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“I Just Had to Pee” and other Half-Truths (Fighting the Monster of Anxiety)

“Are you doing okay?” my husband asks at 3:30 am. “It seems like you are having a hard time sleeping.” “I just had to pee,” is my response. Half-truth. Statement that quiets the other’s worry. Words designed to make everyone (including myself) believe that “I’m okay.” This happens often with the struggle of anxiety.

I have fought with what’s best described as Generalized Anxiety Disorder since my late 30s. More than 14 years.

If you knew me growing up, in my 20s and early 30s, you would have told others I was independent, strong, and care-free. I was the teen who drove to Canada to see my boyfriend and slept in the back of my beat-up Ford Pinto without any thought to the dangers of a young woman alone at a rest stop. I was the young adult who left home after college, delivering pizza while looking for work, and sleeping at friends’ houses with only about $20 in my pocket. I was the young mom who allowed her preschool children to play in our cul-de-sac without supervision, never hesitating to think they might be snatched, hurt or fall into the river that was only 50 feet into the woods behind our house. Not someone you would classify as anxious. Far from it.

I will never forget that morning. I woke up. Just as I was getting out of bed, my left leg collapsed right out from under me. I fell. My heart raced and I panicked. I got up slowly and was able to walk normally, but called the doctor immediately. “What was happening? Did I have a brain tumor?” Not sure why that thought immediately came as I had never paid much attention to my health. I was crippled with fear almost in an instant. I was pretty sure I was going to die.

A battery of tests for brain tumors, lyme disease, and MS. With each waiting period and diagnosis in the clear (my leg was probably just asleep when I fell), I thought I would have some peace. I only got worse. The final diagnosis: a full-blown nervous breakdown. For three months, I lay in my bed, cried, couldn’t leave the house, and had what they call depersonalization, the feeling of being “out of body.” I thought I was going crazy. It was the darkest time in my life.

Fourteen years of counseling, on-and-off medication, progressive muscle relaxation audios, my Headspace app, exercise, comforting Bible verses on sticky notes, deep breathing, prayer and begging God for relief, yoga, chamomile tea, close friends and a husband who shared my pain, changed diet, not watching the news or clicking on WebMD. You get the picture. Fighting it from every angle. Seasons of relief and seasons of being back in the fight. Fast forward 14 years to the past 24 hours. I am back in the fight.

A day in the life of half-truths (the whole truth being said inside my head):

7 am “Good morning Allen. I am glad Jared has work today.” (“Will he get up on time? Should I wake him? He’s 23. Don’t do that. Bad boundaries. But what if he doesn’t get up? He will lose this job. He won’t be able to pay his student loan. He will get bad credit. His future could be ruined.”)

8:45 am (knowing he is supposed to leave at 9) Send a text. “Want a smoothie before you leave?” (“Hopefully he is awake and moving. If he doesn’t respond, I can call him. Don’t do that. Bad boundaries again. But what if….”)

9:45 am (“Sarah’s sonogram for the baby is right now. They are rechecking some weird spot they found on his heart. What if he has Down Syndrome? It’s a soft marker for that. Stop thinking that, Esther. The doctor said it’s a super slim chance and all the other markers were fine. You need to get over this. Go to the grocery store. And don’t text her. Wait until she texts you.”)

10:45 am Send a text. “How did your appointment go?” (“Is the baby alright? Is Sarah going to have to quit her job to care for a special needs child? Will she be able to handle this? This would be horrible. No, it wouldn’t. Lots of people make it through and actually thrive.” And on and on with the back-and-forth while I don’t hear anything for almost two hours. Shaking at this point.)

12:37 pm Send another text. “?” Response: “Everything is fine.” (“Why do you keep doing this? You are supposed to be over this. See. It was all fine and your worry was useless. You have issues. Maybe you should go back on medication. Don’t want to do that.”)

12:45 pm (As you can see…relief was short-lived) “Hey Rachel. How are you feeling?” (said daughter had wisdom teeth out four days prior and had almost died of a tooth infection as a young girl) (“Does she have an infection? Do we need to call the doctor immediately? Please just say “better.”)

1:30 pm “Josh, did you hear from Uber yet?” (“Why did we allow him not to get a real job this summer? We should have been stronger with him. Is that controlling? He better start working. I will feel so much better when he’s making money.”)

5:30 pm From Allen: “Any word about the truck selling?” My response: “Lots of people are looking at it and taking pictures.” (“This truck is the death of me. Why did we ever let Rachel buy it? It will never sell. We will be stuck with it. I just need it gone. This box needs to be checked off my list before she leaves for college. Why isn’t it selling? I will be okay when it sells. What if it doesn’t? I won’t be okay.”)

Dinner out with friends. Distraction. Bed time.

Fitful night’s sleep filled with dreams about above items.

3:30 am Allen: “Are you doing okay? It seems like you are having a hard time sleeping.” Esther: “I just had to pee.” (“If he only knew. Don’t want to talk about it. Maybe I should write a blog post to get this sorted out. Would others read it? Would they love it or stop reading all my future posts since I don’t have my act together? Maybe it will bring this stuff to light. Maybe someone will feel understood. Is it worth the risk?”)

As you can see, I believe it’s worth the risk. I believe that I am not alone. I believe that bad stuff thrives in the darkness, in the hiding. So, here I am, bringing it into the light. A glimmer of hope arises in my heart that I have just taken another step towards healing.

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