My awesome sister is due to give birth in a month and a half, and last weekend, we threw her a baby shower. Since I’m her little sister and we’re best friends and generally just love the crap out of each other, she asked me to host. Obviously, I did (and I did a kick ass job, I might add).
I was curious to see if and how the anxiety would surface and how I would handle it. Sure enough, soon after she asked me, the racing thoughts began: would I be crazy about the details and stressed and ask everyone a million questions? Would I not be able to enjoy the actual event because I’d be so worried about whether everyone else was? What if I forgot something major and it ruined the whole thing?
I was expecting these kinds of thoughts, and I was prepared for them. Whenever they would pop up, I reminded myself that I had a list on my phone detailing all of the things we needed to decide before we started planning, and later, which jobs everyone had taken responsibility for. And strangely, they felt different from the way anxious thoughts have in the past. Normally, they feel like racing and like I can’t stop the questions from coming fast enough to answer them and calm myself down. This time, they were slower and I could answer each one before the next came up. Sometimes I’d have more than one in the space of half a minute, but they were still slow enough that I wasn’t spiraling.
As we got to the few days before the event, I started to feel anxious about whether everyone was going to do what they were responsible for and if they’d show up at the right time and part of me wanted to just email everyone and say “I’ll handle it” so that I knew everything would get done. This is a theme as old as I am: I want to do everything myself because that way I don’t have to depend on anyone. It also perversely justifies my sense of guilt and responsibility: it gives me an excuse to feel those things, even though I know that I shouldn’t most of the time. I’m so thankful that I had multiple people helping to pull this off, and that each and every single one went above and beyond.
The baby shower itself was awesome, and it was so much fun to see both families and lots of friends gathered together to celebrate the awesome tiny human that my sister is growing. There was so much love and excitement, and it was so personal. My sister’s in-laws handmade a whole bunch of adorable clothing for the baby (that is a SERIOUS understatement), and my mom brought a bunch of baby blankets and clothes that our grandma had made for us when we were babies. Everyone decorated cardboard baby clothes hangers with designs and messages, and helped create an alphabet book for the kid. So awesome.
Looking back on it, I’m kind of amazed. I felt no anxiety. Honestly. I sent a few emails checking in with everyone about tasks and what time we were going to get everything set up, but that was it. No racing thoughts, no rumination, no nausea or sleeplessness or any of the things that I’ve become accustomed to feeling when I’m anxious. It was so amazing, and so freeing. It’s like I caught a glimpse of what life could be, and it made me proud of all of the work I’ve been doing. I also felt a lot of relief; maybe, just maybe, I’ve got this to a place where I can handle it. I don’t know how much my lack of anxiety was that I wouldn’t normally have felt much anyway and how much was my regular exercise/meditation/therapy routine, but I do know this: I’m not stopping that routine for anything. That comes first. Always. Obviously life requires flexibility, and I can do that. There are going to be weeks where I don’t do as much yoga as usual or where I unexpectedly have a meeting and lunch and can’t meditate, and that’s ok. There will be time when my relationship comes first, when my family comes first, when my work comes first. And that’s ok. But I’m going to make every effort I can to keep this up, because I feel like I’m really starting to see the benefits. And I wouldn’t trade them for anything.
If you’re struggling to find your own way to manage anxiety, don’t give up. Try everything you think might help. And keep trying it. The more you practice, the better you get, and the more it becomes a reflex or a habit for you that will kick in when you really need it. I know that it’s frustrating and discouraging and even heartbreaking sometimes. You are not alone. You can do this, and it will be worth it.