Monday, July 02, 2007

Running from the fear

When I talk about fear here, I usually mean “fear of failure” or “fear of not writing” or even the ever present “Fear of being a bad mother.”

But this past week, I have been running away from a very different kind of fear. Physical fear. The fear of being harmed during one of my outings with Madam. The fear that something will happen that I cannot control. That I will not be able to protect her.

Since becoming a mother, I have had a few panic attacks, all centered around issues of Madam's care. One memorable episode was in the aisles of a grocery store—I was unnerved by my new responsibility—she was no longer nursing/on the bottle exclusively and I was attempting to chart the brave new world of solids. Perhaps for most mothers, this would not have been cause for alarm, but I've always had a perfect horror-movie script of an imagination. I could see Madam growing weak, ill, because I wasn't feeding her correctly. Or not enough. Or too much. Or the wrong foods.

You get the idea.

The most frightening attack, though, occurred this past winter. It was a rare warm-ish day and so I took Madam across the street to yet another grocery store (maybe the lesson here is to avoid grocery stores!). Being winter, darkness fell swiftly. When we left the store, it was completely black outside. Now, I don't want to be dramatic (well, not this time)--I live in a safe area of town, I was right across the street, and there were people shopping and walking and eating near by.

And yet. Suddenly, I was struck by how small she was, by how much she depended on me. But she felt safe, even though it was dark, because I was with her. And I felt completely unequal to that challenge.

It was so very dark.

I scooped her up in my arms, and basically ran back home. And it was fine, but so nerve wracking that I burst into tears upon handing her back to TEG.

What if? What if?

I don't go out with Madam in the darkness anymore, but lately these thoughts have even begun to haunt me in the day. What could I do to stop someone who was determined to hurt me or my child? Am I careful enough? Aware enough? So not going out in the dark has become practically not leaving the house at all. That means I haven't been able to see the awesome mommies I know here, because they live on the other side of town. Or take my daughter to story time. Or to browse in a bookstore.

It's become so very dark in my mind.

None of this is helped by my new addiction to the news. I read way more than is good for me—an assembly line of abducted women, families destroyed, children killed. Senseless, wanton. Terrifying. I know that these stories are usually hyped by a media who lives by the credo “If it bleeds, it leads.” I know that basically, we can take our precautions and hope for the best.

But it is very difficult to escape the feeling lately that women are targets. Women and children.

Becoming a mother has made me feel more vulnerable than anything in my life. I think back to the risks I used to take in my previous life--working late, walking down dark streets alone. Oh, I was always careful, and aware. So what has changed?

It's not just me anymore.

I didn't want to write these thoughts out, because of a pervasive dread that I might somehow bring on the very things I am scared to think about. trying to suppress these thoughts, I think I have let them grow stronger in the shadows. Like everything else I am afraid to face.

I haven't wanted to write here lately until I felt like I could give a full narrative shape to my feelings—a beginning, middle, and end. And I can't yet. But I needed to write it down, and make myself see it.

Recently, I read the “Gift of Fear”, and the author reminded me of something I have always known, but perhaps needed to hear again. Nonstop anxiety actually makes us LESS capable of seeing a true threat.

So I went out with Madam. Tense, a little shaky, but outside.

I just want to feel like I can protect her. I just want to feel safe again.


Anonymous leah said...

(((hugs))) i can't quite imagine the feeling of fear over protecting one's own child, having no children of my own yet, but after hearing from my best friend about the intense love she felt when she met her newborn baby face to face for the first time, i got a clearer sense.

personally, i think the news is 99% scare tactics, it's how they get people to watch. maybe you could try taking a week off from the news and see if it helps?

1:49 AM, July 02, 2007  
Blogger bubandpie said...

The only news I get is from the newspaper. That imagination you describe - it's too powerful. For me it gets activated mostly by situations where my children could fall off things (though I'm not afraid of heights myself).

7:30 AM, July 02, 2007  
Blogger Melba said...

I feel for you. I have general anxiety disorder (GAD)so I know somewhat what you are going through. For me therapy helped. My therapist had suggested medication, but we did behavior modification instead. This was before I had children. I have had a few attacks with them, usually though I can talk myself into going where we have to go. For me writing helps; just getting it all out.
If you want to talk more about this let me know. I know not everyone understands what it feels like (even if they try to).

I wish you a bright sunny day filled with love and laughter today.


8:17 AM, July 02, 2007  
Blogger caro said...

This sounds so very hard. I've been through some anxious and isolated times, too, and I'm sad to hear you're there now. Good for you for taking those steps outside, and for writing about it. I know it's so much easier to write "I felt so awful, but it's better now," than to get some words out while you're stuck in something like this. I want to be able to help somehow. Maybe we could set up a get together someplace closer to your house? Please email me (the address on my site works now, I think).

10:42 AM, July 02, 2007  
Blogger Ally Bean said...

"Nonstop anxiety actually makes us LESS capable of seeing a true threat."

That is so true. I'd never thought about that before. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. And I agree with leah, bag the tv news. Replace it with some yoga dvd's. You can't be anxious after a good yoga workout.

6:10 PM, July 02, 2007  
Blogger Tori said...

You are very brave for posting these thoughts.
Being a mother is the most difficult life long job one can undertake.
Hang in there and breathe.
Sendning thoughts.

7:28 PM, July 02, 2007  
Blogger Becoming Amethyst said...

Firstly ~ hello again!

I think you ARE brave to write about these fears. I suffered terribly with anxiety after the birth of my second son (he's six now), but in time I managed to work through it. Here's hoping for the same for you. x

8:32 AM, July 03, 2007  
Anonymous Frida said...

You are so wise - constant anxiety rubs the edge off our natural instinctive ability to sense when we are in real danger. But then again - so does that hyped up, pumped up anxiety producing media you describe.

Is there someone who can join you for those first walks out? I know that when I get overwhelmed by any kind of fear I can really benefit from a hand to hold as I face it again. There is Madam, I'm sure she'll hold your hand and have complete faith in you.

11:01 AM, July 03, 2007  
Blogger Earnest and Game: Heather said...

I guess just in living and walking around there is a huge amount of surrender--that nothing is certain and danger may lurk...everywhere.Planes may crash. Freak accidents may happen. The very air we breathe is suspect. Yet there is this idea of acceptance that you can do what you can, that maybe there is some grace or a guardian that helps...that still somehow you make your way as you want to in a world that is uncertain and may hold as much danger as it does possibility and joy. I am sending compassionate hugs, acceptance and prayers for less suffering. Thinking of you. Xoxoox, Heather

11:32 AM, July 03, 2007  
Blogger kate said...

I absolutely relate to this. I kept nodding my head: yes, yes, exactly. This kind of fear is a horrible thing to feel. I am so sorry that you are struggling with this right now. If talking about it helps, talk. If writing helps, write. Do anything to break out of the prison that the fear creates. Is there anything I can do?

2:46 PM, July 03, 2007  
Anonymous fern said...

That constant worry is something that I've been trying to deal with, as you know, for quite some time now. One day, you're cruising along, trying to enjoy your life...the next you're overwhelmed by the uncertainty of life. I still don't know how to deal with it very well. I'm trying not let the panic get to me...

you're not alone, trust me!

10:00 PM, July 05, 2007  
Blogger Colorsonmymind said...

I am glad you got out-I can let worries get a strong hold of me as well.

It is such a hard thing to fight sometimes.

Glad you are.

8:26 PM, July 07, 2007  
Blogger Jessie said...

if you ever want to borrow my urban ninja gnome, just let me know. he kicks danger's ass!

i love ya, brave friend. and i miss you too!

10:26 PM, July 07, 2007  
Anonymous Emmie (Better Make It A Double) said...

Feeling afraid is such a horrible feeling, and such a complicated one. I'm sorry that you're feeling so much of it in such a vivid way. I struggle with it too, every day. I think the end of your post sums it up, though. Fear itself has its dangers, and it is something we can work on, especially if we support one another in being brave instead of just relating scare stories. I hope we can see you soon - it's been too long. I would be happy to come to your neck of the woods, maybe splash in your lake, and talk. Best of luck surviving the parents!

9:51 PM, July 09, 2007  

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