I ran into the grocery store before heading home to my kids, I had just returned on an overnight flight and was going to grab premade food for our dinner. I laughed when I saw my best friend in the produce section, but stopped when her stone face greeted me,
“you don’t know, do you? The first Coronavirus death in the U.S. was reported here today.”
This friend knows my PTSD and anxiety issues, even though we are both mental health therapists, as mothers of young children we have to work through our own fears with threats of sickness, diseases and death. I try to be calm, I walk through the store to see the Tylenol and Ibuprofen are sold out, hand sanitizer is all gone, and the clorox is even depleted. Keep calm, I coach myself. Back home, I greet my kids, who are oblivious to the situation at hand. I call my 93 year-old Mema, to which she reminds me, as she has done through so many crises. “Christy, don’t fear, I have lived through eight “end of the world” situations”. I feel calm when I hang up the phone. My mother calls, and her panic greets me before I hear her voice. She is so nervous and demands I stockpile my house. When I finish the conversation, I have to replay my grandmother’s words to soothe my frazzled amygdala.
So often in times of fear, I am looking for women and mothers of old, wise sages who can teach me how to remain rooted.
Grandmothers, mothers, daughters, and grand-daughters all hold within their stories the same secret, the gift to create life. This gift is not limited to physical babies, but even more the experience and feeling of life. Because of this incredible responsibility, women also often battle anxiety. Over 176 million women have been diagnosed with Anxiety Disorder worldwide and are twice as likely to be anxious than men (WHO, 2017). Evil is not negligent, it knows a woman’s birthright is the life-giving creativity. Evil therefore knows to take a woman out, it simply has to make her busy or anxious. I know that anxiety is simply stuck energy in need of an outlet. Women everywhere are overworked, busy and exhausted due to the duties of a domesticated life. It is when we listen to the anxiety’s energy we hear an invitation to what we are most afraid of facing – stepping into our wild. Our wilderness could be many things: singleness, infertility, death, marriage, or abandonment. We are afraid of the wilderness, the journey to the red tent which is outside the safety of an encampment.
Mere weeks ago, before our minds had any association with words such as quarantine, lock down, social distancing, mask and gloves, our brain did not have to process what the cost is to hug or visit a friend. Now we are trauma-bonded as a society, connected by the dissonance we experienced with fear and isolation. As a therapist I know the route to tame the inflamed fight or flight response, it is the soothing work of regulation. This is taught by a mother, who nurses her child and helps them wean when ready. In these times of uncertainty, when we need to regulate, women in particular must mother their inner fears. Due to complex relationships with our mothers, women are sometimes unkind to their inner child and must relearn to mother themselves kindly. This is how I come to mother myself. I stand in the mirror and remind myself – I am human, my breath was given without my doing, My birthright is that I am female, made in the likeness of Adonia, as a co-creator with God. I was created to create life, and my anxiety is an indicator that my body needs to create. So, in the midst of unexpected shifts, I will create a prayer, that you might pray it too in your anxiety. With my hand on my chest, I breathe deep and say these words:
“Creator of life, we as women, made in Your image, accept the honor of co-creating life with You. Please give us strength as You guide us into the wilderness of our femininity. We trust You, the One who gives us life everlasting. Selah.”
Christy Bauman, LMHC is committed to helping women come into their true voice. She offers meaning-making and storywork consulting. She is the author and producer of three works: Theology of the Womb, A Brave Lament, and Documentary: A Brave Lament. She is a psychotherapist, supervisor, adjunct professor who focuses on the female body, sexuality and theology. Christy co-director of Christian Counseling Center for Sexual Health and Trauma with her husband Andrew – they live in Seattle with their three kids: Wilder, Selah and River.
Thank you, Christy. I found your prayer/breath practice very helpful.
I also loved these words “In these times of uncertainty, when we need to regulate, women in particular must mother their inner fears. Due to complex relationships with our mothers, women are sometimes unkind to their inner child and must relearn to mother themselves kindly.”
Thank you for the kind and gentle reminder.