Grief and Anxiety
If you have been dealing with anxiety and depression for any length of time you have likely discovered you have triggers which make these feelings intensify.
Like any normal sufferer of anxiety and depression, you probably do everything you can to avoid those triggers.
I know my entire life is structured in a way to better help me control my anxiety.
In fact, this blog is here to help over-anxious and depressed mamas find ways to structure their lives to limit the effects of anxiety and depression.
However, we know that sometimes things happen we can’t control. As frustrating as it is to have your feelings spiral out of control due to circumstances you can’t control, sometimes its just part of life.
My grandfather recently went in for a procedure that snowballed out of control, turned into a hundred other issues and eventually led to his passing a mere 25 days after this “simple” procedure. Obviously, this was a completely unexpected major life event.
On top of that, I am currently writing this post at my grandparents’ home, 12 hours away from my own home and husband. My girls and I are staying here for 5 weeks to help my grandmother clean out the home they have lived in for 40 years so she can permanently relocate closer to us. Oh, and I am 16 weeks pregnant.
Life has thrown me a huge curve ball that I could never have prepared for.
Has this happened to you?
Have you experienced a life event that completely changed your entire “normal”?
How is it that as a group of women who works very hard to avoid any and all anxiety triggers that we are supposed to deal with these unexpected emotional hurdles?
When the unexpected emotion is grief, its likely that these feelings will stick around for a while. It’s not something that is going to get better next week, next month, next year. It is a permanent change.
A permanent change that we had no choice in making.
Sufferers of anxiety like control. It makes us feel like we have power over our emotions, even if it is just an illusion. That’s why we thrive on routines, structure, and plans.
But we can’t control death, loss and grief.
As much as we might wish these feelings away, we can’t. Really, we shouldn’t.
At 9 months old my daughter received a cancer diagnosis, an extensive tumor removal surgery, and six rounds of chemo. During this time I put my blinders on and waded through the waters of turmoil with zero emotion. I thrived on the regimen of chemo sessions, blood transfusions, medication schedules and doctor appointments. I felt like I was in control of the situation.
Once her treatment was over and all the schedules and appointments came to an end I no longer had anything to control. And my grief surged over me like a tidal wave. Eight months of repressed fear, sadness and anger. Grief over the loss of a portion of her childhood.
I was drowning it anxiety and fear. Every pain, bruise, or mole was cancer. I researched cancer symptoms day and night so as never to be surprised by it again. I removed all possible toxins from our home and restructured our diets. And yet my anxiety was still spiraling out of control.
As my grandfather was in the early stages of his downward spiral I noticed that I wasn’t feeling the emotions that should be felt in this sort of situation. Instead of being relieved that I wasn’t feeling the sadness and fear that should have accompanied the situation I was terrified.
I was terrified that if my mind tried to avoid dealing with these feelings now that I would again experience the drowning in anxiety at a later time.
This time around I knew that I should let grief take the wheel. That I couldn’t and shouldn’t try to control these particular emotions.
I knew that it would hurt. I also knew that the hurt would morph into something even more painful and scary if I tried to ignore it. If I tried to control it like I control everything else in my life.
You can’t treat grief like a social calendar or a cleaning schedule. You don’t get to pencil in a crying session on Wednesday afternoon.
Yes, your anxiety will likely be in the front booth of the grief train with you. BUT you can at least pinpoint where it’s coming from. The knowledge that your grief is a contributing factor to your anxiety is the only “control” you need.
Any other attempt at control will be in vain.
The last several weeks I have felt lots of my old anxieties creeping back in. Whispering lies in my head. Begging me to give in to it. My anxiety manifests in self-diagnosing medical issues. I’ve seen melanoma in all my moles, felt brain cancer in all my headaches and seen leukemia in each bruise.
But in the last several weeks I have also carried the armor of knowledge. That my anxieties are caused by something real. A real emotion. An emotion of grief. An emotion that I am choosing to accept and acknowledge.
Human emotions were meant to be felt. Even the ones that don’t feel great. Its part of our humanity and of the human condition.
I refuse to let my anxiety steal my ability to feel.
I refuse to let my anxiety decide how I process and wade through my grandfathers’ death.
Yes, I live with anxiety. It makes this situation much more complex and harder than if I didn’t suffer from anxiety. However, I will not let it define me.
I will not let it define how I feel, felt or will feel about my grandfather. I want to grieve for him, anxiety or not. Because I deserve to be able to miss him, to remember him, cry for his absence. I deserve to FEEL.
So do you mama. Control the things you can. The things that don’t really make you who you are. But when it comes to emotions, good, bad, happy or sad don’t let your anxiety decide how you deal with them.
Grief is not something that we should try to avoid.
Avoidance will only make your anxiety greater. Even if you don’t have to deal with the consequences for years down the road, don’t make that choice. The accumulation of repressed grief will not be worth sparing yourself the heartache of the present.