Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Elephant

I can't breathe.

Sean and I are leaving in less than a week for my brother's wedding. We are flying to paradise, for our first vacation without our kids in more than seven years. It is a once in a lifetime type of trip; four days of bliss and pampering and much, much needed rejuvenation. 

I am terrified

I have not left home without my kids, save that overnight trip seven years ago. I have never been away from Julia or Henry overnight. 

I am terrified

My mother in law and sister in law and nephew are flying in to watch the kids. I have lists and notes and directions and schedules and meal plans. There are not two people in the world more trustworthy, qualified, and perfectly capable of watching my children. 

Still, I am terrified

Here is the funny thing about anxiety - it is completely irrational. I know everything will be fine. I know my kids will be fine, I know we will have a great trip. 

I can't breathe. There is an elephant in the room, and it's sitting on my chest

I'm forgetful this week. I am busy scrubbing doors and making lists and cleaning baseboards. Meanwhile, we run out of milk. 

I can't breathe. I am sitting at a stoplight, and notice they've pruned the trees around the power lines. They look funny; their tops bending and leaning around the wires in an exaggerated way. They look like they might topple over from the weight of their tops. That is how I feel, like the weight of what is in my head might make me fall, suddenly and unexpectedly

My mother is worried. My husband is worried. I call my OB, under duress. I call my OB because I haven't seen a doctor for anything non-baby related in over a decade. The nurse is sympathetic, and promises to call me back. She doesn't. Two days later, I call again, and speak to a less sympathetic nurse. 

She suggests I take a Benedryl, to help me sleep on the plane. 
I don't have a problem with planes. I have a problem leaving my house to get on a plane
She says I haven't been in a couple of years, they can't just call in a prescription for magic pills. 
I'll come in
She says the doctor has a busy schedule, and this is very short notice. She will transfer me and see if they can get me in. She puts me on hold. 
Fuck you. I say. 
But I don't say it, until after I hang up the phone. 

I call a different doctor. A stranger, who is kind and doesn't think it is strange at all to hear me sobbing on the phone, afraid of going to paradise. 

What do you think is going to happen? Sean says. 
I don't know, I lie.
If they get sick, they'll go to the doctor!
I know, I say.
They will be okay without you.
I know, and I do. 
It's four days! 
I know, I nod.
So what are you afraid of? 

But I don't say. 
I don't say, I am afraid they will die and I will be far away and I can't get to them and and and...

I don't say it, because I can not even write the words without sobbing. I don't say it, because to say it gives it power, and makes it possible. I don't say it, because words like that make me want scream and tear at my clothes and run around the room and throw myself into walls and wail. This would make me look as crazy as I feel. 

I can't breathe

We are driving down the road and I am taking giant breaths and whispering the Hail Mary, trying to quiet my mind. It is so loud in there, in that big, fat, top-heavy tree head of mine. Right next to the brain part that makes up funny stories and odd characters is the part that envisions horrible things in vivid detail. It is almost more than I can bear. 

Why are you making that sound, Mommy? Henry starts to imitate me, taking deep, gasping breaths. He sounds funny and I laugh and, for a minute, I can breathe again. 

Tomorrow morning, I am going to walk into the doctor's office and tell a stranger that I am nuts and please oh please, give me a goddamn pill that will make me a little less crazy. Just less-crazy enough to go away for a couple of days and have fun. Just enough to kiss my kids and say 'see you in a few days!', and know that that's exactly what will happen. Just less-crazy enough to have the faith I say I have.

There is a problem here, and one that won't be fixed by a week's worth of pills. 
But, later. I will fix it later. 

Right now, I just want to breathe. 


  1. I will tell you that once you're there and having fun, and once you and your husband get into the "couple" groove again, you will love it. You'll come home refreshed and so happy to see everyone, and your next trip alone with your husband will be much sooner, because it's a win-win for everyone.

    But I know exactly how you feel. (((hugs)))

  2. the "problem" is you are a MOM! And any good mom has anxiety especially when leaving their kids. Of course you know deep down that everyone will be okay but you're allowed to freak out, your a mom!! And an awesome mom at that.
    We'll make a new scale to measure it by. The more freaked out you are the more amazing and loving of a mom you are ;)

  3. Hugs.

    I'm afraid that's all I can do and also to wish you a wonderful trip. :)

  4. Kelly, you're my kind of crazy. Ask me sometime about freeway driving or how I am about whether or not I can trust anyone else to pick up my kids. If you have to take pills, take pills. No one else has to live inside your skin. And I hope you two have a damn good time anyway.

  5. 4 Days? You've got this. You spent at least that long in labor & delivery for those 3. You DESERVE a break, so give yourself one from all the worries. Pills, adult beverages, belly laughs...whatever you need. :-)

  6. Do they make pills for that?
    I got a little panicky just reading that you were going away. I so deeply and thoroughly understand this.
    I have no useful advice (not that you were actually asking for any.) I just hope that you will be able to breathe enough to enjoy it as much as you can enjoy anything when your family is in two completely different places. Hugs to you (but not too tight so that you can breathe.)

  7. Naturally anxious personality plus dark Mommy imagination--that's a powerful combination. Here's hoping the doc comes up with a prescription to ease things up enough for you to enjoy yourself. :)

  8. Girl, please. You will be fine. They will be fine. You will have a great time and so will they. Take a deep breath now so that you can enjoy your trip because it will go by quicker than you think. And then you'll come home and wonder when your next trip is. I promise. The first one is always the hardest but take it from me - don't waste the first 2 days of your trip wishing you were back home because you will be soon enough. You owe it to yourself and you owe it to Sean to get away as a couple. The whole family will benefit from it.

    And don't forget sunscreen and condoms. :)

  9. I can tell you it gets easier. I remember feeling anxious about going away and leaving my daughter, she's 14 now and I'm a pro at it....well not exactly a pro. I still worry, but I can leave without too much anxiety.

    I know this isn't the point of your post, but I love the part about scrubbing doors and baseboards! My mother-in-law is here for a visit and I almost killed myself the day before she arrived trying to make the house looks like I always have no dust on the baseboards, no smear marks on the refrigerator, etc!

  10. Thank you all for your kindnesses. Lou, they DO make pills for that. Turns out, they are pretty rad.