Monday, August 8, 2016

Reflecting on Anxiety

Image credit (here)

Today at Survive, Live, Thrive, I’m in “survive” mode.

The anxiety and stress of dealing with the Ex has come back, delivered with five lovely emails to my inbox on Friday afternoon, a great way to start my week end with the girls.  I actually tabled them for now, because I didn’t want the nitpicking to ruin my quality time with them.

And I’m angry at myself that given that effort, I let his thoughts and opinions run as a constant background buzz from Friday to Monday—worrying how to respond, corresponding with the coparenting counselor by email on general advice on how to handle it, just generally, a PITA frustration.

At the same time, I enjoyed DD1’s end of summer tennis blitz—she was in the lead of one of her singles matches, ended up in a tie.  Overall their team lost, but they were all just so happy to be playing, and everyone enjoyed a potluck afterwards despite the sweltering sun and misty rain, it was fun being part of the event.  I even texted a team group picture to the Ex, rising above the crap. 

DD1 and DD2 and I enjoyed a girls day yesterday—filled with Sunday school, church, a girls lunch, a library outing, and then I cooked a yummy dinner and we all sat down to watch some of the Olympics before bed.  Lots of cuddles and hug time with the girls.  (Hubby was working on the week end, unfortunately)

So why can’t I shake the depression?  Part of it was that hubby and I got in an argument last week—he has a tendency to lash out verbally, and he knows it, takes the words back and improves his behavior, but when we’re “in the moment,” it takes its toll, on top of the other usual stressors of work, parenting, deadlines, schedules.  Having conflict with hubby triggers my anxiety, too, because I feel like I’m burning at both ends of the wick.  The good thing about hubby though, is that over the years we’ve gotten stronger and a better handle on how to deal with arguing, and he reaches out and “comes to his senses” in measurable, action-oriented ways.  I know I sound like Ms. Logic when describing this, but I’ve approached my relationship with Hubby much differently in relationships past, to be sure I can keep on the straight and narrow path.  And that can be tiring, as well as comforting, too.

The anxiety is seeping into other areas of my life, worrying what people think about me at work, overthinking, over-worrying about friends’ and colleagues’ opinions.  I never used to worry about this too much; especially with therapy.  Underneath I used to have this unwavering belief that as long as I was putting out “good” into the world, good would come back, or…if it didn’t, then it was okay, my job was to brush it off and keep marching along.  A blend of Buddhist/zen thinking coupled with my Christian upbringing of forgiveness and the golden rule of do unto others. 

Yet here I am, worrying about if I’m even supposed to be living in our beautiful city, in our beautiful state.  Maybe all the weird conflict swirling around lately is “a sign” somehow that I should be somewhere else, doing something else.  Worrying that maybe, just maybe, I don’t belong anywhere, anyway.  It’s like an out-of-body experience, I think we called it disassociating when I first encountered this in my teen years.  I feel like a disembodied entity, floating along sometimes, meeting all the deadlines and requirements of what a human being needs to do – work for a living, caring for my children, providing the survival minimum, but barely hanging on. 

Why do I feel like I’m grieving?

I miss and love my family who we visited, and at the same time am relieved that I’m thousands of miles away from the drama.  This doesn’t come without complications-- my mom has a medical condition that has evolved over the years, and now she’s in a wheelchair 24/7.  She does the best that she can and is in a “good” place considering—she has numerous friends and attends church and reads and puzzles, but it’s not the same as how she used to live.

My brother is someone who plays the distance card physically and emotionally, and I understand he likely needs it this way, perhaps for his own survival, i.e. not even showing up to say goodbye at our lunch that we had with our mom, his wife, and his two sons—my loving, hilarious nephews growing up so fast!  I know how that train rolls, so shouldn’t have been surprised, but it stings all the same.  Luckily, my two girls were so distracted by hanging with their grandma, aunty and cousins that I don’t think it registered.  And at least we had dinner all together the night before, and at least the girls were able to ride the horses with their aunty that morning before we left…but my mom noticed his absence on that day, and while she’s also used to it, I could tell she was hurting.

My father died when I was 16—my parents had divorced when I was 3, but his younger brother, my uncle, was always kind to me and my brother.  When the girls and I trek to visit, he and my aunt make a point to see us, and since my mom threw a birthday party for DD1, they made the hour and a half drive to attend.  It was so nice seeing them, and yet with all the people there, I didn’t have much time to socialize with them, but I did get a chance to talk at least to my Uncle a little bit, and we took a cute picture with the girls.  They didn’t want me to mention my cousin’s wedding in front of my mom, so I didn’t, but now that I think about it, it’s just a remnant of more family complications. 

After DD1’s party ended, the girls and I went back to the hotel pool and went for a swim with my college roommate’s parents and later had dinner with them (my mom was pooped and sat dinner out, which she was totally fine with).  I love M and B, they are like my own family!  I’ve known them for over 20 years, and they embrace my girls like we’re part of their family, too.  And…I wondered, M and B drove 10 hours to see us; is there something so wrong with us, that my own brother who lives 20 minutes away from my mom didn’t attend DD1’s little bday bash?  That my uncle and aunty couldn’t wait to get out of there to drive back home?  Or was it something I said that made them want to leave so quickly?  This does not take away the fact that my roommate’s parents are sweethearts who I adore, and our time together was full of laughter and hugs and love and splashes galore. And I know I should be thankful that the people who showed up, showed up.  I am, most definitely.  My mom’s friends are a hoot and so loving and kind.

And I love hubby’s family, they have been nothing but open armed and welcoming to me and DD1 and DD2, but they are hubby’s family, and while I shouldn’t be so negative, I know if something blew up in our lives, they wouldn’t be my family any longer, either.

Erg.  I need to figure out how to crawl out of this depressive hole.  Writing it down helps.  All families have complications. 

Somewhere, deep down inside me, there’s a hole in my heart that struggles so much with just saying goodbye.  To be close to people and then leave again.  I’ve connected with others who have been adopted, that it’s linked to the original loss, being left in the parking lot to be found in a foreign country as an infant, not understanding the separation from my birth mom.  A terror and fear and sadness and grief, from a time when I have no memory or language.

I think maybe, all these family complications swirl together and the coparenting stress is another prong to the grieving/depression wheel.  And then saying goodbye or when I’m part of a loss (temporary or permanent) nowadays, it amplifies the grief from so long ago.  I understand it a little better, but it still makes me sad.

So this is where I’m at these days, managing my anxiety linked to grief, and trying to figure out how to make the best of things.

I wonder if there are others out there who deal with this, too.  And if you are, my heart goes out to you, and my wish for all of us is that we can find a measure of peace and comfort in our hearts, somehow.


  1. Aw, my heart goes out to you, Jane. You're right in that family is so complicated. It's too easy to self blame (I've been there) but remember it's not YOU, it's their own deal. Stay strong and when things get overwhelming like this, focus on those who reciprocate your love unconditionally (the girls and your hubby). You'll get it back in spades and it will heal you and remove those stubborn doubts. Not to minimize anything you've gone (going through) but just wanted to share what works for me when I have similar sadness. HUGS!!

    1. Thanks Lisa! Your kind understanding means a LOT, and so do your hugs!! I'm feeling stronger today. I guess I have to remember it's a rollercoaster and that even if I'm feeling down and anxious for a few days, it won't last. <3 I really appreciate you stopping by! Hugs to you, too! :)