I struggle with anxiety. I often fear the worst (for example, that the elementary school is calling right now to tell me my son is having another seizure despite the fact that it’s been three years and nine months since he had his one and only seizure). I overthink and overanalyze every single thing. All the time.
It is so unhealthy.
I’ve been seeing a therapist since February, and I cannot say enough good things about the hour a week I spend with her. She’s provided me with powerful tools to help me alleviate my anxiety, and it works. I’ll never be cured of anxiety – nor would I want to be – but I’m managing it much better now than I ever have.
But…there’s always a but, isn’t there?
I’m struggling with my peace. I find it hard on occasion to find peace, and this year is one of those years. I’m struggling with peace. My world has become so noisy and so busy and so oversaturated, and my peace is suffering as a result. I know there are certain things I cannot help – the kids will always be busy with school and sports, and we have a busy social life.
However, my peace, this year more than ever, is virtually nowhere to be found. It’s been a difficult year. In 18 months I lost two family members – my grandmother and my uncle – who also happen to be two of my very favorite people in the world. My world is just darker without them, but this year has been filled with tremendous sadness as a result. My grandmother died peacefully of old age a few weeks before the second anniversary of her 100th birthday (inside joke…I can feel her smiling at me thinking about all the fun we had laughing that that one). My uncle died of cancer. He was given six months to a year in the spring of this year, but he died only a week after my dad, my son, and I flew to California the first week of August to say our goodbyes.
I haven’t discussed that one much because there’s a lot pain that in that kind of loss. However, I can say with absolute certainty that pre-grief followed by grief is a difficult place. I spent months unable to catch my breath each time I saw my dad’s name on my phone. Would this be the call telling me my favorite uncle, the man my husband and I spent so much time with, the one we laughed with and had the absolute best time with, is gone?
Knowing someone’s days are numbered is a tremendous burden to bear. It’s one I wouldn’t wish on anyone. It’s heartbreaking on so many levels, and it slowly brings you into a place of such darkness. It sits with you all the time. It’s always there when you are just living your life, enjoying a moment, appreciating a beautiful sunset – it’s there. It’s in the corner, reminding you with a pang of sadness that it’s there. It’s like being pre-sad about being sad.
I won’t pretend I handled that well. I certainly did not. Add to that the everyday stresses of being a wife and a mom to four kids with a house and a business and an active social life, and this year has been a year that I’ve retreated into myself. I often joke I’d make an excellent recluse, but it’s not entirely a joke.
I could take my husband and my kids and run away and never socialize again. I could spend my entire life at home in the place I’m happiest surrounded by the people I love the most and never leave again…well, I’d leave, but I fear I could very easily remove myself from all socialization and the entire world and be exceptionally content and very happy with just these five. I am not being facetious when I say I am not a people person – I love a handful of people, and I barely tolerate the rest – and I could easily spend my time wrapped up in myself and my family and never worry a minute about the rest of the world.
But, back to my peace.
My life is loud and noisy and busy. There was a time I loved that, but the older I get, the more I dislike it. I like the slow days, the simple moments, the people who I connect with so simply and easily. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy the loud and noisy now, but it’s very few and far between. My therapist often uses the term ambivert – I’m someone who is both extroverted and introverted. But, the problem for me is that I have limits on my extroverted personality.
For example, I have no problem being extroverted once a week, but if there is more than one activity in which I have take my extroverted personality out of the house, I can assure you I am working harder than I should to prep myself, pep myself up, and talk myself into it. Following an extroverted activity, I need every bit of 2-3 days to recharge without socializing with anyone outside my family again. It’s a struggle for me. I just prefer quiet.
Right now, I’m working on protecting my peace. It’s not going well for me at the moment, so I was asked to sit down and make a list of things that I’m struggling with internally. Putting them to paper – a brain dump of sorts – has been helpful to me. It’s allowed me to take note and see where I’m struggling, why I’m struggling, and what I’m struggling with. I’ve been in such a funk for months now, and I am struggling to find joy in the moments I treasure the most.
Why do I feel like this?
Put simply, I’m overstimulated. My kids have been so busy with sports that we spent 12 weeks going to practices, games, matches, meets, and being social with other sports parents 6 days a week. We had our entire lives to live on Saturdays – to spend time with friends and family, to spend time as a family, to go out, to do things we want to do. It’s a struggle trying to live your entire life in one day.
Furthermore, I struggle with ‘requirements’ – for lack of a better term. I am not someone who does well with being expected or told what to do. I need to be in control of my time and my life. I always have been. I work for myself. I set my own schedule and boundaries and ‘rules’ and it’s hard for me to succumb to someone else’s schedule even if it is the sports schedules of my own kids.
The socialization of those sports kills me. I have no problem chatting with other parents and coaches, but when it’s six days a week, I am overstimulated. Quiet. I like quiet.
I struggle with boundaries
There. I said it. I struggle with boundaries. I have a difficult time saying no at times because I feel like I’m ‘expected’ to go to certain things or be at certain places, and I certainly don’t want to hurt people’s feelings. At the end of the day, though, I have to stop worrying about how other people feel and worry first about how I feel. I mean it when I say it’s not about them…it’s really about me.
How am I going to protect my peace?
Well, I’m going to put myself first. If I am not excited about something, or I am worried or anxious or feeling uncertain, I’m going to gracefully remove myself from that situation. While there are so many people I love so much and want to spend time with and love to be around, there are others who drain me so much that I simply do not enjoy myself. I do not mesh well with specific personality types, and I find myself unexcited, anxious, and not enjoying myself. I am going to work on excusing myself from situations in which there are more of those people than not. In short, I’m setting boundaries.
I’m going to remind myself that I am only in control of my own reaction – and other people’s reactions are not my business. I cannot live my life doing what’s expected of me by others or putting other people first if it hinders my own peace and happiness.
I’m going to put my husband first. I’ve been inexcusably bad about this lately. He is my rock. My best friend. The person I love the most in the world, and I find myself not listening to him when he’s voicing his concerns. He knows me better than anyone in the world. He’s been making a few specific suggestions to me lately about things he feels are not the best for me, and he’s been making it very clear that he and I need some alone time – we haven’t had a night away without the kids in months.
I’m not going to take everything personally. I am so good about making sure my kids don’t do this. It is so laughably easy for me to look at the kids and truthfully remind them that the way other people are behaving/treating others is about them and not something to take personally. It’s never personal. It’s always an interior feeling or motive when someone is being hurtful. However, it’s so difficult for me to take my own advice. I have to stop taking things personally.
A few reminders
- It’s all right for me to walk away or excuse myself from something when it’s causing me more stress/anxiety than joy
- It is never too late to set boundaries
- Meditation is so helpful
- I cannot control everything
- Not everyone will understand my feelings or my path, and it is not my responsibility to make them
- If a person brings me negative feelings more often than not, it’s time to gracefully bow out
- Speak up. I’m not good at this. But, I will learn.
Focusing on my own peace is necessary. I have so many amazing things, people, friends, and friends who have become family in my life. Though 2022 has been darker for me than most years in terms of so much being out of my control and so much sadness, I’ve allowed it in so much that it’s taken up residence in my mind – and this is not a healthy place for me. Too much complaining, focusing on the negatives, and too much negativity is not good for anyone, but it’s especially troublesome for someone who suffers from anxiety.
There’s an old saying that if it costs you your peace, it’s too expensive. Anyone who knows me well knows that there’s not much I find too expensive when it comes to my happiness, but I’ve ‘spent’ too much this year on things that don’t provide me with peace. No more. I’m focusing on the healthy, good, wonderful things and people in my life – even if it means getting a little uncomfortable and doing things I might not normally do.
As my husband reminded me today during our long Sunday walk around the neighborhood – honey, it’s your life. Your only job is to live it to your own fullest – not anyone else’s.