Sunday, July 15, 2012

When You Get Everything You've Ever Wanted, It's Time to Panic

I keep wishing my brain would stop. I have been roiling in anxiety and it's becoming unbearable.

It's not the wedding. Please. No event is worth deep levels of anxiety. Actually, on that front, it's all excitement and flurry and joy. All I want is for it to get here already because I've got a marriage I want to dive into.

It's life things. Things about the future and needing to look ahead and plan and all that overwhelming stuff. Life lately has been moving at a pace I can barely keep up with, and it's brought to the forefront all these BIG IMPORTANT THINGS that require thought and planning and plain old coping. But for me, these things initially bring up only huge levels of anxiety, all my fears (pertinent to the specific things) bubbling up and slamming me, so that I go from, well, I should be aware of these potential problems, to, omgomgomg these problems are REAL and we're DOOMED and HOW ON EARTH will we resolve this?? It takes a lot for me to keep these feelings at bay.

The truth is, though, that a lot of things are going on and I feel inside this collision of emotions that I realize I'm trying to sort through and understand and live with even as life keeps moving moving moving.

The crux of it all is the terrible feeling I have that - because life is in such a beautiful place right now - tragedy is looming around the corner. The extent to which I am convinced this is true is the heart of everything I'm struggling with right now.

(Before I start trying to dissect this, I have to note that this feeling is a hallmark of generalized anxiety disorder, which I was diagnosed with eons ago and which I expect to battle in one way or another for the rest of my life.)

I'll start with the fact that I feel like the luckiest woman on earth, save for one thing that is the cloud that forever hangs over me but which I try very hard to handle in as positive a way as possible. I've counted here many times my many blessings, and while I won't go into all of them again, I will say that I finally have the life I've always wanted, most especially from an emotional perspective. This is of course mainly due to finding such incredible happiness with a wonderful man, and the way our relationship has positively affected every other aspect of my life, but there are other factors, too, things having to do with the benefits of therapy and true self-honesty and learning from experiences. It is far from a problem-free or pain-free life, but it is the very best that my life has ever been.

Except, of course, for my ongoing pain over not having my son with me all the time. This will never change. As much as I am glad he gets to build a real relationship with his dad and as much as I believe in both their rights to have that relationship (including the time it takes to do so), it nonetheless comes at a huge cost to me, to my heart. My life will always have the hole of his absence every week that he goes to his dad. On the bad days, when I'm depressed and miserable or emotionally vulnerable, I feel like this situation is my punishment for every mean thought or word I ever had or said, for every hurt I've caused another. I worry that my son will liken joint custody to my abandoning him, or not being there for him, because there are times when gets sick at his dad's house (minor stuff), and I'm not there to handle it, or when he misses me and can only deal with the fact that this is his life, and half the time, he's going to be missing one of his parents. I worry - more than is healthy or normal - that my son will hate me for this and not understand the bigger, deeper picture.

Usually, though, it's not like this. There are facts about this situation that show it is actually not tragic, the most significant one being that my son is a happy, well-adjusted child who is always well-cared-for, no matter which parent he's with. My terrible feelings are about me. They're about my anxieties and fears and pain. It helps a bit to recognize that, but still. It sucks. It wears on me every time somebody hears about my arrangement and tsk tsks me. Living like this for just over four years now, I understand that however uncommon this arrangement is, it's normal. It is my son's idea of normal, and his father and I and our families have had to make it ours, too. It requires a lot of coordination and flexibility, but it works. It works from the most important perspective, which is my son's emotional health. On the logistics end, we'll see what the years bring, but I am hyper-vigilant about my son and his emotional well-being. So about this, I know he's o.k. 

I remind myself of these things, laying out these facts when my own sadness knocks me back. And in this way, I try to find balance.

The problem now is that - this pain aside - I am so unbelievably happy that I'm convinced some force is going to sweep it all away. I feel like the universe can't and won't allow this level of completeness and fulfillment and deep contentment. Between my anxiety, the heapings of both Cuban and Catholic guilt I was buried under for so many (important) years and the fact that any other time I was in a good place some crazy shit has happened to kill it, it's no wonder I feel this. I've never known sustained happiness. As an adult, I'd say a lot of that was due to my own poor choices, and certainly, once I started making the big changes that got me to where I am today, things have been very different (and better), but this is one mother of a feeling.

I'm going on three years of what have been the happiest, best years of my life (though I did have that awful jobless period there, but even that felt not-heinous thanks to simply being in a better emotional place), and all along, I've been like, what's the catch? What's the universe going to exact from me for this? My son's hatred? Jevo betraying me? A life-ending tragedy for a loved one?

And now, with marriage and a beautiful future stretching out before me, these feelings have doubled. It's not just that I'm terrified of losing my son or husband, or something terrible happening to my loved ones, it's that I also am compelled to imagine it all happening in the most unsuspecting (and therefore doubly terrifying) ways. I think of Jevo and imagine that our plane will crash to or from our honeymoon, thereby killing the promise before it truly started. I imagine my son doing something completely normal, riding in the car with someone else, and a terrible accident takes him from me. I imagine myself getting cancer (and dying, of course) before even turning 40. Between my Jevo and my son, I more than ever want to keep tragedy at bay (you get that I'm dealing only in horrific situations and death, right?), which is precisely why this feels so agonizing. As my happiness and overall sense of awesomeness grows, so does this monster.

Before I continue sounding utterly unhinged, I reiterate that I get that this is the manifestation of very bad anxiety. Which is what I have. But part of the shittyness of anxiety disorder is that it's a beast that only grows the more you think about it. I can easily reason with myself through these things. But when I do, the problem becomes the persistent voice that says, "but any of these things technically can happen, and why not to you?" Sigh. It's a twisted beast.

It occurs to me as I write that it might seem like I somehow believe I deserve terrible things should happen to me or that I'm unworthy of the happiness I feel. But it's not about that to me. I just feel that that's how the universe works, meting out tragedy as indiscriminately as it does happiness. And while I could tell myself, "man, I've been through so much crap in my life, I finally get a break," another part of me feels that in so many ways, ways that really matter to me, I am so blessed and fortunate that why wouldn't some awful thing happen?

Jevo - who in this regard is vastly different from me - gets what I feel but also thinks it's completely illogical and therefore, to him, untrue. In his view of life, things don't happen as I think they do and so there is nothing to worry about. Having him try to show me another view of things is something I'm grateful for, but it also exacerbates the anxiety at times, because it just makes me feel like I've got someone who's thumbing his nose at the universe and so he too will be smacked down eventually. Yeah, I know it's insane. He, meanwhile, insists he'll wipe my doom-filled views away.

As always, this wave of anxiety will pass soon enough, I know. But these last couple of weeks have been rough as I've tried to deal with it. Thankfully, life is moving so steadily on, leaving little room for me to dive too deeply into this stuff, and I take a measure of comfort in that. 


Posted by Tere @ 7/15/2012   | |


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