I no longer have to imagine the worst thing that could happen in the life of a mother-I know exactly how it feels.
And if I allow my heart to ponder that too often or too long, it consumes me.
So I am learning to take those anxious thoughts captive, learning to make them live in only a small corner of my mind instead of taking it over completely.
It takes effort and discipline, but it’s possible.
I don’t have to live the rest of my days a quivering mess- afraid of every sunrise, every phone call, every mile my family travels:
- I confront my fear with facts: The absolute truth is that it is no more likely I will lose a child today than it was the day I lost Dominic. I’m not good at determining odds-if I toss a coin ten times and it lands on “heads”-I’m convinced that next time it HAS to be “tails”. But that’s just not true. EVERY time the coin is tossed, it has exactly a 50/50 chance of landing on “heads” or “tails” regardless of what happened last time. That’s not how it FEELS, but that’s how it IS.
- I refuse to feed my fear: I don’t linger over news stories that play up danger or magnify the possibility of catching rare diseases. Do these things happen? ABSOLUTELY! But are they likely to happen to me or someone I love, probably not. I will not fuel the fire of fear that threatens to rage through my mind.
- I take reasonable precautions: My family wears seatbelts. We take our vitamins and go to the doctor when we need to. We eat right and exercise. We don’t walk across streets without looking both ways. These were all things we did before Dominic’s accident and we continue to do them now. Not one of them would have made a diference that night but they help me feel better.
- I limit my exposure to uncertainty: If I’m concerned about someone, I call or text. It’s that simple. I don’t have to live for hours wondering if they are OK. I’m careful not to infringe on my adult children’s lives by a never-ending series of contacts, but they understand my heart. We try to be mindful of letting each other know we arrive safely to our destination.
- I exercise control in other areas of my life: Anxiety is a beast that grows stronger the more out of control I feel. I cannot keep my family absolutely safe-it’s not in my power to do so. BUT, I can control some aspects of life. So I do. Even cleaning out a messy junk drawer helps bolster my sense of control. Small, easy to complete projects feed the part of my brain that says, “You can do this!”
- I limit caffeine and other stimulants: Increased heart rate, rapid breathing and sweaty palms are signs of anxiety. Caffeine can produce these effects even when I’m not anxious. If my body is feeling this way, my mind is quick to jump on board.
- I practice distraction: There are times when I find myself feeling anxious despite my best efforts. When that happens, I am learning to distract myself. I find something to touch, smell, hear or taste that can help me regain composure. I count backwards from ten or twenty. I hum a song or recite a Bible verse. I add numbers in my head or do multiplication tables.
- I live in the present: I have no idea what tomorrow holds. If I allow my heart to dwell on what might happen, I will be useless for today. So while I make marks on the calendar for appointments, I wake each morning determined to live right now.
Because, really, that’s all any of us has.