband wouldn’t notice because he’s preoccupied.

How do I turn this off? I don’t know if I can. I tell myself it’s irrational, but then a voice in my head tells me, “But these things really happen to people!” An attempt is made to silence the voice from continuing hounding me with horrible ideas.

Sunburn! Sure, it’s not as bad, but what if my husband forgets the sunscreen. Worse, they could accidentally fall off the top balcony.

Let the thoughts come in because trying to stop them causes me more anxiety. Recognize them, then figure out where they are coming from. In this case, it’s a lack of control. I won’t be there to watch after my babies (ages four and seven). My very capable husband will be companied by his father and another friend (albeit the friend has a 4-year-old also). The adults equal the number the children, which eases my worry, slightly. The scenarios anxiety comes up with play through like a train going over a crossing.

They could eat too much junk food and throw up in the car, coming homesick. Someone could flash them. I’ve been flashed in the city multiple times, the first time when I was their age. It’s not something you forget.  

I tell myself to see my thoughts. Let them pass, wave them goodbye, have hope, know the likelihood is everything will be fine. My children drive me crazy, but they are my life. I’m not always the best mom, but I’m pretty sure that definition is unattainable. Especially for an overactive thinker and anxious driven woman such as myself.

They will have a great time. They will be part of a parade of little leaguers and get to walk the bases. They will love this special time with their dad. He will feed them cotton candy and they will come home wired, maybe a little sunburn, and probably asking me about panhandlers.

Deep breath. I can’t control everything. Life would be boring and too predictable if I could, but truth be told. If I could put a magic protective bubble around my family, I would do anything to do so. Anxiety runs deep, affecting me in so many ways. Out of sight out of mind? Not when your anxiety fills in all the blanks for you.

Melisa Peterson Lewis is a blogger at Fingers To Sky with over two-hundred personal essays on book reviews, insights on aspiring to complete her first novel, and some good ol’ fashion soul searching. Follow her on Facebook or Instagram, she’ll follow you back and not delete you.

Featured Photo by Eduardo Balderas on Unsplash

Other Photo by Max Bender on Unsplash

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I’m Okay. Why Do I Still Seek Therapy?

I can go into public places without fearing something will happen to my children or me. This is tremendous progress. Yesterday I went into a clothing store alone.

I thought about leaving when the checkout line was long, but I was determined to stay and see the process through. Lines make me feel trapped, though it’s gotten better, the feeling is still there. Instead of leaving, I circled the store and waited for the line to go down. I had a goal and goddammit I was going to stick with it. I didn’t turn away from the end result, which was to buy what I had in my hand: four shirts and one pair of shorts.

My head didn’t rush, my heart didn’t beat out of my chest, my vision stayed normal, the panic stayed away. A year ago, I never would have been able to do this. And there were times I didn’t think I would ever be able to. Strings attached to me everywhere, by personal choice. This day, however, I was fine.

In fact, I’d had a lot of fine days. It had been going so well that I considered stopping my therapy sessions altogether. Isn’t that what we do though? Once we feel good, we back off of what’s been supporting us. I think it’s human nature to do so, sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t.

When I left my therapist and told I’d let her know in a month if I needed to come back, I thought I’d walk away for good. Then thirty days slid by painfully slow. I missed my chance to vent and let my words fly without shame.

Sometimes big news came from small conversations. A day I had nothing to discuss would lead to a significant discovery. The chance for this would be gone if I didn’t continue.

I went back after thirty days, and I told her I missed coming here, so we agreed to every 3-4 weeks depending on my schedule. I’ve held this now for a few months and here’s what I’ve learned.

  • I have new goals to push toward.
  • I can truly recognize how far I’ve come and the life I’ve taken back.
  • There’s a comfort to having a familiar, someone I know will listen.
  • It has given me a chance to explore areas I didn’t realize needed attention.

street-art-2044085_640.jpgTherapy is one of the things that I have done to regain my life. I am stronger now, I’m not sure I’ll ever be “healed,” but I can do almost everything I used to before anxiety crippled my life.

Sometimes I hear people smugly suggest that therapy isn’t working if you have to keep going. Well, who are they to tout about something they don’t understand. I’m not doing myself any harm by continuing, in fact, it pushes me to take control and prepare myself for harder days that are unquestionably in my future. Life can’t be full of rainbows and sunshine all the time.

Therapy has been one of the many factors I use to battle/overcome/work with anxiety. It took several tries to find a therapist I trust, so if you find one that’s not fitting you, don’t be scared to try again. For me, it has worked to have continual checkups. I have no plan on stopping, even if I decide to decrease to once every other month, a therapist on hand provides me with the outlet I need.

 

Melisa Peterson Lewis is a lifestyle blogger at Fingers to Sky where she writes about her personal wellbeing, gardening, and her writing process as she tackles her first sci-fi novel. Check her out on Instagram or Facebook.

Images from Pixabay.

Always keep fighting!

My Aging Body Image

I sit at the public pool, it’s Ladies Night, and I’m surrounded by women I know. One of them is a school teacher who tells us about a body image lesson she is teaching her class. She tells us the average sized woman is five foot, four inches tall. The average weight is one hundred and forty pounds and wears a size fourteen in US women’s clothing. My first reaction is to compare myself to those measurements.

I’m five foot, five inches, but I’m heavier than one hundred and forty pounds.

Her class talks about Barbie and how horrible of a role model she is for body dimensions. She shows her class a picture of an artist who made Barbie life size. The sculpture’s waist small, her breasts so big she’d topple over. When I looked up the pictures I was surprised to see such an attractive artist standing next to the sculpture. This beautiful woman feels the need to point out how unattainable the image of a plastic doll truly is. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

Summer is just starting where I live, and the dreaded bathing suit season has arrived. Thank you, Amazon for allowing me to order twenty suits to try in the comfort of my own home. As a matter of fact, while I’m already on the computer, scrutinizing every dimple in my ass, I’ll go ahead and search before and after pictures of breasts lifts and tummy tucks. Wow, those are some amazing results. Just think what I could look like for nine thousand dollars.

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“Love your body!” Is what I hear, over and over again. The message makes me ashamed that I can’t appreciate all my body has done for me over the years. I’ve given birth to three children. I live an active lifestyle full of hiking, gardening, trips to the beach, and other good times. I pay one hundred and twenty dollars to go to the gym, and I actually go a few times a week.

My stomach is deflated, it’s wrinkled and saggy. Once perky breasts from my younger years are sad and I have a hard time keeping them in a swimsuit. There’s no filling to them, I’m embarrassed to say the truth. Skin bags is what they remind me of. Hence the hatred of swimsuit shopping.

I want my body to look good, so I take steps to do that. However, it will never be like it once was. I’m not after Barbie, I’m after my youth. It’s gone, fading faster every year. My anxiety has a way of reminding me of this, over and over again. I can’t force my body back in time no matter how much I work out or curb my eating habits.

“Love your body!”

Please be quiet, I hear you. I really do. It’s the salty mix of losing my youth and seeing how my body responds that leaves me defeated, sad, and hating the naked image of myself in the mirror. It’s okay to be sad sometimes, we can’t be happy all the time. That would be a lot of pressure.

Every bathing suit season from now until I die will probably lead me down the same path.

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Melisa Peterson Lewis is a writer, blogger, book reviewer, gardener, and stay home parent. You can follow here on at Fingers to Sky Instagram. Facebook.

Images from Pixabay.

The Different Stages of My Anxiety

I was born with anxiety. A fact that was not obvious to me until just recently. As a child, I compared myself to others and constantly searched for ways to please people without having to interact with them. I convinced myself that no one liked me, I was stupid and ugly. As I grew older I found ways to weave myself into society by observing what others did and mimicking it. This is how I survived high school and even walked away with friends I’m still close to today. The difference is they accept me for who I really am, not the made-up version I created in order to be accepted.

When I hit nineteen I had my first panic attack. They became more intense and frequent every day until I could barely function. I dropped out of college, claiming I wasn’t sure what major to choose. Everyone either bought it or didn’t want to stir the emotions that were bursting out of me. I didn’t get help, I suffered for years afraid of group situations, including classrooms. Though I’m not a religious person, I prayed a new chapter of my life would appear, and I would put this pain behind me. I prayed for magic.

With time the crushing anxiety had dissipated. It was when I started to force myself to take steps to the future. I took online classes and worked my way back into a real classroom when I was ready. For years I would have occasional panic attacks when something was stressful, such as an interview, tests, exams, and anytime I became the center of attention. But I graduated.

I thought it was normal, uncomfortable but normal. I never sought help.

I met my husband in my late twenties, he’s an enabler, and I love him for it. When we first met he didn’t know I had anxiety, I hid it from him well. It wasn’t until we tried to get pregnant and couldn’t that my nerves became hard to keep at bay. Years of fighting infertility left me empty and unable to cope with life. I withdrew from friends and family, my husband stood by me.

When we got pregnant I was thrilled and attempted to rejoin the normal world. I failed. Thoughts on worst-case scenarios took over my life. What if something happened to me while I’m pregnant? It could hurt the baby. I stayed close to my husband during the pregnancy, and soon after my son was born I found I couldn’t leave the house without my husband by my side.

He let me keep this up. I don’t blame him, I’m thankful. He loves me and he wanted me to be okay. At this point, I confided everything in him. He kept my secrets, a burden I still feel bad about. So unfair of me. I shared how public places triggered panic attacks, long lines left me feeling trapped, going to the baseball game felt like a death wish. I couldn’t do any of it. Fast forward, we had two more children and the anxiety got worse.

I couldn’t take my children to the library without my husband or a friend accompanying us. The park was usually okay unless it was crowded and then we’d never get out of the car. I hated myself. I hated the example I was setting for my beautiful children. So full of spunk and life, they didn’t deserve to have a broken mother like me.

I got help because of them.

Therapy, acupuncture, online forums and communities were great starts. Silence was not the answer, I spoke up. Researching online became a vice and a gift. There are so many things that claim to help. I did find success in supplements with Magnesium and CBD oil drops when I knew I would be in a stressful situation. However, the biggest change for me was self-awareness.

My neighbor didn’t invite me to her party. It’s because she hates me, I’m stupid, I’m not worthy of meeting her friends. My friend told me we would get dinner but then she canceled for no good reason. It’s because I’m not special enough, she chose something else over me.

The negativity I allowed my brain to reap was sickening. I had to stop the cycle. The smallest steps of exposing myself to triggers, and retraining my brain has helped. These self-harming thoughts could wander in, I’d hear them, and then let them go. This helped rather than trying to block them altogether.

Anger took over when anxiety left. I became frustrated, lashing out at others, hiding from things that sparked rage. This is what replaced anxiety. It was just as ugly. How was I failing! I was angry that this was my life. This is what I’m here to do with my one chance? Suffer? Fuck that!

I continued with therapy. I continued with the RIGHT therapist because I had two prior that was not a good fit. I’m not as angry anymore. Yes, I still moments of anxiety and anger. But I can go into a grocery store with all of my kids and pick up a few things without melting down. This sounds so small to some, but to me, it’s a huge win. HUGE.

My life is returning to me because I fight for it. I fight for myself, for my kids, my friends, my family, and even that asshole that cut me off in the parking lot.

I have anxiety, but anxiety doesn’t have me.

Keep fighting.

 

 

Blog brought to you by Melisa Peterson Lewis of Fingers to Sky. A blogger about life, gardening, reading, and writing.

 

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How Do I Get My Friend Help?

I’m in a rather crisis situation with a friend I have known since we were little girls. I’m not even sure where to begin. We are both in our early forties, she lives over three hours from me, I believe she is going through a severe manic episode and I’m worried about her.

When we were young I hated going to her house because her mom was such a strange person. She would comment on the oddest things in a sweet voice topped off with a smile, but the words coming out of her mouth were cruel. I distanced myself from this friend during high school because our social groups became more different and her mom disgusted me, though I kept in touch with her off and on even when she moved away. Twenty years later we have shared a lot of ups and downs with each other. I share with her that I have social anxiety, I see a therapist, I have deep fears that I can’t seem to overcome. She admits to similar feelings. Though for her it goes deeper.

I have only witnessed her in a manic situation once prior to this, but the last week has been like nothing I’ve seen before. I’m not trying to diagnose my friend when I say she is manic, but that’s the only thing that comes to mind. She calls me crying hysterically and accuses people of spying on her and taking her things. She won’t use credit cards, refuses to drive, fears all doctors, refuses therapists and psychiatric help, won’t call numbers we provide her for crisis lines, won’t go to homes or other resources we provide her. Out of nowhere, she accuses me of leaving her at a carnival, and I have no idea what she’s talking about. She’ll talk to me on the phone and tell me her pet rabbit is ill, then suddenly she is crying and telling me she used the N word a year ago and hates herself for it. She’ll send me texts begging me to come to pick her up and drive her to the ocean. Then she gets mad at me when I don’t and tells I’m not a true friend.

I couldn’t handle this alone so I brought in our other friend from grade school whom I am still very close but my ill friend is not as close anymore. We both agree she needs a serious intervention, we have contacted her family but they have done nothing.

I’m at the end. I don’t know how to help her. She mentioned that bi-polar has been diagnosed in her family and she believed her dad had it (he has passed). However, when I bring up the words mental illness she gets angry and defensive. I tell her I have a mental illness, that’s what anxiety is. I have panic attacks. But I’m in a good place and getting help. I have encouraged her to do the same for years and she refuses.

She is sucking me down and it scares me. Her rantings are sparking old habits in me, I’m having a hard time lately. Part of me wants to cut her off since she won’t listen to anything I say to help her, but turning my back on a friend or anyone who so desperately needs help goes against everything I believe in.

Advice welcome. I’m lost. I can’t keep running in these circles with her.

Social Anxiety: Earning My “I Voted” Sticker

Several years ago, it became hard to go into public places without using the “buddy system.” I’m not exactly sure why this happened but I believe it stemmed from years of infertility and the self-hatred that grew during that time. By doubting my body’s ability to do something as simple as procreating, I became fearful of every tick and click inside. The fear took over like an avalanche. One day, I stood in line at Old Navy and started to hyperventilate– my palms were wet, the world moved in slow motion, and the exit was all I wanted. The feeling consumed me and avoidance behavior became my warm fuzzy blanket.

I allowed this to be “okay” for almost a decade. During this time there were several elections that I wanted to vote in. The last time I voted in-person was when Barack Obama first took office. Four years later, there were important issues I wanted to vote on as well as the presidential candidates. When the day arrived, I psyched myself up to go but when push came to shove, I couldn’t go through with it. The trouble with social anxiety and voting places are the long lines, one way in and one way out, and I swear the temperature is always overly warm. I didn’t even make it to the parking lot. I missed casting my vote because avoidance behavior was so normal, breaking the mold out of nowhere was impossible.

When the Trump/Clinton election arrived, the political environment was on fire and leaked into everyday conversation on social media and in person. Feeling guilty for not casting my vote previously, I told myself I would vote no matter what it took. I had not started therapy at this time but was aware that my condition was not getting better. I’m ashamed to say that while I did vote, I cast an absentee ballot and voted through the mail. At the time it felt good. I had accomplished what I set out to do. I voted, even if no one handed me a sticker. The truth is, while one goal was met, another was not. I was losing the war against social anxiety.

The absentee ballot is what it took to get angry. The fire had been burning before but not like this. I let it simmer for another year before I sought out therapy again. I say again because I had tried in the past with no success. I felt my options were limited; therapy seemed to be what held me accountable for making progress.

Finding the right therapist is not easy. It is not easy. It’s like searching for a new best friend; it doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time. With luck and determination, I found Amy with her “no shame zone” which allowed me to open up and dig deep. I don’t always agree with her, but I do listen. I can’t ignore the progress I have made while working with her. It’s a partnership I am thankful for and I have no plans to stop seeing her.

I earned the “I Voted” sticker this past Election Day. Yes, of course, I waited until the booths were almost closed; all day my stomach knotted, and I couldn’t stop thinking about the lines of people I would encounter. I live in a small town, so the idea of hundreds of people lining up around the building is a pretty ridiculous– chalk it up to anxiety and over- thinking. Driving two miles to the local high school took less time than I had hoped. The parking lot was full of people and cars in motion which heightened my nerves. I sucked in two deep breaths and heaved myself out of the car. Inside there were no lines, just friendly people taking my information and showing how the ballot worked. I was prepared with a copy of the ballot which I filled out at home in case I forgot something. Stressful situations can make me forget even the most ingrained memories. I filled everything out and fed the machine my vote. On the way out, a very sweet lady gave me my sticker.

It’s stupid how free I felt; tears pricked my eyes and I walked out of there with a grin I couldn’t erase. I did it. I exercised my right as an American citizen to vote. I took another step toward healing and overcoming anxiety. Some steps are so small they are hardly noticeable. Then there are bigger steps like facing one of my triggers head on and walking away stronger. I am climbing a mountain with my bare hands and making progress. I can do this and I know there is so much more I am capable of.

Photo credit: Selfie. That’s me with my badge of honor. Fingers to Sky!

Celebrating My Son’s Big Step with You

When we try to move beyond something that haunts or hurts us an overnight remedy is simply unrealistic. I know this to be true yet I still search for that quick fix. Time and time again I find there are rarely easy answers. Lessons come with trial and error, as well as age. I guess it’s true: with age comes wisdom.

I recently contributed a post on The Bipolar Writer explaining how my son was suffering from his first panic attack and how anxiety was crippling his desire to go to school or play on his soccer team. It hit us like a ton of bricks. He was normally a bright, happy six-year-old who had no issues going to school. Then he melted down. He physically curled into a ball and cried, telling me “I don’t want to feel this way.” It was heartbreaking. Hearing these words from him stabbed me so deeply. You see, I have said that very verse and felt it inside of me most of my life.

There are common things that cause the general population to be anxious. Maybe it’s the dentist, talking in front of people, going through security at the airport, a job interview. These are all normal stressful situations, though for those of us with anxiety that ball of stress blossoms into a beast that shreds our confidence and turns our body into scrambled eggs. My son has a new teacher who is stricter than his teacher last year. None of his friends from last year followed him to his new class. He was feeling alone, nervous, and scared. After a solid three weeks of tears and fighting me in the morning, his outbursts started to subside.

I never forced him on the bus; I drove him to school for a month. The last week I drove him he seemed cheerier, and I knew it was time for him to get back on the bus. This Monday he did it! He was eager to go to soccer again, and he has not been tearful or combative about attending school. He’s back! Here is what I learned from this:

  • Again, there is no overnight remedied. Patience got us through this.
  • We talked about it every day so he could feel heard and know the door is open to explore his feelings in a safe place.
  • The school and library provided us with books we could read WITH him. One particular I enjoyed is The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, by Edmund Bourne. It has easy to read content and some activities you can do with your child.
  • I strongly encouraged him but did not push participation in We would sit on the sideline until he was ready to play. I also found Ninja Warrior Training, after one session to test it out, he loved it. I signed him up to get him around peers more.
  • I set up play dates with kids in his school. It helped him connect with a buddy at lunch and recess. Both times in the day he was struggling with socially.
  • Most important! I reached out to his teachers and school counselor as soon as I knew this was a real issue. His teachers became aware of his distress, they worked with him, and we are in constant contact. The counselor also pulled my son into a social group that helps kids learn social cues and proper behavior. The small group work seems to appeal to him.

Sometimes the smallest steps take the most effort. My son rode the bus! Can I celebrate that with you all for a minute?! He got back on the bus with all the noise, jumpy kids, and cranky old bus driver for a three-minute ride to school. He did it without resisting or showing fear or panic. I hope we have turned a corner, but I’m realistic. The lessons we have learned here will stay in a nearby toolbox. We are still working through the workbook with him because I think we need to finish. It will teach him what to do next time he feels “sad” or “nervous” and it teaches us how to talk to him.

What about me? Did my son’s anxiety affect me? Absolutely. I felt powerless and scared. I was hiding my face so he wouldn’t see me cry. I don’t want my anxiety to be projected on him or to know that he has inherited this awful thing from me. My husband and I are in constant communication about this, and when I started to feel anxiety swallowing me along with my son, I pulled myself out. I did this by revisiting some helpful tools I have picked up along the way which include self-therapy through writing, talking to my therapist, honing in on my mantras, staying healthy (food and activity), and reminding myself that this is not the new norm. We will all be okay, and we will all get thru this.

Post brought to you by Fingers to Sky. Today I raise my thumbs to say, “we are okay.”

Photo by Marius Ott on Unsplash