I did 6 months of EMDR.

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is an intense psychotherapy used for people with severe trauma and PTSD. I started about a month after Luke died, and I continued until I felt I could benefit from just regular talk therapy. I credit a great deal of my healing to this method, and as hard as it was, it really was worth it. It helped tremendously.

That being said… I have learned along the way that sometimes, no matter how much therapy you go through, some triggers will always trigger you, and there just isn’t much you can do to stop it. It’s one of the joys of widowhood… *eye roll.*

When Luke died, it was only a matter of weeks before I filled a prescription for Xanax. Panic attacks are no joke, and if you haven’t experienced them, please consider yourself lucky. Admittedly, I never did take the Xanax in those early days, but can I tell you I wish that I had?? Yet another way that I experienced the horrid emotion of “shame.” I didn’t want to admit that I needed a pill to feel normal enough to get through my day.

I used to think that anxiety was a made-up disorder by people who wanted more attention. I am here to tell you that I was embarrassingly, maddeningly incorrect. I apologize for ever having that opinion! Anxiety and panic disorders are not only real, they are now my everyday life. I am approaching the 2 year marker, and it seems like they are even more prevalent. While I have managed to control and avoid having full blown panic attacks, I still have triggers on a very regular basis that completely stop me in my tracks. I still get those moments where I have to remind myself to breath.

To any brand new widows facing panic attacks reading this, I am so sorry this isn’t horribly optimistic. I can tell you it does it much easier to manage, but it is truly because of strength from within, not because time heals anything.

Anxiety and grief go hand-in-hand. Both are like wearing a mask that you cannot take off, no matter how uncomfortable and suffocating it is. You just want to breathe. You constantly long for that moment of relief, like the kind you get when the plane finally lands after an hour of turbulence and motion sickness. You just want to go home already. Anxiety and grief make camp wherever you go, and they never feel like home…even if that’s physically where you think you are. They make sure that no matter where you are, you won’t feel truly home.

So, how do you manage?

You adapt, you choose to find joy in the story you are living, and you lean into grief as much as you can. Healing is so ugly. It might be beautiful on a large scale, but the day to day grunt-work is TOUGH! All we can ever give is our best, and nobody should expect more, including yourself as your own critic. Give yourself endless amounts of grace, and for goodness sake, be your own hero. You have to cheer yourself on and know that you are doing great. Not everyone will understand, and that okay, they don’t have to! All you can do from here is be the best you that you can be, and if today that means going to bed at 8pm with a Xanax, well I think that is pretty dang brave.

Hang in there, wids. XO