I am always surprised, although I shouldn’t be, when I receive a visit from a most familiar and unwelcome visitor: anxiety. Everyone gets worried from time to time, but for some people this feeling can be overwhelming.
I always struggled with anxiety, but after each birth — and even with my adopted son, it’s exacerbated. I no longer have the attacks that made it hard for me to even leave the house, now it’s more of an awful feeling that shadows me for a while. But regardless of the intensity, it’s still present in my life.
I often hope it will just go away without any effort on my part, but I know I have to learn to co-exist with it, befriend it and become familiar with it. If you have suffered from anxiety or panic, you know that it can be a tough battle. The thoughts come rushing at you fast. It helps to recognize the triggers, which makes it easier to get ahead of those thoughts. But it takes practice and lots of determination.
For me, anxiety usually starts with some physical worry. It could be anything, even a story about someone getting sick with a rare disease, and I can spin into my anxious mode. I know it’s unlikely I’ve contracted ebola minutes after seeing a story about it on TV, but the anxiety doesn’t go away. My husband jokes that we’ll be the only house with “Discovery Health” blocked on the TV.
I have tried many different approaches to control the anxiety and things have drastically improved, but there is still a lot of work to be done. I have tried medication, which works well but isn’t recommended for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. I have tried therapy, one of my favorite approaches, which has also worked well. I’ve even tried Yoga and deep breathing, which helped keep me relaxed.
I share this weakness because I think that there are many other men and women out there who struggle with similar issues. In fact, my anxiety has taught me something about myself and others. It has made me more compassionate about other issues people may have, be it with food, depression or mental illness.
I have also become attuned to the unique anxieties that military families face. After all, just because someone worries too much, doesn’t mean he or she isn’t worrying about something important. And goodness knows, military families have all sorts of reasons to face worry. Fortunately, Tricare has great coverage for family members and spouses who need help, and there is no shame in it. Militaryonesource.com also has lots of valuable information about getting help. Also, with increased attention paid to PTSD and mental health among service members, services are more accessible than ever for those in uniform.
Who knows, perhaps one day not too far in the distant future I will be able to sit down and be happy with my old friend anxiety. But until then, I’ll work on keeping it under control — and keep avoiding news about Ebola, mad cow and the bird flu.
Anita Doberman is a freelance writer, mother of five and wife of an Air Force pilot stationed at Hurlburt AFB in Florida. Contact her at: