I've been thinking about writing this post for a long time now, but I haven't really had the courage to put it in words. I'm a little reluctant to put my feelings and pretty personal thoughts out to the world. But an article by Laura Fleshman on Runner's World today got me thinking. Although her article was about being honest with body image, it also challenged me to take a risk and to write something a little more personal on the blog today. Her article motivated me to "keep it real" and to share something that has been affecting me quite a lot lately and to not be embarrassed by it.
I have anxiety. Life-hindering, mood changing anxiety. As a child I was always labeled "determined," "hard-working," and "over-achiever." I strived to be the best and often pushed myself too hard causing major emotional crashes. I'll never forget studying for an AP Calculus test my senior year of high school during my study hall when my principal came in and saw me in tears over my book. After a few minutes she dismissed me from study hall and told me to use my senior privileges to go home and shove my calculus book under my bed and to ignore it until tomorrow. I obviously ignored her and thought she was ridiculous. How could I just throw a book under my bed and ignore it when I had such a major exam coming up? I ended up doing fine on the exam, but I had to take the next day off of school because I ended up being so emotionally drained I couldn't function.
Similar issues occurred in college and I started to wonder if my stress and feelings of being overwhelmed were a little more. I started to feel so stressed that I began to have OCD-like tendencies. I would repeat lists over and over in my head and reorganize my desk at least three times a day. If my books were organized in the wrong way, I would have to stop what I was doing to rearrange them before I could continue what I was doing. I always felt I had anxiety, but I never felt that it would hinder my life.
Fast forward to two months after the twins were born. Being a mother of multiples (and a toddler!!) is stressful. I will never minimize that stress and make excuses for it. It's a huge adjustment. There are days when I wake up sweating because I am already having an anxiety attack about what the day will hold. It takes all of my power to force myself to get out of bed and to breathe knowing that I can handle the three kids that are all screaming for attention at the same time. Other times my anxiety makes me angry or sad and makes it challenging for me to sort through my emotions. Even more I would have irrational fears, like I would be home alone with the three kids and not be able to get out of the house if there was a fire. A good thought to have, but not one to fixate on all day long. For awhile I just assumed this is what it was like to adjust to having twins.
However, the birth of the twins made me analyze my own emotions and anxiety much deeper and realize I didn't just get overwhelmed when things were tough, I was constantly overwhelmed, which drove all of my behavior. Looking back as I grew up I am sure my driven and determined attitude was a result of my underlying anxiety driving me forward always trying to escape what made me anxious. My constant need to reorganize and straighten up everything in the house is without a doubt my body's way of coping. But this anxiety that dictates my life has to stop!
I have made a plan with my family and I refuse to let my anxiety determine my emotions and the kind of person I am. Instead of letting the fear dictate how my day goes, I choose strength and hope instead. I know that I will always have to overcome this and with any obstacle I am going to fail at times. But being honest with myself and putting it down in writing has helped me realize that I can do this. Anxiety doesn't have to be life-hindering and from now on it isn't.