Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Anxiety and the Anti-Hero

Thank goodness this month has 31 days or there's no way I'd get a whole SECOND post in. I have a lot of catch-up: Mother's Day, a visit from my parents, the fully finished backyard, our new couch that is like a cloud but better, the finished game room, the kids' last day of school, Maggie being perfect, and the cats being cats, but I feel called to talk about why I think I'm living so much more in the moment of our every day. I'm writing less, which does make me sad, but sleeping more. Loving more. Being more. There is so much about this year that is and has been extraordinarily HARD. On every front--personal, professional, marital, parental, physical, emotional--all of the fronts that there are and all of them have had their moments of hard. And yet, I have never felt better, more grounded, more loved, more loving.

And this is really all thanks to antidepressants. There's no other way to put it. It's better living through chemistry and I feel compelled to tell you about it.
As I've written before, I never thought I had anxiety. Not because I thought of having anxiety as bad or weak or somehow less, but simply because I wasn't anxious. I wasn't a worrier. New things excited me. Long to do lists made me ready to seize the day. Plans were my favorite and last minute changes in plans were my second favorite. I was an under-worrier about the kids and if I've learned anything it's that perhaps I should have worried a little more. I always saw the best case scenario and felt confident I could handle the worst case if it presented itself so there was no need to worry about it in advance.

I also slept horribly. I obsessed on things that happened years ago that made me sad that I couldn't fix but would catch my brain in unending thought-loops anyway. When I felt like things were slipping I was an absolute asshole to the person I love most. I could feel myself get tight and mean when there was a lot to do and I felt like I was the only one shouldering the responsibility to do it. Now that I pay attention, I can feel my heartrate rising in those moments. My patience thinner, my irritation higher, and my ability to handle the situation made a million times worse by KNOWING there was no reason to feel or act that way but being unable to stop. This isn't me, I'd think. Does it matter? said the person who bore the brunt of it all, if it's who you're being?

No, I finally realized, it didn't matter. In the words of my personal Poet Laureate, it's me, hi, I'm the problem, it's me.

Therapy changed my life in helping me get over some things that were hurting me long past the time period they deserved and helped me better love my beloved. It helped with anxiety, but I remained unaware (or unwilling to be aware) of how much my anxiety was still affecting me. I thought I was on a sufficient dose of anti-depressant and I cruised along, better in so many ways, but still working way too hard to NOT do what I could now see and feel were destructive things. When we moved to Dallas, we had a mental health crisis with one of the kids and found a psychiatrist who helped so much. It finally occured to me that perhaps I didn't have to be stuck in a position of being able to see a problem, moderate it, apologize for it, but not actually STOP it. It hadn't occurred to me before that something could help me do that.

An increase in dosage and several months later and the change has been genuinely life-altering. As my doctor said, it's not supposed to be that hard to act in a way that is consistent with who you are. It's not supposed to take teeth-gritting effort to NOT get in your own way. I am the most me I've been in a very long time and it has affected every area of my personal life.

For one, I sleep. I sleep so well. Rather than delay what I know will be a frustrating 1-8 hours spent trying to sleep by staying up late reading or writing or watching another episode of whatever show we're on, I EMBRACE bed. I go to bed FIRST. Bed is my favorite. On the weekends if I'm lounging on our outdoor couch in the screened-in porch and I feel my breath slow and my eyes get heavy, I nap. I nap even though I'm not pregnant or super sick. I have never done that--never been able to do that--in my entire life. For the first time in at least 30 years I'm getting 8 hours of sleep at night and you guys, it is incredible.

We moved - TWICE! - and traveled a lot and I have been exactly the person I want to be in the lead up to every one of those events. I have been able to be the person who I AM. I have handled the lists, the packing, the logistics in the way that is true to me- embraced them, handled them, planned them, and executed them with a steady heartrate and minimal yelling. Now if I yell at anyone, it's on purpose. It turns out then I can use my words, when I can say, hey, tomorrow is going to be stressful and I can feel my anxiety about it, please help me manage it by not making me feel like everything is dependent on me, magic happens. My partner can partner me. Rather than alienating myself through my own behavior, I can now be embraced, loved, supported. And being loved makes me more lovable. It's the best of feedback loops and the polar opposite of where I often found myself before.

This transformation of self has been well timed, since the last year has also been the year I've needed to feel the most... complete and whole with myself and my little family. We left our friends and social circle in Fort Worth and moved to a new city full of preexisting social circles with multiple kids big enough to make their own friends completely free of any connection to me. I lateraled into an office where I'd never worked and had few connections. We moved into a rental house with no connections and then a street with tight preexisting connections and we are outside of all of them. People have been wonderful and we're slowly growing ties here, but there's no doubt I have not had a year of adult life with fewer parties or casual get-togethers, and while that would normally send my extroverted FOMO-filled self spiraling, it's been... okay. Our kids are older and full people in their own right. They're fun and funny and we adore them. We've done more together in the last year than we have since they were tiny and it's been so nice. Landon will only live with us for three more years and I'm so grateful for the peace I've felt when it's just the five of us.

This August will mark 22 years that James and I have been together and I honestly don't think I've ever liked him more. I've never loved him more either - he's the best partner I could possibly imagine and has taken up the mantle in running our family more seamlessly than I would have imagined, but I also just LIKE him so much. I get so excited when I see him, when we get to be together, when it's just us hanging out in our fluffy chairs in our room, or cuddling on our now much bigger couch, or watching our kids play in the pool. He's my favorite and he's more my favorite than I thought anyone or anything could ever be. I used to think our first year of dating, or our first year of marriage, were our greatest years ever, but I think this one might just top them. I'm a much better wife and he's able trust me in a way he sometimes couldn't before and we're a million times better for it.

I think we're all on a life-long journey to figure ourselves out. At 40, with thousands of blog posts written and thousands more nights spent spiraling in my own mind, I feel like I'm just now getting to see who I really am, and I like her an awful lot. Thanks for reading along.


  1. I’m a decade older than you and the mom to three teenage boys. I work full time, as does my husband, and have had probably the most chaotic and stressful year at work I’ve had in more than 20 years. How you described yourself before increasing the dosage describes me. I’ve started taking steps to address this and you’re giving me hope.

    Unrelated, but where did you get that gorgeous light blue blazer?

  2. Love this post. Thank you for sharing and being an inspiration.

  3. Thank you so much for sharing! Your experience resonated so much with me and I so appreciated reading it. And as the MFM girls say, "Store bought serotonin is fine!"

  4. I loved this post so hard, on so many levels. I am 42, with kids 3 and 5, married for 12 years. Similar to you I am finally crawling out of my shell and getting to know, well, ME :)

  5. I love this post and love hearing about the ways in which you are taking care of yourself!! It is so critical.

  6. Thank you for your posts. I’m a new attorney in my second year of practice with 4 kids at home (7, 12, 14, and 17) and physician spouse. I’ve been struggling with balancing my big family needs and big ambitions and your blog is so inspirational! Thank you for modeling this!