Anxiety Update

I have devoted chunks of this blog to my anxiety, that it only seems appropriate to start detailing my battle, and triumph, at gaining the upper hand over it. 
Though I’ve worked at this for well over a year, I see the story really starting in September 2016. 

My dad had just set off for San Diego in his truck to take care of some business with the home he and my mom still owned there – the house that I grew up in. The minute he told me he was leaving, I became terrified. I thought of all the turmoil being reported in the news with police officers seemingly shooting Black men for being simply that: Black. I thought of how far the trip was and how though he’s a youthful man still, my dad was indeed 60 years old. The surge of hormones happening within me as my first trimester came to a close wasn’t helpful. I tinkered on nauseous and paranoid, depressed and anxious – a real cocktail of instability. But life pressed forward despite my internal cries to just make everything stop. 

A few days after my dad took off, the first hurricane to come in off the Gulf coast in decades formed, and its projected path was set to hit our area. This would mark the first time my husband and I would experience a hurricane warning for where we lived. So, not only was my dad gone, leaving my mom alone at their home, but now a hurricane was headed for us and I had no idea how to cope. 

I called some friends and freaked out on the phone. I stayed up waiting for my husband to come home from work in the few nights before the storm hit. He shipped me off to my mom’s, likely for two reasons – 1) because he knew I would do better with her and 2) he was probably growing tired of witnessing my chaos but not being able to do anything whilst also working to secure our home and pets for the incoming storm. 

Once the storm hit, I remember my heart pounding, my stomach being in knots, having hot flashes, and feeling like I was failing my children – both my unborn and my toddler. It was at this moment, I remember clearly, that I heard a distinct voice. The message verbatim is a little foggy, but overall, it said to me, “Antoinette, how do you expect to progress as the mother you want to be if you crumble at the slightest onset of trouble? If you think you’ll be strong enough for childbirth at the end of this pregnancy by acting this way, you are wrong.”

Ouch.

The voice then went on to say, “I’ve commanded your father to leave for now. When have I ever let you down? Would it be like me to let something happen to him when I have called him to take on this challenge right now?” 

I sobbed in reply and stated, “no…”

It was at that moment that I realized that I needed to get a grip. I’ve always wanted to be seen as strong, powerful, fearless…but I wasn’t being any of those things. And it wasn’t just one day of weakness – it was a week long of weakness. Not my finest snapshot in time. I’m almost embarrassed to write these words. 

But it was this embarrassing psychological intervention that fortified my resolve. Not only was I going to stop letting myself be a victim to my thoughts and circumstances, but I was also going to start actively working to pass them. 

The first lesson I had to learn was that thoughts are simply that – thoughts. They are not reality. Like one might pick up and examine apples at the market to find the best ones for purchase, thoughts may come in, but that doesn’t mean they must then shape the narrative of my life at the time, or even ever. I can pick up a thought, and just as quickly, put it back down. So, thoughts of bad things happening to me or my family don’t have to take over. They’re just thoughts. If nothing tangible is playing out in front of me to support these thoughts, why go there? Stopping the late night/early morning rumination has been most helpful on my journey. 
The next lesson I had to learn was that I indeed am enough. We hear that phrase tossed around all the time, and I feel it means different things to different people, depending on who you ask. For me, it’s the notion that I don’t need to work any harder or be anything more to be worthy. Anyone who doesn’t see me as such when I am who I am isn’t worth it. 

And that contributed to the drastic drop in my overall social circle. I stopped paying attention to others and started focusing on myself and my family first and foremost. To them, I will always be more than enough, even on the days when I am barely at full capacity. I had to emotionally release myself from feeling responsible for certain relationships and prioritize the relationships I truly was responsible for, mainly, the ones with the people with whom I share a home, and the ones who raised me. That’s it. Everything and everyone else became peripheral with the understanding that the change was not personal, nor aimed at anyone in particular, but that this is the new normal for me. I can’t uphold the expectations of others when I’m too busy meeting the expectations I have of myself (which mostly center on making sure I’m the best mom and wife I can be). Anyone who couldn’t get down with that was phased out. 

I changed my number. Lots of folks didn’t get the new one. Oh well. It’s been a nice measure in breaking away. 

Lastly, I had to remember the true meaning of the semicolon I had tattooed onto my arm – a reminder to pause. 

Believe it or not, I’m pregnant here, too! Only about 7 weeks. No nausea yet. Hence the smile.😉


I can press pause as many times in a row as I want or need to. And though pressing pause sounds like a cop-out on the surface, it’s truthfully one of the best forms of self-care I’ve implemented. Self-care doesn’t have to mean spending tons of money on spa treatments or gifts for yourself. Self-care can simply mean carving out 30 minutes of silence to be still, meditating in the morning/afternoon/evening to re-center yourself, taking a walk alone, listening to some good music for 15 minutes, or taking a tub bath. I used to feel guilty for doing those things because my daughter might need me, or what about my husband, or look at all the chores that need to be done. But what about me? What about the internal housekeeping that we all must do to keep ourselves from becoming work-obsessed, stressed out monsters? I am worth nothing to my family if I am burnt out, and in these last few months, my husband has gotten to see what burnout can look like for me. He doesn’t like it. Neither do I. He told me thanks for always doing for he and our daughter even when I am past my limit. It wasn’t until he said that (about a month ago) that I realized I have changed. I have grown. I am stronger…

I used to think strength was something that had to be bestowed upon you; someone would have to show up and hand me “strength” in order for me to be strong. No, you’re strong the moment you decide to not succumb to your circumstances. You’re strong the minute you decide that though things may not be ideal, you will deal. Strength doesn’t always show up as being stoic or hardened – many people cry through strength. They feel themselves falling apart. But they don’t give up. I’ve faced a lot through this pregnancy alone and had to learn to toughen up for myself and for my son. It’s come with hard moments, but those hard moments have made me so much better. I’m even a better manager at work now. It’s almost over, and though I will be glad to not be pregnant anymore (seriously, it’s been a blessing and all but just gimme dat baby already!) I wouldn’t trade a single trial or challenge that’s come with it. I am propelling past my anxiety by remembering all that I am and forgetting all I do not have to be. I am enough. And I am ready. 

Sullen Girl

“Is that why they call me a sullen girl? Sullen girl…
They don’t know I used to sail the deep and tranquil seas.
But he washed me ‘shore, and he took my pearl and left an empty shell of me.” –”Sullen Girl” by Fiona Apple

Anxiety sucks. I’ve only recently become acquainted with just what this feeling is that’s hovered over me in much of my adult life past age 27. If I had to come up with a metaphor for what this emotion feels like, I’d say it’s probably similar to what Sri Lankans felt like on December 26, 2004 as they watched the ocean menacingly encroach upon their habitat, helpless against the raging onslaught of water that would devour their homes, places of business, streets, cars, friends, and family. Anxiety washes over me like a tsunami, and all I ever wanted to do was bask in the sunlight or sail peacefully with the wind in my hair.

It’s typically been my nature to be open and inviting to others – I’m not this way anymore. I used to enjoy social settings, meeting new people, and putting myself out there. In place of those things I’ve been busy building walls, withdrawing from relationships, and trying to patch up really old wounds that I thought had healed. I always thought that when I reached a point like this I would find myself sad about the shift in my attitude and behavior, but I’m actually really comfortable being this way because it minimizes my amount of emotional risk. I used to scoff at risk before, but now I refuse to take risks. I don’t want to be vulnerable to anything or anyone anymore.

The only place I feel truly safe and calm is at home. If I could lie in bed and eat yummy food and watch Netflix all day without consequence, I would. But someone has to let the dogs out. These papers aren’t going to grade themselves. I don’t want to be arrested for child neglect. Eventually, the groceries in the fridge will run out and I’ll have to go to the store to get more.

When I can’t sleep, I like to sneak into Kennedy’s room, grab her from her toddler bed, and lie down with her in the futon guest bed – there’s something so comforting about getting to snuggle with my baby who isn’t really a baby anymore. I’d do the same with Fabian, but since his body is bigger, he controls the cuddling. I can just grab Kennedy and snuggle with her and she’ll fall asleep no matter how we’re tangled up. Plus, I enjoy the tickle of her soft curls against my chin and nose. I want to soak up these moments now because one day she won’t want me anymore. When she’s a rebellious teenager, she’ll probably tell me she hates me because I won’t let her dye her hair pink or stay out ‘til 3am with her boyfriend. I just hope that by then I’ve found something else to comfort me that isn’t cocaine or excessive drinking or heroin or PCP.

Now, I know that the Christians and religious folks probably wonder, “Why doesn’t she just hand these troubles over to God? Why doesn’t she pray more? Doesn’t she know Jesus can save her?”

My answer to that: I do pray. I do read The Word. I do have a relationship with God and Jesus – a strong one. It is naïve to think that just because a person is going through troubles, they must be lacking in faith. Trials like these are where faith is tested. So-called good Christians are not free from troubles. Don’t look at someone else’s life and assume that everything must be okay just because that’s how it looks to you.

As with all stages in life, this one will pass too. Perhaps it will be in a few months, or maybe it will take me decades to dig out from under. Until then, the walls, distance, and mistrust remain. I’ve been so burned and shit on and it’s finally all catching up to me. I almost wish I could go back in time to 1992 or so and warn little young, bright-eyed, hopeful, friendly Antoinette that she should probably just stop it now, because it’s only a burden to have to keep up later. When you’re the person who is good at offering an ear to listen and a heart to care, all anyone is going to let you do is listen and care; they won’t return the favor. When you’re upbeat and lighthearted, nobody will allow you to be downtrodden or serious. Nobody ever asks the friend who’s a good listener if they have anything to say. Nobody ever reaches out to the girl who’s constantly reaching out to everybody else. Don’t exhibit strength or power in overcoming obstacles because then you’re never allowed to be weak. Helping make someone else’s bad days good means you’re never allowed to have bad days.