I didn’t know the name of it for a long time. I knew it afflicted my mother. I knew it likely afflicted most of that side of the family. Most of them covered it with all sorts of vices: smoking, drinking, eating, hoarding, obsessive fear. Some of those vices killed them. The rest cling to whatever coping mechanism they’ve found works best, ignoring whether experts say it is healthy. I saw the generation before me and saw a cautionary tale of what vortexing would do to you. Because that’s what the cousins called it when the crazy was strong: The Vortex. We’d joke that we’d have to stand back-to-back to defend against the Sisters Three during The Vortex. The Vortex defied logic and it was terribly destructive.

Crazy isn’t the PC term for it. I inherited crazy, but I’ve learned that now it is called anxiety.

Becoming an adult and becoming a mother have uncovered a lot of that anxiety within me. It is hard to pinpoint exactly what the trigger is, but it unleashes manic energy that subsides into the Dark Place. I used to think it was bipolar because of the swings. But the Dark Place isn’t as consuming for me as it is for others. Instead the Dark Place is more of the period of rest after getting all worked up over something.

This quarantine is the first time in my adult life that I’ve found relief.

I feel like I’ve broken free of all the expectations placed upon me. Not having that need to please has allowed me to breathe more deeply. I’ve been reading a book for pleasure for the first time since the kids were born. For the first time in nearly 11 years, I have the ability to simply sit and read. It is the first time I haven’t had that nagging voice in my head telling me all the places we are supposed to be or all the tasks I’m supposed to be accomplishing. I don’t have to make myself presentable to the public and talk to anyone other than those I choose to talk with. I’m finding time for the things I enjoy. I sew. I bake. I paint. I garden. I write. The kids are learning to entertain themselves.

I don’t know what re-entry looks like for our family. I know our calendars will quickly refill with all the social obligations and outings. I know Hubs will go back to the rat race that forces him to battle traffic each morning and evening and prevents him from grabbing a homemade lunch and an afternoon walk. But I’m already looking for how I can hold on to this feeling of relief once real life restarts.

Maybe it took being forced to say “no” to everything to realize that I can say “no” to quite a bit more than I considered before. All I know is I’ve tasted relief and I don’t want to lose it.