What I wish I could tell you…

Exactly four weeks ago tomorrow, Dan and I, along with Patrick and Oliver, boarded a plane out of Quito for the last time.  We had made the decision in June to return to the US permanently, for a variety of reasons.  Although we knew it was the right decision, it was not made lightly and it still hurt.

We made the decision to locate ourselves in Indianapolis, to be near our grown children.  We have a lovely house here, and thanks to the generosity of so many people, it is fully furnished with lovely furniture.  I have collected a lot of things that belonged to my grandmother, and having things around me that I grew up with is comforting, in the way that wrapping up in a warm blanket on a cold evening is comforting.

I wish I could tell you that we are settled.  That we feel right at home.  That we have adjusted and gotten ourselves into this new life without a hitch.  I wish I could.

The reality is that right now, I feel like I’ve been picked up and dropped into someone else’s life, and I have no idea how to live it.  I find myself in a muddle over the oddest things.  Things that I used to do without thinking twice now require me to actually talk myself through them.  Something as simple as getting in the car and going somewhere by myself is overwhelming.  In Quito, I didn’t drive very much.  The traffic was horrible and it made me so nervous that I just gave it up.  Dan was usually available to take me where I needed to go, and if he wasn’t someone else was.  Here, I can go anywhere I want to, theoretically.  Except that I can’t.  I’ve gone to Hobby Lobby once and to the grocery store once, but that’s it.  I just can’t navigate getting in the car and going anywhere by myself.  Dan has been incredibly patient with me, but I know he is ready for his wife to get some of her independence back.

Going to church has been hard.  Not because of the church–we actually really like the pastor and are enjoying the sermon series…but it’s not “our” church.  “Our” pastor isn’t there.  “Our” people aren’t there.  I am glad, however, that Our God is there!

Shopping is always an adventure.  I have to keep reminding myself that Target will have what I need (most likely in several different colors), they will have enough of it, and they will have it next week, or next month, so I don’t need to buy 12 of it.  I can’t be in a store for very long (other than Hobby Lobby–it’s my happy place and I could live there) without getting very nervous and overwhelmed.  And going in without a list is just not wise.  The other day I needed dog food, milk and cooking spray.  I came home with three different kinds of candy corn (which I don’t even like, but after 12 years of not being able to buy it, that was irrelevant.  And they had it in different flavors.), ice cream and tots.  No cooking spray and no dog food.  Fortunately the dogs like candy corn.  😛  I think I only remembered the milk because I walked past it to get to the candy corn.

I have had to deal with setting up utility accounts in our name, getting our drivers licenses changed, figuring out how to get someone to pick up our trash…and yes, I know I am saying “I” a lot.  The reality is that Dan and I are processing this very differently.

I wish I could tell you that we’ve been the poster children for how to do this and not have it affect our marriage and our home life.  The reality is that we are both a little snappy (OK, he’s a little–I’m a lot), and life here at our house still doesn’t feel “right”.  Every morning I wake up and for a moment, wonder where I am.  I still look at things in the store and think “I wonder if I can get that home”…then I remember that all I have to do is put it in the back of the car and take it there–no planes or luggage restrictions involved.

When we moved to Ecuador, we had a purpose.  It was exciting and new, and we were down there to do something for the Lord.  I know that somewhere in this move is a purpose, and that the Lord still has work for us to do…but right now I can’t find it.  I feel like a little kid lost in a crowd…looking around for my parents and just seeing people all around me that I don’t know.

What I wish I could tell you is that I’ve got this.

I wish I could.

The art of being OK…

The hubby is out of town again.  Patrick and I are here at home, keeping busy with crafting and taking walks and annoying the dog…

And I’m OK.

Anyone who has been following me for more than about 20 minutes knows that when Dan leaves town, he usually takes my sanity with him.  I spend the entire time he’s gone negotiating panic attacks, afraid to be at home and afraid to not be at home.  Lying awake at night listening to every tiny sound (and I live in the city–lots of tiny sounds to listen to), convinced that every creak, groan, slam of a car door and dog barking holds the possibility of terror just around the corner.

Not this time.

In the words of an old friend…it’s good.  It’s all good.

I’ve spent the last several days (even before Dan left) wondering why I wasn’t panicking.  Usually the days leading up to his departure are torture for both of us, and at some point I usually end up in tears, begging him not to go.  This time?  I didn’t really give it a whole lot of thought, other than to make sure his laundry was done so that he wasn’t going on a business trip with only ratty t-shirts and holy jeans to wear.  I didn’t lose sleep (OK, not any more than usual–sleep and I are not good friends) and there were no tears.  It wasn’t that I didn’t care, because I still don’t really LIKE it when he’s gone.  It’s just that I was…OK.  And I have finally figured it out.

I’m not scared.

I’m.  Not.  Scared.

The house that we lived in for the first 10 years that we were here was not secure.  We were robbed in 2007, and I never again felt safe.  Not a single day.  We would leave the house for whatever reason, and I would spend the entire time worrying about who was in my house.  Coming home, as we came around the corner, my heart would start to pound.  We had dogs.  We had dogs when we got robbed–it was not a deterrent.  We had chains and locks.  Bolt cutters and five minutes would have you inside the house.  Every Sunday for 7 years, I spent my time in church praying that no one got into our house.  I’m sure God was thrilled that we were having that conversation again.

When Dan would leave, and I was there alone, responsible for my children and feeling like I was completely out of control, it was nothing short of abject terror.  Panic would wash over me in waves, sometimes to the point that I couldn’t breathe.  It was worse when my big kids were still home, because then it was coupled with the guilt over not being able to reassure them that Mom was in charge and things would be OK.  Because I didn’t know if they would.  I would lie awake at night, convinced that if I went to sleep even for an instant, all hell would break loose.  I was working full time, which helped only because it forced me to get up and get the kids to school and interact, even on a limited basis.  Fortunately the girls that I worked with in the library knew what was happening and would turn themselves inside out to make sure I was “OK” while he was gone.  Unfortunately it also placed a burden on my big kids that I wish I could take back–they felt the need to “protect” me, when I should have been protecting them.  Children should not have to parent their parents.

There is nothing quite as terrifying as not being OK in your own home.  The guys who broke in took two laptop computers, my wedding ring…and any sense of security I might have had.

In August of 2014, we moved out of that house and into an apartment.  A safe, secure apartment.  And everything changed.  We are in a new place now, and it is safe.  It’s secure.  We have a guard.  We live on a street where a lot of diplomatic and embassy people live, so there are guards everywhere.

I am not afraid.

As I have pondered this these past few days, I have come to some realizations.

It wasn’t Dan’s fault.  He was not deliberately scheduling trips just to get away from me.  Which, when you think about it, is sort of a miracle, considering that I wanted nothing more than to get away from me.  He was doing his job, and I was making it about 1000x harder with my insane tears and panicking.  A couple of times, he actually considered canceling his trip (he was already wherever he was going) and coming home, because I scared him so badly.  When I think about the mental anguish that I caused him, I want to cry.

We should have moved.  I don’t know why we didn’t, except that we thought we had a “deal”.  Our rent was very low, our house was large enough for a family of six, we were three blocks from the school…and all of that was not worth the insecurity.  Our children would have been much happier in an apartment where their mother felt safe and secure and their dad could do his job.  So why did we stay there?  I don’t know.  But I do know that we shouldn’t have.  When we were robbed, we should have packed up and gotten out of there, into someplace where peace of mind was included in the lease.

It wasn’t the thought of losing things that frightened me, lest you all think I am a materialistic dingbat who is overly concerned about her stuff.  It was the knowledge that if I wasn’t safe in my house, and able to protect my children, then I wasn’t safe anywhere, and neither were they.  Living overseas, in a world that only makes sense about 10% of the time, I need security wherever I can get it.  When I was working I walked to school every day.  I knew who I “should” see along my route.  My mind got to where it registered anyone different.  Not necessarily in a panicky way, just a sort of “Oh.  Haven’t seen him before” way, and I would be a little more alert after that.

The stress that I placed on my body and my mind has probably damaged both of them irreparably, at least to some degree.  The Fibro that I live with is probably a direct result of stress.  My anxiety level usually hovers somewhere between mildly alarmed and Defcon 5, and I can snap in an instant.  My anxiety medication keeps me on a relatively even keel most of the time, but I still have moments.

I can’t change the past.  I can’t take back the years that we spent in the house.  I wish I could.  I wish I had insisted that we move.  I wish I had been able to pull it together for my children.  I wish my husband had not had the extra stress of dealing with me when he was trying to do his job well.  The fact that he did do it well, in spite of me, is a miracle on par with walking on water, I do believe.

It feels good to be OK here.  Yesterday Patrick and I walked to Subway, got a sandwich and walked home.  We didn’t hurry.  I wasn’t panicking about what we would find when we got home.  We just…went.  And came home.  It was good.  Dan is on his trip, and although I miss him, for the first time in…ever…when he comes home I won’t have to say the words “I’m sorry.  I’m so sorry.”

That feels pretty good.

The unwanted guest.

It’s not a big secret that I have anxiety issues.  I take medication for them, and most of the time it keeps me on a semi-even keel.  But they never truly go away.  My anxiety is the unwanted guest in our home and our marriage.  It has moved in, taken over the biggest room in my head, and no matter how much I try to evict it, it stays.

Dan didn’t marry an anxious person.  I was never outgoing, or overly brave, but I wasn’t anxious all the time.  I come from a long line of anxious people.  My grandmother, who was one of the most courageous people I’ve ever known, was filled with anxiety.  I can remember as a child her not wanting me to roller skate on the driveway because I “might fall”.  At the time, it made no sense to me, and I thought she was overprotective.  Now that I am a mom, I get it.  And I am worse than she ever was.

Patrick and I are living with my sister right now (who, coincidentally, lives in my grandparents house with the same scary driveway) and my mom lives around the corner.  It is literally 10 houses from my sister.  Yesterday we were headed over to visit my mom and Patrick asked if he could walk to Grandmama’s house all by himself.

I couldn’t let him.

My hands got sweaty and my heart started racing, and I brushed him off and promised that he could do it “another day”.  Then I had the conversation with the crazy person that lives in my head about letting him do it.  By the time we got to my mom’s (in the car, both of us) I had him kidnapped and gone forever.

I know that most of you are reading this and thinking that I am just ridiculous.  You’re right.  I am.  But being ridiculous–and knowing that I am ridiculous–doesn’t change a thing.  It isn’t good for my marriage, it isn’t good for my kids, and it certainly isn’t good for me.

I can honestly say that the most heated, unreasonable, crazy arguments that Dan and I have ever had were almost all caused by my anxiety.  It causes me to see things from a skewed perspective.  This morning I was texting him, and he didn’t answer me.  After a couple of times, I sent him a message asking if he was angry with me (Guilt–it’s the other person in my head) and he answered that he had sent me a text before, but forgot to hit “send”, and that he hadn’t seen the other message.  My immediate reaction was to get upset.  I didn’t answer him, because I knew that I would say something that wasn’t kind or necessary.  I’ve spent the last half an hour talking myself down off of the ceiling, because I KNOW he isn’t ignoring me, or angry with me, but my anxiety tells me otherwise and I have to remind myself over and over that it can’t rule my life, or my thoughts.

I sometimes wonder if my anxiety issues are tied to control–the things that make me the most upset and anxious are the things that I can’t control.  I’ve read all of the verses in the Bible about letting the Lord handle my problems, and not being afraid, and trusting…and I can do all of that for about five minutes.

“Anxiety” is a four-letter-word in the Christian community.  “You’re just not praying enough.”  “You need to believe more.”  “You have Jesus–you shouldn’t be anxious.”  (That one really frosts my cookies.)  And “anxiety” coupled with “medication” is like the Holy Grail of “what-in-the-world-is-wrong-with-you-and-you-are-obviously-not-a-good-Christian-or-a good-mother-or-a-good-wife-or-a-good-missionary-and-here–try some herbs.”  I think what frosts me most about people who respond that way is that, for the most part, they have not been where I am.  They don’t live my life or know my story and they certainly don’t know what is happening inside my head.  I am an introvert, and I spend a LOT of time inside my own head.  I don’t say what I am thinking (and really–y’all should be glad about that) and I don’t confide in a lot of people.  If you ask me what is going on, I will most likely say “nothing”.  Pushing me won’t change that–I don’t push easily.

I don’t have any answers, and I am not looking for them from anyone.  I guess I just wanted you to know that if I am being unreasonable or acting weird, it’s probably the anxiety rearing it’s ugly head.  Don’t take it personally.  And if you know someone who has taken the medication road–please be supportive.  Know that it was not a decision made lightly.  Know that for them, it was probably made after a long, hard, agonizing soul-search and that there really, truly was no other option–for THEM.  Maybe you took the herbs and they worked.  That makes me so happy for you.  Maybe you know someone who beat their anxiety by praying or fasting or going on a personal retreat.  I say “Great!”  But if you took the meds, or are taking the meds, or know someone who is or was…please see them as a God-given method of restoring our sanity.  Because I truly believe that the Lord gave me the right doctor (who is also a Christian) and that my doc knew what I needed at the time because he is a man of prayer and he knows that sometimes the answers are contra to what the Christian society says.

“It was one of those days when I was thinking too much, too fast. Only it was more like the thoughts had a mind of their own and going all by themselves at a hundred miles a second, and I was just sitting back, feeling the growing paranoia inside of me.”
Sasha Mizaree