I find myself awake at 3 a.m. in the throws of an anxiety attack. It’s no secret that I’ve been a bit of a basket case lately. I’ve got two small children at home, two jobs and I’ve been trying to implement two faiths with my growing family. Oh, and I’m pregnant with my third child: a boy. I’m not sure what woke me and sent me into such a blaze, but as soon as I wake up my heart feels like it might fly out of my chest. I’m grasping the walls, opening windows, trying to breathe deep.
As soon as the attack passes I run to the computer to Google “Anxiety During Pregnancy.” Apparently it’s a common thing. I watch videos of women telling me to bathe in Epsom salt and then put avocado on my face. One mother suggests slathering my feet with coconut oil and then covering them with Ziploc bags. Some other suggestions come in the form of buying products: Mommy Time Tea, a silver blanket “guaranteed” to relieve anxiety, pillows, neck massagers, even a calming yellow nail polish.
When Adrian gets home from work that day my hair is covered with raw egg, I have a homemade sugar scrub on my face and I’m tiptoeing around in plastic bags from Key Food because I ran out of Ziplocs. “Amor,” he says, “are you OK?” In a desperate attempt to save myself from the panicking, overwhelming feelings of anxiety, I start to cry–bawl actually. I bawl for 45 minutes straight. Then I join a Buddhist group on Facebook.
My post reads as follows:
MY SPIRITUAL FAMILY, HELP! I AM SIX MONTHS PREGNANT WITH MY THIRD CHILD. WAKING UP EVERY NIGHT AT 3 A.M. WITH SEVERE PANIC. WHAT CAN I DO?
It’s strange that as a mother who is so concerned with spirituality and incorporating two religions in my home, Jewish and Catholic, I could have missed the obvious. The outpouring of responses was astonishing. One person told me that they had lost a child and their anxiety kept them awake for months at a time. Another offered medical advice. But, most of the people on the Buddha page offered prayers. “What time zone are you in?” a woman inquired, “let me know and I will pray for you at that exact time in my country.” Prayer. Of course! Isn’t faith what I have been trying to teach my children to embrace? Every time we sit down for a meal, don’t I have them thank God for the food? Don’t I ask them to appreciate the small things and be grateful?
Anxiety isn’t so simple, but prayer was a step in the right direction. Most of the time anxiety comes without warning, and you have to figure out what triggers it, or how, or why. Sometimes the answers to these questions are painful, other times they don’t come at all.
In my bag I always carry a copy of “Tehillim.” These are the psalms of David, and they exist in both the Jewish and Catholic traditions. In my small book of Tehillim I have a photo of Adrian with Helen when she was smaller than she is now. I have a photo of me with Alma and Helen asleep. I also have a photo from my Uncle Jeff’s collection of memories: it’s a small, square black-and-white. It’s not a photo of my uncle, but rather, a photo of a man named “Julius Campell.” He was the man my uncle replaced in the Korean War. At least that’s what it says on the back: “Julius Campell the man I replaced June 1953.” Maybe my uncle kept it in his closet for so long as a reminder of how delicate life is, how we are all connected somehow, no matter what neighborhood we grew up in, what God we pray to. Maybe he meant to throw it away but never did. Regardless of what this photo signified to him, I kept it because something about it makes me feel the urgency of life.
Tehillim, or psalms, are meant to relieve people during times of great distress and sadness. They aren’t typical prayers. Instead, they are songs of praise that are so powerful they are able to create a time of “divine favor.” They can be said anytime and anywhere. As I wiped the avocado off of my face and untied the Key Food bags from my feet I remembered what it is to believe. Rereading the Tehillim I was reminded of why I chose to live an interfaith life. I also noticed how far away from my spirituality I have been feeling. With so much going on at home, so much going on at work and so much going on inside my body it has been hard for me to give time to God and incorporate this time into my everyday family life.
But, this interfaith family I have created is important to me. As a child of an Orthodox Jewish community who broke away to see the world, it’s crucial that I keep the open world I ran to close to my heart. My anxiety comes and goes, although lately I have been able to ground myself. I get back on my Facebook Buddhist page and write, “Dear Spiritual Family, I am overwhelmed by all of your beauty. It already makes me feel better just to know that there are total strangers out in the universe who are willing to take a moment to share advice with a person in pain.” In all of our religions what we should always remember is the golden Buddha in everyone.