This Fall has been going really well. Well enough that sometimes I forget that I’m the crazy. I’ve been leaving the house like a champ. I’ve been brimming with love for my little family. We have a bit of a schedule going on and it is making the days fly by. My grasp on good mental health does feel more tenuous at night. I’ve always dreaded nighttime, it makes me feel lonely even when my life is full of good things. That is when I worry about the agoraphobic symptoms rearing their ugly heads, it’s when I think I will fuck my boys up terribly as a mom because I struggle with mental illness. But since our New Guy showed up I’ve woken up feeling hopeful more often than not.
Over the last week a number of little things have happened and rather than brush them off I haven’t been able to let them go. They have festered in my mind and their constant presence has convinced me that I’m worthless, that no one likes me, that I’m the object of pity, that I should just give up. Because I’ve been in such a good place emotionally I’ve been able to try and fight back a bit. I do not want the fear to take over, I want to stay positive for my boys, and I’m realizing I want to do it for myself as well. But I am scared that the anxiety will come roaring back, that this week is the beginning of the end of my carefree Fall.
Sometimes I feel so close to normal, but then I’ll be jolted by a reminder of the anxiety. And normal people don’t take controlled substances on a regular basis. Because I’m nursing I need to be very careful with my chill pills. They probably won’t hurt C, but there is very little research. If I need one I must take it directly after nursing so most of it can be metabolized the next time C eats. And on top of that they are highly addictive. My therapist is also my prescriber, so the situation is closely monitored. I’ve found myself feeling so self conscious and guilty about taking the pills that I report the exact number I’ve taken during ever session. I’m averaging about two a week. And I know I need them. I know if I let the anxiety spiral out of control and do nothing that I’ll be creating a bigger problem. But I recently explained to my shrink that I am so pissed about relying on them. There are tons of mothers out there who get through the tough shit in their days and don’t have to turn to psychotropic drugs just to keep going. Why am I so weak? Why can’t I just pull myself up by my bootstraps? There is no one in the world luckier than me, I’ve been given a great education, we have a huge safety net because of my parents. What right do I have to struggle with anxiety when there are real problems in this world? Why am I so pathetic?
I get that these aren’t helpful questions. I get that it doesn’t help to compare myself to other moms out there. But I can’t help it.
Every fall I look forward to the return of the Gingerbread Latte at Starbucks. I know, I know, it’s an overpriced gimmick and the chemically syrup added totally obscures the taste of the coffee. Whatever. I can’t help it, I love them. I wanted one on Wednesday. It isn’t like I didn’t get out of the house that day. There was an early morning trip to the grocery store and a walk with a friend. But as the day progressed so did a creepy-crawly feeling of dread that covered my skin. The anxiety was actually making me itch. The house felt like it was closing in on me, like I needed to escape even for just a few minutes. Believe me, that was a bizarre sensation for someone that struggles with agoraphobic tendencies. T napped until almost 5pm. I got it together to make the pizza dough for our dinner, albeit later than I wanted. And I felt like I would be an abject failure if I did not get out of the house and get a latte. That stupid expensive drink became a measure of good mental health in my mind, a sure sign that I wasn’t doing well in that department.
A few minutes after 5 I hustled the boys into the car. The pizza dough didn’t have to be punched down until 6ish, which was when Z was due home. I remembered that a Starbucks a few towns over had a drive through and that’s where we headed. The drive was only 10 or 15 minutes in the little rush hour traffic we get in Syracuse. But the closer we got the tenser I was. Did it really have a drive through, or did I imagine that? Should I have fed C before we left? Were we going to get home before Z? Was I going to get dinner on the table before 7? Was I going to spend the whole winter stuck in the house yet be unable to clean, do laundry, and provide meals for my guys? Were we going to have enough money in savings to get us through until I find a job sometime in the next few years? Was I ever going to find a job that paid enough to cover child care? Um, I was a mess when we got to Starbucks, and of course I imagined the drive through. But I got the boys out of the car and into the store. I got my latte.
The funny thing is it didn’t even taste good. And the chill pill I took several hours later barely took the edge off.