Yesterday I was surprised by an enormous hornet’s nest. More than surprised really, it literally stopped me in my tracks.

You see I walk this route fairly regularly. I’ve walked past this tree dozens of times but I’ve never noticed the hornet’s nest. Probably, because until very recently, the tree was covered in leaves.

As I stood there, struck by how I could have missed something so big, a thought hit me: it’s just like my anxiety.

Many people might not even know I have anxiety. Heck, I didn’t even realize it until I was in my 30s, because it was covered by leaves. Leaves of busyness to drown out the buzzing, crossing items of my to-do list in an effort to calm the hive, striving for perfection, putting on a mask, hiding my authentic self, presenting myself as a person who had it all together, all while feeling like a fraud inside. Underneath it all the nest was growing, the buzzing getting louder.

From the outside, things looked pretty good. Friends thought I had my act together. Some even called me supermom. You think that would feel like a compliment, but it made me feel like a fraud. They had no idea how much I was struggling. After a while, life got too intense, too chaotic, too unpredictable. I couldn’t control it anymore. I couldn’t keep up the facade.

My leaves started dying. At first it felt awful. I tried to hold onto my dying leaves, to keep them from falling and swirling around me. But as they began to fall, I felt more free than I had in a long time. I began to trade in control for this new sense of letting go. I let go of perfectionism. I let go of busyness, I let go of masking my struggles. Over time, all the leaves fell.

And this is what I was left with: a giant hornet’s nest of anxiety. At first I felt exposed and ashamed. But this bareness, this vulnerability—these are what revealed the nest. Without letting my true self be exposed, I would never have seen the nest, this twisted bramble of anxiety. Vulnerability was the path to cutting it out. Over time and with help, I snipped the branch that held the nest. The freedom of that was intoxicating.

New leaves are growing. Fresh green buds of being gentle with myself, lowering my expectations and my standards, being authentic and sharing my struggles with others, finding white space in my calendar instead of filling it with busyness.

I don’t think the hornets will ever be gone for good. But now I know they’re around and I know what they’re up to. They latch on to me and I can hear them buzzing and feel them building, but I know how to knock them down. I’ll never let the nest get that big again.

Originally published on the author’s blog

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Anne Metz

Anne Metz works part time as a freelance writer and spends the other part getting kids off the bus, breaking up fights, doing laundry, cooking, and cleaning up after her son and triplet daughters. For fun she enjoys whistling loudly and just slightly off key and eating meals that other people prepare for her. She is passionate about sharing her struggles with mothering to let other moms know they aren't alone in this journey. You can find more of her work on her blog: www.onceuponamom.net