Sunday, February 16, 2014

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How Having a Baby Helped Me Overcome My Anxiety Disorder Part III


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How Having a Baby Helped Me Overcome My Anxiety Disorder Part I


After a year and a half of arguments, planning, and saving, we agreed to have a baby. The day Mel showed me the positive pregnancy test, I felt like the biggest test of my life was only nine months away.
I am a religious man, and I will admit that I prayed every night for the lord to make me strong enough. For him to take away my anxiety so that I could be there for my child.

The day finally came two weeks earlier than expected. Mel came down with toxemia, which made her ankles, feet, and face swell. She went to visit with her doctor one morning, only to be taken straight into the delivery room for an emergency caesarean. I recall being really scared for Mel and the baby, but the doctor assured us that everything was going to be just fine. And once everything was said and done, I recall feeling excited to hold my son, but more than anything, I was relieved that it didn’t happen in the night. That things didn’t happen in such a way that I had to break my schedule and risk having a panic attack. And when I think about all the joy of having a baby, when I think about how much I love my son, and value him in my life, I feel selfish for being more relieved by the time of day that he was born, than excited by the miracle of birth.
That first night was a long one. In fact, it was the most restless night I’d had in years, and I will admit that I took twice my dose of Xanax to keep myself calm. However, I knew that I couldn’t do that every night without becoming an addict.
Things got worse once we brought Tristan home. Tristan wouldn’t sleep more than about two hours at a time. The little bugger refused to sleep in his crib, or the bassinet, or if we were lying down next to him. He only slept if someone cradled him in one arm, like a football.
Mel and I usually split the night in half. I couldn’t sleep sitting up, and I often worried that if I did drift off I’d drop the baby, so I spent a lot of late nights and early mornings gazing at the TV, my eyes bloodshot, high on Xanax, a small chubby auburn haired boy cradled in my right arm.
I couldn’t imagine placing the nighttime responsibility solely on Mel, but at the same time I was taking far more Xanax than I should to keep myself calm. Every time my doctor refilled my prescription of Xanax, he questioned his actions, and suggested that I get off it. He reminded me that it was a very addictive substance. This caused me to think a lot about my father’s addiction to prescription pills, and I worried that I was heading down the same path, and yet I was terrified to go back to a life where anxiety controlled me. My obligation to my son was in conflict to my mental health, and it felt like I was between a rock and hard place.

One night, when Tristan was about one month old, Mel woke me at 2AM. It was my turn with the baby. Normally, I would have gotten up, felt a little anxious, taken a couple Xanax, then sat down in front of the TV and held Tristan.
But this time I didn’t.
In fact, I stood in the kitchen for some time. The only light in the house was coming from the TV in the next room. In my right arm was my baby boy, sleeping soundly. In my left was a bottle of Xanax. My eyes drifted between the two. Tristan was swaddled in a blanket with a print of bears dressed as doctors. It was the same blanket we took him home from the hospital in. His face was all I could see. It was soft, and sweet, and peaceful. I looked at the bottle. I read the instructions, “take one pill as needed for sleep,” and realized that I’d probably need to take two or three.
I shook the bottle, and realized that it was almost empty.
I thought about my life, my fears, and my anxiety. I thought about how I needed to be there for my son. 

And I put the bottle down.
I held Tristan in both arms. I thought about how raising him was bigger than myself. It was bigger than my anxiety disorder. This was a life that was dependent on me, and I needed to be there. I had a duty to raise my son. To get up in the night with him. To be there through thick and thin.
I whispered to myself, “I will not let this control my life anymore. I can’t. I’ve come too far. I have to be there for Tristan.”
I said it a few times. And once I stopped saying it out loud, I said it in my head. I went and sat on the sofa, and every time I felt a little anxious, I said it again, and again. I felt stronger saying it. I felt empowered.
For the first time since Tristan was born, I made it through the night free of anxiety and Xanax.
I still had anxiety attacks after that night, but if I thought about my obligations as a father, I was able to put my mind in order.
To gain control.
This was something I couldn’t do before.
It’s been four years now since I had my last panic attack. I only take one pill a day for depression and anxiety. This is almost nothing compared to the handful of pills I took after I was first diagnosed.
I get up in the night with my kids almost every night (we have a boy and a girl now). Although I complain about being tired the next morning, I often think back on the way my six-year-old son tightly grips my arm as I lie in bed with him after a nightmare, and smile. And often I think about my four-year-old daughter curled up in a ball at 2 a.m., half awake and half asleep, crying and shivering, and how satisfied I feel after seeing her stretch out beneath the warm quilt I laid over her. In those moments, I feel needed. I feel valued. I feel like a father.
There is no more fear in the night.
It’s been replaced with compassion for my children. 

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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, and a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His essays on parenting and marriage have been featured in Huffington Post Parents, Huffington Post Weddings, and The Good Men Project. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Photo by Lucinda Higley


shellyrhds said...

You are so beautiful. Your entire family is so beautiful! It is so rare to see someone's soul in print. Thank you for that.