It’s back to school week here and we’re all taking a collective deep breath as we renegotiate the schoolyear routine and schedule.
I’ve been a little nervous about the transition, to be honest. This has been a transformative summer for me, in many ways, and a restorative one too, so hopping back on to the hamster wheel of busy sounds a little, well, exhausting? Overwhelming. It’s been a good summer for us in so many ways, but it really didn’t start that way. I had to get real with myself in May about the depression and anxiety I was feeling (mostly exhaustion-induced) after a wild and woolly couple of months of travel and excitement – maybe that’s the worst kind, when it’s all good stuff that causes you to feel that way. I mean, sure, we expect hard things to make us feel anxious and down. But when it’s good? It’s deceptive.
Well, it kind of all came crashing down at the end of that month. Everything started to transform once I went back to counseling, got help for Archer’s sleep issues, and started doing the hard work of getting to the root of my perfectionistic tendencies. I got more sleep. I took naps when I needed them. I got outside help with a babysitter. I did a lot of self-care and I said no.
I’m no stranger to anxiety. My earliest freak-out was at the age of maybe seven or eight in an airport; I was afraid we were going to miss our flight. And from there, I had periodic times of anxiety flare-ups (mostly related to the rapture – no really! – and then again once I left home to go to college at Pepperdine). The worst, though, was when I was having nonstop panic attacks not long after I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. It was like a rollercoaster I couldn’t get off of.
The emotional turning point was while I was pregnant with Jude and my OB told me I needed to go to counseling. WHAT. That’s for messed-up broken people! There is a stigma associated with counseling! NOPE! NOT DOING IT. JUST GIVE ME THE MEDS.
And then guess what – I went. Over and over and over again, for months after Jude was born. And I firmly believe that it saved my life. I realized that I wasn’t going crazy and I wasn’t going to be a bad mom and I wasn’t totally out of control. Anxiety was real, and it could be dealt with. And counseling was maybe more effective than any medication could be.
I learned so much about myself in those hours in my counselor’s office. And as a result, I was much better prepared after Archer was born to recognize when I started to go south. But it still kind of knocked me off my feet, if I’m being frank. All those things I thought I’d dealt with started to rear their ugly heads, like a Medusa. And I was running myself into the ground, and focusing too much on all the ways I wasn’t “doing it good enough.” It was all feeling so overwhelming: keeping up the house, taking care of the kids, worrying about my parents, not to mention being a good wife. And looking around at everyone else who seems to have it all together. I mean HECK, I had a freaking magazine come to shoot our house not to mention being on a home tour. It was a LOT of pressure. I’m driven — I love my work, I love my family, and I love creativity. And I love being GOOD at what I do.
So here I am. Continuing to go to counseling. Showing up. Doing the hard work even though there are plenty of times when I DON’T want to go. (And then on the flip side, because I AM a perfectionist, I’m all “I will be the #1 MOST AMAZING COUNSELING PATIENT EVER. I WILL OWN THIS!!!)
So why am I writing this? Because I hope that there’s one person out there with anxiety who can feel less alone. I hope that by sharing my experience that you too can climb out of that yucky dark hole. And I’m sharing it because we need to know that NONE of us have it all together, no matter what it looks like to the outside world.
Ok, tomorrow? We’re back to school shopping here, so come back for some purty school supplies.
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