Anxiety is Awful!

I’ve written before about anxiety and child loss here.  No matter the cause of death, the FACT of a child’s death seems to create the perfect conditions for a parent’s body and mind to experience anxiety, dis-ease, fear and often a sense of impending doom.

My world was rocked to its foundation the moment I heard the words, “He was killed in a motorcycle accident”.  

The worst thing I could imagine had come true.  

There was no protection from it happening again, no guarantee that THIS unbearable pain would be the ONLY unbearable pain I would have to carry.

I think my body chemistry was instantly transformed that morning to include rapid heartbeats, shallow breathing and a horrible creepy tension that climbs my spine and clenches its claws tightly at the base of my skull.

Before Dominic left us for Heaven I was not an anxious person.

No matter what happened, I generally took it in stride, looked for a solution and moved forward armed with an arsenal of choices to meet the problem head on.

Now, I can be pushed into a corner by an ordinary phone call that lasts too long.  I can feel trapped if a price fails to ring up properly and I have to wait to have it corrected by a head cashier.  I can become positively frantic when I reach in  my purse and can’t find my keys even though I know for a fact I put them there and if I look a bit harder I’ll find them.

Traffic makes my heart go pitter-patter.  The doorbell sends me flying to make sure it’s the UPS man and not another police officer to tell me heartbreaking news.

If I try to multi-task (which I rarely do) I am soon overwhelmed and have to sit down to catch my breath.

I only shop in stores where I’m familiar with the aisles and where products I need are shelved.

I check and re-check directions if I have to go to an unfamiliar address and leave with double the time needed to get there in case I get lost.  Making on-the-fly course corrections doesn’t happen.

I pull off and have to figure out where I am.

And heaven forbid the phone rings past midnight -I wake with a start and even a wrong number means I won’t sleep for the rest of the night.

This is not “worry”.  It’s not “borrowing trouble from tomorrow”.  It is not an indication that my faith is weak or I’m “caving in” to my feelings.

It’s an uncontrollable physiological response to various stimuli.

So please, please don’t judge me or other bereaved parents for making choices about where we go, when we go and how much we go-most of the time we are anticipating an anxious response and trying to beat it.  

We are doing the best we can.  

Honest.

courage doesn't always roar male liion

Repost: Dealing With Anxious Thoughts

As a follow up to the repost a couple days ago:  Why is Anxiety Part of Child Loss?, I wanted to share this entry.

Here are some practical ways to deal with anxious thoughts, take them captive or redirect my focus so that they don’t rule my heart.

Please feel free to add any helpful tips in the comments section below.  We learn best from those that share our journey.  You may have the very words that will encourage another parent’s broken heart!

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-

Read the rest here:  Dealing With Anxious Thoughts

Repost: Why is Anxiety Part of Child Loss?

It surprised me when I felt anxious after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

Not that the doorbell startled me, or that passing the place of the accident was hard nor that hearing motorcycles made my skin crawl.

But that every single day for many, many months anxiety crept up my backbone and made a knot in my neck.

It surprised me that I felt like I was literally going to explode.

Read the rest here:  Why is Anxiety Part of Child Loss?

Why is Anxiety Part of Child Loss?

It surprised me when I felt anxious after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

Not that the doorbell startled me, or that passing the place of the accident was hard nor that hearing motorcycles made my skin crawl.

But that every single day for many, many months anxiety crept up my backbone and made a knot in my neck.

It surprised me that I felt like I was literally going to explode.  I would walk and walk and walk just to push the negative energy out of my body.

I was also surprised by what seemed to be random triggers-smells, sights, foods, voices, places-that could send me into a tailspin of rapid heartbeat, hurried breathing, sweaty palms and a feeling of abject terror.

I didn’t know it then, but my experience is common.

It shouldn’t be surprising, really.

We all operate in the world as if it is predictable, as if it follows rules.  It’s how we stay sane.

If our minds perceived that most of what we experience has at least a small element of the random, we would sit frozen, terrified to move.

Who can live in a world where you never know what to expect?

When Dominic left this life suddenly, unexpectedly and without warning, my sense of safety and order was violated.

The illusion of control was stripped away.  The grid through which I viewed the world was ripped to shreds.  What I thought I knew about how things worked was proven unreliable.

Truth is, I never really had all that much control, but burying Dominic made that undeniably obvious.

This brutal disruption in worldview created a kind of internal panic.

I wasn’t conciously aware of it at the time because I was overwhelmed with sorrow and the pain of loss.  But my mind was trying to wrap itself around a new understanding of how the world works.

I needed to learn to live in a world where I couldn’t predict outcomes, I couldn’t guarantee safety (even if I did everything “right”) and I couldn’t REALLY plan for tomorrow because tomorrow might very well never come.

I had to figure out how to get out of bed instead of cower under the covers. To get in the car instead of stay at home.  To continue to love the people God gave me even though they may be taken any time.

Anxiety is an outward expression of the inward reality of this disruptive process. My body was screaming what my mind was silently sorting out.

As I have worked on incorporating my experience of losing a child into my worldview, the anxiety has decreased.

I don’t expect to ever live free of anxiety again-how can I when I know by experience what most people only imagine?

But I’m learning ways to deal with it when it rears its ugly head.

grounding-exercise

And I’m learning that every time I triumph over it, I’m stronger and better able to do it the next time.  

courage-dear-heart

 

 

 

Trying To Navigate at 90 Miles an Hour

washington-with-traffic

I will never forget it.

Our family was driving through Washington, D.C. at rush hour (poor planning, I know!) and got lost.

Not utterly, hopelessly lost-but definitely turned around.

Multiple lanes of traffic, unfamiliar signs, lots and lots of cars traveling way. too. fast.

My husband was driving and I was trying to read the map-trying to make sense of where we were and where we needed to be but I couldn’t do it fast enough to make a difference.

As soon as I determined which lane we should be in, which exit we should take, we had passed it.

In frustration, my husband finally just stoppedin the middle of the road on a small patch of no-man’s-land between two diverging lanes.  I was scared to death.

police-car-lego

And then a police car pulled up behind us.

The officer got out and asked what was going on.  We explained our dilemma and he led us out of the maze of confusing options to the right road and we were on our way.

So many days I feel just like I did those years ago-confused, frightened, trying desperately to figure out which way to go but never able to slow down enough to really get a good look at the map.

road maps.jpg

I feel like I’m trying to navigate strange streets going 90 MPH.

Hurry up!

Should I turn right or left?

Did I just miss my exit?

I have no idea.

The destination is sure:  I will leave this place and join my son in Heaven.  But the path is winding and challenging and hard to figure out.

I can’t get out of the car called “Life” and wait until I have a clear route marked before me.

Sometimes I manage to get where I want to go.  Sometimes I don’t.

Some days and some events turn out resembling how I thought they should. Many don’t.

So I keep on keeping on.  

I’m navigating with the tools at hand and hoping for the best.

world-doesnt-stop-for-your-grief

 

 

Dealing With Anxious Thoughts

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.

coin_toss_11

  • 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.

 

crosswalk

  • 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!”

take-control-of-your-life

  • 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.  

angry

  • 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.

now

Because, really, that’s all any of us has. 

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