I finally started going to therapy.
I say finally because it’s been 8+ years since I was last in therapy, battling an eating disorder I never imagined I could defeat.
And then I did.
Which is why I’m back in therapy. This time up against persistent anxiety that has been slowly eating away at my sanity, and my relationship with my husband and my kids.
I’m back because I know this time that I can do it, that I can win.
When I first started therapy for my eating disorder my therapist told me to stop counting calories and to stop weighing myself – permanently. The first step was to make it 24 hours, then 48, then 72, etc.
I thought there was no way.
But then, slowly, after months and months of diligent work, I did it.
I stopped counting completely. I didn’t weigh myself for over a year. And eventually, years later after witnessing my own body, the one I hated for so many years, conceive and deliver two healthy children in an exceptionally expedient fashion – I felt proud. I may not be thin but my body absolutely rocks at making babies. Perspective.
And now, the babies are growing older, I’ve gone back to work, I’m slowly but responsibly losing the weight that my body necessarily gained to produce two healthy children – and I’m being crushed by anxiety.
Panic attacks that leave me curled in a ball on the bathroom floor. Nightmares that find me struggling to breathe in my own bed. And most critically, an inability to consistently relax and enjoy the life I worked so hard for.
So I’m back.
Originally I had hoped Dan would go with me – but he’s not into therapy and I think he imagines I would spend the whole time talking about everything he does wrong and the therapist would gang up on him, when in fact, the opposite is true.
I spend 90% of the session lamenting everything I do wrong as a wife and a mother.
According to my therapist, this is pretty much textbook for “new mom” patients.
The fact that there is a category of “new mom” patients just goes to show the extent of the toll that motherhood takes on a women’s mind and body. The “side effects,” if you will, of giving birth and raising tiny humans are much greater than wider hips and little sleep. The responsibility of creating and caring for new life is invigorating and inspiring and also soul crushing. Terrifying. Debilitating.
The mental labor of remembering doctor’s appointments, balancing budgets, sleep training infants, tending clients, washing dishes, paying daycare, playing dress up, and hundreds more seemingly inane daily tasks becomes insurmountable. Impossible. Incompatible with keeping your cool over spilled milk, or relaxing with your husband after the kids have gone to bed.
As I work with my therapist to uncover the roots of my anxiety it has become clear that I must relinquish some of these responsibilities, and more importantly expectations. Let the chips fall where they may, to some extent.
I’m still not sure how to accomplish this. I haven’t tackled this challenge quite yet.
But last week the universe put me to the test.
I missed two days of work due to a high fever. Then both my kids were sent home from daycare for coughs, followed by Lucy spiking a 103 degree fever and needing an emergency doctor’s appointment and antibiotics. My work schedule was bursting at the seams and my coworkers hadn’t seen me in the office for days. Gymnastics needed rescheduling, backup daycare had to be secured. Antibiotics needed to be picked up. Work schedules had to be shifted. The anxiety was eating me alive as I spun in circles trying to not miss a beat at everything.
Mia watched 3.5 hours of TV, and Lucy enjoyed a Tylenol-induced nap while I tied up loose ends at work. My kids went to bed without stories and I collapsed on the couch in exhaustion and frustration. Angry and upset at myself for being a bad mom, an even worse wife. Poor Dan, bearing the brunt of my mess.
And then I woke up the next day and on my drive to work with both kiddos screaming at me from the back seat I realized that I made the right decision by bringing Lucy to the doctor and getting her the antibiotics that I hate but she needed. Our extended family stepped up when we needed them and I got enough work done to not be fired from my job. The kids were just fine without their books, and Mia couldn’t wait to try her “new” (rescheduled) gymnastics class.
I’m not the kind of mom you read about. I’m not my own mom, either. But…maybe I don’t have to be.
The kids are ok. Dan and I have a Netflix date. And I made it work. In some crazy, messy way I pulled it off.
It doesn’t make me a storybook mom but it makes me a good one.
I still haven’t figured out how to let myself off the hook completely. I still feel guilty and get anxious and take it all out on Dan.
But I took one small step last week, toward giving myself credit where credit is due, and even where it’s not. Because having it all may not be impossible, but it is damn hard.
And I deserve at least a full night’s sleep for trying.