This is a two-part series— The second part will be published next week and will look at what has helped me manage my anxious mind.
The Beginnings of Anxiety
Ever since I can remember, anxiety has been a part of my life. It was a constant throughout my childhood; an imaginary “friend” that was always telling me that catastrophe was near. I remember standing in the corner window of our family home every night, anxiously awaiting my dad’s arrival from work. Every car that drove by that wasn’t him, sent my mind deeper into a tunnel of darkness. My stomach would be in knots and my heart would beat so fast, I would sometimes lose my breath. Then, just as every other day, my dad’s car would come into sight and my mind would release me from its grip. Embraced in the safety of my dad’s arms, the adrenaline would lessen but continue to pump throughout my body; a reminder that another threat was never too far away. I was only nine years old at the time.
Anxiety after Pregnancy Loss
The anxiety worsened in my early thirties, after I experienced my first pregnancy loss. My mind just could not safely enjoy any subsequent pregnancy. It would create outrageous scenarios that would send me into a tail spin of anxiety. I would be so engrossed in my thoughts, that I would become consumed in a future that had not yet happened (and would likely never happen). My catastrophic thinking kept me completely disengaged from the present moment; my reality.
I am fully aware now that my mind did this as a coping strategy. It kept me in a constant place of worry so that if something catastrophic did occur, I would be prepared. Worry would not allow the joy of a new pregnancy to seep in too deeply, so that in case I lost the pregnancy again, I would feel less pain. I laugh at the absurdity in that sentence, and at the blatant lie in it. Because when I experienced a second loss, the worry that I had convinced myself would “cushion the fall” did not. The pain of the second pregnancy loss was the same, if not worse.
How Anxiety Impacts and Takes You out of Your Present Reality
The birth of my daughter, though the most joyous moment of my life, furthered my internal struggle. After two pregnancy losses, my mind had convinced me that death was always around the corner. Loss was at the forefront of my mind, and so the first few months of my daughters’ life, were not spent living in the reality of her smiles and baby coo’s. They were spent spinning tales of every worst-case scenario that could possibly occur. Again, my mind was trying to “prepare” me for some “inevitable” threat—one that never came.
On my daughter’s first birthday, I looked back at the first few months of her life and I was filled with great sadness. As I looked at my beautiful, healthy, rambunctious, full of life little girl, I realized that I had missed out on so much. Anxiety had kept me living so far into a perceived future that was not mine, that I had missed out on my current reality.
As I put my daughter to sleep that night, I silently vowed to her (and myself), that I would never miss out on any moments again. It had become very clear what I needed to do– I needed to find a way to be truly present in my life; not just in body, but more importantly in mind.
This Post Originally appeared on FlopsyLife.com (A guide for women who feel anxious, lost, or like they don’t quite fit in on how to find meaning and beauty in life).