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I hadn’t eaten for a week. I know, it sounds impossible. Let me be more specific: for one week, I ate nothing but grapes. Food was unimportant to me. My stomach was too busy worrying that I might die, that my family might die, that my heart would beat so fast that I would keel over in the shower. I tried to stay in bed to spare my head the crack on the hardwood floor that was sure to happen when my heart gave out. When I did get up, I carried a bag of purple grapes under my arm and wandered the house. 

My stomach churned. My head spun. I popped Tums and tried to sleep away the fact that my body was caving in on itself. My heart, it kept beating. Too fast for someone not running a 5k. The hospital, I needed a hospital. Surely they could fix me, make me eat again. 

CT Scan, blood work, how long has this been going on Ma’am, get her an EKG, X-Ray, tests are clear, textbook healthy, your heart your heart your heart needs to slow down, keep her hooked up, high dose of Ativan, just calm down Ma’am, she’s totally healthy, you can take her home when her heart rate slows.

That was my low. 

I was 100% ‘healthy’ in DoctorLand. But my brain was quite literally killing me. I had no life outside the house. I tried going to a picnic and ended up being carried out in my husband’s arms, while my mother held a juicebox straw to my mouth. Whatever you are picturing, it was worse. I was out of control of my own life. 

Fast forward: medication, therapy, a slow integration back into society. Take your son to school. Walk around the block. Go ahead, you won’t die in the neighbor’s driveway. Eat. Visit the hair salon, sit in the chair you once fled mid-foil. Watch children play outside. Their hearts are beating fast and they are filled with joy – not dread. 

I would like to say I survived anxiety. But to survive something, it has to be over. Done. Out of your life; the casino dealer flipping his empty hands over, clapping, goodbye and good luck. Anxiety is never fully gone – you just learn to modify it. “Help me, please, I’m going to die!” turns into “I might die, but everyone does, and hopefully this isn’t my time.” A trivial change? Perhaps. But not to the person being carried out of a picnic like an infant.  

Every day I find myself doing something that previously paralyzed me with fear and made me physically ill. I can drive alone on the freeway. Do 10 pushups. Fly on an airplane. Eat a burrito. Sit through a dentist appointment. Be alone. 

My story is not done. Every month that passes, I forget a little bit of the anxious mess I once was, the fear I had just driving to the grocery store. I imagine this is self-preservation, and a little like the way our brains alter our memories of childbirth. It hurts and it is awful, but we survive and become better for it. 

© Calling All Cool Moms 2018