Yesterday’s tragic news shook me to my core. Since I have been a mother, I’ve learned what triggers my anxieties and have learned to avoid them at all costs. The news is one of my triggers, and I somehow manage to successfully avoid it–even with a husband who is addicted to MSNBC.
Having the day off from work, I spent yesterday morning packing up donations to give to a family who experienced their own tragedy recently, and I weeded through Jackson’s baby clothes to make up a box for my pregnant cousin. Talk about emotional! I may have even snuggled an empty newborn outfit–the one I brought my baby home in. I had on music, not the television, and I had been working too furiously to check in to social media. I was in my own sheltered, small world, without even realizing or appreciating how good that felt until much later.
Once I finished packing up boxes, I left to go visit my uncle, who is a doctor and who agreed to give me my belated flu shot. It was around 2:45 pm when I walked into his office and sat down in the waiting room, where some news channel was on the tv, like it always is when I go there. I thought, “I need to talk to him about that. Maybe something lighter would be better for a doctor’s office waiting room!”
And then I started to piece together what I was seeing. I opened up Twitter and asked someone to fill me in, thinking it would be gentler to hear the news from a friend than from CNN.
And reading through the first of many replies to my tweet, I started to cry.
The receptionist asked me if I was ok. Through tears, I told her I hadn’t seen the news all day and was learning what was going on. I explained that I have anxiety and a 3-year-old son before I started crying again.
We talked for a few minutes, and I calmed down a little bit before she led me into the individual room where my uncle would see me. While I was alone, I texted my husband and my mother to try to fill in some of the gaps for me and simply to tell someone I was struggling very much.
Then I got that dreaded needle, which added a physical dimension of pain.
My uncle and I talked for a few minutes about my anxiety, about our family, about parenthood, about the shooting. I left there feeling calmer, but shaken still, of course. I drove to my next errand, the entire time fighting with myself whether to skip the errand and rush to daycare to pick up Jax versus resuming my life as usual and completing the errand right down the street from the office. It made sense to run the errand. It felt like taking control, it felt like maybe it would stop the anxiety spiral. So I ran the errand. On my drive to the daycare immediately afterward, some jerk cut me off in traffic and then I lost it completely. I wailed on the steering wheel as words screamed out of my mouth that I didn’t even know I was thinking. I was angry and scared.
The tragedy evoked a feeling in me that I haven’t had since I suffered from postpartum anxiety (PPA). During my PPA, I worried–is there a stronger word for worry?–that something tragic was going to happen to my son. I worried he would become ill, or that someone would hurt him in some way. I worried I couldn’t protect him from any of it. I called my dad one day during the early part of my maternity leave, sobbing into the phone about how hard it is to be a parent and how impossible it felt to keep a child safe. ‘ll never forget that frantic feeling, the anxiety of being a new mother and trying to figure out how to shield my baby from everything, then realizing I can’t. That feeling returned like a tsunami yesterday.
At a red light, I reached into my purse and fumbled for my pill bottle. It had become suddenly apparent I wouldn’t be able to mother Jax the way he needed without some help calming myself down before I saw him. I didn’t want to be like this in front of him. I didn’t want my fear to become his fear.
I swallowed a pill and decided then I would take Jax out for ice cream after dinner. Life, for us, would continue as normal today. I say that with some guilt, of course. But more so with gratitude.
I think that ice cream sundae was the most delicious one I’ve had in my entire life.
With hesitation, I checked Twitter and Facebook this morning after having avoided them nearly the entire day yesterday (to avoid triggering myself any further). I was glad I did because of this tweet I saw right away:
I read the article Gregg tweeted, and it reminded me of what my uncle said yesterday: There are more good people in this world than there are people who would murder children. We can only try our best to keep our children safe without sheltering them too much from the world, but we cannot let our fears become their fears.
That’s how I experienced this event. I hope those of you reading are healing and hugging and counting your blessings.