In The Light and Dark Spaces.

I remember seeing “The Little Mermaid” in a movie theater when it was re-released in 1997.

This time around, I was 16 and with a group of friends – both boys and girls. We were absolutely giddy to re-visit this film of our childhoods, and then we planned to hit the Randolph Diner for disco fries after the movie. This was New Jersey, after all.

Before the movie started and on this cool, black night, I felt..odd. I couldn’t even put my finger on it as anxiety, but I knew something was off. It was like that feeling I used to get after telling ghost stories around a campfire, or in a car on a road trip at night. It was like that feeling I used to get after seeing a scary and/or disturbing movie, and being haunted and imprinted by it for the rest of the night. It’s when something dark and heavy stays with you. The atmosphere has changed. You are looking up, and trying to break through the surface to the light. You are stuck, at least until the next bright & sunny morning dawns on you.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

I used to have a secret weapon and just knowing I had it back then was enough. I could call my mom if the anxiety and heavy darkness stayed with me too long. There is always a light switch, somehow, somewhere, and it can be nearly impossible to find it. I didn’t call my mom that night. I watched the movie, ate the french fries and had a great time. The beginning of the night had seemed marked and haunted, but the veil actually lifted. There was another time, in Las Vegas, where I did have to call my mom. We were out to dinner with my brother, in town for a bachelor party for Cassidy’s friend. I felt panicked and I told my brother and Cassidy that I had a headache and/or stomachache and had to be excused. I sat next to a fountain in the heat, ran my fingers through my hair, and called my mom to see if she could help me swallow down my rising panic. It was growing stronger in those days, but she helped. Then I went back to the table and asked if we could order our dinner to go. There are times in which I can’t break the surface, no matter what. Anxiety at its strongest. Luckily those nights are few and far between.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

What is it and where does it come from? Why are there long bouts of dark nights, and ones of lightness? Why does the darkness sometimes linger for days, weeks, or even months? Why does the lightness last for years, not even to let in ONE dark night? I may never have all of the answers but through adulthood, parenting, counseling, and a whole lot of exploration, I’ve started to attach words to it. It’s growing pains. It’s empathy and being a highly sensitive person. It’s atmosphere. It’s perspective. It’s a smidge of mental illness too, I’m sure, or maybe just a mental virus? A sometimes cold? A situational something? It’s all about global changes and how they relate to me. It’s all about personal changes and how they relate to me. It’s about the triangle of me, changes within my immediate world, and changes within the entire world. Sometimes I feel a more concrete foundation.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

I didn’t actually suffer from debilitating anxiety as a kid, despite my early tragedy. I used to get homesick, sure, and I hated loud noises for a long time after his death. I remember some bad stomachaches, but I remember them so well because there were only a few in my life. I used to get nervous butterflies before holidays and vacations, and sometimes, for no reason at all. I was nearly sick with nerves before my Bat Mitzvah, and even before I got braces, but who wouldn’t be?? I remember it happening, but it wasn’t debilitating. I could always find my safe space. I could always ground myself. I could always lift the veil of darkness and reach into the light. I imagine to some degree, I may always be able to do that. I do find that it gets more challenging, and sometimes I have to be more innovative. And then new ideas can last for years, until I reach for more.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

After a very emotional trip to Canada when I was 16, everything seemed bigger and brighter on the other side of getting through some very tough, and depressed, growing pains of turning 16 and having a sister about to leave for college, and a boy I couldn’t seem to reach. After that trip, I started to really feel high on life, and often nervous, for nearly everything. It was like I felt so much that I couldn’t contain it anymore. I was learning to split my heart open, I guess, and it hurt. I think the experience gave my anxiety permission to come out in weird ways. I had been dealt an emotional blow, and it took years to learn to express that.

And then to let it go, or keep it close, and learn ways to exist with it.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

These life snippets of dark and haunted nights. It’s hard to explain them, really. I was too young and emotionally immature to learn it was all ok. Maybe I still am. I’ve gotten flash floods of situational depression, and I’ve gotten long storms of situational anxiety (nothing general about it) and I’ve learned to recognize it as my reactions to the changing world and the changing me.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

At my own wedding, I was mired in the darkness and I couldn’t claw my way out of it. The anxiety was just too thick and too big. At other times in life, I’m so strong, I’m in the light for years on end. I worry about times in which I’ll need to be in the light spaces, but I’ll be stuck in the dark spaces. In June, I’m going to the BlogU Conference and of course I worry that the anxiety will be too much and I won’t be able to connect the way I know I can. What if my stress about the weeks that follow BlogU, with their dentist appointments and kid birthdays and preschool graduation, and more..what if it’s too much and I’m too nervous to be..what I can be and what I mostly am? Which is fumbling for and in the light, and even confidently at that.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Maybe the dark nights will always come. Probably they will. You can’t outgrow it. You can only grow with it.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

It’s just my way. It’s not even alarming. It’s just my sometimes dramatic, always sensitive way of going through easy times, middle times and hard times. Maybe the next time the darkness comes, I’ll be more ready for it. I’ll be waiting.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Right now for perhaps the first time in my life, I’m in both light and dark spaces. It can change by the hour, rather than just by the day, week, month and year. Some days, I’m not given a reprieve. It’s all just too big and too much. And other times, I’m thinking, “This. I can work with this.”

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

And I’d like to believe I can always return to this feeling. That I can work with this darkness, the way I work with this light.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Did something or anything I say resonate with you? I’ve been trying to write about anxiety, no matter how minor, for years now. And it feels so good to be giving it new words and new meanings. I feel like my understanding of it grows through writing and photography.

About Tamara

Tamara is a professional photographer at http://tamaracamera.com/, a mama of two, a writer/blogger at http://tamaracamerablog.com and a nearly professional cookie taster. She has been known to be all four of those things at all hours of the day and night. She is a very proud contributor to the book, The Mother Of All Meltdowns. http://themotherofallmeltdowns.com. After two cross country moves, due to her intense Bi-Coastal Disorder, she lives with her husband, daughter and son in glorious western Massachusetts.

Comments

In The Light and Dark Spaces. — 141 Comments

  1. Every word you write always resonates with me, Tamara. For starters I really like how you placed the pictures of your daughter in out of the light and darkness. That was brilliant…seriously. Spooky as I was reading the entire post and scrolling down, I saw your wedding picture off to the right. I saw water in the background so I said I wonder if she was anxious that day? HOLY PYSCHIC!!! I start reading the very next paragraph…your wedding. That was spooky. I’ve had some of the worse anxiety in my entire life the past 11 days. Absolutely continuous…and you know what that’s about. In general with my anxiety I usually do better with getting away from whereever I’m at regardless of whether that is the “cause”. Meaning if I’m at home and having a bad spell it often helps to go somewhere, or even for a walk, or go talk to someone who will make me laugh and ground me again. Often my anxiety is so unfounded and self-imposed it’s insanity. But, sometimes my vibration is also picking up on something and it’s accurate. The journey continues…having a friends (even new blogger friends) to vent and discuss it with is very, very cathartic and calming. Thank you :)

    • Oh, thank you! It’s actually my son! Do you think it’s time for a haircut..haha! And you really are psychic because we don’t have any wedding photos in our living room (sad but true) but you still thought of that. I was a mess at my wedding. I deserve a do-over, I should think. It didn’t seem fair.
      I’m so glad this resonates – when I put out a post like this I worry that everyone will think, “What..on…earth is she talking about?”
      I’m so sorry about your recent anxiety – really hoping it all smooths out in a lovely way. I think long walks really help. So does the arrival of spring. We didn’t really get that yet and it’s still so cold and gloomy out. I know for a fact that I have never suffered bad anxiety in the spring, other than my wedding..

      • Oh I have no doubt that what you share hits home with far more people than you realize, Tamara. Keep sharing as it helps others to reach out and share. I’m so terribly sorry for the mix up your daughter/son. I’m soooo embarrassed! The wedding picture I was talking about is the one off to the right under “How I Met Your Father”. Or it looks like a wedding picture… :)

  2. I have those anxious times too, Tamara, and I don’t know where they come from. They come on, and leave just as quickly. Most of the time I would say it’s completely self imposed, other times I just have a feeling. I think it’s good to write about it…it helps you understand it and cope with it. The pictures, as usual, were absolutely perfect!

    • It does help to write about it! And the comments really help because it’s nice that I’m not alone, although I don’t wish anxiety on anyone.
      And somehow it just came together that I was working on those photos and they could be used here! Des is being my stand-in.

  3. Yes, yes, yes. So much of what you say here resonates with me and you are so much farther down the road off understanding it than I am and I’m learning by reading your words and taking in your images. I’ve had those nights like the little mermaid one, where I just had this anxiety I couldn’t shake for no reason I could pinpoint. And I too sway between darkness and light. And I used to think I had no control over it but you’re showing me that maybe I do.

    • It’s taken me a long time to learn about the control. We definitely all possess it. I still say I get it right only half of the time, but that’s better than the 0% it used to be. It’s all learning and I worry that I’ll never get to a wonderful, smooth, forever place because as much as my skills grow, my anxiety grows too. And with growing kids and fear of aging, I do fear I’m in for a fight! Maybe I’ll be ready for it, though.

  4. You truly said this perfectly and yes I too have had my moments, especially during my teens years I could write a book about how I would be ok one minute and anxious the next. And I too have learned ways to cope as I have grown up, but there are always some underlying currents and somedays the dark can seep to the surface. So, yes I do get this and can’t thank you enough for sharing with us in your own beautiful way with writing and your photos, too.

    • I would read your book! Perhaps we could all work on a book about mental illness and parenting. Where are you, Crystal??
      I do get it about being ok one minute and then not the next. And then ok again in the next, next moment!
      Are you sure you’re not my twin?

  5. Tamara, my stomach is grinding with anxiety as I type this at 6:25 (I’m thankful I slept last night) and it’s been grinding the last few weeks. It’s all due to being an entrepreneur, working so hard to turn WeMontage into something my wife and twins will be able to proudly point at some day and say, “yes, you did it!”

    Thanks for sharing your story. And thanks for all the Des photos!

    • I get you. I really do! I want to make my family proud. There’s a long road of work ahead for me.
      Glad the meditation helped, though! And I put those Des photos just for you.

  6. I love how you’re able to get inside your own head and heart and express what it is that you find there. It’s a gift! I wish I had it, or at least, were brave enough to go that deep.

  7. Yes, I relate! You put into words wonderfully what I’ve felt since I was 17. One thing I have learned as I get older is that when I have a bout of “darkness,” I know I won’t always feel that way. Just knowing that somehow makes each bout of it shorter and less profound. Lovely pictures!

    • I really get that. It gets easier to get through them because I do know that they pass through me. They run their course and they live. It’s cyclical – like the turning of light.

  8. This is a beautiful description Tamara. I have never experienced this kind of anxiety or depression, but I worry about it (anxiety) with my oldest daughter. It’s hard, though, because I don’t understand it myself. I have to remember that I can’t just tell her to “suck it up” because It doesn’t work that way. Thanks for sharing your point of view so that others may have a better understanding. And, for the pictures of that Little Mr. Cutie! :-) Hugs to you~

    • It is tough. Some people are just born with it, I guess. I’ll never really know if I was born with it, or if my father’s death caused it. Or both. It’s definitely not helpful for someone to tell us to suck it up, so you have a lot of wisdom, despite not being anxious yourself!
      (which is so awesome)

  9. I never experienced any type of anxiety or darkness until after my daughter was born. It came quickly, though. She was born 11 weeks early, way back in 1993. I had to leave her in a hospital 2 1/2 hours away for two months, visiting only a couple of times each week (at the most), sometimes not knowing if it would be the last time. I had given birth to a baby, but I came home without her. I couldn’t wrap my mind (or my hormones!) around it, and being a kid myself (only 21, still a kid in my eyes), I had a difficult time dealing with it. None of those books I’d read told me what to do, and the man I was married to at the time was no help at all. My parents did everything they could to help me, but they were new at this one, too.

    Even after my daughter came home, I couldn’t completely shake the feeling. It took me a while, but with the help of a great doctor and understanding family, I came to see that I could handle my anxious moments. I’ve had a few times over the last 21 years in which I’ve felt the anxiety rushing back, but I’ve found ways to deal with it. Talking to someone (informally or professionally), writing in a journal, reading about others’ struggles…anything except keeping it to myself. Realizing that I’m not the only one who feels it is a huge help!

    Thank you for your words, Tamara. You have beautiful children and a beautiful family. I hope that when you feel the darkness setting in, you can take your camera out and snap some photos of them in the light. They will remind you that you aren’t really in the darkness. Your life is full of light and gorgeous moments. You capture all of them yourself…

    • You were really thrown into it – anxiety and parenting! My daughter’s birth was fairly smooth and so was the newborn experience. And it was funny because I was very active in spreading information about postpartum depression, but I didn’t really have any of my own.
      When my second was born, he had to go to the NICU. It was only a week in the grand scheme of things, but hospital time feels like eons. And I was already an anxious person, but this somehow grounded me more than I’d have expected. It’s so interesting. Having this experience almost acted like a buffer against anxiety..for ages.
      And now it comes and goes again.

      • Like so many others here today, I think that your writing is definitely helpful…both to you and to others. I believe it’s important to share things. No one in my family really understood what I was going through, so I couldn’t find much help there (they supported me, yes, but they didn’t know what to do). And since it was still way before the blogs and helpful Internet pages, I tried to find books and articles in addition to friends who might have struggled. Your willingness to share is a gift to so many.

        • Thank you so much, because I definitely think of it as a gift to myself! I’m able to explore a lot of my mind and heart here.
          I’m so inspired by all of the ways you found to help yourself – with talking, writing, researching, getting help.
          I’ve only begun to dig into it in the last year or two.

  10. It’s strange how anxiety works and what makes us experience it. I have separation anxiety when it comes to me and my husband both leaving our kids. We could never plan a vacation without them because I would not be able to function. It’s also hard for me to leave them to go on dates. I know it all stems from by father dying when I was young. I just don’t want to leave them and never come back.

    • My father died when I was young and it made me get separation anxiety with my mom for years! I do have it to an extent with my kids, but I can leave them with family members and friends.
      I am going to a blog conference in June and it will be two days away from them, and I am getting a bit worried already!

  11. I think there is often darkness and light. One will be prominent at one time and then the other takes over. And then I think there are times that they are neck and neck. I liked the way you tied it to changes. I think that is the case with me. I like the routine of things staying the same, yet at the same time I get excited for change sometimes and all the possibilities it can bring.
    And I love the darkness and light in your photos – so beautiful!

    • I definitely get the neck and neck thing. That seems to happen a lot, and one will win out. It’s always nice when it’s the light.
      Thank you about the photos! He was the perfect model for this!

  12. I love how you describe times of darkness as growing pains. We all grow, and sometimes it’s painful as our bodies and minds stretch to fit their new realities.

    I always like to remember it’s darkest before the dawn. And when the morning comes, day’s bright brilliance is even more astounding given the dark before.

    • Always. I don’t know that I’ve ever had a really horrible time with anxiety and/or depression during a brilliantly sunny day. I’m rarely depressed so I almost didn’t mention it, but I have felt it before during hard times for a few days or so. I don’t know how anyone copes with it longterm. It’s very serious.
      Anyway, it is always darkest before dawn – so true.

  13. It’s just tough to explain to people who haven’t experienced it. I’ve had some experience with this in my own family. I sort of know that for some people, getting bumped off the ledge of stable/happy/comfortable is just easier. Maybe their ledge is just smaller, or they are more aware of the ledge’s limited size, and fall easier. But my experience is that we can always climb back up, especially with the right kind of support, so just remembering this is a big help.

    • I love thinking of it in terms of ledges. It makes it easier for me to understand. And yes, so tough to explain. Cassidy is not an anxious person. He definitely gets nervous/excited and can lose sleep over things, but he’s not like me in which case I have to weight every opportunity or chance to do something big. I don’t just say “yes” and calmly do things. I can really freak out!

    • Ah, that’s cool! Mine have actually pulled me out of anxiety dozens of times! They’ve also totally pulled me INTO it a lot too. Oops. The glory of other people’s children.

  14. My son has had anxiety ever since he was little. Sometimes, I blame myself-maybe I did something wrong as a mom to cause it? I try to help him with it, but it gets hard when I really don’t know how to help. Maybe it helps just to know that others face this problem every day too. I always still believe that laughter is the best medicine!

    • Aw, I don’t think you caused it! Some people are just wired that way. I don’t know if I was or if my father’s early death caused mine. Probably a bit of both.
      I will always think that laughter is the best medicine. Seriously.

  15. I definitely think anxiety becomes more intense as you get older…more to lose, I suppose? I don’t really know, but I do know that it can be harder to recover from an anxiety attack than it used to be…for me, at least.-Ashley

    • Yes! I agree. More to lose. More that we’ve gained. And the recovery time is harder at times. And other times, it’s faster because the kids pull me right out of it. No time for deep breathing when the dog is jumping on Scarlet and Des is screaming for breakfast!

  16. I’m glad it helps you to write about it, and your writing helps me understand it a little better. I imagine the anxiety is hard to put into words, but I think your analogy of dark and light spaces makes it easier for concrete thinkers like me to understand. One of my kids is prone to anxiety, and it’s hard to know how to make it better.

    And as for Blog U – those of us who already know you will get it if you get stuck in the dark, even just a little. Even if we have to resort to connecting through tweets across the table, you will make connections. Your light will shine through, I’m sure of it.

    • Ack, that means so much! You sound like a lifelong friend right there in your second paragraph. I’d be crushed to be an anxious, lame, dork at BlogU, instead of someone who wants to rollerblade at 3:00 am (which probably won’t happen) and sit on the floor during a wedding (or 80’s party?) to talk to you!
      I have a good feeling about it.
      I like to think of it in terms of dark and light spaces. It gives me a visual and it’s how it’s always felt to me.

  17. These posts about your experiences with anxiety always speak to me. I love that you have ways to deal with both the light and dark – I wish that you didn’t have the dark times but I’m glad that you can always return to the light.
    And, I’m sad that I’m not going to the June conference but I know that every single person you meet will love you because you are you!!!

  18. Tamara~ yes, that resounds with me and my anxiety. I write a lot about light and dark. I think one of the hardest and most important lessons of my life is about learning to hold both, often at the same time. It’s life. Also…. I am thinking of going to BlogU…. and knowing you are going makes me think I should probably do it!

    • I really hope you go! I’m so nervous but I think it will be such a great conference. I want to do BlogHer too, but I’ll probably wait until they’re back on this coast. It seems inevitable. Maybe another NYC one.
      I’m definitely going to read more of your writing!

  19. Anxiety is like a big cloud that follows behind a person and sometimes moves in front of them and they cant see past it. It helps me to understand my mom’s struggles when I read your posts. Why she didn’t come to school functions, why she didn’t let me do things, why she didn’t do things herself, why she wont give Dylan the freedom to fall. I do believe it’s a life long struggle and love the analogy of light and dark spaces. I feel you’ve grown so much and though there’s always challenges to face and situations you’re forced to expose yourself to, you are tackling them at your own pace and doing a great job. The BlogU conference is going to be a great experience!

    • That’s tough. Sometimes I worry that I’ll be that mom – too anxious to come to school functions. There are times in which I struggle with registering her for kindergarten or taking her to the dentist! Last week both kids were sick and my husband took them to the doctor! I’ve been doing it for years so it was…so nice to sit back and do my worrying at home, rather than in public!
      Then I felt awful for feeling that way!

  20. Yes, just about everything you explained resonated with me. Recently, things have been getting better, yet I’ve had spurts of anxiety a lot lately. It’s weird how that happens. I really want to write about it more on my blog, but I get anxious (no pun intended). Reading every post you write about anxiety really helps me get that much closer to writing about it frequently. I finally had the courage to write my first post about post-partum depression and anxiety. I just need to overcome my fear and write the second, because I felt sooo good after that first post. Keep writing about it <3

    • You’re not the only one who said the thought of talking about anxiety causes anxiety! For me, it very much releases it. I also don’t really know how else to be, other than deeply honest in my blog. Sometimes it works against me, and sometimes very much not.
      I love when you go deep, but I love all of your posts too!

  21. You know how I know this far too well…
    It is a dash of chemicals, a dash of environment, a dash of every day stress etc and when you mix it up, you have a toxic cocktail. I wish that I could tell you that you will never experience it again. Oh how I wish. I find that a little fine tuning in self care and medications (not for everyone by the way) is what I need to help push me through.
    I love you babe. Keep writing about this. It will shed light for other people too xoxo

    • It really is a toxic cocktail. Sometimes I can even turn it down. Sometimes I drink it.
      I will have to work harder at the self care – I don’t find myself doing that often enough.
      Love you too babe! You keep writing too!

  22. I’ve just started dealing with anxiety in the past year or so. I’m not sure what brought it on, but I can usually predict when things are going to get rough. It’s cyclical for me and more of a general anxiety than a situational anxiety. I’m learning to say, “Mommy needs a break right now, can we do that later.” to my kids. I’ve been taking medication off and on and it seems to help. I don’t have to take it regularly since I can usually predict when the hard times are afoot.

    • How interesting that it hits people at different points of life, if at all. I think that probably more people experience it during their lives than not.
      I like the idea of having medication but not always needing it. I feel like for me, just having it might make me feel better, even if I didn’t take it!

  23. Aww hope you’re out of the cloud – I can describe anxiety but haven’t sat down to do so yet it’s crippling at times is all I can say. Ive had it since as long as I could remember! My first memory was me being petrified and scared. I’m still debating the BlogU conference hehe I’m so close its an hour from me super convenient! It seems your son is what was helping you peep out of the dark night in these photos. :) Des is super precious :) Happy Hump Day Tamara! -Iva

  24. I love how brave you’re being by putting this out here. I would be too anxious to do it – if that makes sense? As you know, I struggle with anxiety all the time and it phases in and out for me as well. I definitely think if I didn’t run as much as I do, it would be much, much worse. I appreciate so much that you put this into words today and using the oh-so-calming pictures of Des are just priceless.

    • You’re not the first to have said that – and it makes sense. It makes me more anxious not to write about my feelings, and yet, I’ve been a bit up in arms since I posted this late last night.
      I think I need to go jump on a trampoline or something!

  25. How beautifully you’ve laid this down in words despite it’s ugly reality. It can suck us in, out of nowhere and for no apparent reason. It’s hard to get out sometimes Tamara but always remember, you are stronger than your demons. At least that’s how I look at it when I’m feeling down. And I think I’m funnier when I’m in the pits. Weird.
    On a lighter note, Des is such a great model!

    • Well I hope you’re not always in the pits, but you are always funny!
      I’m going to remind myself that I’m stronger than my demons – thank you for that.

  26. I’ve never struggled with anxiety — the real, serious, debilitating kind you describe — so in a way reading these posts feels more like looking deep into someone else’s head than nodding along and saying “me too.” But that’s okay — you are being open about what you’re going through and I think even if it doesn’t resonate with a single other person (although obviously it does!) it is all part of the process of accepting this as part of your personality.

    • Love it. I love that people on this earth DON’T struggle with anxiety. And I know how it feels to go through life without it..for YEARS. It’s a good life. And it comes back and each time it’s a little worse, but I’m a little better at caring for it.

  27. I understand anxiety all too well! Its definitely something I struggle, as well as my mom. I really have to talk it out, center myself, and pray when I feel it coming on. I also know that its gotten worst since I’ve had my son. I’m a natural worrier, and with kids there’s always something to worry about or concern yourself with. The worrying exacerbates my anxiety, and next thing I know I’m a horrible bag of nerves. I can really appreciate you sharing your experience with it. Its something that any people don’t talk about at all or enough, and never seek help of any kind. Its comforting to know that I’m not the only one who feels anxiety. Sometimes having anxiety can make you feel so alone.

    Thanks again for sharing this!

    • It is SO isolating to me. And it always seems like everyone else is totally fine. And through writing and connecting, I’m really learning that many of us struggle and we seek help in different ways.

  28. I think we all have those times. I have several family members that suffer from anxiety and depression and I used to be really anxious when I was a kid. It is unexplainable and I remember that things always seemed worse at night…something about the daytime really makes things seem more managaeble. I hope that you days and nights are filled with more light than dark. Know that you are not alone and that the dark feelings will subside…

    • Daytime is magical. There’s even something called “Sundowner’s Syndrome” which is an ailment that gets worse at night? It has something to do with that fact that when the sun goes down, we get sicker. And it’s partly mental, I’m sure, but I remember that fevers spike at night too!

  29. Yes. A lot of what you say resonates with me, Tamara. I love how you talk about your anxiety and explain it in a way that is understandable. Anxiety is so very common for women. I know this because of my work in behavioral health. The thing is that it’s so different for every person. We need to talk about this stuff more!

  30. This also resonated with me, both as someone who can get very anxious at times (thankfully it has gotten better), and also as someone who has been on the support end of someone dealing with panic attacks. Like Jennifer said, I think people in general need to be more open about talking about it….I commend you for sharing your experiences and what it feels like.

    • I have been on the support end of panic attacks too, actually! And I used to comfort them like a boss. I never thought I’d have anxiety. I’ve only ever had one panic attack when I was about to move to Cali and really feeling it! However there is a lower-lying anxiety with me for longer times.

  31. As I am still spiraling inward and outward from the nightmare that ensued on my trip, I can only function at half mass right now. And if I were going to blog U- I would be terrified of the EXACT same thing. It’s so hard to juggle the unpredictable weight of it all…the wondering when the beast will rise. and then there are times for me- which are most assuredly lit fireballs of intense fear and panic… those circumstances that come unwarned and harm your heart and break you to pieces…those are the unbearable ones. I am in that. And although I find it hard to breath and when I want to cry I hold my breath harder, because if I start to loose it again- I certainly will not be able to pull it back together again. And the words and pain keep winding through my mind strangling my heart and suffocating my soul.
    So I pray. I keep shoving it at God…over and over again, until I feel His healing Spirit devour the toxins and my light will slowly rise back up through the foggy shadows simmering with a hint of glimmer. In time. I know. I’ve been here countless times before, with various antecedents. I lose my truth. And sometimes it takes a long search and recover mission to find it again.

    My favorite line?

    You can’t outgrow it. You can only grow with it.

    Amen sister girl. Amen.

    • Oh sigh. I get that so much about wondering when the beast would rise. Maybe we could convince Ilene and you to come to BlogU and we’d all just have a pow wow in my single dorm room. Gosh, that sounds weird. (Party in my room!)
      Praying for you and your toxins. Praying for me and mine. xoxo.

  32. Anxiety is not something I personally deal with — but I can tell you, I SO SO appreciate when someone speaks of it with complete honesty and opens up the doors of understanding for the rest of us. I can only think it must help the speaker to deal and cope; and I, to become a better listener. Which hopefully spurs compassion and empathy; because it’s easy to hate or fear things you do not understand. Thank you for sharing of your heart!

    It also made me think of a quote I know:

    “The dance between darkness and light will always remain— the stars and the moon will always need the darkness to be seen, the darkness will just not be worth having without the moon and the stars.”
    ― C. JoyBell C.

    • I love the quote! I had never heard it before. Anxiety affects everyone differently but I always figured it must have been hard for my husband when he had no clue what I was going through.

  33. I can’t put words to my anxiety, yet. It’s a feeling that I do not like at all. Then I do these mental exercises to think of every aspect of my life and determine whether it is good or bad. Usually, everything checks out as “good” and that helps me realize that it’s all in my head. So logically, I know I shouldn’t be feeling that way but the anxiety feeling really does take over at times. A few days at the most. I like how you describe that the light will come. That’s good to keep in mind with my mental exercises.

    • My mom once said something that stuck with me, and it was other than her “This too, shall pass”. She said that everything going on in my turmoil was in my head. It wasn’t external. It wouldn’t spread. And it could be resolved in the same place it started.

  34. Please let’s hole up for an hour or two at BlogU, and talk? Or not, because that may be weird, I dunno. I just want to say that I feel this, so much and so hard, and that I go through YEARS of it being all perfectly light…and then. I dunno. This morning I woke up at 5:30am after going to bed after 1am (so not much sleep which I know makes it all worse), completely terrified about everything regarding Tucker’s school next year, and that I am SO SO SO SO OLD to be his mom and that he deserves more and much more and so much more than old me, and later, went to work, and felt almost important, again. I hate this. And I adore you. And please let’s not shut down at BlogU. m’kay?

    • Please let’s do that, in one of our single dorm rooms! Hooray to no roommates!
      I get that – the YEARS of light. Years of ZERO symptoms. And then you get to a place where it hits you at least in some small (or large) way daily. I’ll never fully understand it but I still fight the fight.
      I adore you a lot.
      We’ll have each other at BlogU. And Dana and Lisa, because, they’re awesome.

  35. I haven’t experienced this to the degree that I’m imagining you do and to the degree that my husband and mom do, but I like reading it from someone who can put it into words and explain it. I do have the occasional “down” day/s, where I just feel “blah”, but my husband has actually suffered from anxiety attacks and my mother I think goes in and out of depression like moods. The photos of Des were beautiful, it looked like it was so quiet and serene in your living room with the snow outside.

    • Thank you! It is so quiet and serene, but we’re so sick of the snow. Seriously may move in next door to you.
      It’s nice that you have an understanding of these borderline days and anxiety attacks and depression. I’ve never really had depression, and I feel thankful for that, but anxiety can be pretty hard too. At least with anxiety, I can still feel a lot, even if I don’t always like how I feel!

  36. First off, I am really happy to read that you are going to BlogU! That’s amazing, Tamara! I think you’re going to have a great time, even if it feels like a struggle at times. I love what you wrote. This resonates with me – those dark days are…really, really heavy. And it feels like you can’t take it off. I used to really struggle with taking off the dark coat on those days, but recently I feel as though it’s a little easier. I can distract myself from being sad (because I think it’s more situational depression than anxiety for me) and then the next thing I know, I’m not sad anymore. I don’t know if that’s good, because is distracting yourself really dealing with it? I’m not sure, but I’ve gotten good at it.

    • Thank you! I still have my doubts that I’m going to effectively drive away from here without my kids! I may need to put them up in a nearby hotel so I won’t miss them so much.
      I like to think of it as a dark coat – it does feel that way. A dark heavy, stifling coat!
      I’m pretty good at distracting myself from sad too. And I do wonder if it’s still dealing with it. I like to believe it is.

  37. I love the way you write, and it does resonate with me. When I was a 16 year old, I was anorexic. It was the unfortunate way I dealt with my anxiety. I would go days without eating and not even realizing it, that was the worst part. I would stare at the walls of my room and think I was dying. I actually was. I’m glad for the many things that helped me break through that harsh cycle, and in many ways helped me become who I am today. Anxiety has a way of taking all of us in some unexpected way. I found my way out, and I think you are, too.

    • Thank you for sharing that! I think it’s awesome and possible to find your way out, and I can see so much light shining from you!
      That’s why you made it into my dream about being at my home-based blogging convention. Maybe one day!

  38. What resonates with me is your ability to know yourself, and then to articulate it. I am just recently beginning to feel comfortable with the first, but the second? That seems light years away.

    • I feel like there’s a third step and I’m far away from that one. That third one is knowing myself, being able to articulate it, and then being able to seek relief. Sometimes it makes it worse, but mostly not.

  39. I, as always, am sitting here in awe of your ability to speak so well about something so private. Reading through the comments is reassuring that you (and all of everyone who suffers (I said it that way on purpose)) is not alone, and that it is worth finding a way or ways to cope, manage and pull through.

    I hope you can take comfort in the fact that you will “know” many of the attendees at BlogU. I have been panicking about that event, too, and am trying not to shut down. I do find reassurance that you and Michelle (and a few more) will be there – and it will probably be so much better than my stressed out imaginings of standing alone, and not connecting, and sounding like a fool, or not having anything to say at all!

    I hope being able to write like this and express yourself and work through the darkness helps you as much as it helps so many others. Because it really does help others – the comments speak volumes.

    • Oh, funny! We’ll all be together at BlogU. It’s such a small, intimate gathering anyway, but you’ll have Michelle and me, and many others. There will be no standing alone! No sitting alone at the dining hall either. (yum?)
      I really love your comments when they come. I look forward to them and I won’t read them unless I have time to deeply read, and not just skim.
      It does help. All of THIS.

  40. Yes, what you have written resonates very much with me. I’ve been getting panic attacks more and more frequently lately, and I just don’t know how to turn them off and shut them down. It’s a struggle almost every single day. So, yes. I understand. And I feel.

    • I hear you. It’s not panic attacks for me, but it’s not fun. It’s one of the reasons I didn’t push to see you in FL. For one, it was kinda far and I had no car. For another, I was just in a bit of a nervous state and I didn’t want you to see me like that!

  41. I have anxiety sometimes as well. I can be socially awkward, which means I can get quite anxious at times.

    I think it’s awesome that you will be at BlogU. I think you’ll end up having a fabulous time.

  42. How do you take something that can be so debilitating and life altering and make it into beautiful images of understanding? You AMAZE me! Looking back I was probably a very anxious child..I was painfully shy which didn’t help. I threw up on on the first day of school every single year (except when I was a Senior in high school). I also had a migraine every first day. I have no idea where I’m at now..I don’t know if it’s light or dark and I don’t know if it’s just me and my current situation. Or maybe I’m in such darkness that I can’t even see it? I wonder if you would share any of your mom’s strategies for talking you through it? I wonder if self talk works for you at times?

    • Aw! I find it to be very debilitating and life-altering too. I just process it better through writing than not, I guess.
      I had my own anxieties in childhood for sure.
      And sometimes I”m in such darkness that I can’t see..anything, much less the light. Or my own knowledge of where I am.
      My mom says some awesome things about how everything I’m in turmoil about is only existing in my head. So it can’t spread. And it can be resolved in its contained state.
      That seems to help..

  43. I think we all struggle with anxiety at some point or another. It’s how we handle it that marks the severity. I’ve had moments where the anxiety is so bad, I can’t even speak and other times where I can just push it back like it was never there. I have gotten better at controlling my emotions as I have gotten older but I also seem to feel more too. It’s weird. I really just take it one day at a time!

    • You are so right. I think the majority of the population understand anxiety and/or depression at some point(s) during their lives, whether general or situational.
      And we all handle it in different ways, and seek treatment in different forms.

  44. Tamara, I can relate! I write about my anxiety all the time. I’ve been a sufferer for years but have learned about my triggers and how to calm myself down before I have an attack. It takes time and practice but I have faith in you that you will develop the same tools that I have over the years and be better in control of your anxiety.

    Great post! If you ever want to chat more about anxiety drop me an e mail and I will give you my phone number or we can just e mail each other about it. My e mail address is on The Talbert Zoo.

    • I will certainly be dropping you a line! I really do want to hear your wisdom. I think your kids really benefit from you knowing how to take care of yourself and them. I’m really hoping the same for my kids. If Cassidy is the only strong one, then they still can turn out all right, but it’s not enough for me.

  45. YES.

    I feel like I was a pretty anxious person before my loss, so that experience only made it worse. After 9/11, which occurred no where near me, I really struggled. After my son was born. Each family move to a new place. My husband is the opposite, always feeling calm and safe, so I often compare myself to him, unfairly. Thanks for writing about this–it helps to see so many others that have difficulty with this too.

    • 9/11 was very near me, near enough to see the buildings burn. (yup)
      And it didn’t AT ALL trigger my anxiety. Instead I was right there helping. I’ll never understand that one, but I guess I’m calm in a crisis. It was the same when my son was rushed to the NICU. I was..totally not anxious. Scared, tearful, strong.

  46. I kind of hate anxiety but I’m learning to get used to it. It’s not the best feeling in the world and for me, it’s hard to understand, it’s just unexplainable. I remembered my friend asking me to sing for their band one time and I was so excited because it was my dream to perform in front of people but I just backed out and never showed up and thought of excuses why I wasn’t able to commit… Maybe that sounds like a simple situation but to me, it was nerve-wracking. :)

    • Nah, I’d be wrecked too. People have asked me to speak in public and I think I would just dread it. I sometimes dread photo gigs even though I love them when I’m in them.

  47. Most of it resonates with me, and I love how you are able to put it into words. I don’t think I can event discuss my anxiety much less write about it in a public forum–tis why you are my hero! When the anxiety starts to rise I usually say a little pray or have a little talk with Him and take deep breaths. Seeing another commenter mention 9/11…just thinking about that time makes me anxious!

    • I loved the 9/11 comment, because it reminded me that I was really close to it and I wasn’t anxious – I was in action. Same when Des was in the NICU!
      And yet, I can freak out over a dentist appointment. WTH?

  48. So much of this resonates with me. I have been anxious since childhood- in varying degrees. I am thrilled that you are writing about this. As I read your post, I realized that is not a topic I have ever written about which is interesting given what a big part of my life it has been…

    • Oh, very interesting!
      I didn’t write about it for a long time. Not until I couldn’t hide it anymore, and I simply couldn’t write anything else before confronting my demons.
      That was a rough time for my blog.

  49. {Melinda} I really do understand this … I have struggled with some form of anxiety all my life. Sometimes it threatens to overtake me. Other times, it’s just a subtle undercurrent. You do such a great job of describing how it feels — and why it seems to plague some of us. <3

  50. I read through this twice. So much of what you said here hit home with me. I have horrible anxiety and panic attacks. Over the years, I have learned to “feel” them coming and for the most part I can deal with them and usually beat them down. Other times, they take every bit of strength I have and crush me, exhaust me. I will tell you that reading that someone else goes through the same “lightness and darkness” (perfectly worded!) is in itself a huge relief. I know I feel alone when I am in the thick of it. I, too, call my mother and don’t even have to tell her, she can hear it in my voice, and we will just talk about nothing in particular until it passes. My husband is a huge support. He sees them in my face and just tells me it’s okay. He is so patient and walks with me to the other side of the worst ones.

    Anxiety is so common these days but I had no idea what it was when I was younger and was so unequipped to deal with it. I spent quite a few years dealing with it in extremely unhealthy and dangerous ways. Now, it’s not really better, but the ways I deal with it is.

    I wish I was going to BlogU because I know I would love to meet you. We could support each other, encourage each other……and I’m sure there are people in this thread that will be there and do just that anyway.

    Thank you so much for writing this and helping me feel a little less alone :)

    • Thank you for this beautiful comment.
      I also so wish you were going to BlogU because I’d love to meet you too!
      I am like you – I almost always deal with anxiety attacks (not panic, but I had one once) or beat them down. Sometimes it’s too big and too much and they do crush and exhaust me. (perfect wording)
      I like to believe the former way outweighs the latter, and maybe I can make that gap widen even more.

  51. You perfectly capture the mystery and misunderstanding surrounding anxiety. I’ve struggled my entire life and to those who don’t, I just seem off. They don’t realize sometimes I’m just trying to make it through the day. I’ve learned to manage and identify triggers as I get older but it’s still, and always will be, something that needs to be controlled. Thank you for writing about it…feels good to know others deal with this too.

    • I remember the first time my anxiety followed me socially – into a college party – and a girl thought I was weird. Hurt my feelings so badly! Since then, I’ve grown not to really care, but I remember feeling so sad that it would change the way I perceive myself, and the way I was perceived.

  52. I don’t know too many people personally with anxiety, but I do know someone whose two brothers suffer from forms of it. One had depression and the other had something like bipolar. He described the episodes pretty much how you are describing yours, although he called them highs and lows instead of light and dark.

    But it was very interesting to learn how, like you say, it’s sometimes difficult just even trying to get through the day. How everyone tells that person he’s so great and awesome and he really is, except he can’t bring his own self to believe it. He has had to take medications to balance it and it seems to help.

    I imagine it’s tough facing a day that to others would seem so ordinary yet you yourself see it completely differently. That’s the tough thing with words and emotions too. Sometimes the two don’t always coincide, so it’s great you’re putting labels on these emotions. I read that emotions are all right-brain and words are left-brain, so it helps us when we talk, tell stories, and label our emotions because we bring order to what can seem so chaotic.

    Thank you for sharing with us your thoughts. It’s always brave and heartwarming to hear.

    • I have heard of bipolar and I know a few people with it. It can be pretty scary, if untreated for sure. It’s more like highs and lows and they can really swing from one to the other.
      My anxiety is more situational and my mood is very level from day to day, but just the tastes of anxiety I’ve had make me really thankful it’s not worse. And it’s sad so many people have to struggle.
      Thank you so much for this comment.

  53. I’ve often read your thoughts about anxiety; and thankfully I haven’t had to deal with so much of that on my own. It’s good to know your mother is always just a phone call away to help out in those situations. Is it something that anyone else in your family has had to deal with?

    • I think my father has had anxiety, but he passed away so I’ve never been able to ask him about it. He wasn’t medicated for it, and to be honest, I think he dealt with it by smoking pot!

  54. hey – you’re making me feel old again – 16 in 1997 – my 1st born son was born in 1996

    anyway – I haven’t really had anxiety attacks but both my of my sister’s are bi-polar, and that runs in my family and my mother has been suffering with anxiety lately because one of my sister’s is living with her and also has cancer – so my poor mother has to deal with all of that – even though she is too old for that.

    well on that depressing note – hope you have fun at Blog U lol :) – sounds cool

    • Oh, your poor mother! That sounds situational for sure. Some people have general anxiety and I know bipolar depression might even be chemical. Not entirely sure.
      Wishing everyone calm and happy vibes..

  55. “You can’t outgrow it, you can only grow with it.” That’s powerful stuff, Tamara. I love how it’s a call to your mother that can lift you out of a dark place. Don’t you hope we can be so miraculous to our own children someday?!

    • I really do! And I do think of times I talk her through hard things – x-rays, dentist appointments, hurt feelings, etc.
      I am up for this. I want to do the same!

  56. I feel you, Tamara. Sometimes the darkness is beyond description, terrifying and overwhelming, and you think it will never pass. Sleep becomes a fugitive and “normal” thinking is a distant thing. You summed it up perfectly: “You can’t outgrow it. You can only grow with it.” Hugs, Ali

  57. “And I’d like to believe I can always return to this feeling. That I can work with this darkness, the way I work with this light.” Oh Tamara yes. I feel this so much lately and it’s been hard to figure out which way is up sometimes. xox

  58. I have someone close to me who suffers depression and anxiety and it is all-encompassingly awful at times. I think anxiety in particular is often misunderstood, or not considered a real ailment. Big, big hugs to you. This was sad and beautiful.

    • I think you’re so right – and anxiety comes out in so many forms. I think depression probably does too but I imagine when you’re in it, you really know it.
      Not sure, though!

  59. HOW did I miss reading this blog? Was I in the dark when you published it? WOW! I love how Des is parallel to your story. In one photo, I looked into his face and saw my childhood face. When I read your words, I also saw my childhood face. I used to be afraid to go to birthday parties when I was little so I do remember how the world could be scary.
    You deal with the world now as an adult. You feel, you write, you take photos, and you allow yourself to live…fully.

    • Lately more and more, I see so many of us in his face. It’s eerie!
      And I remember all sorts of anxieties, but I think I have more these days! How strange.

  60. YES, YES, YES to this post. I found your post via Carly at Fine Fit Day’s post, and I’m so glad that I did. I’ve never thought about anxiety in that way (darkness and light) but I love the description. I was officially diagnosed with GAD/OCD around this time last year, but have struggled with it on and off for years. I also lost my father at a young age (11) to a massive heart attack. It’s so strange how different things that occur during our life can have such a profound impact, even years later. I too sometimes can crawl and scratch my way out of the darkness on my own, but it’s true. There always is a light switch somewhere. Mine too is usually my Mom. She can pull me out of the dark, always. These days, it’s more light than dark thanks to a combination of therapy/medication and I can see the light almost all of the time. Thank you for writing about this, and sharing your story. There’s such a stigma about mental health, which they’re really shouldn’t be. We’re all human, and we all have our own battles. You’ve written about your experiences so eloquently, and I’m so happy to have stumbled upon this. Thank you!

    • I really appreciate you visiting! (thanking Carly in my head)
      With my father, it was a massive heart attack when I wasn’t even four. I wonder a lot whether I would have had anxiety had that never happened. I can’t remember if I had it before then. Maybe I would have been this totally calm person, but probably not. Anything else could have happened, and so many great things did.
      So glad you chimed in. It was hard for me to post this.

  61. Thank you for sharing this and your story…I know it can’t be easy to put yourself out there like that. I feel like when we get older sometimes we have more fears? I can’t put my finger on it but I think when I was younger I was more care free and as I get older I can get anxiety about a big event or something I am planning. It’s not the actual moment that gets me it’s the leading up to…when I have to write down my to-do list to make sure I have it all covered…then a sigh of relief when it is all over. Keep your head up girl!

Leave a Reply