When anxiety comes disguised as love

Anxiety is like a strangling vine. Rooting it out feels perilous, because you’re afraid that all the wholesome, fruitful shoots will be uprooted along with it. If I stop fretting, will I stop caring? If I stop freaking out, will I stop making an effort? If I’m not suffering, is it really love?

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly.

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7 thoughts on “When anxiety comes disguised as love”

  1. I have good kids. But Christmas hasn’t always brought out the best in them. I hate to say it, but it’s a kind of like crack for them. When people are on crack they are volatile. Volatile doesn’t mean *bad* it just means emotions all. over. the. map.–and yet it’s not entirely their fault because we kind of instigate the whole thing.

    I remember one Christmas when my daughter said with thick disappointment: “another. pair. of Uggs?” with measured disdain. It’s not that it was the only thing we’d given, her, –it’s that as a child she had been overly indulged by relatives. None of it had been in my control. I remember running to my wallet to give her a hundred dollar bill, which calmed her disappointment. The thing is–that’s not who she was! She was a hard working girl who did her work, and had/has a lot of common sense.

    That Christmas traumatized me a little bit. I still have the residual anxiety that goes with a deep (and natural!) need to make my kids happy on Christmas.

    The good news is that my daughter recognized how awful she’d been. The boys called her out, and I think the realization was not only embarrassing, but something she couldn’t go back and erase. She has in subsequent years given *us* some of the most thoughtful presents! She is overly generous, and also spearheads campaigns to get the boys on board to collaborate with thoughtful gifts that we can really use and appreciate.

    I still fret about all of it, but I’ve learned how to just do what I can do and live with all of the imperfections. (Shrug!)–Big families simply don’t allow for the kind of perfection I’d probs be still aiming for if all of it had been more in my control. (If I was in control I’d be able to dole out plane tickets for the two that don’t want to spend the money! If I had the time and energy, I’d write a letter of complaint to Amtrak for the $90 price tag to go 350 miles one. way. for kid#5.) Anyway–my best gift will be the six whom will join us. I’d better start getting cracking on buying some gifts… :/

    Christmas Peace to you and yours! 🙂

  2. Simcha, thank you for all your posts about mental health. More than once I’ve recognized myself in them. I feel like so much of my day involves trying to ignore what’s going on in my head so I can do the work in front of me, and lately it’s all felt far too tangled to even try to sort out when I do have time. So seeing it articulated so well, with such honesty and intelligence, and especially by a person of faith (because unfortunately when I hear similar messages from secular culture there’s always this lingering suspicion that to listen would be taking it too easy on myself, morally and spiritually), is such a comfort. As you say, acknowledgement is the first step.
    Blessings on you and your family!

  3. This article has me in tears because THIS IS ME. I agonize and overthink everything. And I knew that I have a tendency toward anxiety although the severity varies. But maybe it’s worse than I realized? Because even at my least anxious I’m still an over-thinker. I can’t even imagine not being this way.

    1. Completely understand. For me, anxiety is tangled up in fear. Fear of failing mostly which also goes hand in hand with terse self criticism. I find that when I go to Mary, she blankets me in love, and helps me see her Son’s plan for me. I make better decisions when I do that and am more peaceful.

  4. Thank you for this column that defines my life all too well. Spent too many years agonizing over things, when in reality what I really was doing was letting my ego get in the way. As in: if I make this choice, how does it really reflect on me, what will everyone think? Once this phase mercifully passed in oh, about 35-45 years or so (slow learner), I made my choices based on love rather than what I call the Asian concept of “face”. It is a nicer world now, more relaxed, with much more fun than I deserve to have.

  5. So pertinent to my life, especially at this moment. For about five days recently – I think it was simply a gift of God, a “free sample”, if you will – I lived without anxiety. (Well, without any except my anxiety that this period of no anxiety wouldn’t last. Ahem.) I had so much energy, and got so much done that I had been procrastinating, and was so patient and cheerful. Inside, I was absolutely loving it…although I did also feel kind of oddly numb, for lack of a better word; something was missing, like watching a movie without a soundtrack. My impression at the time was that I simply needed practice at this new way of life. Please do keep writing about anxiety.

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