This is not only my story, but it is mostly my daughter’s story, and she has given me the privilege and permission to tell it. All words shared have her full consent.
Exactly this time last year (mid-July 2020), Landry was suffering with crippling anxiety. She’s always struggled with anxiety (she gets it honestly), but at the end of June 2020, it became uncontrollable. She started experiencing heart palpitations that had her convinced she was having a heart attack. She had trouble sleeping and felt “on edge” all of the time. Landry had been taking Accutane since January, and after some research and talking with her dermatologist, we stopped the medication because increased anxiety was a side effect. But Landry’s anxiety continued to get worse and morphed into 2-3 full-blown panic attacks per day.
Because I have experienced panic attacks, I knew the only way out was through, so I sat with Landry through the terrifying darkness as the anxiety pulled her under. We relied on the Calm app for guided meditation and breathing, but all I could do was hold her hands, rub her back, breathe with her, and wait for the storm in her mind and body to cease. It was the most helpless feeling I’ve ever had as a mother. To experience a panic attack is one thing, but to watch your child pulled into the undertow is excruciating. All I knew to do was hold onto her–to let her know she wasn’t alone.
From my own experience with anxiety (I’ve been on daily meds for three years, and I thank Jesus every day for them), I knew this was serious and that Landry needed help. I made an appointment with our Primary Care Provider, and they got her in immediately. Because this was during the throws of the Pandemic, we had to do a Zoom appointment, and Landry filled out the mental health screening ahead of time. I’ll never forget the worry in our PCP’s face and voice when he went over Landry’s screening results. He said, “Landry, it’s obvious that this is really serious, and we need to get you some help.” After some questions about our family’s medical history, he prescribed Zoloft. Over the next few weeks, the panic attacks subsided with the help of the meds, breathing, meditation, and talking. But the anxiety was still there as Landry’s constant companion.
After coming off a difficult summer, Landry started her senior year in the swirl of uncertainty because of the Pandemic. She had monthly check-ins with the PCP, who increased her dosage. He encouraged us to find a therapist because she was still struggling. Through our constant daily check-ins and talking, it became apparent that Landry and I suffer from different forms of anxiety. Hers is caused by intrusive thoughts, so I couldn’t connect with how she was feeling. Also, I shouldn’t have to. Some problems are too big for a mom to “fix,” and I am not proud to say that I had a hard time accepting that. When I reflect on this time, I realize that this was me trying to control something that I had no right to control. (My life would be so much easier if I could learn this lesson…) This was out of my Mom League. Landry needed a therapist, and it was my job to help her find one.
After my procrastination and an extensive search using Psychology Today, we finally found a great therapist for Landry, and it’s been the game-changer. With medication and talk therapy, she’s been able to manage her anxiety and have such a better summer than the last one. She still has hard days, but she knows how to get ahead of the intrusive thoughts. We’ve often talked about how she was doing “this time last year…”, and our family is so thankful that Landry is in a better place. That is one reason that she wanted to share her story–to put her beautiful face on mental illness and to encourage those suffering (because SO MANY ARE) to seek medical help–meds AND therapy–the dynamic duo! There is no weakness or shame in taking medication and going to therapy–especially as Believers–but that’s a post for another time. Trust me, I tried to pray Landry’s anxiety away. But I’m convinced it was God who prodded my Mom Gut by whispering, “Get our girl some help.”
As a society, we need to destigmatize mental illness by being open and honest in order to set more people free. And moms out there, let me just say that I know this is HARD because so many of us are Fakers and Fixers, and we think we can white-knuckle and will our way through any family problem, and then slap a filter on it to post on social media. I’m here to give a big NOPE. (Recovering Faker and Fixer and Filter-Slapper right here!) I’m convinced we all need therapy after the collective trauma of the Pandemic that we’ve experienced. Let’s not just “move on” and “get back to normal.” Let’s pay attention to what our bodies and minds are telling us. They keep the score.
And now for the second part of Landry’s story.
A few years ago, Landry informed us that when she turned 18, she would get a tattoo. Since I have two tattoos, I couldn’t really say NO, so my advice was think it through and do your research because you will have to live with it forever.
In typical Landry fashion, she dove into planning the design, placement, and thinking hard about the story she wanted her tattoo to tell. After consulting with several tattoo artists and binging Ink Master (a really interesting show), she finally settled on her design for the inside of her forearm.
I admit that I reverted into “Judgey Mom” when I saw the design. My first thought was, “That’s HUGE! Everyone will see it! She can’t hide that. What will the grandparents think?” Both of my tattoos are very discreet (on my left wrist under my Apple Watch and on the outside of my right foot); in fact, most people don’t know I have them. But I took a deep breath and didn’t say all of these things out loud. But I did say, “Wow. That’s beautiful. And big. You won’t be able to hide that well.” Landry’s answer, “Why would I want to do that, Mom?”
Ouch. Point taken.
Here’s the thing that I’ve learned over 18 years of Parenthood: it is knowing when to pull in and knowing when to push away; it is the painful process of slow release and constantly reminding myself: her body is not my body, her life is not my life, her hopes are not my hopes, her dreams are not my dreams; I want good things for both of my girls, but they don’t belong to me.
She belongs to herself.
So I smiled after being schooled by my grown daughter, and said, “You’re right. It’s perfect.”
Because it is.
We’ve always compared Landry’s beautiful curls to a lion’s mane, so the animal has been her favorite since childhood. But then Landry said something I’ll never forget, “Mom, this lion will always remind me of my courage. That I am brave and strong. And that I can get through hard things.”
Because she has.
Watching Landry get her tattoo was a profound experience. It was another letting go, which I’ve been doing a lot of lately and will continue to do. She was doing something all on her own, but I still was invited to be a part of it, a privilege I cherish. She chose to endure some pain in order to have a permanent reminder of her bravery.
She’s a badass.
Last week we went to Arkansas for a little family vacation before Landry leaves for Aggieland at the end of August. Our cottage was tucked into a cove, so it was a perfect place to use the kayaks that were provided by the Airbnb. I took this picture of Landry venturing out with the kayak for the first time, and I told Jason, “This picture symbolizes where we are as her parents right now.”
Landry is ready to launch into the lake of life. There’s not room for Jason and me in that kayak. There’s only room for her kind heart, her beautiful soul, and her fierce sense of justice for how the world should be for all. We can’t go on this journey with her, but we will be here on the shore, getting her sister ready to launch in four short years.
Parenthood is a dance of pulling in and pushing away. Last summer I had to pull Landry close. I knew she needed me, and then I had to ask for help because mine wasn’t enough.
And now it’s time to let go.
It’s time to launch.
She can do hard things.
We are watching and cheering her on.