I found a small spider creeping on my neck last night after we put Augustine to bed. I was drinking my allotted drop of wine with a generous side of raspberry sorbet, trying to relax. The toddler is in a bad spell of separation anxiety at bedtime. His inability to sleep has always triggered my own childhood insomnia. I have to take deep breaths and remind myself that I couldn’t sleep because I was traumatized; my son has had no traumas and is as normal as two year olds come. Hence the separation anxiety surfacing after a month of travel and a month before his baby brother is born. Pause. Breathe. He’s not broken like I am. He’s more resilient than I’ll ever be. He doesn’t have the years of fear my body draws on.
That spider’s intimate experience with my neck triggered my own insomnia. It doesn’t take much to trigger that, but a creepy crawler enjoying my body when I didn’t allow it will certainly bring up the anxiety of molestation. And at 8 months pregnant, when I’m staring down my due date, this is definitely not the time to lay awake all night while my past and present anxieties creep out and over my body like those bugs in that Indiana Jones movie. But they did. I couldn’t deep-breathe them away or take my trusty anxiety meds. The night passed slowly. Just me and our new Betta fish, Ankle, watching the moon rise and set.
Ted went to work early this morning and left me a kiss on my cheek, bravely facing my fire-breathing-retainer-breath. Hours later, Gus and I started our morning, and I tried so hard just to get us fed, dressed, out the door.
In the car on the way to swim lessons I bought a smoothie at a drive through because I didn’t get food in my body. On the way home from swim lessons we visited the drive through Panda Express for lunch.
A song from the too-often-too-cheerful Christian radio station came and caught my attention while I waited for Vera to pass my orange chicken.
Oh my soul, you are not alone.
“Except, I am.” I thought bitterly. At least, I feel alone. My network of fierce, truth-telling mamas are thousands of miles away. These women who have to overcome their own anxieties and depressions and traumas to get out of bed every morning just to live. Like me. They often remind me what the Bible says about who this God is we follow when everything happening around me and in me casts dark doubts about him. But I’ve swapped out those life saving take out Thai nights for drive through Panda Express. A cramped NYC apartment for an empty, spacious SUV.
But the song didn’t end with that line. And someday I’ll remember that I’m still among the living and my life hasn’t ever ended, either.
There’s a place where fear has to face the God you know.
My fear and my anxiety will both have to face the God that I know but doubt. I picture Him standing firmly with his hands on his hips squaring off against the cast of Pixar’s “Inside Out.” You know, the way a mom stands when she scolds the older child who hit the younger who is hiding behind her legs.
My fear and anxiety won’t always rule my body. Someone stronger will take them out.
And the most relieving part of this sacrilegious image–in this moment of stuck, this long day when my eyes can’t see straight, I can hardly breathe, and there isn’t even a ghost of a smile haunting my face as I try to play with my little boy–is that I don’t have to win, or even try to win. Victory was secured years ago. And the Prince of Peace will someday return to reign over this world and bring justice to all the anxieties and fears that rule interim.
If I just don’t quit, I will win. So getting dressed without a shower is enough. And Panda Express for lunch to make sure Augustine and I both eat two meals before Ted comes home from work, that’s enough. Because I am enough even when I’m not. Because He promises to be strong in my weaknesses, and damn. I am weak.
Augustine and I ate our chow mein and orange chicken at the kitchen counter out of the same takeout bowl. He went down for a nap, and I refused to crawl into bed and let last night’s insomnia rob me of today as well. I pulled out my baby-prep to do list and started writing down recipes and shopping lists for freezer meals. And did a lot of staring blankly at the wall enduring the waves roiling inside my body. I chugged a Diet Coke just to stay awake. And then, when Augustine began stirring, I put my feet up. He’s a natural alarm clock without a snooze button.
And the afternoon goes on, one foot in front of the other as the anxiety ebbs and flows and Augustine yells “YOOK AT ME MAMA!” to break off my blank stares. Slowly my fear faces the God i love yet don’t understand or always know where to find. Slowly my anxiety exhausts its self, and I remember who I am and where I am.
I’m no longer that child, trapped and being abused. I’m an adult, a mama and a wife. A girl with dreams, and a woman with plans who happens to have the mouth of an sailor, the hormones of pregnancy, and The Elements of Style within arm’s reach at all times. And my cPTSD steals hours and days, but it grinds me down into a puddle of deep empathy and sifts away the pretension of what I often think should matter.
For some of us, life is just harder. And that’s ok. It’s ok that my depression is always a dinner guest, and my anxiety sleeps in bed between Ted and I. Don’t feel bad for me. These struggles afford me a tolerance for life. Pain increases my tolerance for joy, grief for giggling. The mama’s I miss always let my depression days come and go. They see me and hear me and help me find my own strength. They make space for me live as I have to without the added burden of their pity. And so we tell each other that having to fight so hard just to show up each day makes the life we do win all the richer.