Here it comes again. Roiling up inside of me, sometimes untriggered, sometimes in response to things like another horrible mass shooting. Anxiety. Crushing my chest and consuming my thoughts. Making them crazed. I want to stop the thoughts, but I can’t. What if today is the day that my sons are shot at school? What if my husband has a heart attack at work? What if, on the way to shuttle them all around in my much-loved Honda CRV, I am crashed into and killed and they are left without me? What if? What if? What if?
I often look at my husband in wonder. He is somber about things like mass shootings, and passionate in thought and ideas about what can be done to help, but he never seems to take it to the next level like I do. It never becomes “Why not me? Are we next? Will the boys be okay? What horror have we managed to avoid thus far that inevitably awaits us?” My husband understands risk. Percentages. He calculates seemingly casually and allows his mind to rest, if not totally at ease, at least not petrified. The likelihood is slim. The chances are few. We are safe. It is likely we will continue to be. How do I become that more like my husband in this way? Not unfeeling, no, but somehow unconcerned? How can I be able to attend a packed concert hall and fully enjoy the show? Able to walk around the block at night without the surety that something menacing will follow? Able to spend life with measured and appropriate mental responses? Without constant, agonized worrying about all that I cannot control?
Being married to someone who doesn’t share my level of anxiety is a blessing, I know. I would never want my partner to experience the desperation I feel, day to day, and I am grateful for his generosity and kindness with me when I am in a particularly bad state. But with it comes a world of emotions that are difficult to process, there is the frustration I feel, and the loneliness—how can he possibly understand me when he is not plagued with constant trepidation, begging whatever gods might be to spare my family the plights that others face?
It’s so difficult sometimes for me to just accept his comforting words or touch. To know that although he cannot empathize with me, he sympathizes with me, and in that he is sincere and loving. There is the worry (yes, there’s that word again) that I am a burden to him. The fear that one day, despite his assurances otherwise, he will realize what it costs to love someone like me and that he would be better off with another who handles anxiety like he does, as a normal thing to feel, analyze and dismiss. How could I blame him, if he did that? Doesn’t he deserve her? There is the need I feel for him to be my rock. My constant.
Again, I wonder if I burden him to the point where he feels he can never be the one who’s not solid and sure. That would be so unfair, I think. I could never bear that. Why should he have to?
Living with anxiety (and chronic depression, but that’s a whole conversation unto itself) is exhausting. For me, of course, but it must be for those around me, too. How does he manage it? What do I bring to the table that is so attractive that it overcomes the massive debt of what the anxiety and PTSD bring to the table. I don’t know, though I’ve asked. He’ll tell me I’m funny and bright and different (in a good way) than anyone he has ever known. He’ll tell my I’m cute and sharp-witted and honest and brave, and mean every word passionately. “You’re you,” he’ll say as proof, as though that is a gift. As though that is precious.
I want to see those things, too. I want to know I am more than just the mental illnesses that plague me, and some days I do. Some days—good days—I am able to be a little more secure, or at least distracted enough by the wonderful things in my life (and yes, there are many) that my worry only drifts along lazily in the background, there—always there—but soft and whispering instead of screaming in my head. Some days I am able to use the exercises I am learning in therapy and the mood balancing medication I take to have the effect that they are supposed to have, and they ease my frantic mind. Some days I remind myself that I am no more or less lucky than anyone else, and it’s a waste of time to worry about things that may never come to be. Some days I simply have more faith than others.
I’m trying to make those days more regular. More reliable. I’m trying. Not only for me, but for the people, especially that beloved husband of mine, who believe in me. Who know, even when I don’t, that I have more to offer than just a doom and gloom scenario. For those who see the best parts of me, in addition to the worst, and have decided that the whole of me is wonderful enough to love.