Anxiety built through my veins like a warehouse fire.
I was leaving my daughter, Marjorie, for the first time with a sitter I did not know. I was flying to speak at the National Eating Disorder Association conference in California. I would be gone three days. Three long days all the way across the country. Inhale. Exhale.
I have left her twice since her cancer diagnosis and one other time before that. Every time, she was safe with family, and I did not hesitate to walk out the door. This time was different. So different. It was a stranger, albeit an overly educated, overly qualified and compassionate stranger who instantly fell in love with Marjorie.
As I ran errands, my mind ran wild. What if this new person kidnaps Marjorie? What if something happens and I’m not there? What if she isn’t happy? What if Manning hurts himself? What if? What if? What if? Anxiety. Fear. Fear.
I knew my mind was racing down an irrational path like a downhill freight train, but I could not stop it. The fear felt so real.
Sadly, I am not a stranger to this fear lately. I have almost lost my daughter twice this year: she was born three months early and then months later was diagnosed with cancer. I have earned the right to be crazy and scared.
Since Marjorie’s cancer diagnosis, my mind automatically goes to worst case scenarios. Like extreme worst case. Example: Manning, my son, got a cut on his leg, so naturally I thought, “He has staph and we need to go to the ER and he is going to loose his leg. He will be in a wheel chair, but hopefully they can fit him for a prosthetic.”
I’m not exaggerating.
But don’t we all share this fear as moms?
We often jump to the worst case and worry ourselves out of trips or fun nights with friends ‘just in case’ something goes wrong we are there. We think if we can plan the catastrophe ahead in our perfectly color coded calendars then we can prepare ourselves.
Well, we can’t. I’ve tried. I’ve looked all through my calendar and no where did I find “Marjorie Cancer Diagnosis” in my planner. And in hindsight, thank goodness I could not find it because it would have dulled all of the joy I felt before that dreadful day.
My best friend (even though she doesn’t know me), Brene Brown, says that “Shame metastasis in the darkness.” I share this truth in EVERY talk I give no matter if it is 12-year old girls or 50-year old men. Everyone can use this fact in their lives.
I knew I needed to speak my shame, my anxiety. So I did. I told everyone. My husband (who didn’t really get it, but that’s okay because he did bath duty so I could speak the truth to others), my best friends, my mom, my aunt and anyone else who texted or called me yesterday … and, of course, it goes without saying, my therapist.
I told them with brutal honesty, “I am petrified to leave. My mind thinks our sweet new sitter is going to kidnap my Marjorie. I think I’m going crazy”
And you know what happened?
I got a resounding, “I GET it!” They would quickly reply. “With everything you’ve been through I would feel the same way. I feel that same fear and I haven’t had a child with cancer.”
Enter: empathy, understand and the obliteration of crazy mom fear.
Speak it. Shout it.
We have to share when we hurt, when we worry and when we fear. Because the truth it, everyone else is right there with you.
You know what happened? I woke up with typically two baby chaos, got dressed, crammed clothes into my suitcase and off I went, even spoke my fear to Manning’s school teacher and my dear friend. I received the same empathetic response, which helped me hug my little guy and skip out excited for my trip.
I prepared myself for a massive breakdown on the way to the airport. I had my therapist’s number programmed in my phone, positive I would need to call her. But I didn’t. I enjoyed my quiet drive, sipped my Starbucks and listened to my bestie, Brene read me her new book, Rising Strong.
I felt like superwoman. I conquered some of the most debilitating mom fear I’ve ever felt. But I did not do it alone. I spoke the fear. I shouted the fear. And I got huge hugs and “I’m with yas” in return.
Empathy is an awesome thing, isn’t it?
McCall Dempsey resides in Saint Simon’s Island, Georgia, with her husband Jordan and is the proud mother of two precious children, Manning and Marjorie. McCall, founder of Southern Smash, is an eating disorder survivor and passionate recovery advocate. She travels the country, sharing her story of hope and healing with audiences everywhere.
This is wonderfully written! Go you and great to meet you at NEDA.