I’m pretty sure that I came out into this world a laid-back person. Although I have suffered from situational anxieties (usually related to boys during my adolescence and work in my adulthood) I have always been a go with the flow type of gal. I credit this ability to not sweat the small stuff with my survival of the crazy haze of raising twin newborns. I lived moment to moment, constantly impressing myself with keeping two babies alive each day and felt victorious.
After an uncomplicated and happy pregnancy, I was handed a full term and healthy baby boy with a zeal for eating. He was strong, happy and perfectly content. Raising him was pretty much smooth sailing, until about two months in when the corners of my world started to darken.
I gradually started to see dangers in the world that I hadn’t before. My mind would leave the happy moment before it and begin to fantasize about worst case scenarios. I would also replay past situations back in my head and perseverate on what could have happened. If my husband was late from work, I was no longer annoyed but instead petrified that he had been in a car accident. I made him get life insurance because I had thought about all the ways that he could die, leaving me unemployed with three small children. I was constantly afraid that something would happen to my wonderful baby and that his life would just be gone in an instant.
I didn’t realize that this was a problem until I was at a neighborhood party speaking with a neighbor who was a psychiatrist. I made a joking reference to the dark thoughts that I had been having and she looked at me and said, “Many women have those thoughts but you might want to talk to somebody about them.”
When I sat down to speak with the therapist she referred me to, I felt foolish and like I was wasting my time. Here I was, a privileged suburbanite, inventing problems and wasting an hour of precious preschool time. I told her about my fears, describing a recent moment on the way to her office where I imagined a car careening through the parking lot into mine and crushing me, and she quickly got to work.
Through my talk therapy sessions, I have learned that these fears are irrational and were probably hormonally related. I have also developed coping strategies to deal with them, like asking myself whether the instance that I fear is actually likely to happen. Most importantly, I have learned that when I am imagining a dark outcome, I need to bring myself back to the present moment, and appreciate that everything really is ok.
If you are having these thoughts, or know somebody who is, please know that it is ok to talk about them and seek help. My life has drastically improved now that I am not waiting for the other shoe to drop. I am able to be more present with all of my kids and appreciate the moment that I am in, which really, is all that we have.