Best Medicine for Pent-Up Anxious Fear
I'm sitting in bed with Sage asleep on my lap and Bryan sitting next to me. Bryan's distracted, watching coding tutorials. I've been trying to distract myself with Pinterest and Instagram, but with each picture I feel my heart beat a little faster. To be honest I'm struggling not to hyperventilate as a wave of anxiety hits me. I try to focus on the pretty pictures, a child in a field, a cup of coffee, a building. I try to use each picture to squeeze the feelings rising up inside me back down into the dark. But right now it's not working.
I don't know exactly how to describe what I'm feeling...its like a wave, a wave of panic flooding my body. I've felt it before, I hate it.
I look away from the phone. I try to bring my attention back to my breathe. Back to the present moment. Away from the what-ifs.
But, I can't.
My mind wanders to the dream I had last night. I've been dreaming about an old crush lately. I think it's my subconscious's way of trying to process through the what-ifs by latching onto the only other guy I really cared for besides Bryan.
My anxiety level rises.
Sage stirs and I automatically latch her on to nurse more.
My mind now rambles to the dream I had two nights ago. Dreaming that Bryan was hospitalized for melanoma treatment with little hope of him recovering and the nurse wouldn't let me see him. It was traumatizing.
Another wave hits and nearly takes my breath away. What if...? Then my mind becomes ablaze with a check list of if-then statements. If Bryan can't work how will I provide? Could I really make a living writing? Should I even try? Then the "I should" statements flood in. I should learn all Bryan's passwords, especially the financial ones. I should take over paying the bills. I should do more research about melanoma treatments. I should eliminate what few processed foods still sneak into our diet. I should... I should... I should.
Somehow it's easier to let my mind go to the logistics and the right brained planning despite the anxiety it brings than it is to let myself really feel... well, all of it... the fear, the grief, the sadness, even the joy that carries it's own pain.
My mind recalls the conversation I had with my dad while he was up visiting. Reminding me that there will be plenty of time to worry about logistical planning later. There is no need to go to those places yet... hopefully not ever. Calling me to stay present in the moment, to enjoy each day that a have together with Bryan. Reminding me that no one really knows their end, but we have today.
But, my heart continues to race.
Wish I could get up. Shake it off. Sage stirs at my breast and cries out. I soothe her and get her nursing calmly again grateful for the distraction.
I pull myself back to the screen in front of me. I need a stronger distraction. Bryan and I put a show on the iPad and curl up to watch as Sage quietly starts to snore now on the bed beside us.
This is how most nights have been for me since the surgery. Really it's how much of the day has gone - fighting to keep my feelings in check. Fighting to keep my fears at bay. Searching for distraction.
Before the surgery I felt like I was in this really great place - I felt so much peace. I felt so open. I was worried, but not so worried that it was overwhelming. I felt energetically open. I could enter into my feelings and express them. I could allow myself to get teary - and I often did. I felt tender, but not raw.
When Bryan's surgeon showed me a picture of his 15cm tumor that all changed.
Suddenly the surgery didn't feel like a slightly scary inconvenience that we just had to get past, it felt like a slap in the face. Suddenly it didn't feel like the end of something, it felt like the beginning.
People keep saying to me how great it is that Bryan's recovering so well and that the surgery is behind us. People keep acting like the struggle, the hard time, the fear, is over and we should be celebrating and grateful. But, I haven't felt much like celebrating and to be honest I've struggled to be grateful too. It was easier before the surgery. Before I saw face-to-face what we're up against. Before I knew that the tumor had grown to half a foot in only a handful of months, before I knew that they found melanoma in every single one of the lymph nodes they removed from Bryan's body.
After the surgery my emotions felt ten times bigger then before. Suddenly it wasn't safe to enter into those emotions any more. I couldn't let myself cry for fear that the cry would turn into the unending sobs I experienced last year... or worse. I could feel the walls going up and with them my anxiety rose as well.
I felt antsy, anxious, irritable.
For most of the two weeks I was able to keep my anxious irritability at bay through distraction. Bryan's parents took Thaddeus for most of the first week, so I had less to trigger me. My parents were here for a good bit the second week so I had lots of fun distractions. But in the evenings it would all rush up to me... and soon enough Thad came back and my parents left... well, lets just say that I wasn't very fun to be around the past few days.
Wednesday I blew up at Thad more than once and knew I needed to do something. Bryan put a show on for the kids and offered to sit with them while I did some yoga or took some alone time. But, I couldn't do yoga - it left too much space for my mind to wander and it did nothing to get out the anger, fear, and anxiety that were the only feelings I was allowing to rise to the surface.
For the first time in my life I kind of wanted to go for a run - and I HATE running. I wished I had girlfriends here I could call up and go out dancing with and blow off steam. I wanted a punching bag.
My body longed for something physical, so I decided to listen to that longing. I dug up an old Tae Bo video on YouTube and you know what? It worked. It helped a lot. The squats, the punching, the push ups, the sweat, it all helped me get out that pent up frustrated fear so that I could allow other feelings to come to the surface.
Here's what I learned...
When you're feelings are too big to even feel them... When the primary feeling you feel is aggravated fear, irritable anger... The best medicine is physical activity, something that will really work up a sweat.
The tension was broken after that. The tears finally came, not in overwhelming waves yet, but they came. Now and then they've risen up in the past 24 hours, cleaning the slate, releasing the tension.
Slowly I begin again the long process of weeding through these emotions and working through all that Bryan's diagnosis means for us, for me, for the future.
Rejoicing in the journey, Bethany