Breathing Freely Again When The Anxiety Lifts

I didn’t need my troubled son Kurt to go away to see just how much his needs have defined my personality over the last few years. But even I have to admit that I’m surprised how quickly I’ve regained control of my emotions away from the glare of his aura.

Breathing Freely Again When The Anxiety Lifts
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As you readers probably realize, Kurt is a huge personality in our house and I honestly thought that I would miss that vibrancy, but the quiet has rejuvenated my own personality.

Does that show the depth of inter-dependence some personalities have on others? Or the the intensity of love a mother can feel for her son? Perhaps all it really demonstrates is an ill-thought-out over-indulgence on my part to compensate for my son’s vulnerability and special needs.

I don’t have the answers. All I know is that the perpetual ache in my gut has dissipated for a short while, now that I DON’T know what he’s doing. And it’s nice.

Because deep down, I took responsibility for many of his problems, and that wasn’t good for him, or for me. And to be able to recognise that now is peculiar, because I couldn’t admit to behaving like that at the time. Not until recently, after hours of therapy, where my therapists have drilled into me that no matter what happened in our past relationship, or whatever reasons lay behind his indifference to life and society’s expectations, I am not to blame.

I hate the description of ‘victim’ but I acknowledge that I’ve always been one and that that weakness has escalated into full-blown anxiety over the past few years. I’m equally certain, though, that it would have reared its ugliness at some point in my adulthood without Kurt’s complicated personality to facilitate it.

I sound like to worst parent ever to admit that it has been such a relief to be able to live each day recently – only a parent who has been through what we’ve been through would understand that. The days have been typical, busy work days, full of shitty work pressures, but to live them without that residual, nagging pressure and fear at the back of my mind, that innate heaviness in my heart, the faint nausea that could be triggered just by my phone ringing has been uplifting, a freedom, even.

Of course, I still have to speak to him every day, to check that he’s still breathing, just as I’ve always done since he was a baby. But I try not to delve too deeply during our conversations into what he’s up to. I’m desperate to know, of course, but I don’t need to know because otherwise the fear gremlins will rise up and thwart my chance of recovery. My son is an adult now and it’s better for both of us if I remain in the dark about much of what he does.

It hasn’t been as hard to let him go as I thought it would be. Not because I don’t love him but because I have what the old man describes as an unhealthy love for him. The intensity of my fears for his future had begun to eat away at me, to suffocate me and the thought of losing him had begun to gnaw away at my own health. That might be due to good, old-fashioned parental guilt, too, because when he tested me I didn’t always perform well in the tests. But none of us are perfect parents, nor can we read the thought patterns or motivations of those we created, even when they share the same gene pool.

I hear myself on the phone to him and I sound like a normal mum. I ask him normal questions, not probing questions; I make polite conversation and feign interest. But it takes all my strength not to judge him, not to feel disappointed in him. Because if I judge Kurt’s choices by my own values the pain comes back to my temples, beads of sweat rise to the surface of my skin and I can hear the loud beat of irrational fear drumming in the chambers of my heart.

I’m breathing freely now.

Finding Time To Breathe

In this crazily competitive yet compelling world we live in, finding the time to breathe and smell the roses can sometimes feel an uphill struggle.


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But in an exceptionally rare turn of events last weekend, the old man discovered that he actually did have some friends and deserted me for a round of golf with da boyz.


Giving me just that. Time to breathe.


It’s not as though we’ve ever been one of those couples that cohabit in each other’s pockets – I lead my own life and he…watches lots of sport on tv… but as I work most Saturdays, we do tend to hang out together on a Sunday.


So it’s rare for me to find myself on my own.


The torturous temptation last Sunday, OBVIOUSLY, was to lie in bed all day with only Facebook, Twitter, the Sunday papers and a packet of Snickers Pods for company, but I somehow managed to persuade myself that I am better than that, found some previously-lost backbone, got my ass into some sort of gear and went and did something for me for a change.


We are very fortunate where we live in Sydney, to be situated right next to THE Harbour Bridge, so with my newfound wisdom in my backpack, I decided that instead of looking at that damn bridge every day and bemoaning the fact that I never find the opportunity to walk it, I would do just that. Then I planned a little meander around the markets at The Rocks and would finish my little tour d’independence with a bracing swim at North Sydney pool.


Sometimes, it’s only when you push yourself out there, to the outskirts of your comfort zone of self-imposed laziness and lame excuses and ignore the ridiculous notion that you need to be with people to feel energised or fulfilled, that you fully appreciate time to breathe.


We all lead busy lives and cohabiting with a very noisy, highly theatrical 6’ teenager with a voice as deeply penetrating as Russell Crowe’s in a tight apartment, (which also happens to be my work zone), sometimes can make me feel claustrophobic and I need to escape…pronto.


The Harbour Bridge is 2.2 kms long and it was a typically, gloriously, sunny, Sydney afternoon when I set off.


I had obviously forgotten about these steps in the planning process…


Finding The Time To Breathe


And it took all my self-discipline to walk past this ice cream van with its tempting ooze of whipped ice cream with flake on the top, which seemed like a fair reward for conquering those steps…


Finding The Time To Breathe


Do you remember when you were a child and heard the first taunting musical notes from the ice cream van as it entered your neighbourhood, and you silently prayed for the next few minutes that your mum would rattle the change in her purse? One listener called into the radio station I listen to the other day for a segment called ‘the lies your parents told you’ and told us how his dad used to tell her that the ice cream van only played a tune when they had run out of ice cream.


Now that’s my kind of parenting.


Not quite as good as my invention of biscuit cancer (she was obviously an amateur), after which we were forced to up Kurt’s anxiety medication.


Panting Invigorated, I wandered around The Rocks with its market stalls full of ridiculously expensive Australiana paraphernalia that we like to off-load to our American visitors and then I headed back for a well-deserved and refreshing dip in the pool.


Finding The Time To Breathe


I find I can become quite melancholy these days when I walk by myself and have time to ruminate about where my life is going in middle age. Something as simple as the rare waft of a Gauloise cigarette can transport me back thirty years to the period of my life I spent in France; a child in full-blown tantrum recoiling from the straps of her pushchair and mother reminds me of NC as a baby; the pair of love-sick teenagers who can’t keep their hands off each other remind me of the overwhelming depth of passion the old man and I shared at the tender age of seventeen.


It’s funny how much you change as you grow older, in spite of your best intentions. These days I look at flowers and plants in a new, more appreciative way – something I swore I would never allow to happen in my younger days. And when I watch the party boats glide under the Harbour Bridge with their penetrating duff duff music and drunken young people, I shudder – so relieved am I not to be anywhere near them.


Finding The Time To Breathe


But the melancholy associated with looking back is tinged with gratitude, because I am healthy and in a new and exciting phase of my life, that has opened up all sorts of different opportunities that I never expected to experience.


And for a few moments I find a rare inner peace and at-oneness with the world, that lasts until I return home to find Kurt has set fire to the kitchen making pancakes or some other such minor domestic reality check.