Back when I still wandered the urine-scented walls of a nursing home as my primary means of employment, I took a part-time job working with the Crisis Team in the Emergency Room one night a week. It wasn't such a bad gig, really. Not unlike an IHOP or Village Inn, the ER has a kind of relaxed, groovy sort of vibe in the middle of the night. There's some sort of camaraderie between a bunch of people up in the middle of the night, particularly when you're never sure what crazy thing could be rolling through the ambulance bay doors any minute. (And trust me. No amount of imagination or experience can accurately predict that sort of crazy.) It gave me the opportunity to see things I had only learned about in graduate school: hallucinations, overdoses, depression, and self-mutilation. Oh yeah, and anxiety.
In my patients, sure. There was plenty of anxiety there. But also, for the first time in my life, in me. Not I'm-taking-a-test-I-haven't-studied-enough-for anxiety or even I'm-so-scared-I-have-nervous-neck-rash anxiety. Waiting at home for that pager to start screeching turned me into someone I didn't recognize. I was nauseated and mean and tearful and restless. I paced and tossed and turned and made my husband dread Wednesdays as much as I did (almost).
And then the voices in my head started. (Luckily, not the kind that land you in the ER in the middle of the night talking to an over-eager crisis worker.)
You're a social worker, for heaven's sake! they said. You can fix this. This is what you do.
So I exercised. And went for a walk. And watched television and read and took a bath and did yoga and cried and held in my tears and prayed. Over and over I prayed. And remained nauseated and mean and tearful and restless.
Luckily, thankfully, wonderfully, and oh-so-blessedly, I had a solution. A way to make it stop. I quit. It was the right decision for me and for my family. And for me, luckily, thankfully, wonderfully, and oh-so-blessedly, the gripping anxiety has not returned. I am left healthy and whole and as "normal" as I can hope to be. The only lasting effect is a greater measure of compassion for people who are not able to amputate their anxiety as easily as I was.
It is with these thoughts bouncing around in my head like popcorn in a microwave that I enter the 26th week of Floyd's gestational life. And I hate popcorn.
I did not understand that "pray always" could be a literal mandate. Because I take my vitamins and go to my appointments and eat my vegetables and wear my seatbelt and then the voices in my heart start.
Please bless the baby is ok. Please bless her to grow. Please bless her to move like that again and always. Please bless. Please?
And then- and THEN! (Isn't this post over, you beg? No. Sorry.)
And then I remember that someday she will come out. And that's good and beautiful and terrifying. And then there's SIDS and kidnappers and earthquakes and fires and bears and sharks and mean children and sharp things to poke and small things to swallow and swine flu to catch.
Floyd, Mama has a flicker of that anxiety left. Just so she can remember.
How do you cope? With babies or work or unemployment or illness or life? What works for you?