Times are not normal right now. In a world battling a global pandemic, political chaos, everyone wants answers, stability, and support– making daily tasks, work, parenting, and self-love and preservation that much harder. I’m here to say I see you, I hear you, I am you.
It’s been 8+ weeks working from home with two <5 year-old BUSY BEES 24/7. I made it. Well, WE made it, since Brian and I are managing this storm as a team, both working FT and wrangling said bees & dogs. There was not another option, but I couldn’t be more grateful. He really is still my partner in all things kids/life, even though we separated romantically.
But today, I just broke down.
I have suffered from panic attacks since I developed them postpartum with Charley, when they occurred near daily for months on end—now they only reappear during times of stress, in all their glory, to remind me that I’m doing too much and something in my life has to give, or my health will.
It had been another long day after many long weeks of unknowns, uncertainty, home-schooling + an unrelenting work schedule, with no “me time” anywhere to be seen, or even a meal to be eaten sitting down. I felt it coming on and ran upstairs to my bedroom as I knew what the next ten minutes would entail. I sat behind a closed door, while those bees, still following, were left banging on the door asking “mommy, what’s wrong” and Charley begging for “a huggie.”
When I finally caught my breath again, they stormed in, and both just ran into my arms as I tried unsuccessfully to hide my tears. Tears of guilt for them witnessing this panic and tears of guilt for feeling guilty that they were witnessing my raw humanity and I felt ashamed (vs. human) for it.
You often hear that people with anxiety and/or depression shut-out, shut-down, shut in. For many, that may be the case, but my symptoms are the opposite. I’m a perfectionist and another Queen busy-bee (I never wonder where the kids get it, ever), anxiety makes me productive beyond a normal capacity. Busyness intermixed with perfectionism is my self-medication. Stay at home order? How many house projects can I complete in my (zero) spare time to pretend the world isn’t in complete chaos. You need this document by tomorrow? Consider it done, I’m not sleeping tonight anyway.
If I don’t take a second to breathe, I can escape this unease, if only temporarily. I know it’ll come crashing down. I can’t keep up this pace anymore. Whenever I try to, my body makes sure to put my mind on high alert— panic sets in. My body + mind no longer permit that mechanism of survival that has always been my go-to. That “if I can just have everything perfect, finished, done and done well— then maybe I will survive and even relax… you know, after.”
Well that jury has been out awhile now—I survive but I don’t relax and if I don’t proactively care for myself, that anxiety infused with busyness and perfectionism will return. I had the marriage, beautiful child, the PhD, the house with the picket fence in the perfect beach-setting town. I wasn’t relaxed. I was still hustling for my worthiness. It wasn’t until I finally said enough, and committed to it, that my world changed.
It took years of personal work before I finally allowed myself to be human, show my humanity, my vulnerability, exist (unapologetically), care for and love myself, not only as much as I love others, but first and foremost.
Some days and life situations are still HARD (AF), and the corona virus global pandemic and all its changes, were more than enough for these old survival mechanisms to try and rear their head. Today it happened. I took a half day off of work to decompress and give myself some introspection.
Right now, I need to be realistic: I cannot possibly do it all nor can I be it all for my family right now. These aren’t normal circumstances. The work that I can do right now + home-schooling will not be perfect or even close to. I need to accept that, improvise, do my best, and pray to just “arrive” at the finish line in one piece. First, I need to start taking care of me again, the priority I dropped once we moved remote and as I went into busy mode, and find some homeostasis (internal peace).
I talk a lot to others about self-care, self-compassion—yet, for the past 8 weeks, I wasn’t taking my own advice, I dropped my own needs first— stopped exercising, started snacking, running in all directions by 6am and 4x cups of coffee.
Enough: self-care and compassion are getting reprioritized today.
We’re all here together, different boats in the same storm—and sometimes we all need a reminder to be a little kinder to ourselves. Reminder that imperfections are expected. The goal is to “arrive” unscathed—and please, if anything, forgive yourself for being human.