For a while, before adopting my daughters, I had frequent bouts of anxiety. Somewhere between panic attacks and constant, general worry. My journals during that time filled with attempts to identify the worry and take some control over its affect on my mind and body. I come from a maternal line of worriers and, having managed to run through my first three decades of life with a degree of carefreeness, I seemed to embrace the family tradition (which, at least for empathy sake, was a bit of a blessing).
My anxiety dissipated the day our adoption agency called us with news of Monica and Kelly.
Which, when I thought about it, was weird. I had an inkling of challenges and trials Renee and I were about to enter. Raising older children with PTSD wasn’t going to be a walk in the park (it hasn’t). But nonetheless, a load of anxiety and stress disappeared.
Which brings me to this excellent Atlantic article titled “The Contagion of Uncertainty.”
A key quote:
…negative information gets crises rolling, but lack of information creates free-fall panic.
Why? What behavioral economists observe they can’t always explain, but their best guess goes something like this: Humans have the capacity to absorb loss. They also have the ability to process risk. Risk is measurable uncertainty. What they can’t process is ambiguity; that is, unmeasurable uncertainty.The Atlantic
Before our match with our daughters, I lived in an ambiguous future of family outcomes. Once the ambiguity disappeared, I felt more in control. And the anxiety melted away.
Right now, I am living in a world of uncertainty along with the rest of the planet. How many people will be infected? How many will die? Will it be my loved ones (they’ll be someone’s loved ones)? Will my children learn any academics in the next 5 months? Will the economy function? What will happen to my company? Will America be able to get its act together? And on and on.
My anxiety is not on par with what I experienced before becoming a father. But it’s there. This time I can recognize the source. It’s the uncertainty.
And, with time, that uncertainty becomes certain.
Header Image: An old photo of me with the girls in Colombia. I can’t remember the context, but I suspect I was parenting an argument.