WARNING:I’ve debated on writing this for a long time. Like, a really long time. But the other day, when I said I just wanted to know that I wasn’t the only one, I decided that maybe you need to know that you’re not either. Before I start, let me just say that this post is really, really… personal. It may be disturbing. So, if it offends you, sorry. Try living it.
I had a Mossberg 12-gauge on the top shelf in the closet and it still didn’t help. I would constantly remind myself that it was there, trying to use that to calm myself down.
I left the closet light on, so that if I needed to get to it when They came, I wouldn’t have to turn it on and draw attention. Besides, I needed to see my gun.
If need be, I could have gotten out of bed, gotten the gun, loaded and cocked it without making a sound.
I know. I made sure.
Just in case.
I was scared to death of something happening to my son.
Every time we’d play in the back yard at my parents’, I’d see a car drive up, a man get out, run, grab him and take off before I could even form the scream for help. I’d blink, the man, his car, and the threat would be gone. He wasn’t there.
And no one would see the reason why I’d suddenly decided that Josh had been outside long enough. I’d grab him up, take him inside and plop him in front of the TV where he was safer.
I’d take a shower at night with the bathroom door open and the shower curtain pulled partially back because I could see someone walking, almost silently, through my house, down the hall to my bedroom where my baby boy slept.
I could shower inside 5 minutes.
I’d get out and check on him, having to assure myself that he was fine. Alive.
I’d spend the next indeterminate amount of time playing out the possible outcomes. What could happen. How I would I react. I had to be ready. I had to know this was coming.
I would sit, wondering if a judge would send me to prison for shooting someone who tried to take my son.
Would our DA find it justified if I chased him down and shot him in the 4-way of our sleepy little town?
Of course, no one else saw Them. They didn’t feel The Fear. There was no car lurking down the street. There were no strange footsteps down the hallway.
But I could feel it. It was like a neck brace made of ice.
It all played out like my own private 3-D movie. I was the only one who could see. I was the only one who had to watch. It was a horrible joke. Right?
I’m not stupid. I knew it wasn’t real. I knew They weren’t really there. Hell, most of the time I could even talk myself out of it.
“You’re being and idiot. Stop. He’s fine.”
It worked about as well as people in ghost movies with their eyes squinched shut yelling, “You’re not real!”
I was only trying to convince myself. That’s all. I didn’t want it to be real. And for the most part, I could stop it for a little while, but it never went away.
It was always there. In the front of my thoughts. Determining every decision I made.
Every day there was something different, something new, that was going to kill my son.
A careless driver in the Wal-Mart parking lot too busy opening her new CD to look up. He’d drown in the bathtub while I ran to the laundry room to get him a warm towel. He’d choke on his dinner, or a severe allergic reaction would render me childless before our stellar EMTs made it 2 blocks with the EpiPen.
The Fear controlled me. It took my control. My happiness. My joy.
I wasn’t a mother.
My son spent more time at my parents’ house than at home because I believed they’d be better equipped to handle those situations when (always when, never if) they arose. They’d know what to do, where I would only panic.
I was helpless.
I was useless.
I was failing.
Every waking moment was controlled.
Every sleeping minute was torture.
Sleep was the worst.
At some point, I decided to Google my symptoms.
Post Partum Anxiety.
Ok, so I am just being ridiculous. I can handle this.
I can wait it out.
So I dealt with it the best way I knew how.
I bent to It.
I fed It.
When I was 16, my younger step sister and I were kidding around, trying to scare each other and she posed this question (modified to fit the situation I was dealing with):
There are 11 rooms in your house. There are 3 of you.
You can each, obviously, only be in one room at a time.
How do you know there’s not someone else in the house?
God, if I’d only known how those words would haunt me.
Was there someone else in my house?
I’d know if there was, right?
I lived with this every day.
I packed all of the happiness in my life into some scribbled on boxes and moved it out to give The Fear room to breath. To breed. To grow.
I woke up every night to make sure my three-year-old hadn’t died of SIDS (yes, I know what SIDS is).
I didn’t take him anywhere with us so he wasn’t in the wreck. Or so, if we, unknowingly, pissed off another driver that followed us home, he wouldn’t have seen my son. So Josh would be safe.
I wouldn’t let him play outside for more than a few minutes for fear of exposure to drivers passing by.
I didn’t let him play in his room for more than the time it took for me to run to the bathroom to pee.
If I had to do a load of laundry, I made him go to the laundry room with me.
I neglected my dishes because I couldn’t do them and keep him safe at the same time.
I did exactly what The Fear said to do.
And the worst part of all?
No one knew.
I didn’t tell a soul.
The Fear said everyone, including my mom and my sweet boyfriend would think I was crazy and take Joshua away from me.
So I let my boyfriend think I was an irrational bitch. All the while, I was dying to tell him that I wasn’t. I had to do all of this.
I let my mom think I was neglecting my son. Which I wasn’t. I mean, her thinking that wasn’t nearly as bad as her thinking I was incapable of taking care of him.
I was protecting him.
I had to do something that broke my heart.
The Fear made me.
I had to do it again the next night.
But the third night, when I woke up in a cold sweat, shaking as I pulled down the neck of my sleeping boy’s jammie shirt to make sure his throat hadn’t been slit, I’d had enough.
I couldn’t do it.
I couldn’t keep watching these scenarios play out, unable to turn away.
I couldn’t keep not sleeping.
I couldn’t keep watching my son die over and over when, in reality, he was right there.
Never knowing what I was going through.
So, the next morning, I called the doctor and made and appointment for the following morning.
This obviously wasn’t something I could deal with on my own, and it wasn’t going away.
The doc listened as I paraphrased what was going on. Then he asked a question I was so scared didn’t have a right answer.
“Now, you say you see these things happening? When you see them, do you feel like they’re real? Like they’re really happening?”
I was in full blown panic mode.
There’s no right answer. I shouldn’t have said anything. He’s going to have my kid taken away.
So, in spite of the thoughts running through my head, I ignored The Fear and just answered as honestly as my shaking voice would allow.
“I don’t see them, as in sight. And, I know it’s not really happening right now. I’m not seeing things. But, part of me keeps saying that they can happen. It’s the possibility I’m scared of.”
Then, “Have you ever thought about hurting yourself?”
He wrote me a prescription for Prozac (and something else to help if I had a bad attack).
“Every day,” he said. “If it doesn’t help within two weeks, you come right back here.”
But I didn’t have to.
In that two weeks, The Fear packed its things and silently slipped out the back door of my mind.
I got to unpack my happiness.
My revelry in being a mom (something I had dearly missed).
I’ve been off the Prozac for 4 or 5 months now.
The Fear hasn’t come back.
Hasn’t even written.
Of course, I still worry. But now, I worry about broken bones and stitches.
I’m a normal mom now. Something, that for a long time, I was afraid I’d never be. I'm happy.
I take my kid outside.
He rides his bike off the porch steps, even after I've told him not to.
And I let him.
I had to tell myself that there was a certain kind of mother I wanted to be. I want to be my kid's best friend. I want him to trust me. I want him to grow up remembering things we did together.
I didn't want him to remember me being scared all the time. I couldn't be me if I was always hiding.
So, I stepped out of the dark.
Oh, and I gave my brother back his gun.
Now, I want you to do me a favor. If you’re dealing with this, get help. You are not the only one. You’re not the first, and you won’t be the last. I thought there was something seriously screwed up with me because I’d never had anything like this before. No depression. No anxiety. Nothing. But it can happen, and you can fix it. It’s not normal. We’re all screwed up, but no one should have to live like that. Call your doctor. Hell, call your mom. Just talk to someone about it. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.