I suffer from anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder. Whew. One of my daughters does as well. Double whew.
We can sit around and chat about chicken or the egg and nature versus nurture, but none of this resolves the fact that I live inside a brain that does loopdiloops when something as simple as a grammatical error appears. Just imagine what it does when someone hurts me or when I face the, gasp, unknown.
At the ripe old age of 35, I’ve decided that I’m done thinking that this is an emotional problem that I need to address and for which someday I will find a solution through, say, talking or reading or breathing or exposure or blah di dah.
How do I know this? Because, via my daughter, I am also raising myself.
Now, before you go all “you’re projecting” on me, I’d like to let you know that my other daughter is NOT at all like this. She’s flexible and easy going. She lives in the joy of the day. When I say, hey, let’s go to the grocery store, she says, “Ok!” It does not take me three million utterances and reassurances to get her out of the door. She falls and gets up and then gets over it. She has freak outs, but can move through them. I watch how the world dotes on her and receives her personality so easily, so openly. And every way I have been taught to be a good parent works for her tenfold. I see with my own eyes every single day the difference between a person with typical worries and human strife and a person with atypical worries and legitimate anxiety. It’s a distinct difference. Like having blonde hair or black. Period.
And even though this difference is so obvious, I still find myself believing somehow, some way, I’ve done something wrong and somehow some way, I can fix it by being better. I’ve read a gazillion books on high spirited children and anxious children and sensitive children and attachment this/that. I’ve spent oodles of money on therapy for myself to figure out what I did wrong (there’s plenty) and what I can do better (even more plenty there). I’ve tried different schools until it’s proved compatible, no matter the cost or begging for escape of cost.
I can promise you that I can outlast an anxiety attack with tentacles that reach for weeks that you wouldn’t even be able to handle for a second. I can promise you that I’ve spent endless time learning to be with her as she needs me to be with her. And this is the piece that matters - this experience can often feel very isolating, because to the outside world, you might think I’m - yes you do, I know - coddling her.
Bull crap. I’m over all of that. I know what kind of mom and woman I am. I’m ballsy. I have expectations. I’m not overly permissive. I screw up every day and take ownership every day and insist my children do the same.
But, this child is different. She needs differently. She experiences differently. Her light glows from a different fuse than what we would deem an efficient, easy energy source. And when she’s in the wrong place for her, her entire being feels it and leaves her gray in the face and legimately sick to her stomach for weeks, often even months. But, when she’s in the right place and when I opt for being with her without judgment or constraint from the definitions of “correct parenting,” she shines. And when she shines she brings to the world a very important, often missing, component of sensitivity and meaning that serves us all. She’s as brave as a free diver, able to hold her breath and explore the depths so many of us don’t even want to think exists.
You may think when you hear stories of my anxiety and hers that you know what to do. That you could do it better. And I used to believe you. I took it to therapy. To specialized classes. To self-help conferences. To mantras and meditation. To yoga. I just wished I could do it like you do it, which must be, I assumed, better.
But. No! I’ve spent a lifetime learning how to perform in life to fit into this “better.” No longer. And no longer will I allow my child to spend an ounce of her energy learning to perform.
The essence of this is something that we all often take for granted as some kind of life lesson: Self-love. We learn to look at ourselves in the mirror and say enthusiastically, “Fuck it, I love myself!” But, do we really mean it? Are we just trying to get it to slip into our skin? When we walk away from that mirror, are our actions equal to that pronouncement?
Are we willing to say no to the things that hurt us? Are we willing to say yes to the things that serve us? Are we willing to shut out the world and it’s seemingly formulaic notions of what qualifies a woman who is well? Are we willing to claim our unique composition and then attend to it with blinders on to that dictated, limited formula?
I have determined to learn, without my own wants and assumptions and expectations, what my daughter needs to be fierce and vital and free. And, in doing so, I am determined to do the same for me. Because that is self-care and that is the practice of loving myself.
This month, as we all exit summer and the combined bliss and stress of it, I declare September to be The New January. And, instead of stating lame resolutions, I dare you to claim a simple mission: To love yourself with deluxe care.
Deluxe. Notice that word, how it feels. This might mean we have to apply some discipline, but let’s not confuse that with rigidity. True discipline in the vein of self-care is actually quite expansive, because when you are lined up with what is best for you, things feel more possible. True discipline, not rigid and repressive denunciation, is a dance with your truest self and a quiet servitude to that which makes you fierce and vital.
I’m diving in. Entirely. If you want to as well, simply sign up for The Hook: 30-Day Strength Challenge and agree to go for a Deluxe Ride with me. I'll get the rest handled. You just show up. It all starts on September 7th, which means you’ve got time to get your ducks in order. Quack.
If you’re already a Tribe member and a Hook-er, well, sign up for some parts of it. Watch the video below to see what I mean.
I would like to end this post with a Jane of the jungle yell. SEPTEMBER IS THE NEW JANUARY!