It starts off as irritation, annoyance, lack of patience. Every little thing seems louder, harder, more difficult. Does the three-year-old have to sing and dance SO LOUD in the middle of the school meeting? Tripping over someone’s item that wasn’t put away leads to an outburst. I mean, “The basket is six inches away. Couldn’t you put the shoe IN the basket?”
I attribute it to stress. There is a lot going on this week. I put on a happy face and try to control it.
Then it starts.
A bubbling in my chest, a pressure like someone is sitting on it from the outside while the bubbles build underneath on the inside. My skin feels hypersensitive on the outside while just below the surface a million electrons are firing in rapid succession. I know and understand the term “crawling out of my skin” more intimately than I ever wanted to. If I could unzip my skin and climb out to get away from this feeling, I would.
But I can’t. I’m at the helm of my minivan, driving four tired kids home. The preschooler is incessantly asking why it’s so dark but there are no stars. We are waiting for our third freight train of the day when it stops on the tracks and I literally feel like I am going to explode.
Deep breaths, deep breaths, inhale, exhale, breathe.
This is what life with anxiety is like.
It comes out of nowhere, frequently unprompted and completely blindsiding me. I had no reason, or a million reasons if you ask my brain, to be on the verge of full blown panic. Yet there I was in my minivan, skin crawling, brain spinning and all I wanted to do was get home so someone else could take the kids for five minutes.
Motherhood broke my brain.
The rise and fall, and surge and drop of drop of hormones messing with the balance, leaving everything a little more sensitive, a little more raw and buzzing. I now understand older terms: nerves frayed, on her last nerve, nervous breakdown, much better. I feel it, frayed, buzzing, broken.
I breathe, I learn to cope, I take meds. I am trying to retrain my brain, fix it, repair it, make it whole again. When out of the blue the bubbling starts, and the pressure builds and I mourn the simplicity of being whole.
I wonder what it’s like to just love mothering and the exhaustion and the unpredictability and the pressure and the stress. I wonder what it’s like to not physically feel every skin cell pulling away as the bubbles of anxiety build while you try to soothe yet another tantrum. I push the thoughts back and climb the stairs repeating the mantra, “You’re a good mom, you’re a good mom, you’re a good mom.”
I collapse to bed early, praying it’s true and hoping tomorrow will be calm.