For those who are lucky enough to have nice, normal thought patterns, this post will probably sound like the rantics of a lunatic. I'm ok with that.
Living with (an unmedicated) anxiety disorder is like opening a white elephant gift every single day - - an unwelcome little surprise that occasionally makes you laugh at its absolute absurdity. Sometimes that laughter is a little high pitched and crazy, often through tears.
On a good day, I can laugh at myself and my spiraling thought process; on a bad day, I feel paralyzed by a hopeless despair and a frantic need to control whatever I can. Or maybe that's just a regular part of work, marriage, and parenting.
Last night was a bad night. I've tried to explain to my patient, wonderful husband what's going on in my brain, and his response is along the lines of "But that's ridiculous. Just stop thinking about it." That's the point though - I can't.
Anxiety is a maze of apprehension-you frantically race around corners, and on top of that, you're running late. The more you try to navigate, the more turned around you become. Your breathing picks up and becomes shallow - you break into a sweat - and you just think if you run a little faster, the maze will make sense and you'll be able to break free.
Last night I helped Johannah pack up for her trip to North Carolina with her dad and his family.
For several reasons it's a stressful situation - even in the best scenario, I don't see how joint custody can be perfect.
She was anxious to start, which was helpful because I could focus on calming her down: Outwardly, I am calm and loving. Everything will be fine, we've packed your favorite toys, here are some phone numbers for you -call anytime you want.
But if you've wondered what someone with high anxiety thinks on these nights, lying in bed thinking about sending her child off on a vacation, this is it:
I tuck her into her makeshift bed on the nursery floor (she, too, has some anxiety and needs to sleep near her baby sister).
"Good night, Mama. I love you." She has finally stopped crying and seems ready to fall asleep.
"Good night sweetie. I love you. Just get some rest; I'm going to wake you up in 9 hours and it will seem like a nap - you're so tired." I brush her hair out of her eyes. One more kiss, one more hug.
I sit next to her on the floor for a minute, studying her face. This is the last night I will see her face like this. Why didn't I take more pictures today to remember this moment in her life? If it's a car crash on the way down to the beach, the call will probably come sometime Monday, so I should make sure I'm home then. Or would they send the police if it's an out of state crash? Hopefully the crash isn't so bad that they would have to use dental records. When did she last go to the dentist?
She is asleep finally, and I kiss her forehead again before heading downstairs. The first thing I'd have to do is call my family. Would I call my parents first? What would we tell her sisters? I'll have to get some of the pictures I took today printed out for the baby so she will remember her. Nobody makes Molly laugh like Johannah. I will have to write down some of the funny things she said so Molly will have at least that to remember her by.
I'm lying in bed next to a snoring husband,staring at the ceiling fan. If they make it to the beach, she will probably drown. Last year she and her dad were caught in that riptide - he says he will be more careful this year, but I think they will both be over-confident because she was on swim team. She will be clinging to his neck and crying. He will be talking to her softly, trying not to panic. They will finally find their nearly unrecognizable bodies a few days later - when I go to the morgue, they don't want me to look at her so I remember her the way she was.
I go back upstairs to look at her again. I end up sleeping on the floor, knowing I look like an idiot and my husband will be annoyed at my ridiculous anxiety over this stupid yearly trip. And I do know it's ridiculous, but I can't stop.
Over the course of the night, I go through what will be said at her funeral. There is a letter she has, from a friend she made at camp. It describes how Johannah is the perfect friend. I will read it, doped up on sedatives. I arrange the program, which pictures will be used in the inevitable collages, what she should wear. I practice the phone calls in my head. I imagine the horror that a child's death can wreak upon a marriage. I imagine going back to the days of my own lonely apartment.
Then, somehow, I sleep for a few hours. When the alarm wakes me, I wake Johannah up, we feed Molly together, we sing some songs as we load up the car. Happily we head to her grandparents' house where the family is gathering to pack their cars. We stop for some Munchkin doughnuts for her to share with her cousins. We stop for a disposable camera- she wants a waterproof one to take to the beach. They'll find this camera after she's gone and it will have the last things she saw. I buy her two.
She falls in the parking lot and scrapes her knees, her forarms, even her cheek. She is crying, which is perfect - I go into responsible caregiver mode, washing off wounds and wiping away tears.
We say goodbye at the door, hug and kiss a few more times. Her younger cousins gather around her, first to make a fuss over her new wounds, but then to descend like little scavengers on the doughnuts.
She waves to me as I drive away. I will never see her again. I love her so much.
I arrive home, drink 3 cups of coffee, and write.