Thursday, January 30, 2014

About Parenting Guilt. About Parenting with Autism. About Parenting Perspectives.

My son has this little obsession with his stuffies. He has about 72 according to my estimate. His bed is full of them. We bought him two stuffy hammocks and they collapsed with the weight. So they sit on his bed and sometimes at night I get paranoid that he is going to suffocate so I sneak in and take them off his bed. It's tough for me because I like to get rid of stuff. But he remembers EVERY SINGLE one I have gotten rid of and three years later he still cries at times.

We talked to his cognitive therapist about it. She said something profound, "This is a good sign. It shows that he has a lot of love to give. It shows the beauty of his care. How deep his nurturing spirit is. Eventually he may grow out of it or keep them for his kids which he told me he was planning. To get rid of any of them is obviously traumatic for him. Maybe find a place they can be stored where he can see them but not be in your way as much. But this is not an unhealthy thing. If it was in every area of his life it would be a warning signal but in one area its good. Boys do not always get to explore and expand on their nurturing sides. Dolls and house are not always accepted with their friends. Stuffies are a little less obvious but it's his way of developing that."

Then I had my epiphany. This too shall pass and I will miss it. I do appreciate it now and I was simply worried that it was unhealthy. I thought back to the Soothers they had when they were little...and how I approached it differently than other moms. I allowed THEM to decide when they were done. It was unconventional. It was judged. But it worked beautifully. Sure my one son needed a bit of help. He had the "Soother fairy" at four to ease the pain but he was ready. He asked. The other two were around 3 1/2- 4 and they woke up one day suggesting that "su su" was ready to say goodbye...that was it. We had the same circumstances with potty training. Instead of me doing the work we respected their "readiness." All three of my children were trained over night around the week of their third birthday (one was a week after, one was the week before and one was the week of.) No accidents. No need to say anything (although we did prepare them with "Bear in the Big Blue House Potty Episode" on and off.) No bed wetting or diapers. Suddenly overnight we had a conversation and they were in underwear. Easy peasy.

I realized all these "issues" I thought were a big deal only needed time and respect for their own direction. I realize they also need parental guidance and support...and some issues need professional help or parental reinforcement. Some children also do not have that inner guide so they need parents to step up. But in general circumstances, time really does make children ready to make necessary changes. Each child has their OWN timeline. Some children will not be trained until seven or eight but that is THEIR time and it will be fine. One day this will pass. In general (excluding definite disabilities in certain areas) they have enough wisdom to know when it is time to let go. Most children are not ready when we force it, but if we SUPPORT it they become ready when it is their time.

Today I looked at the huge fort of stuffies on his bed and I felt overwhelmed with love. This is my unique son full of nurturing and love. He values and has named every one. He somehow KNOWS when one is missing. He cries when he feels they are being left out or when he thinks of children who do not have any...But he also says they are his family too. And that's ok. I thought it wasn't but changing my perspective I realize it's a gift and if he treats stuffed animals with that much love, eventually when he is ready, he will treat people that way.

Yesterday, we were folding clothes together and I had a pile of underwear that was too small. He turned to me and said, "Mom, I realize I have a problem with letting things go away. I don't need that underwear - it's too small but I don't want to waste it either. It's hard for me to get rid of stuff but some stuff is ok to get rid of. I'm working on it BUT my stuffies you can NOT get rid of - ok mom?" I laughed and grabbed his six year old cheeks and kissed them all over. He is so adorable and so profound sometimes. It always catches me off guard. He comes across easy going and not as thoughtful as his older two siblings who are always saying profound things that I am sort of used to it...but with him, it catches me and I melt because it is rare for him to give expression to his feelings. When he does I am astounded because it shows how much he actually is thinking about his own issues. Near the end of folding with him he smiled his cheeky grin, "Mom? I love folding with you because it's our special time to be just us. It's kind of fun. I like chatting and being with you." Of course I lunged for him again, pulled him on my lap and covered him with kisses as he giggled. I am going to miss this age so much. I felt a pang for the future me even as I enjoyed the moment. Beautiful moments have that dichotomy for me. I realized it all passes and some of the issues we make issues of are just not worth it. Some are but some really just need time. I was too structured with my daughter. Too by the book with milestones and forcing change...and it shows.

I regret it a bit. If I carry guilt about any's my oldest. She knows that. The other night I harshly corrected her for spilling something...and regretted it right away. I rarely raise my voice but if I's usually with her. I told her sorry and later on I brought it up again, "Mommy is really sorry for being so harsh with your accident." "Yea mom. You do that with me sometimes and I wonder why? It was so silly for you to be so angry at me for an accident...but then I do what you do with your friends and other people...I think maybe mom is overloaded with sensory things. Maybe mom is stressed and taking it out on me. I try to think of your perspective like you taught me and I know you don't mean to do it with me." Oh rips my heart out! Sigh. "Oh honey, I am so proud of you for thinking of that and you are right I was overloaded but it's not right...and it's not fair to you. I don't deserve you." That is when she became mad, "Mom I hate it when you say you don't deserve me. You say that sometimes and it bothers me because you are the best mom a girl could ask for. You are my mom and you made me...when you say you don't deserve me it makes me feel bad." Oh another heart rip.
"You are right honey. I deserve you because you were given to me. I am not going to do everything right. In fact because you are my first you will get more of my mistakes. I learn through you and the boys benefit from that learning...and I am sorry it has to be that way...and I will try to remember that. But when I forget, know you will be prepared in a way maybe the boys won't. There will be benefits and consequences to everything and you will get some benefits...But mommy will have to fight my self blame in this area because I see how I am with you - How I expect more and it isn't I make more mistakes...and I have to remind myself not to feel shame for that and let shame control me. That would be my worst mistake. You are a gem my girl. A wonderful, accepting, generous, innocent gem. I want to cherish that." I goofily covered her cheeks in baby kisses like I did when she was little and she soaked it up...and I realized she is STILL little. She still NEEDS that affection...and too often I give it to my six year old. I often feel guilty because  my affection is easier with my boys...and I have to be active with her...But is that bad? Maybe it's because she is my eldest. Maybe it comes down to self expectations and expectations on her which lead to shame and more negative behaviour. Maybe I just need to own and accept that it is what it is... and I adore her. That is enough. In that adoration and respect I will find our groove.

Parenting is hard. Especially because I am so aware and so so so fallible. And maybe I expect too much from myself and in doing so create an unfavourable environment for my kids. I am a good mother. I know this. But I am also unconventional. I don't fit in with other mothers. Sometimes I wonder if it is this: (I am quoted in this article)

I don't know. I know every parent faces it but my awareness seems to be more profound. I think autism makes it extra poignant. Sigh.

Mothers, I admire you for what you do. It's the toughest job in the world emotionally to be responsible for a life...for the entirety of your life. It's something you can't imagine until you do it. Nothing is like motherhood in both good ways and bad. There are moments that can come close but it's so disturbing and wonderful to be responsible for a life...till death do you part. Sometimes I am honoured and sometimes I wonder how I have gotten this far.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Abortion (Pro Life Versus Pro Choice) Actually ISN'T the Issue (In Support of Mothers AND Children)

 A letter to the editor showed up in a local paper urging people to write in to eradicate abortion. My husband came home as I was writing a feisty little piece (that ended up being the first draft of four)  to the paper. He had the same idea. We ended up writing the final draft together. The issues are deeper than a law or abortion. When we take away a choice...especially a choice regarding the human body in our fallen state, we end up messing the lines of human life even more. Of course every situation is different. Some abortions are a violation of human rights by discrimination. But a law won't change this. What needs to change is prejudices, awareness and the thousands of blogs that show the beauty of the differently wired or created in life.

Did you know abortion rates go up (NOT DOWN) when abortion laws are in effect? Women feel more desperate. Coming from a person who believes in God, I believe choice was the first gift given to us. We were given a tree, to choose good or evil. God did not take away that choice even with all it's consequences. If God didn't why do we think we have the rights too? When did we set ourselves up as God over life? I kept my feisty little first edition because it would make a great speech one day...just not a good article. As my father says, in newspapers or articles, you make your point and have people consider those points when you use honey and Logos (Pathos can be saved for speeches and personal blogs!) Honey attracts flies that would otherwise respond in defence. I am afraid I still can not quite manage full honey ness:) But I hope the deeper issues show themselves. A law will not take away the complicated situation. Better prevention, more support, and loving compassion heals a multitude of lives. We need to advocate for better programs NOT more red tape. I do not believe taking away a choice is the answer for so many other reasons not stated in this article.

In Support Of Mothers and Their Born/Unborn Children:
Human life is innately valuable and each life deserves to be, however, the issues choosing life are deep and complicated. Increased support is needed for mothers who feel they have no where else to turn. Attitudes and judgements affect the choice of life. The support (and the lack thereof) before/after birth become part of the weighing factors in life choices. Promotional mental health programs, comprehensive birth control strategies, and a general sense of empathetic awareness affect the choice of life. 

Recently, the government cut the program "Growing Opportunities" from a local area. It was one of the few places impoverished or teenage mothers could go to get gentle aid. Each week they received milk coupons, a few bags of groceries, nutritional guidance, mental support, and occasional visits from a nurse. We know of this firsthand because ten years ago we were expecting and under the poverty line. Growing Opportunities gave our family a strong beginning. We cannot judge the desperation of another until we have lived under a similar pressure. Our story had the support of family, friends and community, yet still we struggled. We can only imagine, with compassion, the forced decision of a mother who has none of that.

 Sometimes, it seems that we get lost arguing about issues or advocating for laws. Shouldn't we live our beliefs instead? Some ways to do this could be by volunteering at safe homes, taking food to women who can barely feed themselves (let alone a babe), seeking to protect families who are the victims of abuse and violence, compassionately supporting women who may be hard to love, engaging in regular conversations with the downcast, poor and misused, and considering Fostership.

When we advocate for prenatal programs, calming natural birth strategies, promotion of doulas, stronger action against the violence of women/children, and additional support for the first few years of a child's life, abortion rates will gradually go down. We have a responsibility to the children already born. The Foster system is in desperate need of good families to take in the destitute children. Perhaps the mothers who chose to carry their children abandoned the babes to drugs, abuse or simply did not have the means to keep the child they loved?

 Currently in our province, children are living in hotel rooms waiting for placement, foster homes are crowded, and placing of newborns is difficult. If you want to be a voice for the children, consider the already born. Instead of demeaning marches and petitions, consider the unborn children by aiding their mothers and advocating for merciful programs. Become a Foster parent, volunteer, or counselor. Support Pregnancy centers that give options of protection. Write to reinstate the program Growing Opportunities. To choose life means stepping out to take active responsibility for tough and complicated issues. We cannot make the choice of another. We can only influence that choice by love and compassion. We must be the change we wish to see in the world. Let's consider uniting and advocating for the needs of our surroundings. Together as a compassionate community we CAN make a difference, one child and one mother at a time.
(End of article)

We need more compassion. We need to build this global community where we can live in peace and harmony. We do this by the law of love, NOT by the law of the people. Because then the question arises- which religion, race, people group ect. get to make the law? Which group of people get to choose for everyone else? Are we so hung up on our prideful self righteousness that we have the audacity to choose for another person? We can only influence in love. Jesus never forced anyone to choose. Jesus never promoted spiritual manipulation or used his power at any level over another. He gave us the ultimate example, the law of love, sacrifice, GRACE and life. We each get to choose. That is the beauty of it all. The choice. Not the robotic submission of will, no matter how noble the reason is.

Let's change the conversation. Let's change it with action of our beliefs in compassion and empathy. LOVE. We live in a broken world. Awful, brutal circumstances happen that we can not prevent, but we can help heal despite this fact. It's all in our choices. We can choose what we stand for by living it, not by forcing it.*

*I support some mothers who choose not to go through with the life inside of them because I know there are different circumstances for everything. It can not all be summed up together. Sometimes the best choice doesn't seem like the right one to outsiders. I also support mothers who choose to go through pregnancy but give the life up for adoption or keep the life born...again it is circumstantial and can not be judged. We do not know the suffering of another. This post was written from more of a conservative christian viewpoint because that was the audience it was originally written to in...and one needs to speak the audience's language when writing about specific topics.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Unschoolery...Why we Home School

*If you are looking for an excellent resource on Unschooling please check out these two posts. They a great source to the Unschoolery journey and information about this way of Being:

Awhile back I wrote a post about Homeschooling HERE and said this:

"Our children are protected but well socialized. They are surrounded by those who love them, those who understand, and the comforts of a house that suits their specific interests. It's a Hobbit Hole in many ways. With tended gardens, comfortable blankets, low lights, classic stuffies, magical books, and not many interruptions.

I am well aware of the fact that children need adventures and that their adulthood will be fraught with different environments. But for now, they need their haven. Their simple life. They learn quietly with guitar, yoga, voice, meditation, piano, dance, sewing, karate, swimming ect. But even the way we choose to do most of these things is unconventional. We find family who want them to learn for learning sake. We find dance teachers who believe it is about the love, the rhythm, the way the body moves, instead of about competition, exams and being the best. We find flexible programs that are not rigid in practice. While discipline is important, it is instead learned through tending gardens, plants and living things that require constant time and attention. They have a balance of magical playtime, reading, working, chores, friend time (only 2-3 good friends are needed in life) integrated school and learning about themselves. They see their differences as gifts and struggles."

I found a Ted Talks link from a 13 year old homeschooled boy who speaks about his unique way of living. I was so relieved watching because my husband and I were worried that our kids may have no other people growing up who can relate to them if they decide marriage may be an option. In that arena too we teach them there are so many different ways to live a fulfilling life. If they want to remain single but adopt  (if they want kids) or if they want to live with us/ beside us or if they want to travel the world...marriage and college are NOT their only viable options.

Our kids watched the TED talk too. My eldest exclaimed,"Hey that's almost our life!" It's worth the ten minute watch:

Most adults I know are unhappy, unaware, restless, discontent and still searching for their meaning. Even if they are in fields they love or graduated top in their class. I have different goals for my children. I want them to grow up self aware. We teach them about handling emotions, differing faiths, cognitive therapy (a word they know well), yoga and meditation for self healing, boundaries in relationships...and to live in the NOW. I tell them that they already are WHO they are in this moment. They do not have to wait to be a "grown up" to experience life. They do not have to answer the stupid question,"What do you want to BE when you grow up?" I tell them to BE NOW. When they are hopefully old and grey, I KNOW they won't look back and say, "Boy am I ever glad I took the job in that firm." or "Those years of expense in school were worth every penny and the lack of time I had with the people that mattered." Instead I want them to say, "Life is tough and beautiful. From the time I was young I learned this but I also learned that I mattered. To stay connected and compassionate, from childhood I learned to engage in the outdoors, with the few people who mattered, and with myself. I lived well despite what work I did or did not do. The wisdom I gained was not just for knowledge's sake and I learned to be comfortable with myself no matter where I was. I lived in the NOW with meaning."

Their sibling relationships are very close compared to kids in school and they have deep respect for each other. They also are taught to value two or three friends of varied ages. In adulthood we are not set up in a contained environment with only people our age and events every day. No wonder most adults feel alone compared to their old school days. I want our kids to be able to hang out with any age comfortably and to decide on friends based on compatibility and support...not age. They can learn that now too. I also want them to learn that being able to invite 10- 20 kids for a birthday party is not a sign that they are well loved. Two or three GOOD friends is enough for now and forever. I also want them to learn that friendships have seasons. (Click HERE for this concept.) Overall, I want them to live parallel culturally...They are not just another cog in the wheel despite pressure to make them so. I don't want them to believe the lies that they need to buckle down and make money or marry and reproduce or even find a dream and live it. I want them to know that is just how our world tries to justify population growth, government programs and condition workers for the jobs that need doing. It's not bad to do any of those things as long as they are aware of what it is. I want them to use that system to support their meaning. If a job at Subway pays them enough to get by so that they can spend their remaining hours relaxing in their garden - that is a great life. If they are not driven to consume or be "something" but simply enjoy their pursuits- that is a great life. If they love their guitar playing but are not pressured to "be more" within that and can spend their time with a few friends strumming- that is a great life.

We don't force them to do many events that they dislike. Of course they need to find discipline within themselves to do yucky jobs at times (like cleaning the drains and garbages) but if they hate piano after giving it a sufficient try- we do not make them continue. We ask ourselves, "Are we trying to make our children something they are not? Are we trying to accidentally fulfill one of our dreams or how we think children should look by doing this? What would be the reason for them to continue in this pursuit that ties in with MEANING or BEING? Is there another way to find that meaning or being? (There usually is.)"

My children will experience the same hurts, pain and limited options that other children will face at varying times in their life. From outside appearances they may seem apathetic or socially different, but I hope that at least they will be equipped to find their meaning in the NOW. To engage in whatever state they are with awareness, peace and confidence. Our situation has it's own flaws and it is not ideal but I KNOW it is better than a one size fits all learning system they previously engaged in (for them. Obviously there are many children who NEED to be in school or do not have a parent who can stay home to school.) I hope they will have an easier time adjusting into adulthood because they will not feel pressured with the rules or expectations ...even if they take a standard job they will know how to fit in enough yet not look at fitting in as the ultimate goal. I hope they make it work for them...or stay at home and find ways to get by creatively so they can spend the rest of their time soaking up the earth's beauty, connecting with the few they love, and savouring the little moments in their one precious life. It's going to be flawed and fraught with misunderstanding and obstacles...but I have faith that they will be able to handle the imperfections...perhaps even embrace them!

*Disclaimer: There are many different ways to live a life. Many children are better off in school  for varied reasons. Some parents truly can not afford homeschooling, however, there ARE many parents who THINK they can't but really can. We thought we couldn't and are now better off financially because we do not have school costs, we have some government support for school curriculum, we have more subsidies by having one parent at home...overall the money saved by this choice makes up a minimum wage thirty hour week job for myself and I get to be at home with my children savouring the moments. (We crunched all the numbers.) Homeschooling without the right support or facilitator can be very tough, especially the first year, but if you are a self taught parent who can read up on varied materials and mindsets, you will find your own unique groove. In reality, our school systems are failing children who are slightly different or do not fit the competitive, extroverted, contained environments. That said, there are many good schools who do their best with the few equipped teachers and many children they have. Extroverted children do especially well in school and may struggle more at home. Children who are abused at home find havens in school. There are exceptions and benefits to everything. There are also negatives to everything, including home schooling. It's simply thinking outside the box and risking what is right for your situation...whatever it is...that matters.*
 Song Choice- Bloody Well Right- Supertramp

Another post on this topic:

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Defending and Understanding Anxiety

I feel furious when I hear the words, "You are not trusting God enough" or "You can't let fear rule your life" or "You just need to conquer worry." Those are trigger words from people who THINK they truly understand but have never actually had an anxiety disorder. Oh sure, they have felt fear and worry but they actually do not have an idea of what real anxiety does. As James Hamblin of the Atlantic wrote THIS  (click link) article based on this book My Age of Anxiety- Scott Stossel. James states:
"Anxiety is not a choice. Don't tell people with anxiety to "stop worrying." Do reassure them. Don't leave them alone. Talk about your anxiety with friends and family. Be attuned and empathetic to it in others. Own your own." Another reason I get pissed off? I have worked damn hard to be as functional as I am, and anyone disregarding that fact with the above three examples I gave of practical or spiritual "wisdom" do not have full access to the window of my soul. So I calmly smile and move on.

In the sourced article above the author gave 45 accounts of people with anxiety. (Definitely worth the read.)  A few specific ones hit me and I wanted to share them before I give an account of my own.

"Anxiety is not a choice; some accuse me of enjoying the act of worrying or creating unnecessary drama for myself, and have called my affliction merely a “phase,” “season of our friendship,” “not trusting God enough,” or a “hard time in my life.” Unlike their advice, I cannot merely “get over it” or “stop worrying,”  because anxiety is a daily battle that I fight against. In order to cope with anxiety, it requires of me a constant choice to be in the present. Anxiety is a ubiquitous but manageable part of my biological makeup. Anxiety makes up a part to a whole and complete human being who is just as normal as you are. We have our own dreams, our own joys, and our own fantastical escapades that have us running around, loving and experiencing the magic of life—it’s just that those instances are seemingly rare in the midst of our anxious episodes. Anxiety is the condition in which your mind plays a tape of your worst fears on repeat. Habitual circular thinking, muscle tension, and constant worry are an anxious person’s norm. It is a humbling experience to recognize my occasional need for someone to gently help point out to me my pattern of thinking something over and over and over again. It is even more difficult when I am on my own to catch myself before I begin to fall. Learning to recognize my thoughts on my own is exhausting because it's paradoxical: You are trying to catch yourself before the anxiety attack happens in the first place, and the anticipation of your own anxiety attack is anxiety-inducing in itself. I don’t particularly favor terms such as mental illness, crazy, disorder, disease, or condition, not because I fail to recognize that something is “wrong,” but precisely because I have suffered enough from my anxiety and thus refuse to allow it to label or define me. I have learned that anxiety is but another aspect to being myself, just as my infectious laugh or my love for life are engrained within my being. I do not easily share about it, not because I am ashamed of myself, but because I know that anxiety can be difficult for others to accept or comprehend. Even entertaining the thought of putting my last name on this piece gives me chills, for I fear that one day, a school or parent could Google me and in reading about my honest, anxious struggles, deem me too “mentally unstable” to teach their kids. "- Los Angeles Natalie

"I'm still battling it, but thanks to therapy, medication, a supportive family, and a new, exciting job offer, I no longer feel the weight of my self-doubt. There are moments where I panic, but I don't let it completely wash over me like it did before. I'm so glad The Atlantic is doing a series on this because too often when I attempted to reach out for help, the only piece of advice I got was "just try to calm down." It's so much more than that. We are not powerless, but we have to start thinking about anxiety in a new way.Changing one thing in my life didn't do it. Overcoming my anxiety and depression was a slow, gradual change that took everyone in my life and all of my strength to overcome. I had to learn to notice when I was handling a situation well, and to give myself credit. I had to learn how to articulate my feelings to those around me, and not shut off completely. The process of retraining your brain is a gruelling and exhausting one, but it can be done." Caitlin California

"The best thing that ever happened to me was to be surrounded by friends with mental illness. Depression, anxiety, manic depression; you name it, I had a friend in college with it. And because my friends shared their struggles with me, I suddenly had a name and a condition for what I had."- Keren

"I like to think that I'm anxious because I'm sensitive and highly attuned to thoughts, feelings, and issues concerning me and others. It makes me a caring and conscientious person, and despite years of feeling like I'm flawed and somehow not as good, I realize now that everything I do is simply amazing and worth celebrating because it hasn't come easily. Every victory for me has been hard-won."Renee Karpen Washington, D.C.

My thoughts,
It has been a vicious battle not only between my mind and myself, but compounded with the fact that I also have to battle with others for myself. People are harsh and most do not deserve to know I struggle with this aspect of myself. Sure, I can site Aspergers without shame or ADD or HSP or any other mental difference, but ANXIETY? Nope. People immediately disregard my opinions or lord their "expertise" of how they can "help" me get over myself or pull the proverbial power trip because of course how could anyone with irrational fears be rational? (In their minds.) The world is full of boxed thinkers and anxiety does not fit a box. I have been disregarded time and again in situations that make me sick, paralyzed or feeling like I am going to DIE from the painful fear. I have learned how to mask, how to manage my emotions and how to appear calm. I have learned to ignore triggers. I have gone to cognitive therapy and refused drugs time and again because of my irrational fear of drug side effects.

 I have had NINE YEARS of therapy. NINE. Month after month. Every time my son has a birthday I think of how many years I have been in therapy.  In that time I have become self aware, confident, compassionate, healed, complete and stable...but one thing hasn't budged phobias and fears. Some phobias have gone to be replaced with a few new ones...but I am often at the same place I was before, with a different set of rules. Sometimes I can go months and think that it was all in the past and suddenly something happens that puts me right back at square one. Usually something ridiculous. I have read every book I can get my hands on. I have faced my darkest dreams and trigger environments bravely and fiercely while scared shitless. I have calmed OTHER people down in the midst of some of my greatest breakdowns. I have continually counselled, helped and aided others but yet been unable to completely aid myself. Luckily, I found friends who understand being in a mental state of brilliance and agony. I have strong faith and faith practices. I found a therapist who respects and  (I hope) learns from me while still helping and mentoring me. I have a best friend who LIKES to listen to my concerns almost EVERY DAY and enjoys researching them with me. I have a husband who gets a kick out of my active I KNOW without a doubt, I am one of the LUCKY ones and yet I still can't beat it. I have joined the anxiety clinic and my scores from any test are always in the highest percentile. Even on an ordinary day.  Yoga, Reiki and Meditation have eased the pain. My spiritual side is stronger and not weaker, and I have found peace in almost all storms...and YET, my anxiety will creep up on me unexpectedly and I will find myself once again at a loss. Once again, I will need a few days on my own. Once again I will be crippled and no, I don't want to share that crippling time with anyone except my husband and best friend and therapist.

 I will share aspects of it with a few other kindreds. NO ONE will see me when I am at my worst. Not out of pride. Out of desperation and need. Out of concentration. The only person who has ever seen, understood and still admired me BECAUSE of it (not in spite of it) has been my husband...and now my children because I am helping them with their anxiety disorders by disclosing mine.  Those who know often say I am the strongest, tenacious, person they know. Ironic isn't it? But not even my best friend has SEEN what happens when I unravel. Oh she has heard it a time or two. But it often shocks her because she makes the remark, "It always seems to hit you when you sound like you are the calmest. I had no idea because you just don't show it." When I do show her, it's out of necessity. I even tone it down for my own therapist....even during a panic attack. What I do not like is people having the knowledge and making choices for me...or guilting me into making choices. I do not respond well to guilt. Walls. I create walls with guilt. I have become more agoraphobic but even that is out of necessity. So what if I decide that I can't leave my havens much? My life is STILL worth something and I still make an impact on the world. I am still valuable.

 I have found a way of living that works better for me and I don't feel guilty for living it, but I do feel shamed when people try to push me out of it. I refuse to let that shame take hold. Sometimes I have to let go of the people who put it there, and other times I just work through it for them. I don't want to be treated with kid gloves and I will STILL make brave and surprising choices sometimes in the face of anxiety for the greater good. But most people will not get that fact. So it is not for them to know. But my life, behind closed doors, is fulfilling and beautiful...I KNOW that. I savour that...but it is also well contained for a reason. I can have a beautiful and fulfilling life because I have figured out my triggers. Because I now usually know what I can face and what I can't. Some days the rules change. Some days they stay the same.

 It sounds like a lot of work right? It is, but I've made sure to maximize the benefits of that work for the people around me. I have made sure it's mostly me doing the work and those equipped at varied stages to help me. My anxiety has unknowingly inspired, healed and encouraged. It's done its good and it's horrible. I acknowledge both. If I refuse to go somewhere politely or sweetly - it is for a reason. I no longer feel the need to explain or justify that reason anymore unless it will completely harm another's relationship with me because unless you have been through it completely- you WILL not matter how compassionate you are. People like to pounce on perceived weakness. I believe this weakness creates strength. They like to blame faith because they want to see "fruit" or their version of stable or spiritual. It's not about faith. It's about power and powerlessness. Anxiety often happens to those who have deep spiritual awareness or emotional/spiritual intelligence. It's about the game of shame. I don't share anymore the deeper reasons. The discussion can be bypassed with a brief  explanation or re direction. Those who wonder can wonder or wander... I have become defensive out of necessity but I have learned that having a defence is essential as long as we also choose to be center or front sometimes too.

People tend to make the assumption that because I do not live life like the majority  or enjoy "normal events" that I have a less fulfilled life. They want me to "truly live" by driving or being sporty or partying or whatever. Have they ever considered I AM truly living? I have my own epic story even if it looks very different from others. I fight battles even if I do not go out of my home much. I am loved and  have enjoyed 80 percent of my life with relish. They do not get that. They see someone constrained by fear…but that's not it…I am someone who is managing fear with all of my being by making the choices I do. Sometimes I choose wrong but most times I do not regret my choices. I am still valuable and I still live a valuable life. In fact, I fight for it…which enhance the beauty and the brutal. This is not choosing out of fear.

***This clinic has a panic disorder test you can take for free and cognitive behaviour you can partake in for 12 weeks for free. No strings. Panic is very different from worry or fear. Recommended by my therapist:

*On this page short tests tell you what you are dealing with more...worry, anxiety disorder, phobias, depression, stress...they are ALL DIFFERENT and have different reasons and approaches to helping;