Many years ago I was given a book to read called ‘Living with It’ by Bev Aisbett, it was a book that changed my life in many ways. Bev’s book is about living with anxiety or IT as she names the monster that moves in like an unwanted houseguest.
IT first came to live in my house in 1995. It was a big year for me and I had a lot going on in my life, I think that’s how IT managed to sneak in the back door and stay for so long.
IT’s arrival was indicative of the eventful 18 months that I’d experienced. My new husband and I had spent 12 months of battling through the courts with his ex-wife for access to his son, I’d been dealing with an eventful pregnancy that saw me in hospital several times and of course I had gotten married in amongst all of that as well.
My middle son was born in January of 1995 and a week after his birth my oldest son started school for the first time. These were two big events in my life and came on top of all the other stuff. Ten days after his birth my baby son was admitted to hospital with something called pyloric stenosis (this is where the bottom valve from the stomach doesn’t open) hence everything I fed him was coming straight back up at 100 miles an hour.
He required surgery and as any mother will tell you, surgery for your children is one of the most traumatic experiences and especially when he was so tiny. We spent several days in the hospital and I received the additional good news that my stepson had come down with chicken pox – yeah. Four weeks later, oldest son came down with chicken pox and then as you well know, baby came down with chicken pox at 10 weeks old.
It was a traumatic few months but I battled through and was doing okay, or so I told myself. My son was 7 months old when I discovered I was pregnant again, definitely not expected and I was most certainly not prepared for another one. As was the case I suffered an ectopic pregnancy and collapsed at home one night.
I was rushed to hospital for emergency surgery where they inadvertently discovered that I was also allergic to morphine after a bad reaction following surgery. It was about this stage, following my release from hospital, that my body started to say enough is enough.
I began suffering panic attacks, attacks that were so bad that I thought I was going to die. My heart would race, I’d feel dizzy and sick and everything around me seemed to exist in a cloud. I was depressed, I was anxious – in actual fact I was now a blithering mess struggling to cope with a baby and a child and come to terms with the trauma of my ectopic pregnancy and nearly dying from the experience.
I spent almost twelve months feeling like this and one afternoon as I sat in my doctor’s office crying my heart out, I finally admitted that I just didn’t feel right. Life was just a daily battle to get up and to function, all I wanted to do was sleep because then I didn’t feel anxious. I no longer felt comfortable driving my eldest son to school, I was terrified that I would freak out while driving and my children would be in the car.
So I avoided going out as much as possible. When I did go out it was for very short stints, usually only to the school and it was always a traumatic outing. Anyone who knows me would probably say I’m a strong person and I always have been. This experience showed me otherwise.
My doctor, god bless his soul because he was my saviour, got me into a counseling group for young mums and worked with me to get me back on the road to normality. It was this counseling group that gave me a copy of Living with It.
While no book can ever fix problems as deep as what mine were or anyone else’s may be, it did provide me with a way of not so much fighting IT (my anxiety) but in finding a way to live with IT and manage IT.
Lets be honest as Bev wrote, IT was the monster that came to stay and was an unwanted houseguest. We all know that bad houseguests can’t be banished sometimes (especially if they’re family) but we do find ways to live with them and that’s how I learned to deal with my anxiety.
Don’t for a second think that it was an easy process, it was hard and scary and uncomfortable for a long time. I was one of those people who never liked to admit to any weaknesses, so I hid so much of my pain from my family and my husband which only made the problem worse.
I did get through that horrifying time of my life and went on to do amazing things with my life in terms of study and work which at the time I could never have imagined doing. IT may be gone but is never forgotten, even to this day he’ll sometimes pop his head in the back door and want to come for another visit but I now have the strength to tell him he’s not welcome and push him back out the door.
Too often as mothers and partners we keep on pushing forward, dealing with everyone else’s pain and anguish and bottling our own up. We forget to take time to admit that we may not be feeling too great or that we have concerns or worries. The one lesson I did learn from IT’s visit to my life was that I have to share and I have to let the people who love me be there for me.
Basically I learnt that I’m not invincible and if I don’t look after myself then IT could come back and once you’ve had IT come for a visit, you don’t ever want IT to come back.