Anxiety left me alone this winter. I meant to post that on the first day of spring: FIRST ANXIETY-FREE WINTER IN YEEEEARS!, I mean, I was looking FORWARD to posting that, counting the DAYS, but I let it pass. I didn't forget exactly, but I had something else to say and my good news didn't seem so important. At first I was upset I left it out, then I decided it was a good thing. I've been defining my seasons by degree of anxiety for nearly eight years now, and the fact that my anxiety level for that season didn't even warrant a mention... well, that's amazing, actually.
All winter I waited. It had to crop up sometime, right? Something would happen, one of my "triggers", or even just a dark dismal isolating day, but any anxiety I felt was minimal. Fleeting. Easily forgotten the next day. I felt like I was getting away with something. I felt like the anxiety bus had missed my stop, but any minute the driver was going to notice I wasn't on board and rush back for me. I appreciated every anxiety-free evening at home, every night I fell asleep without watching TV or making Phillip keep the light on or downing generic brand Benadryl. I'd lie in bed expecting to fall asleep. Expecting it to happen, as if falling asleep on my own was normal.
But then, it WAS normal, and normal isn't really something you love or think about or pay any attention to. It was normal to be normal. While I can truthfully say I did not take advantage of my anxiety-free winter, that I was giving thanks nearly every day, my winter wasn't happier or prettier or more exciting. It was easier, less stressful, without the anxiety-related arguments and situations Phillip and I usually find ourselves dealing with. But other than that- it was normal.
Hindsight (and the more hindsight I gain) helps me pinpoint anxiety. For example, I've now been pregnant twice, and both times I was Super Duper Man This Sucks Anxious. I had about a trimester of anxiety with Jack, and three full-on every-minute godawful trimesters with Molly. But as soon as both babies were born, every shred, every drop of anxiety disappeared. Poof! The immediate months following their births were some of the best brain-wise I've had. I know how impossible that sounds, because people worry about post-partum depression, not pregnancy crazies, but that's not the case with me. I spent my whole Jack pregnancy preparing for the nervous breakdown I was sure to have once the baby was born- the only thing worse than anxiety would be anxiety with a new baby, right? But it didn't happen, either time. When and if Third Baby happens, I hope I can step outside of the anxiety long enough to remind myself that having the baby will help!
But it doesn't last, right? Jack was five months old when it came shuddering back, a series of child abuse cases in the news turning my head into a broken record of fear. Molly is seven months and I'm fine. It's spring now, today is gorgeous, and it's hard to see anxiety bothering me any time soon. Sun does wonders for my overactive imagination.
I started taking Vitamin D in the fall. LOTS of Vitamin D. I know what my starting level was, but I'm too afraid of needles and that rubber tourniquet thing to go back and have it checked again- and even if I did have it checked and my levels had skyrocketed, that's still not proof that Vitamin D helps. I've never taken it before, and my levels were very low, but it's still not proof.
I hopped back on the No Sugar bandwagon much sooner after this baby. I started regularly exercising for the first time in my life. I've been running several times a week for the last seven months. That's an entirely new thing, and something everyone says is beneficial not only for your physical health but your mental health as well. So maybe that's The Thing That Did It. Maybe it just helped.
I'm older. I'm stronger. I've been working on this anxiety thing for a long time. Maybe I know how to handle things a little better than I used to. Maybe I've really incorporated all the "tools", you know? I know what to say to myself when anxiety starts to creep into my shoulderblades. I know not to wait it out on my own, that I need help to think it through. I'm doing the right things.
I also know that anxiety doesn't make sense. I know that the very first time I experienced anxiety, it was because I'd convinced myself of something that wasn't true, that was, in fact, IMPOSSIBLE. And even though I knew this, that I repeated it to myself over and over, I was anxious anyway. I know that my thoughts loop around on each other and I don't have time to straighten things out in my head before the loop happens again. I know that not everyone has this problem, as shown by my husband, who, when I tell him what I'm thinking, looks at me with utter incomprehension. I know that my memories aren't lined upiand in their proper put away places, that something can happen tomorrow that will make me feel the feelings I had when I was fifteen. I know anxiety can come back at any time.
I decided to think of this winter as a gift. I have every expectation that I will be anxious again, maybe horribly so, but for now I am free of the assumption that every winter will be anxious. That every winter I'll be unable to fall asleep, afraid to do anything new, too jittery and nervous to enjoy a night out with Phillip, too isolated in my own head to make it through a day at home with the kids. Maybe instead of worrying about when anxiety will show up this fall, I'll worry about if anxiety shows up. Maybe that doesn't sound like an improvement, but OH it IS.