You’re Stronger Than You Think

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“Mommy I’m scared. I can’t breathe.”

You never want to hear your child say that to you. And when my four-year-old daughter recently said it to me one night around 2am when her cough went from 0-60 out of nowhere, I didn’t waste a second getting her to the emergency room.

This isn’t going to be the kind of thing where I pat myself on the back for getting my kid the medical attention she needed one scary night just in the nick of time. It’s a fairly basic requirement to keep your kid alive and I did what any normal parent would do in the situation. In fact, I spent the following seven hours pacing nervously around her hospital room, mentally berating myself for all the things I may have done wrong that, in my frazzled state, I thought may have landed her in that room in the first place.

You see, I’m THAT mom. The one who thinks the worst, all the time. The one who worries, who panics, who overthinks and overreacts. I know, I know. We’re parents, we all do that. But when the shit hits the fan, I retreat back into my shell like a terrified turtle — frozen, shaking, crying, feeling sick to my stomach and envisioning every worst-case scenario on earth.

Maybe this is you too. Maybe you’re a worrier, a crier, a freaker-outer like me. Maybe not by nature, but when it comes to your kids at least. Maybe you also often wonder how quickly your legs would turn to jello and your lunch would come back up if your world were to suddenly fall apart at the seams. If so, maybe now I can offer you some hope.

I drove as fast as the gas pedal would allow, flying past red light after red light, one eye glued to the road and the other to my daughter strapped into her car seat behind me. Finally at the ER, we sat for a minute and waited for a nurse while my baby cried and clung to my shoulders, calling out for me in between her tiny gasps for air. I could feel my body trembling from the inside, felt the desperate sobs gathering at back of my throat and the tears welling forcefully under my eyelids. I felt myself breaking down.

This is the moment you are not prepared for as a parent, should you ever find yourself in this situation. This is something you will not learn to handle in a parenting class or a self-help book. This is that make-or-break moment when you are faced with a choice. You can choose to fall apart in this moment, let your anxiety win, let the terror wash over you and just lose your mind completely. 

Or this is the moment you quickly realize there is no choice to be made, and that there never really was. And I promise you, you won’t fall apart. No, instead you will be hypnotized by the adrenaline. Your mommy autopilot will kick in. You’ll push that terror so far back inside that you may never see it again. You’ll put on the bravest face you can muster for your child and you WILL power through it. You got this, mama. 

So in perhaps the strongest moment of my entire life, I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and shook it all off. I held my little girl in my arms as tightly as I could and I swore to her that she was going to be absolutely, positively fine. Inwardly, I made the same promise to myself.

If you’re the type who is normally good under pressure, this probably isn’t as big of a deal to you as it seems to me. But in that moment, I will never forget the way I looked fear dead in the face and told it to fuck off. For just a little while, for my sweet, scared baby girl, I was her superhero. I didn’t recognize myself, overcome by this sudden strength I never knew I was capable of. I’m grateful for it, and I sleep a little better now knowing I had that cape all along, tucked away and waiting for the day I’d need to put it on. I really hope I never need it again, but if I do at least I know it’s there.

In case you’re wondering, my daughter is perfectly fine now. I may have kept her calm, but her amazing nurses and doctors kept her alive. I can’t thank them enough.

Nothing to Fear But Fear Itself? Bullsh*t!!

I have some “minor” anxiety issues, which may be apparent from my writing.  Some of you might have even noticed my affinity for Xanax, which I mention from time to time because it’s kind of awesome.  Someday I’ll write all about the time my anxiety caused me to have a real life nervous breakdown, and I’ll attempt to describe, as humorously as possible, what a living hell it sort of was. But it’s been about three years and I still haven’t found a single funny thing about the whole debacle (aside from the very fact that I had an actual nervous breakdown), so it may be a while before I tackle that one.

Today I’m talking about my more innocent fears.

Some of my fears are your typical, run-of-the-mill, boring things like death, rapists, and tsunamis.  But some of the other ones skew a bit irrational.  To be fair, some are rational but the severity of the phobia is so bad that it enters into irrational territory.  So I’ve listed a few of these anxieties here and divided them into two categories for your reading pleasure: Idiotically Irrational and Rational but Ridiculous.

I’m obviously way too amused by alliteration.

Idiotically Irrational Fears

Being bitten in the ass (or worse, somewhere else) by a giant toilet-dwelling snake.  I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve forgotten to put the bathroom light on in the middle of the night before sitting down and then waited, trembling, for a pair of fangs, dripping with poison, to clamp down (up?) and not let go.  I’m pretty sure it’s happened to someone, somewhere, at some point.  Talk about scaring the shit out of a person.

A tiger gets into my house and eats my dog.  Generally, the thought of any wild animal finding its way into one’s home would be horrifying.  But for some reason, I’ve actually had a nightmare about a tiger eating my dog in my living room. Twice.  I can’t say it’s likely that there are any dangerous safari animals roaming around Staten Island, but if there are I really hope they don’t have a thing for British Bulldogs.  Or people.

Undercooked chicken.  For some inexplicable reason, raw chicken meat gives me the heebie-jeebies.  Unfortunately, I really enjoy poultry.  Cooked poultry, that is.  So I still have to be around the raw stuff.  Whenever I make chicken, I tend to wash my hands until they bleed.  I also tend to cook the stupid chicken to like 200 degrees or so.  I don’t mean to overcook it, but the paranoia always sets in and I start freaking out that we’re all going to die from salmonella poisoning and before I know it we’re having rubber cutlet parmesan for dinner. And I’m all “bon appetit!” and Big M is all “where’s the can opener for the tuna fish?”

Forgetting to pull up my pants after using the bathroom.  Technically, this is impossible because even if I really didn’t bother to pull them up I’d surely notice that I was pantless at some point while washing my hands, right? Or, more likely, I’d actually FEEL like my pants were not fully on, right? Still, I can’t help but occasionally envision a rather unsettling situation wherein I hurriedly sprint off the bowl and out the door without ever thinking to pause and make sure that my ass isn’t exposed.  I once forgot to shut the door to pee while entertaining a house full of guests, so I suppose anything’s possible with the likes of me.  (And don’t you dare judge me for that until you have very young children and grow accustomed to leaving the bathroom door open in case someone notices mommy is missing for a minute and decides it’s a good time to feed the dog a chocolate bar or leap like Superman off of a very tall dresser.)

Rational But Ridiculous Fears 

My car breaks down and causes a major traffic jam.  The thought of my car breaking down, especially with young kids in the backseat, is scary enough as it is.  But the thought of being THAT CAR, the dreaded, infamous “stalled vehicle in the left lane” from the traffic report, is just too much to bear.  You know, my brother once broke down on a one-lane bridge. A ONE-LANE BRIDGE.  I don’t think I’d ever get behind the wheel again.

Fainting in public.  Here’s how nuts I am about this one: I will NEVER leave my house on an empty stomach.  EVER.  Today I shoved a peanut butter sandwich down my throat just to go pick up my son from school, and I wasn’t even hungry.   It’s not exactly a figure-friendly habit.  I am PETRIFIED of having some low-blood-sugar incident where throngs of people nearby start freaking out and thinking they just witnessed someone drop dead in front of their faces.  You can imagine what a blast this was to deal with after being diagnosed with gestational diabetes while I was pregnant with my daughter.  Blood sugar levels are such jerks.

Blackouts.  Just now, I asked Big M to help me name some of my bigger fears (yes, there are so many I needed help recalling everything I’m afraid of).  The first thing he said was “not being able to watch TV.” Oh, and then he said “you shouldn’t do this topic, hun, people are definitely going to think you are insane” Oh well!  My point is that I had just jotted down “blackouts- NO TV!!”  Television is just such a big addiction for me.  I know that’s terrible and not healthy and all that crap, but it’s a fact.  I can’t help it that television soothes my anxiety, even when it’s just functioning as background noise.  Plus, TV is awesome (have you SEEN Walking Dead?).  I need television.  It keeps me sane.  Well, it keeps me the kind of sane that allows me to merely imagine I might run out of a bathroom with my pants around my ankles—as opposed to actually doing it.

My children will someday be old enough to supervise themselves.  Although spending every waking moment of my life making sure my kids stay alive from one minute to the next sometimes feels like living inside my very own invisible, padlocked prison hell, there’s something even more disturbing about the fact that someday I won’t get knots in my stomach from not hearing a peep out of them for three whole minutes.  Because that means these kids will finally have the ability to go three minutes without accidentally killing themselves or each other, and then someday they will be old enough to go hours and hours without any supervision at all.  And while that sounds like a little slice of heaven at first, it’s actually a very, very scary thing.  While they might be old enough to understand that crossing the street always requires first looking both ways, I won’t be there all the time to ensure that they don’t wander directly into oncoming traffic– literally and figuratively speaking.  It freaks me out that someday my son might have a drink and then get behind the wheel of a car because I wasn’t there to grab his car keys and drag him home by his ear before he even thought about drinking and driving.  And what if one day my daughter gets pressured into having sex with some dickhead just because I wasn’t there to remind her that she is so much better than that, and then take a baseball bat to the douchbag’s precious little gonads?  Someday my kids will have to make smart decisions all on their own, and I know they aren’t going to get it right every single time.  I can’t stand that thought.  Perhaps, out of everything, that is the one thing that scares me most.

Well, that and getting bit in the ass by a toilet snake.

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