2.09.2008

Scared

There are lots of feelings that a person simply cannot experience until they become a parent. I probably would have scoffed at this notion when I was a single, selfish goofball, but now I know that it is true.

I have never known joy like this.

I have never known love like this.

I have never known diaper explosions like this.

I have never known fear like this.

My fear is specific. It goes beyond the average, run-of-the-mill turn your blood cold and keep you up all night worry that routinely accompanies us parents. Worry I can handle.

I fear that I will get sick. I fear that I will get sick, and leave my children too soon.

I fear that I will get cancer. I fear this every day.

To combat this fear I have begun to ritualize my days, fearing that if I do not stick to these commitments, my fear will come true. That I must regiment the what, and how, and why and where of my body and my environment, or it will get me.

To combat this fear I have been cooking for my family. Very delicious, but most importantly, very healthy meals.
I have devised my own list of super-foods, and I must consume as many, if not all of them on a daily basis. So I am eating a lot of broccoli, beets, yogurt, cranberry juice, blueberries, bran, sweet potatoes, and dark chocolate. (I’m not dead yet.)

To combat this fear I have been purging our house and our life of chemicals, from the products we use to clean our clothes to the paper we use to wipe our ass.
I am afraid of plastic. I am afraid of aluminum. I am afraid of chlorine and a million things that I cannot pronounce. Oh, and John McCain’s wife. I’m afraid of her too, though I’m pretty sure she’s non-carcinogenic.

To combat this fear I have had to stop reading the blogs of women I respect and admire, because they are living or have lived my fear, and I cannot bring myself to be a part of their journey, no matter how much I want to support these courageous, strong women.

I am trying to divulge the origin of this fear from within my soul. Does it stem from the discoveries, every single damn day that something else that we have invented, that we have developed, that we use and eat and touch and smell and breathe and wear will make us sick? Does it stem from the stories, every damn day, of people dying too young and too soon?

Or am I simply still grieving my own father, who died of cancer, too young, too soon, too quickly a very short time ago.

My doctor told me that they have recently discovered that Vitamin D helps to prevent certain cancers. Tomorrow I am buying vitamin D drops for the whole family, as she recommended. Today I am filled with guilt that I hadn’t already.

I know I have to reign these feelings in, or I risk my stress becoming a cause of what I fear. A wholistic approach to staying healthy must surely begin with my internal dialogue. I have to speak positively to myself. I have to return to Yoga. I have to eat more dark chocolate.

I have felt fear like this before, a long time ago. I was involved in an encounter where my personal safety was severely jeopardized, and for many months afterwards, I was scared. I could not say that it was a crippling fear, but it was a pre-occupying fear, as this is now. At the time, I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and given a prescription for Zoloft, which I threw away. Talking was what I wanted, and talking is what eventually made the fear subside.

I prefer to use this space for jovial recounts of the cute things my children do, or to explore motherhood and its joys and struggles. I’m not all that big on the personal revelations and I can thank generations of stubborn women for the inabilities I have to reveal vulnerabilities very often.

But right now, I think I just need to talk. And eat some high-fibre cereal.

20 comments:

  1. Thanks for being so honest. I think most of us live with fear... and its so hard to keep between the balance of educating yourself about things, and fearing everything you've learned... being informed, not ignorant, but cautious not fearful.

    My biggest fears are for my son. What if we are spoiling him, what if we are neglecting him, what if we are too hands on, what if we are too distant? Where is the balance? Oi.

    It takes so much courage to admit fears I think. Especially the most personal ones.

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  2. I wonder if it might not be some combination of your father's passing and perhaps a touch of PPD? Because while you're right that parents fear, you're also right that soemthing so specific, something that is affecting the way you live your life, won't be healthy for long.

    Talking it out is helpful, and I have have found this space a great one for it - supportive, understanding, and sometimes full of good suggestions. Make use of it if it helps - we're here. I don't really have suggestions for you, but a hug, an ear, a shoulder, and whatever other assorted body parts might be useful are at your disposal, hon.

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  3. I was thinking the same thing as Kittenpie. Fear is part of our lives, but when it affects your day to day existence, it can turn into something more. Make sure those close to you know how you are feeling, and have them help watch you to make sure you are okay.

    Talking helps. Cancer is a horrible, horrible disease. We think of it a modern disease, that it didn't exist a hundred years ago, or, at least, not in the same way. But 100 years ago, people didn't live as long as they do now. The world has changed, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse.

    Keep talking. It can help.

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  4. It definitely sounds like a bit more than the usual parenting anxiety. I agree with Kittenpie's suggestion, that it's probably a combination of your dad dying and postpartum something. You know I've struggled with anxiety and panic, and I overcame it without drugs. Not that there's anything wrong with drugs of course but they make me wary, and anxiety responds really really well to cognitive behavioural therapy. Maybe talking to a counsellor would help?

    Of course I'm always here for talking and emailing too if you'd like. Email me for my number if you want, any time.

    Take care!

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  5. I can almost hear my mother, as I read this post, urging you not to fight the fear. The fear is your friend.

    My mother is exactly the same way, but equally focused on diabetes and heart disease. Her entire life revolves around the vivid picture she always carries of the state of her (and my) arterial walls. It's a powerful motivator to eat well - and if she could transmit her fear to me, she'd do it in a second.

    I agree with the other commenters, of course - but I do wonder how possible it is to eat well without that motivation.

    Now that I think of it, I went through a phase of fearing cancer after my first marriage ended. It had to do with the erosion of that protective assumption that bad things happen to other people, not to me. The extraordinary part, really, is how thoroughly that assumption can repair itself, in defiance of all experience.

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  6. I think that your current fear might actually be a reasonable response to your father's way too early death, a way for you to feel like you're dealing with it. I think that we may be too quick to think that something needs fixing, sometimes - if your fear is at a reasonable level and you're able to still live a normal life, then maybe this is part of grieving for you and something that will gradually ease. (but if you deal feel out of control and like it's preventing you from doing normal things, then other commentors have great advice.)

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  7. Please keep talking about it. Not only do I believe it will help you, but it will help others too. We're all here for you. If you want to talk in person, I'm around - and a really good listener. You have my email.

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  8. I know that fear.
    You have many factors contributing, new baby, older child, grief, and January.

    Talk away, do what you must to feel safe.

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  9. I know this fear.

    I fear every time I get a stomach ache it's my mother's colon cancer coming to get me.

    And I can't leave the house a mess when I leave for the day because I'm afraid I'll get into a car accident and people will see my messy house.

    We'll keep that just between you and me, 'kay? ;)

    The fear gets better, though. It's not always so bad.

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  10. how dumb is it that i'm wondering hmmmm is Kgirl still reading my blog or is all that poverty crap putting her over the edge...? (love you)

    it's this nasty control. it's living in a place that breeds fear as the new truth. it's everywhere, isn't it, these forces that push us into clamping down and being afraid.

    and then in the meantime days slip by unlived. i've decided recently i've got to force myself, force myself to see daily beauty, to hold on tight and to push through fear. to know that the end of the days will come whether i'm ready or not and all i can do is give it all i've got now.

    it's easier to say than to do. i struggle every day with this and yet i am trying to just kick it in the ass and go for it. some days are better than others, but either way, they tick by just the same.

    you are rocking this life, sister. own that. because you are, your love and mothering and intention, you are.

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  11. I suspect it has a lot to do with your father's recent passing...because I kind of went through the same thing.

    I didn't realize how much my dad's passing had affected me --he passed away (cancer treatment was too hard on his heart) at the very beginning of my first pregnancy, and I started to really panic about it and related fears as I came to the end of my second pregnancy. I talked to a special counselor at the hospital about it about a month before I gave birth... she pointed out the obvious, just not obvious to me: I had never really grieved for his loss. I was too busy trying to remain happy as I could be and stress free for the sake of my pregnancy... I just kept trying to block it out.

    Never a good idea. So talk. And then talk some more. About anything and everything that's making you afraid. It's the only thing that helps, I've found.

    Hugs.

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  12. No doubt your father's passing and the birth of Dove contribute to this fear taking hold but you have overcome fear like this before and you will again.

    Don't be afraid to write about it here and don't forget to double up on that dark chocolate. It cures everything.

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  13. I am sorry about the old navy experience. but I bet you look as cute as ever anyhow. As I read your most recent post, I was reminded of the toy store experience before I even got to that part...and I started to worry about you. I love you. Call me anytime. afraid or not.

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  14. Keep talking to us. You're right, talking helps. But please don't let fear keep you from making the most of every day--as you know, that's what I think it's all about. PPD could be a factor too--please don't rule out meds completely.

    I'm home all day tomorrrow if you want to talk in person. I actually baked chocolate muffins today.

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  15. K,
    Look at these comments. Look at what the people who have lost parents are saying. When you lose a parent, you know, once and for all, that a parent can be lost...forever. That is a crippling truth for a child to deal with and it is a truth that never leaves that same child as she tries to be a parent herself.

    I know this fear you speak of. I can totally understand your response to it. I also know its equal and opposite reaction: self-destructive behaviour b/c, shit, my death is inevitable and there's not a lot I can do about it. I spent two years of Miss M's early life eating chips and indulging in salt and saturated fat and drinking--not too much but a lot--b/c, hell, the high blood pressure is going to get me no matter what. I will be forced to leave her no matter what.

    It turns out I had hypothyroidism that was throwing my whole system out of whack and causing its own form of depression. Now that I am treating the underlying condition, my response to my own mortality as a parent has become more moderate. But it's still there, baby, and at times it eats me alive.

    As for this blogging, I too prefer the sweetness and light. I too prefer the emotional distance. It is extremely nice to know, though, that this place is open and accepting of all those experiences and fears that we, at times, need to bring forward.

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  16. Kgirl, it sounds like severe anxiety. You don't have to live with it. And, you don't have to go on meds to deal with it. Email me. I have a WONDERFUL therapist who helped me TREMENDOUSLY when I went through prepartum depression. This DOES sound like a form of postpartum anxiety -- hormone related. I will give you the name and number of my wonderful psychologist if you want. You can bring the baby. You'll feel better.

    And, remember this: FEAR -- false expectations appearing real. Choose to let go of them and live your life.

    Milk has vitamin D in it. :)

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  17. I really understand your fear.

    And I'm really glad you're talking about it.

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  18. When I had my first child, that was when I became worried about dying. I ended up in the hospital when he was a week old, with an infected episiotomy, he couldn't come with me. It was a long time ago. And that's when I realized that there was a very small being in the world who depended on me for everything. And that's when I realized I was mortal for the first time and that's when I got scared.

    I think it's normal to think about dying when you have a small baby.

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  19. Hi, I came here from Mad's place, and just wanted to say that I didn't know other people felt this way. I thought it was just me. Thank you for talking about it.

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  20. I'm so there with you. I've lived with an anxiety-attack provoking fear of death since my cousin, who was the same age as me at the time, died in a car accident at 8. But motherhood has reshaped that fear and strengthened it.

    Bigger than that, though, is the fear that my fear will control my life. And so, even though I've envisioned - numerous times - my death on the highway on the way down to Texas next week, and the effect it will have on my little family, I'm going. Because, despite my fear, I want my daughter to know that life is for living. At least while we have it.

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Talk to me.