I wasn’t an anxious child. Or if I was, I certainly don’t remember feeling that way. I remember having a lot of friends, getting good grades and wanting for (almost) nothing.
I don’t remember having difficulty sleeping or eating. Like many teenagers, I had some body image issues, but they were not debilitating. I was happy and carefree, as young children should be.
It wasn’t until right after college that I began to struggle with anxiety. I was living on my own for the very first time and was very particular about the condition of my apartment. I kept an insanely regimented workout schedule (like, 5am in the snow, regimented) that was way more about my commitment than my weight loss. And, admittedly, I was very critical of the decisions made by family and friends with which I didn’t agree.
I will never forget the moment when it all hit me. I’d had some girl friends over for a viewing party (who knows what show we were watching, but seeing as this was in the late 90’s, we were definitely ahead of the time). Several pizzas and bottles of cheap wine later, while cleaning up, I noticed a large pool of grease that’d seeped through a cardboard box and onto my table. That was it. That was the moment.
Though never in my life having (intentionally) purged, I ran to the bathroom quite sick. I recollect little else from the night other than feeling the need for a shower, a good cry and a sleep aid.
For some people, sadly, that night may not seem so out of the ordinary. But for anyone who knew me in high school or college, this is hardly how I believe to be remembered. More importantly, who gives a shit how anyone else remembered me (or didn’t). The above may seem miniscule to you, but it was gargantuan to me. I knew something was wrong.
Thankfully, I had a strong support system around me. The moment I waved a little white flag, I was encouraged to seek professional help to better understand what was happening. And I did.
Over the years, I have learned to manage or at least cope with my anxiety. There are days, of course, that are far more difficult for me than others. Like with anything, there is an ebb and flow. For me, it is a part of life.
It should not, however, be a part of life for my daughter. Goddamnit.
One of the greatest gifts of being a parent is passing the best of one generation, and those before it, on to the next. Names, traditions and recipes are just a few of the many beautiful things we pass on to our children. No one wants to think about the other stuff… I know what those things are for my family just as you do for yours, try as we may to hide them.
Then just last night, I saw my daughter holding that very same pizza box. The situation was entirely different, of course. But in her eyes I saw myself, looking at the grease stain.
It is hard to describe exactly how I felt in that moment, but it was one of my most vulnerable as a parent thus far. My heart broke, as guilt set in for the weakness I've potentially passed from my heart and mind onto hers.
But a split second later, I realized that in that weakness, there is a great ability to grow… and grow.
Oh how I look forward to doing that, together.