I’m the oldest in my family. I am responsible, a leader, an A-type personality; add to that mix a chronic medical condition where control is the ultimate virtue. In hindsight, it’s pretty easy to see how I ended up thriving on order, personal discipline, and planning to an unhealthy degree.
But, if you asked me a year ago, I’d just tell you that I was happy all the time. I even recall telling my mom it had been a long time since I cried because: “I’m just always happy.”
As a working mom, life was full. Along with work, parenting, and home responsibilities, I’m actively involved in our church and always tried to participate whenever asked. I felt validated and fulfilled when folks asked me, “How do you do it all?”
Planning became my constant setting: meals, activities, shopping trips, work activities, kids’ activities, exercise, etc. My calendar provided me a sense of control, peace, and happiness. I “knew” what I was going to be doing 2 Fridays from now. Things felt under control. I even drafted an “Ultimate Day Plan” which outlined my activity, practically down to the minute, starting at “5:15 a.m. – waking to go to the gym/pool” to “9:30 p.m. – bed/reading”. This plan helped me feel like I could fit in all my personal needs, job responsibilities, family tasks, and quality time with my kids. I figured if I found the right formula one day; why not just keep repeating it?
However, in little honest moments, I started to feel a sense of purposelessness. If I knew what I was going to do (or planning to do) every day for the rest of my life – what fun was that? Where was the spontaneity? What about being surprised by something joyful or unexpected? But, I would quickly push that feeling away and focus on whatever needed to be done or planned next.
How’d I get to this place, emotionally? Let’s see…
Tears always came easily to me growing up. I was a crier. But, I didn’t have an issue with crying. Tears were fine, a comforting release in my teenage years. My classmates typically used the word “sensitive” to describe me. But, I was also an optimist. Ask me and the glass was always half full. In 8th grade I was voted “Most Cheerful” by my class. My diagnosis with diabetes at the age of 13 was obviously a life changing event. While it was scary and hard to adjust at first, I mostly took the position that diabetes was something that would make me stronger; I never rebelled or asked “Why me?”
Then, in the summer between my junior and senior years in college – I went to visit my boyfriend who was stationed with the Marine Corp on Okinawa, Japan. To make a VERY long story short – he broke my heart (yet, didn’t actually break-up with me). I returned to California after a two week trip an emotional wreak, jet lagged, and about to start my senior year of college.
What ensued was my first experience with anxiety and my only bought of depression (to date). Every other day I’d have a new epiphany to explain what happened, how I should feel, how everything was going to be alright, etc. I also suffered insomnia brought on by jet lag coupled with anxiety. It was the darkest time of my life.
The college boyfriend and I stayed together and the pieces of my life fell back into place by the middle of my senior year. After graduation I moved to the Oceanside area to be near my boyfriend, who was stationed at Camp Pendleton. My first job out of college was at a law firm in downtown San Diego. There I met Dennis and the next chapter of my life started.
Even after moving on to a new relationship, new city, and new life – after effects of that horrible bout of anxiety stayed with me. I longed to feel secure, comfortable in my surroundings, and at peace. Mostly, I yearned for some assurance that I wouldn’t be traumatized by something unexpected, ever again. Between the diabetes diagnosis and that devastating trip to Okinawa – I feared another bad thing happening that I didn’t see coming.
When I married Dennis, a lot of the demons went away. The baby stage was blissful; I thrived under the discipline required to be pregnant with type 1 diabetes. Monitoring my blood sugar constantly made my world feel controllable and I loved the gold stars I’d get from the medical team. That sense of accomplishment was amazing. Becoming and being a mom fulfilled me deeply.
Being able to convince yourself that you can stay happy all the time is, on some level, a reflection of a very blessed life. Until you’re not happy… then what?