Anxiety….Honestly!!


Go to fullsize imageI was talking with someone the other day and they happened to mention that I was always just a layed back calm person.   I laughed inside but just smiled and said, “If you only knew…”

What many people don’t know is that I struggle daily with anxiety.  We are not just talking about being a Type A personality that gets out of sorts if things are not just so.  It’s beyond “out of sorts”.  My anxiety at times is ridiculous.  I know it’s ridiculous.  Tomas knows it’s ridiculous.  Our joke is “if there is nothing to worry about, that is a worry for Stacey”.  But we both know that it’s something that I can not stop on my own most of the time.  I can deal with it and have learned many coping mechanisms but it’s still there lurking under the surface.  When I get tired and when I feel a lot of stress are the usual triggers for full blown irrational anxiety.  If I see these factors heading my way, I can usually head off this little beast of burden at the pass. 

There are times though where unexpectedly, the anxiety becomes panic and the panic becomes physical.  I was so empowered to read Summer’s post about her panic attacks.  I believe in stength in numbers and also understanding.  I understand what she must go through during those times because I have been there.  Yet, I feel so misunderstood by people when I try to explain what happens during a panic attack or what true anxiety is like.  It’s hard to know if you have never been there.  It’s hard to understand if you can never get passed the “well, why don’t you just do this” type of thinking.  So, I continue to try and support those who are willing to share their stories to help others understand.  Which in turn only brings hope to those who suffer from any anxiety/panic/mood disorder.

Here’s my story to help others understand what it’s like…the panic attack, my way.

If you look at Summer’s post she has the list of symptoms that often accompany a panic attack.  My attacks include all of them when they are bad which I can’t even count the number of these anymore.  I have run out of restaurants, theaters, malls, churches, friends homes, left vacations and have holed up in my own bathroom because of them.  I have suffered a long time from this, so believe me when I say, I have been everywhere and done many crazy things due to panic.  Once it starts, hold on tight because it’s a wild ride until it comes to a stop.  It starts with a feeling of stress like I said before, then I get “a catch” in my breathing often it is so subtle that I don’t even notice it until my throat starts to feel a little swollen and I have to think about swallowing right so I don’t choke.  Than I start to worry about other people noticing what is going on, I never worry about what is happening to myself at this point.  I just don’t want to bother other people with this so I become more stressed and anxious.  Then I usually start to have numbness in my lips and my left pinky and ring fingers.  Often the whole left side of my body tingles and I always start to sweat and shake.  I will secretly start pinching my side by my rib cage very hard to keep my mind focused on the here and now because I begin to feel “out of body”.  I have bruised from this.  You may have guessed that by this time, if I am in a public place, I am looking for an out.  A bathroom, some fresh air, something…so other’s won’t see what’s coming next.  If I can be alone, I have a chance of shutting it down before it continues.  If not we buckle up and get ready for a wicked ride.

All symptoms intensify, I feel like I am suffocating even though I scientifically know that it won’t happen.  I want to run away from whereever I am.  I absolutely do not want to go crazy or lose it in front of ANYONE.  Not even my hubby of 10 years.  I want to throw up.  Sometimes I do.  Sometimes my intestines join the fun.  I am shaking somewhat violently.  Kind of like if you have ever gotten the shakes from an epidural during childbirth.  No matter how hard you try…you can’t stop it.  I cry out of frustration and a feeling of personal weakness.  I feel like a failure because I couldn’t stop it.  I feel bad because I have missed out on activities that should have been fun or normal.  I slowly begin to come back.  Most times, I have no control as to when or why it stops.  The breathing slows. I stop shaking.  I cool down and am utterly exhausted whether it’s been 5 minutes or 2 hours.  Than I sleep and when I awake, I feel guilty for having to impact my families lives with this.  The cycle may or may not continue into another attack or endless tears.

You almost feel like you are an addict on the road to recovery.  You get it under control for a while.  You feel great, you feel like you have it beat and then one day you wake up and your body has fallen off the wagon without your permission.  Back to square one.  Ironically, being an experienced panic attacker helps.  You know the drill.  You can manage it.  You find where to get help. 

What helps most is this (for me anyway): feeling understood, feeling supported and loved unconditionally, feeling like you won’t be judged as crazy for the rest of your life.  If you were fighting a more visible illness or disease, like cancer, no one would question your intellect or mental powers. No one would expect you just to “snap out of it”.  Like any other disease it takes work, it takes time, and it takes love.

One of my most hopeful moments this past week came from watching Winnie the Pooh.  The new one with Darby.  Yes, I have seen these shows a million times because Zack and Anson cannot get enough of Tigger.  I don’t really know what led to this statement but Darby says to Tigger, “Tigger, someone can’t change their feelings just because you tell them to.  It doesn’t work like that.”  I thought while smiling to myself, “Someone understands.  Someone really understands.”  And I began to feel better.  Granted it was a cartoon character that “slaps her cap” every 5 minutes, but she really understood and that made all the difference.

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new years eveAlright, I have to say that New Year’s Eve is my nemesis.  I am not a fan.  I have problems with looking back on the past year (not just this year in particular, but any year).  It is always so bittersweet and I tend to keep analyzing and overthinking what I coulda’, woulda’ or shoulda’ done.  This usually results in me sitting on the floor watching a stupid New Years Eve countdown show while sobbing and wiping away endless tears.  Just a little bit of anxiety/control freak coming out every year.  My dear hubby, Tomas, even has the beginning of this lovely display timed to start between 7pm and 7:30pm EST.  New Years is a lovely time.

This year, we had Tomas’s siblings and their spouses come over for food, drinks, and games.  It was a great time and we continue to embarrass and learn about each other through these times of slightly drunken conversation.  And wouldn’t you know it, 7:30pm EST came and went.  Without tears and without a meltdown.  Maybe it was because I was distracted by the good coversation or because my Rx meds were increased due to some post partum issues this past year.  Mix those babies with a glass of wine and you really chill out fast.  (I admit that sounds really bad but it’s true).  When that ball dropped at midnight, I thought that I had beaten the odds.  Not a tear had fallen on my watch.  Not even a very sweet call from friends celebrating out of state to check on me, swayed my tear ducts into putting out a little drop.

I went to bed at 2:30a happy and healthy.  I had done it.  I had killed the beast of burden once and for all.  Victory was mine for the taking.  Then in a moment of Heineken induced stupidity, Tomas asked “So what were the highlights and lowlights for you in 2007?”  Yeah, not too brilliant.  I suppose it was bound to happen.  I began to review.  I began to second guess.  What did I do this past year that made a difference?  What have I contributed to this world?  Did I keep ANY of last year’s resolutions?  If I died today, what would people say at my funeral?  Would anyone show up?  These questions rolled around my head as I recapped the past year.  Hmmmm…..I couldn’t come up with anything earth shattering besides squeezing a life from my body for the third time   But I quickly discarded that as a momentous undertaking because I rationalized that even sixteen year olds on crack manage to do that somewhat successfully.  My eyes began to feel really moist.  I got a little catch in my throat.  I stopped talking and started crying as Tomas drifted off into his beer marinaded mind.  Stupid, Stupid beer!

Today I am still in my severe funk.  I am lethargic and moody.  I have about 20 million goals for this next year. One of which is to not let New Years beat me again.  I am resolving to have no resolutions or expectations for 2008.  I can hardly keep up with my daily life of being mother to 3 little toddlers, a wife, and friend to anyone, much less some stupid resolution that I make in a fit of anxiety and depression.   Resolutions are my devil.  I am going to try and navigate this year without a map and see where it takes me.  It might take me straight to Crazy Town but hopefully I will be laughing uncontrollably instead of crying at the start of 2009.  I might be in a pretty white coat with cute metallic strappies and laughing but at least I won’t be crying.  I will just have to remember,  if I can utter a sound it must mean that I am still alive and that should be noteworthy enough.

Go to fullsize imageWell my friends, it’s been a wild and interesting week.  I took a few days off from blogging to regain some perspective and instead ended up in a PPD tailspin.  My break from the general outside world started pretty well.  I slept a little more, relaxed a little more, watched a couple movies with the hubby at night, and in general took it easy.  Sounds great right? 

Well, after day 1, Tomas gets called to go out of town to work on some project for a couple days.  So much for reconnecting with the spouse.  The kids were cranky and Gret was not sleeping well in her bassinet (she has really taken to this cosleeping arrangement.  Go figure 🙂 ).  So much for quiet time.  And my work prospect for the wintertime crashed into a million pieces.  So much for “me and my goals” time.  As you can see, it didn’t end up being the best time to look inside and come to terms with my inner self.  I couldn’t even handle my outer self (There was a 3 day span of no shower.  I know, gross!).  By the time Tomas was home from his work trip, I was spent.  Done.  Finished.  Out of my mind, stressed and depressed. 

He came home and I went to bed.  No, not in the fun way.  In the sleepy, can’t move way.  I slept from 6pm until 6am the next day.  Straight through with only a couple breastfeedings to wake me for a few minutes.  I woke up still tired.  Still down but at least not so stressed.  I think Tomas spent his time alone wondering what the heck happened while he was gone!  The long rest was wonderful, but the following night I ended up sitting awake all night while my mind raced and I tried to plan something for the future.  I just wanted something I could plan on!  Anything at all would be nice… 

It’s times like these that I wonder how I will ever keep myself together.  Keep my life together.  Who signed my up for this insane adventure? I tend to have a controlling side and I have been learning through motherhood that life is beyond our control.  This is my unending battle inside.  I want to follow a particular plan for life and nobody else seems to know about it.  Repeatedly, I run into detours and obstacles that I am forced to deal with.  I get frustrated and angry.  The question “What about me?  What about what I want to do?” comes into my head incessantly frequently and then I feel guilty for being such a selfish beast.  Is this the endless mom cycle?  I need it to stop because it’s driving me crazy!  No, I won’t go crazy.  Don’t worry about my children or husband, they are safe.  I just have to continue my little battle inside and come to terms with the fact that every day is a new adventure and it probably wasn’t the adventure I signed up for.  Hopefully, it will at least make for great writing.  If I can ever find enough time to write it all down!

for-sale.jpgSome of you may be wondering where the heck I have been.  Almost 3 days of no blogging.  I almost feel guilty.  I would like to say that I have been somewhere glamorous or sexy, but I have just been at home following our new obsession.  Tomas and I have been discussing moving on and off for a while.  All of a sudden we start to talk seriously about it.  Yikes, scary but exciting at the same time.  Granted we are not going to move very far (just to a different school district) but the decisions are endless.  Needless to say, we have been driving around looking at neighborhoods, obsessing over listings on the net, trying to decrease our clutter, and being generally impulsive about this.  Our realtor is coming Tuesday morning to evaluate our house and give us a price.  That’s when we will really decide what to do in this poor housing market. Oooh yes, we even went to open houses today.  That’s our style…all or nothing.

All this talk threw me for a whirl and the good old IBS acted up.  I should know by now that stress and stress eating (i.e. junk food) always make my intestines spazzy.  When will I learn!!  So it’s Sunday night, I’m out of the bathroom, I have checked the online listing of our favorite future house for the 50th time, and I am ready to blog again. 

Try to keep up!  I have a lot of greening news to send out!!

Go to fullsize imageSome readers may not know of my struggle with anxiety, perfection, and success.  Since Middle School, I have received treatment for all the symptoms that come with being too hard on yourself for too long.  On a regular basis I deal with hot flashes, dizziness, nausea, and random limb numbness.  It strikes when I least expect it.  It makes my anxiety worse just thinking about that.  What if I am out and I drop on the floor because the numbness has become so intense that I can’t move my arms, legs and lips??  What will my children think of me?  Will they remember me like this?

When I first went to a prefessional for this, I was 13.  My parents told me not to tell anyone that I had to see a psychologist.  My sister called me a head case and crazy.  We drove 1 hour north of our town to see a psychologist because they didn’t want people to know that their daughter was broken.  My grandmother, the sweetest, most loving person I knew and who I called everyday to talk to, couldn’t even know.  Something must be really wrong with me, I thought.  I felt different and isolated living along side people who loved me but couldn’t know how I was struggling. 

I grew up in the ebb and flow of anxiety and anxiety related symptoms.  I have hidden it well.  I overcompensate by “doing it all”.  I surround myself with people but I still feel alone.  The “don’t ask, don’t tell” mentality of my parents is still with me to an extent.  It’s reinforced by the fact that when you tell your “friends” that something is going on, that you are not fine, they pull away.  Who wants to hear about your seemingly unreal anxiety?  What a downer!!  I have struggled to fight this mentality.  To fight the idea that I am broken and alone.

That’s why I am so encouraged to read posts by other mom’s such as Rock’s in My Dryer’s “Wilderness”.  Women push themselves too hard, isolate themselves by silence and expect more of themselves than they should.  The tide of anxiety has come into my life again, but this time I have pledged to myself to not be ashamed.  I am not broken or alone.  I am real and unapologetic.  Thank you to all the other women who have shared their struggles with me.  The more I talk/listen to other strong women about this, the more normal I feel!  The power of connecting is amazing!!