The paranoia has always been present. It was a constant companion throughout school. From the outside, it was probably annoying. “No, Jill, everyone is not always talking about you, or thinking about you, or judging you. Amazingly, you are not at the top of everyone’s thoughts.”
Then I had my first child. Postpartum anxiety hit me like a train. I developed weird obsessive tendencies and became hyper focused on germs and death. Immediately after 9/11, I got a piece of junk mail. I opened it and just before throwing it away, realized that the likelihood that someone would send me mail with anthrax was very high. I put the mail in a plastic bag with a note explaining why I had died mysteriously so my family would know. Yes, the entire time I was completely aware of how ridiculous this was. I couldn’t let my children out of my sight because all things led to death. If they were supposed to meet my parents to spend the weekend away, I would sit next to their beds the entire night telling them goodbye since the likelihood of losing them to an automobile crash was also very high. This is how my brain has worked for as long as I can remember. Never take the first item from the shelf at the store, always go two or three deep. Wash your hands constantly, stay away from sick people, every siren is headed toward someone I love, and the work I do will never be good enough. It is exhausting in my head.
I started taking medication at the urging of my husband and parents about ten years ago. It has been a pretty good ten years. The monologue is still present, but the medication keeps me from acting on the fear. But something has switched. Hiding it has become more difficult. I am often irrational with friends and family, and I’ve basically spent the last two weeks convincing my employers why they are better off without me. Who does that? For the record, my employers are amazing and filled with grace, so instead of letting me go, they are loving me and praying for me. And my family and friends are my safe place. They are my people and they get me.
So why am I admitting on a public forum that I need help? Because you might look at me and not have any idea that I struggle. You see my marriage and think it is easy. You see my kids and think I’m a good parent. You stop by my house and think that I have it together. I love fiercely. I try to be kind. But my brain is tired. My hope is that by saying it out loud, you will also be honest about your own hidden stuff. Maybe you will address whatever it is that is holding you down, back, or out. I am taking steps to get my brain chemically where it belongs. My hope is that you will also be honest with someone about your own struggles. We don’t have to be in a crisis to admit that something is off and we need help. And admitting that we need help does not mean that we are incapable of having funny moments or loving others well. It just means we need a minute to secure our oxygen mask before helping you with yours.
I grew up believing that people that followed Jesus were not allowed to struggle. Now I know how silly that is. I love Jesus with my whole heart and I am chasing after him through my bible and books that help me understand the bible better. I am in a small group through my church, filled with women that get me and they love me. I believe that I am completely loved by God and that He has great plans for my life. But plan number one is getting healthy. So that’s what I’m doing, with the assistance of my tribe and gifted professionals.
If you struggle like me and you want a safe, non judgmental place to talk, please reach out to me. I’m here.