After my dad died (two years ago already - wow) it became obvious that I was doomed to live a life fraught with anxiety. Free floating anxiety so overwhelming that it ate a hole through my stomach last year. Anxiety so debilitating that I lost ten pounds in 30 days.
When I was about 17 my friend's family got a kitten. (I swear this is going somewhere applicable.) They were an emotionally vacant family - one which operated smoothly with rules, but without affection. They had never had a pet before. Twenty years of being a family and not even a fish. I still remember this kitten: a little ball of white fur with a wet pink nose and big clumsy paws. She was always hopping like a bunny and would immediately wrestle with whatever or whoever was willing to engage her (normally me). My friend wasn't home often and neither were her two sisters. This left the kitten largely with the stand-offish parents of my friend.
This once carefree kitten had been living with my friend's family for about six months when she started to chew through her flesh.
It started as licking and then eventually she just started to gnaw away at herself, creating holes. As a huge cat lover, I will always remember the look of that little kitten when I saw her for the last time. But, the lasting impression came from the veterinarian's explanation: the kitten was anxious.
I can still see my friend's mother coolly relaying this information over her shoulder as she unloaded groceries. This was followed by the news that she had the kitten euthanized to "put her out of her misery".
While I hadn't thought about that kitten in a decade, she kept coming back to me - popping into my mind in the months following my father's death. As I tried to reassemble my life back here at home, as I tried to replace the images of cancer and suffering and fear and death with dance recitals and laundry and grocery shopping and simple conversation, this kitten haunted me.
Because while I went through the motions of wife, mother, friend, daughter my internal thoughts were riddled - diseased - with fear.
I spent hours Googling symptoms. I spent days palpating imaginary lumps. I spent weeks waiting for doctor's appointments where all I would do is cry when the doctor would warily, but gently, suggest that perhaps I should allow him to prescribe me something.
I would wake up in the middle of the night gripped with fear over my mom or my husband dying and leaving me. I would have nightmares of my father's face. I would check on Savannah six, seven, eight times during the night. I couldn't concentrate on a book, I would struggle to understand when my best friend or husband would speak, I would feel pain when I heard my daughter's laughter because I didn't want my darkness to shadow her light.
I was chewing through my fur.
And then I started to write.
And as I wrote, the emotions - the fear - just spilled out all over the page like waves of heavy sobs. My sorrow, my guilt, my anxiety, my trauma rushed out in a torrent of emotions. And I wrote and wrote and wrote. I wrote about how furious I was that he left me without ever making me feel like a good person, I wrote about how he damaged me as a self-respecting woman, I wrote about how I inherited his horrible parenting skills, I wrote about how he cheated me out of what I deserved, I wrote about my anger over his weaknesses. I wrote about my pity for him, my respect, my understanding, my compassion, my guilt. My undying love.
And as I wrote the answers came to me: I realized that worry gave me control; a false sense of safety. And that by worrying over everything I felt sure I would not miss what I should be worried about. A shadowboxer, if you will. I was blindly swinging. And I felt like if I stopped, life would get me. The only problem is that my swinging was destroying me.
It started as a poem. And then turned into a blog. And every day I would sit down and release a little more of my anxiety and little by little it became less crippling. My words were my medicine. And they continue to be.
So, as I celebrate my one year blogging anniversary I thank you. Each and every one of you. For reading these words. And for helping me to fix myself.