Hi, my name is Erica Roman and I struggle with anxiety.

Just writing the sentence above made me anxious. I literally just got up to try and find some chocolate in the house so I can eat my feelings while I write this. My quest was unsuccessful however since I’ve intentionally stopped buying snack foods in an effort to lose the baby weight. So I’ll have to finish writing this blog without the assistance of a boost of chocolaty endorphins.

Alright… here it goes..

I feel tense all of the time. From the time I wake up in the morning to the moment I manage to pass out at the end of the night. It’s been this way for nearly a year now. It’s not the waves of grief or depression. I’m intimately familiar with both. Grief is a storm at sea. Depression is like trying to walk waste deep in mud. Anxiety… anxiety feels like being electrocuted randomly throughout the day.

It’s always there in the back of my mind but sporadically it will hit me harder. You won’t see it. You would never know by the memes and selfies I post on social media. If you see me in person it won’t show on my face or body language. I’ve become very adept at functioning normally through pain. But those who know me very well will hear it in my silence and see it in my stillness. In the harder moments, my only tell is a faraway look sometimes accompanied by a clenched fist or the crescent marks of my fingernails dug into the skin of my palm or thigh.

Trauma does terrifying things to the brain. Being a reader and a writer has gifted me with a very detailed imagination. Unfortunately, my anxiety has turned this skill into a weapon. I have a very specific fear. I’m afraid that I can’t possibly have experienced the worst thing life will do to me at such a young age. What could possibly be worse than having my husband ripped from me and then carrying his child through my grief? My anxiety is constantly giving me terrifying answers; most of them revolving around my children.

I cannot tell you how often I have seen them dead in my mind’s eye. It comes unbidden. Jocelyn will be playing with her toys on the windowsill and suddenly I’ll think, “what if someone ran by and shot her?” Then my mind will proceed to visualize the whole scenario. I’ll leave Nathan in the middle of my bed for a moment so I can go get something from the other room and then think, “What if he smothers himself?” and rush back into the room. I was at the park yesterday and I started to think, “What would happen if someone tried to grab Jocelyn and run off with her? What if I ran after them and someone else was waiting to grab Nathan from his stroller and I lost both?” This is almost an everyday occurrence and my anxiety isn’t limited to unrealistic worries about my children.

I desperately want to chat with people or hang out but initiating conversations or plans makes my heart start to race. I feel like I’m interrupting or annoying people. When thoughts move to the future I feel like I can’t breathe. Everything is still so gray; nothing is any clearer than it was a year ago. Even day-to-day tasks feel overwhelming sometimes.

My anxiety runs a constant stream of thoughts in the back of my mind:

I still need to clean Jocelyn’s room.. and Nathan’s room… and mine… but first the house before my parents get home. I’m going to need to find my own place soon. Am I going to be able to make it to Nashville? Where would I live? Will I have to stay here? What will I do? I have to get out of this town.  I still need to sort out Nathan’s social security… oh and take the both of them to get tested to see if they have the same heart condition as Jon had.. when is their next doctor appointment? I feel light headed. Did I eat today? I should eat. I need to go grocery shopping. Have I held Nathan enough today? I’m not holding him enough.  Oh my God, if Jocelyn doesn’t stop climbing on me I’m going to scream. I just want to not be touched by anyone for 5 minutes. Except I really need to be held right now. Does he like me or am I completely crazy? I am crazy. Who in their right mind would think of taking me on? I don’t want my kids to grow up without a dad… Jon would have been a good dad. I need to put his photo album together.. and Jocelyn’s baby book.. and Nathan’s… 

My only reprieve is the occasional drink. It helps me to relax and feel like myself and for a short while the endless stream is quieted. But I know I have to be cautious with that. I can’t let myself walk down that road. So I limit the number of times I use alcohol for relief. Technically I have been prescribed anti-depressants. But I am not ok with the side effects that could impact Nathan from the medication getting into my breast milk. (Alcohol dissipates after a couple hours, but medication would remain.)

The Christian answer is that I should turn to God with this. I have been.. or rather, I am trying. I’ve been listening to sermons and podcasts. When I managed to get quiet moments I read my Bible and journal with God. He tells me to rest, to let Him fight the battles I face. I’m trying. I’m still learning to trust Him again.

I know it is very reasonable for me to be struggling in this area because of what I have gone through. But these days I’ve done my very best to hide my actual emotional state from the world. It’s nearly been a year, and I feel like I should be better than I am. I feel guilty for not being stronger.

You’re so strong,

I don’t know how you do it

You’re so inspiring.

I hear these things a lot. I always internally cringe. I worry that if they only knew the truth.. if they read this blog post.. that I would be such a disappointment to them. I feel like if I don’t pretend to be Super Girl then people will treat me like I’m porcelain. If I admit my weakness then I will jeopardize opportunities to work in ministry. If I’m honest about my struggle it will make me less attractive to any potential someone new. I know logically that people will understand and won’t look down on me for being open with my struggle, but fear is often louder than reason. 

I’ve decided to face these fears by writing this confessional blog because I’ve learned that whenever you keep something in the dark it anchors you in the darkness. So this is me shedding light on my struggle. I’ve decided that if my brokenness is enough to deter someone’s affection then he’s not the right person anyway. And if Mother Teresa can rescue orphans in war zones while struggling with depression, surely I can speak at a church while I work through anxiety.

I am not my anxiety and this is not a permanent condition. I will overcome. I will win this battle. I just haven’t yet and that’s ok. Until then I will continue to pick up my sword each morning and fight my way forward.

1 Peter 6-10
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

If my writing has moved you to want to support me in my journey, find out how here