From the time I conceived my second child, I suspected I has having a girl. Everything was different from my first pregnancy…..I was far more exhausted on a daily basis, this child was always moving, especially at night when I wanted to settle down, and my whole look changed. I was thrilled to think I would have a daughter…..someone I could dress up in adorable clothes, a little personality who would complete our family and grow up to be a beautiful woman who would be my best friend for life! So the week of Thanksgiving, 1986, my dream came true – I brought a baby girl into this world who we named Danielle. Life as we knew it would NEVER be the same and I am eternally grateful!
I tell people that Danielle came into the world and immediately had her mind set on what she did and did not want – she didn’t like to sleep (wow has that changed now), was a voracious eater and wanted to be held and cuddled always. She loved to be read to and that seemed to settle her even as we would be falling asleep in our attempt to get her to sleep. She had an enormous set of lungs on her and was not afraid to share that with the world. Despite the “crazy” early days, we were completely in love with her – she had the most enormous eyes, which were almost iridescent, and it felt like she could look right through to your soul.
From a young age, she showed her sense of humor – both using it to entertain us and to get what she wanted from anyone. She was/is about as big a flirt as you will meet. Nothing much has changed to this day…she is a charming, smart woman who works hard for exactly what she wants. She continues to achieve her goals and then sets her sights even higher. Underneath her rough and sometimes brassy exterior is a heart of gold. She is fiercely defensive of those she loves and God help those who would try to do harm.
As I look back on it, there were definitely signs that I did not recognize with Danielle’s anxiety. She would get unnerved easily. One time I returned to pick her and her brother up from weekly bible study and as I pulled into the driveway of the church, she was surrounded by the teacher and other parents as she hysterically cried. I rushed up, worried for dear life what had happened, only to find out that she thought I wasn’t coming back for her. She hated whenever I would go out for the evening – worried something would happen to me and she would be left alone. I put these issues off to the fact that she was a child of divorce and she would grow out of it.
During school years, she waited until the last minute to do projects and study for tests – creating additional stress for herself. I tried to get her to prepare in advance, as I do, but she had her own mind and would do it her way – even if she caused herself issues (as I saw it). She was a good student so I figured she had it covered. In college, when situations would show themselves, I put it off to the fact that while she was a full-time student, she also held down several jobs. It was just who she was….
Once out in the working world, she began to tell me often that she felt nauseous all the time. Again, Danielle was fondly called Susan Lucci (American soap opera actress) back in the day because she has a great flair for drama. I thought no one feels nauseous every day and doesn’t get physically sick – she must be exaggerating. It wasn’t until I actually witnessed her having an attack that something clicked in my head. We had been out shopping together and stopped to have something to eat (our usual play date!). She was fine – no sign of any issues. We were seated and hadn’t even ordered yet when her whole being changed. The restaurant was crowded and loud. She went from being ravenous to having the sweats and feeling nauseous. Her whole mood changed from being upbeat to sullen and quiet. She wasn’t being dramatic - or even in control of what was coming over her. What was going on? Why did this continue to happen to her? Is this a medical condition with her stomach? What could possibly have caused her to have an anxiety issue in this restaurant? I am sitting across from her feeling completely helpless – the worst feeling ever for a parent. As her mom, all I wanted to do was fix it – NOW.
We talked seriously that day about what she was feeling all the time – not sporadic episodes as I thought. I assured her that all people get worried. I learned through Lamaze class many years ago to work with my breathing, focus on something and breathe through the pain. I encouraged her to try that method. There were many times that I felt anxious and scared as a single mom raising two children on my own. My job causes great pressure on occasion. I’ve lost two siblings to cancer – watched them fight and then succumb to that horrible disease. Everyone has moments when your heart races because we are worried or scared. As humans, we all have felt the pressures of life and how they can take a toll on our being. Some situations last for moments, some for days, some for much longer. That was my knowledge/experience of what anxiety was – in time you can work through and be OK until the next problem arises. She was not so convinced we were talking the same language.
Turns out, she was 100% correct.
I spoke with a couple of my sisters after that episode who had children with similar emotional and mental stresses. We knew from experience that some medications could dull ones thinking and/or become dependent on them…which then created other more serious issues. One sister theorized that her child was doing different drugs to silence the voices in his head. I decided to get online to see what was out there on the subject. I could not have been more shocked at what I read….My solution of breathing through an episode had been working fine for me but this was a whole new level. I was unaware that the chemical make up for each of us can and does affect our abilities to process and then deal with situations of anxiety. As Danielle’s mom, I felt I had surely had failed her. I did not listen closely enough to what she was saying. When she called herself crazy, my own ignorance on the subject had me wondering if indeed there was something wrong in her head.
Luckily, she is the strong person that she is and decided that enough was enough. Seeking out help for herself, she has been able to level out her episodes and has now turned it around to help others who may not fully get what is going on with themselves. Through her learning to help herself, she is educating others on options that might work for them. She has used those very strong vocal cords to be a much needed voice. She has educated me by her ongoing journey. Anxiety is not something that you will “cure”…..it is a part of who you are. Your level of anxiety is yours and each of us are on our own journey. To be able to look it in the eye and say “you will not own me – I will control you” should be a sentence that is tattooed in our memory and heart.
I am not a fan of labels. I learned many years ago from a much loved aunt that to call people “stupid” or “crazy” was not only mean, but something not to be tolerated. We were never allowed to use those words in her presence when describing people and were punished if she caught us. I didn’t get it then but I really understand it now. I would never describe my child as crazy. She is actually quite brilliant and resourceful. She has a mental illness that, through no fault of her own, which is a part of her but it does not own her. She has and will continue to try to be a voice to help herself and others.
I truly believe that all of our voices together can make a difference. Accepting people for who they are and showing compassion towards others who may not be exactly like us is only the beginning. Health professionals must be more attuned to their patients, listening to what individual symptoms are. Over prescribing medications is not always the answer and rather working with patients to find the right balance could significantly help. There are probably countless numbers of people who will not seek out help, never speak to a doctor either because they don’t have the means with proper healthcare, are embarrassed, or don’t fully understand what is happening to them. That is where social media can help. Using a platform like Danielle has been doing can reach millions of people. Just reading others experiences and being able to say to themselves “wow, I know that feeling – it happens to me!” might be all one needs to not feel alone and to seek help. If one person can be helped, if one person can feel like they are understood and there is help out there, we are making a difference.
At the beginning of each day, I pray for peace in my heart and the strength to get through the day being the best person I can be. Some days work better than others. Be your best you and know that “crazy” is a word that should describe your best times with friends and loved ones, a hectic day, or an outfit that is out of this world but never to describe a person. My child and I have the craziest of times together – despite any struggles each of us may have. She is truly my best friend and I would gladly give up my life for her. I admire her and am so incredibly proud of her. She came into this world with passion for life from day one and I believe she has only touched the edge of all she can and will accomplish.
#dontcallmydaughtercrazy. Her name is Danielle ( aka Looney or Lunar) and she has #anxiety, but it will never have her. It wouldn’t dare…
- B.G.C., 2018