written in 2008
I was 37 years old. It was late at night. The usually constant Hollywood sirens and traffic in my neighborhood had silenced. I was lying in my bed in my closet-sized bedroom which is cozy during our L.A. “winter,” but, with its negligible eastern-facing window, stifling in summer. I was experiencing an anxiety attack. Now, I had dropped out of college when I was in the middle of my junior year because my “issues” had so mushroomed and overwhelmed me that I couldn’t concentrate. I felt thoroughly disconnected from simple everyday life. I thought I could be losing my mind. I went to counseling determined to understand and overcome my depression and corral my anxiety. For the most part, I succeeded. Until this night, sixteen years later.
My husband of the time had stated rather matter-of-factly that he was pretty much over me and had moved in with a woman he’d recently met. I heard his words, wasn’t particularly surprised, thought I could handle it, and moved on with my life. Then, I began experiencing loss of focus, hours of inertia, a vacuum of motivation, and increasing moments of panic. The normally lovely ground was shifting beneath me. Hold the bedposts! (I have no bedposts!)
Then, I remembered my baby. A year old. Sleeping just down the hall in her crib. She needed me. She needed me to be her mother. To be a grown-up. To be able to nurture and love her, attend to her every need and raise her to be the best human being she could be. I had to be THE ONE.
I actually spoke aloud. You can’t have an anxiety attack. You can’t become disabled. This is simply not acceptable. And, with that, my symptoms disappeared. What, no wallowing? No falling into disarray and flailing for help? With those few words, that simple command—to myself—I snapped back into shape. In a Guiness-Book-of-Word-Records time. I couldn’t quite believe it, actually. I was impressed. I felt like an adult. I laughed out loud, then fell right to sleep.
It’s eleven years later, and I believe I’m a good mother. I feel confident in my ability to connect with my daughter and still be the parent who draws boundaries. We can get very silly; we feed off of each other’s goofiness and I get to laughing so much that my eyes are watering, I can hardly breathe and previously unheard noises erupt from my mouth so that I have to pull the car to the side of the road. We also get angry with each other, then sit, talk and hug our way back. I can remain silent because she wants to only vent (I visualize a nail through my lips holding them shut), yet when requested or when I feel very strongly, I can offer suggestions (max. 3) on how she might approach and resolve an issue. I tell her what option I would prefer that she choose, but say that she is now of the age where she must reflect and decide for herself. She must think about what type of person she wants to be. Toddlers and babies are reactionary and purely emotional beings; now, she must accept the task of actually thinking before she acts and it is up to her (not me) to start making decisions about how she is going to behave.
Part II, next post
© 2011 Will I Ever Be a Bona Fide Grown-Up? Part I by Kat Ward.