Here I Am

This is going to be one of those stream-of-consciousness posts because I haven’t blogged in forever, I really feel the urge to write and create, but I have no idea what I want to say. So here I am, with some ALONE TIME at Starbucks, and I’m just going to write and see what comes out.

starbucks

Traditionally, this should have happened on my birthday. I usually run away on the anniversary of my birth so I can be alone and write, but this year my birthday landed on a Saturday and so my partner and I decided to take advantage and hire a babysitter (for the second time ever) to get away together and it was glorious. Seriously, the day was pretty close to perfect. A quick recap:

  • Woke up before the kids and went to yoga
  • Upon getting ready for yoga, found roses and VooDoo Donuts left out for me!!!
  • Came home from yoga, had coffee and donuts with the family
  • Got ready and gleefully left the kids with the babysitter
  • Got surprised (I knew we were going somewhere, just didn’t know where) with sushi in Portland, followed by a movie (Ladybird)
  • Yummy takeout for dinner
  • After putting the kids to bed, I watched the last episode of Handmaid’s Tale (!!!!) while soaking alone in my tub
  • The cherry on top? Anxiety did not get in the way of my enjoyment that day. Serious win for me.

So all of a sudden I’m 35.  (aaaaand made it to 15 years cancer free. Huzzah!)

I am pretty much where I thought I might be in life except that I didn’t plan on Oregon and I didn’t plan on staying home with the kids, but here I am.

I also didn’t plan on being a nervous wreck as a mom, now that I think about it.

I’ve been meaning to blog about my continued adventures with anxiety and my efforts to prevent it and treat it. About 4 weeks ago I went in for my medication evaluation and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I was already nervous, because 1) new experience, 2) driving to a new place, and 3) psych meds kinda freak me out.

First off, I didn’t like the Psych Nurse Practitioner much. She seemed dismissive, she lectured me, and she wasn’t all that sensitive or empathetic. Ugh.

She asked me to go over the history of my presenting issues, and I did so very briefly. She then started to problem solve at me: “Have you tried this? Or This?”

I bristled. I explained that I had a therapist, I’ve talked about my anxiety ad nauseum, that I’ve been dealing with this for an entire year, and that medication was my very last resort. Yes, I’ve tried everything. I could go on for hours about all the things I’ve tried. Now I’m here for meds.

I understand she needed to make sure I wasn’t just med-seeking, but I really didn’t feel like wasting time going over every little detail of my coping regimen, let alone with someone with whom I wasn’t really jiving.

After a lecture about how important sleep is (yes, honey, that’s why I’m here), she went over some med options and I was surprised when she recommended a beta blocker. Her logic was that since anxiety really is my primary issue, let’s make my autonomic nervous system calm the fuck down by lowering my blood pressure. She also chose this med because I mentioned having fairly frequent migraines and it’s supposed to prevent those. Ok, sounds good.

And then I started having anxiety about taking the damn meds.

I worried about how they’d make me feel. How bad were the side effects? Would I have to try something else? How long and arduous would this journey through the medication worm hole be?

Enough time has gone by, that I can confidently say…there are mixed results. I definitely feel a decrease in my daily anxiety. My quality of sleep has gone up.

But. I’ve been dizzy. Nauseated. I’ve had 4 migraines in 4 weeks, waaaay more than normal (W.T.F.). I’ve been so.COLD. And sometimes I just feel…off. Like my heart is beating too slow. I dunno.

At the moment the NP and I have agreed to try a half dose before moving on to something else. So far, that seems better, but not all the way better. Better enough? I don’t know. And don’t worry, my BP continues to be normal.

Trying another tactic, I’ve also made an appointment with a Naturopath to see about preventing my anxiety, headaches, fatigue, etc. I bet you all these things might – just might – be connected, since they all live inside my one body and all.

So I feel like I’m trying all the things.

What surprised me is that I seem to be having a hard time celebrating the small victories, or even recognizing them at all.  I was bitching to a friend about the side effects I was experiencing that I had completely forgotten that my anxiety had indeed significantly decreased until she asked me.

I had to think about it. “Yeah…it’s better. Huh.”

“That’s great!”

“Yeah, I guess it is.”

Ugh. What is this?! It just feels like I’m always fighting some battle. Something’s always in the way. My therapist reminded me that not all of my anxiety is going to evaporate. That some anxiety, some of the time, is normal.

Oh yeah.

Seriously, I forgot.

I’ve been trying hard to turn my negative thought processes around. I’ve been paying extra attention to those professional mom bloggers we see in our Facebook feeds that post stuff about giving ourselves a break and cutting out the mom-shaming bullshit. All of that is so much easier said than done, but I’m working on it.

One example that really spoke to me: we can be hot messes and be good moms. That they exist together. Because boy howdy, I feel like both. I can be both.

I fear this post has gone on too long. It’s meandering, but it’s where I am.

 

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Dramatic. Irrational. Crazy.

My last blog post turned out to be really cathartic to write. I expected that it would be, just not to the extent that it was.

I woke up the next morning and temporarily forgot about the post. Then I picked up my phone and saw the dozen or so alerts about it and went oh yeah.

As I laid there in bed before getting up for the day, I started to read the comments- some public, some private – and tears started streaming down my face. They were good tears. I cried several more times that day, and it was all good. It was like I had been carrying a weight around with me for months and I finally set it down, only I didn’t start to feel lighter until the morning after.

The weight isn’t completely gone, and I’m not sure it ever will be, because I’m human. But it sure feels better. I’ve had conversations and little how are yous and coffee dates with friends that I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t written that post. It broke the ice that was floating on top of my ocean of anxiety that wouldn’t have been broken otherwise.

I’m very glad I wrote it. And since it worked so well, I’m going to keep doing it. What did one of my friends say? (I went and found it.) She said, “Putting it out there seems to somehow take away a little of the power.” She’s right, it does. I’m taking the power back.

So, onto another aspect of my anxiety: health and mortality.

As many of you know, I had ovarian cancer at age 19. Initially, I was incorrectly diagnosed with IBS, because who thinks a 19-year-old with bloating and constipation has cancer? No one. I was in college and living on my own, cooking for myself for the first time (if you could call what I was doing “cooking”) and so it made sense. I was eating crap and full of stress! Not to worry.

But what happens when the worst diagnosis possible actually comes true? To be fair, it wasn’t the worst possible because my life was never threatened. However, the c-word is fucking scary, shocking, and not at all what was expected.

What resulted after surgery was several things: 1) depression because my life had been put on hold- I had had to take the semester off from college and move away from friends and back in with my parents, and 2) anxiety because I was given a recurrence rate of 30% (THIRTY. PERCENT.) where the only available treatment was more surgery.

Time passed. I had cancer checkups every three months with normal results. I volunteered, got a summer job, went back to school, moved out. My life resumed and I moved forward.

But.

The anxiety never really went away. For ten years, in the back of my mind I wondered, worried if I was going to be able to have kids. But I also worried every time I got sick.

Was it the flu? OR WAS IT PNEUMONIA?!

Was I just constipated? OR HAS MY CANCER COME BACK?!

Do I need glasses? OR DO I HAVE GLAUCOMA?!

Am I just anxious and hopped-up on coffee? OR DO I HAVE DANGEROUSLY HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE?

Am I having a panic attack? OR AM I DYING FROM A HEART ATTACK?!

All this may look super dramatic, but it’s my truth. (And anxiety is just that- DRAMATIC. Irrational. Crazy.) Of course you try not to expect the worst, and most times, it’s not the worst, but it happened to me. That one time, the worst actually happened and it has fucked me up ever since. If it happened once, who’s to say it won’t happen again?

The icing on the cake is that now that I’m a mom, this anxiety extends to my kids. I worry when they get sick. I have a hard time deciding when to freak out and when to be cool because my freak out meter is extremely warped.

Take this one step further and I worry about dying and leaving my kids. This isn’t always a conscious worry, but it’s more a general mortality fear that’s always at the back of my brain. This fear is normal. But what isn’t normal is when my anxiety takes it and runs a marathon with it.

Because I analyze everything to the point of exhaustion, I quickly realized that what led to my recent panic attack was a perfect storm of mortality triggers. Observe:

  1. Several weeks prior, a family member my age had a serious and shocking heart attack.
  2. I was reading Sheryl Sandberg’s book about her husband’s sudden, untimely death and how she was left to cope raising two young kids by herself (one of my worst nightmares).
  3. A few hours prior, I found out an old friend’s brother unexpectedly died.
  4. A few minutes prior, I was experiencing heartburn which my anxiety mistook as chest pains.

don’t panic!

Right then and there, I thought some of my worst fears were coming true, and it took me a minute to convince myself otherwise and calm the fuck down.

Writing this, unpacking it, and breaking it down really helps me. I need to understand this beast so I can kill it. (Or at least trap it and tame it?) This issue is next on the growing list of things I plan to tackle in therapy, but since therapy is only once a week, I figured I’d get a jump start.

Does anyone else out there feel this way about health/illness/motherhood/mortality?

Is anyone else out there fighting to keep their anxiety in check?

I see you [anxiety]. I see you and I’m onto you.

 

Reclaiming My 2017

2017 has been a tough year.

I feel like I’ve been saying that every year since…2013, which…sucks. It makes me feel bad. It worries me, along the lines of, Is this my life now? (meaning: life=tough)

I want to talk about my challenges here, partly so I can continue to process them, and also so I can let people know about what’s been going on in my internal world all this time. I’d like to be able to talk about the hard stuff with people I see in person on a regular basis, but having screaming kids running around is not the easiest way to begin the conversation.

I’ve always been a fairly anxious person. I’ve inherited it, I’ve found ways to cope with it, I’ve found ways to power through it, and I’ve accepted it as a part of my life (but not who I am).

But.

This year, I’ve been the most anxious (and occasionally depressed) I’ve ever been and it’s been largely unbearable.

As I look back through pictures that were taken of me over the past year, many of my smiles have been pasted on over massive amounts of anxiety, worry, and irritability. A general inability to calm the fuck down and enjoy any moment of what is happening in front of me.

The tulip festival. A Mother’s Day tea. Playdates. Storytimes. Trips to California.

I remember talking to a friend in early summer and telling her how I had experienced some depression after having my first kid, but that it started to get better after about six months (as did the weather). At that point, it was passed the six month mark (which I realize is totally arbitrary) after having my second kid, and I told her that my symptoms weren’t going away- they were getting worse. It worried me. Actually, it scared the hell outta me.

I remember coming home from a Mother’s Day tea, where my kids were just in the other room from me, being cared for by teenagers I had just met. I sat there rigid, sweating, mind racing. I ate and drank and made conversation and tried SO HARD to enjoy the kid-free time. But it was too much (what was it, I ask myself). I burst into uncontrollable sobs to my husband when I got home. It was all just too hard. Everything felt wrong.

I knew I needed to get back into therapy, but I felt so overwhelmed on a daily basis that I didn’t have the time or the energy to start looking for a therapist. I emailed one of my therapist friends who lives clear across the country late one night to confess to her exactly how much of a shit time I was having. She did an amazing thing and researched therapists in my area and sent me a list of three to check out. It was a godsend.

I started therapy in June, and it was slow-going at first. Of course, therapists make THE WORST clients and I imagine I’m no exception. I want therapy to work and I want it to work YESTERDAY. I overthink everything. I start critiquing her choice of decor and start mentally taking notes for when I eventually go back to work. Mainly, I just wanted to dive in and get to the hard stuff asap so I could feel some freaking relief.

Since then, my anxiety has ebbed and flowed. For a few weeks in September, right after my oldest started going to school for the first time, I thought I had this beat. And then it came back full force for no apparent reason and it’s interfering with my sleep, which has been devastating. For the longest time, I blamed it on the cat and her early morning howling. Everyone around me heard about it. Well, we worked around the cat issue, and wouldn’t you know, it’s not the damn cat. It’s just plain irrational, raging-fire-in-my-chest anxiety. How mortifying.

The straw that broke the camel’s back for me, at least recently, was that I had a panic attack. And it was in front of my kids. It scared me to death and I just can’t live like that. I won’t have my kids growing up being worried about their mom falling apart like that. What a horribly embarrassing and terrifying experience, as any of you who have had one surely knows.

I have held out this long against trying medication as an option, but after that, I swallowed what little pride I had left and called my health insurance and made an appointment for a med eval for January. I surrender.

I read some research that said if people are given some sort of escape button that promises a bad experience will immediately end if pushed, they are more likely and able to endure said experience. Case in point, I’ve had clients before who got anti-anxiety meds only to carry them around in their purses and never actually take them. Maybe an escape button is all I need? We’ll see…

I feel held captive by this monster, this thing. I’m desperately trying not to be in constant fear of it, nor constantly battling it. I’m exhausted. I don’t have time for this shit. What saddens me most – THE MOST – is the thought that I’m so incredibly preoccupied, terrified, irritable, utterly exhausted, that I’ll look back on my kids’ young lives and realize…I missed it.

Somehow, I must reclaim my life. (Ugh, that sounds so dramatic, written with tears rolling down my face.) Because this isn’t me, and this isn’t how I want to live. It’s not the mother I want to be, or the wife, or the friend, etc. This motherfucker is trying to rob me blind and I won’t let him. Kicking and screaming.

Me writing this, and putting this out there for people to read, is partly how I fight. Because anxiety wants me to stay silent. Anxiety wants me to shut myself in and cower in fear. Anxiety doesn’t want me to feel joy.

Well…fuck you.

The Last Day

Where did November go?!

First of all, let me say that November is a horrible month in which to do National Blog Posting Month, or NaBloPoMo. It’s busy, there’s travel going on, there’s family obligations, food comas, etc. I nominate changing it to…January. The holidays are over, it’s a fresh start to a new year, and it’s not my birthday month. But I digress.

I did the best I could this month. I felt particularly stretched thin, blogwise and otherwise. I’ve found that whenever I try to raise the quantity of blog posts I do, the quality of each post goes down considerably, and this month reflected that. So, I stretched the rules and reblogged several oldies that I am proud of, and I think those rounded out the month’s work quite well.

I wanted this NaBloPoMo to reignite my love of writing and my ability to express myself more eloquently. It got me thinking about future blog topics that I can write when I have more time (meaning, posts that I can compose over the course of a week in 15 minute increments while hiding in the bathroom). It helped awaken my creative side as I continue to figure out who my post(during?)-mommyhood self is going to be.

I’d like to thank everyone who read this month. I know posting once a day can get old pretty quick, so thanks to anyone who stopped by. A special thank you to anyone who left comments, because it’s nice to know that my words aren’t just going out into the void.

I’d love some feedback. What posts from this month did you like? What topics would you like to see more of? Any new topics you’d like me to tackle?

In closing, my daughter just starting pulling herself to a standing position yesterday and I’m thrilled because she’s amazing. She plans to apply early admission to Cal next week.


NaBloPoMo Day 30, Last Day

 

Contributions and Gratitude

I’m reading Sheryl Sandberg’s book Option B, and in it she talks about how recognizing your contributions to the world helps to build confidence and a sense of agency. She urges people to recognize this in addition to things we are grateful for. Yes, gratitude is important for cultivating happiness and joy, but she argues (and claims the research shows) that because gratitude is passive, it only goes so far. Meaning, gratitude practices acknowledge things you receive, while recognizing and celebrating one’s contributions to the world is more active – it’s something I’ve done to make the world a better place.

And so, I thought I’d give it a try. Here are a few contributions of which I am most proud.

  • Everyday, I am raising my children to be kind, compassionate people. I try to show them with my words and also lead by example.
  • I try to do small kind things for people around me, both friends and strangers.
  • I blog. I put my feelings out there into the world, in hopes that maybe someone will read them and feel less alone.
  • In my previous life (and I will again in my next life) I devoted my career to creating a safe space where clients could come to vent, heal, and be heard. I served as a crucial witness and container for suffering.
  • I keep my household running pretty damn well.
  • In spite of it all, I actually manage to take care of myself, too.

As another year comes to a close, I am also extremely thankful for the following:

  • My health, my husband’s health, my kids’ health.
  • We have enough. Of everything. Food, housing, transportation, money, clothes. In a world that is hell-bent on telling us we need more, more, more – and the flip side of that is that we never have enough – I want to remind myself that we DO, in fact, have enough.
  • Choice. I am privileged, and I have choices in my life. Living under a presidential administration that is working to take choices of all kinds away from citizens makes me realize just how precious and important it is.
  • Freedom of speech. We still have the right to say what we want and fight injustice in this world, and for that I am thankful and do not plan to take it for granted.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I hope your day is filled with contentment, joy, and stuffing.

Reminders

Here is a post that took courage for me to write and post almost four years ago. I still think about it when going through bouts of depression from time to time.
(Please excuse the first attempt to reblog this today; my phone was not cooperating with me.)
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NaBloPoMo Day 21

Psychobabble

I wrote the following post several weeks ago, shortly after moving to the Portland area.  I hesitated in posting it, mainly because of the reaction I was afraid it might get.  But after reading Charlotte’s brave post on her blog Momaste about her own depression, I figured I should go ahead and post, too, regardless of what others thought.

———————————————————————————–

It’s time to get up, Melissa.

…..what?

You need to get up now.

Not yet.  I don’t think I can.

Take off the covers, swing your legs over the side of the bed and sit up.

…O-Okay.

Now take some deep breaths.  One thing at a time.

I am doing my best to listen to the voice inside my head.  The good voice.  That voice who can see the other side.  That therapist voice who always knows that things are going to be ok, even when I seriously doubt it.

View original post 394 more words

Snacks on a Plane

17packing

 

We’re going home to California for the week of Thanksgiving and I’m all excited to BE there, but I am not at all excited to GET there.

Here’s how it’s gonna play out. I pack and worry and scream to try and make everyone be on time. Then I’ll worry some more about what we forgot and being on time. Dylan will break down in the security line and go to his dark place where he goes limp on the floor. Audrey will thrash so hard in the Ergo that she’ll ram her head on my sternum and make several bruises. And that’s all before we get on the plane.

On the plane there will be more thrashing and seat kicking and trying to reach buttons and wanting to crawl down the aisle. And the kids will act up too. (See what I did there? I’ll be here all week.)

Once we touch down in the land of milk and honey, we’ll be greeted by loving, rested grandparents ready to whisk our children away for stimulating play and healthy snacks while Brian and I fall asleep pass out for 5 days. Then we’ll wake up and eat turkey and mashed potatoes and go comatose for another 3.

Too soon it will be time to get on another plane and head back to Waterworld Oregon, where hopefully our cat hasn’t resentfully pooped on our pillows and vomited in our shoes. All the dirty laundry will steep in a small, smelly mountain in the hallway where I hope it will get so rank it’ll one day grow legs and walk itself into the washing machine.

I’ve decided that I’d actually like to enjoy our trip, so I plan to re-blog some of my favorite old posts while I’m gone, especially since I have some new readers and I’d like to share some pieces of which I’m rather proud.

Stay tuned, dear Psychos.


NaBloPoMo Day 16

My mood swings have mood swings

I got nothin today, folks. Not a real post, at least. (I often start out a post saying this, and then end up writing a post. This is now a post.)

Sometimes (most of the time) I feel like my husband and I are just scrambling to try and keep this household and our family running somewhat smoothly. We are stretched, our energy is so limited, and if something goes wrong – speaking for myself – I get overwhelmed very, very quickly. Today was one of those days where shit went wrong, but, miraculously, quality good times were also had. No wonder I feel like I have mood swings. My mood swings have mood swings.

The lows:

  • The weather suuuuucked today. Non-stop rain made me want to stay in bed.
  • Our furnace broke today, so our house is effing cold. I can’t stand being cold.
  • I want to strangle my cat, or at least forcibly remove her vocal chords. She wakes me up, wakes our kids up, and anyone who disturbs my sleep who is not one of my kids is DEAD TO ME.

The highs:

  • Met a friend for breakfast and found THREE friends waiting for me at breakfast. It was a very lovely time out.
  • Snotty wet kisses from mah babes.
  • The boyman coming home from work in the middle of the day to troubleshoot the furnace issue.
  • Laughed til I peed borrowed diet coke about bible references and street names for drugs. (You had to be there.) We got matching shirts, we’re gonna study, and we’ll be back next time to kick ass and take names, PDX Trivia! Should my callsign be Turnip or Scalene?

Tomorrow is a new day, with its own highs and lows.


NaBloPoMo Day 15

Happy Blogiversary to Me

I don’t know what to write today.

Usually when that happens, I write a poem. I scrape together some stream of consciousness and parse it into lines of prose.

WordPress reminded me that today is my blogiversary. I’ve been blogging since 2011. Six whole years. That’s nuts.

I am a very different person now than I was then. That was before I became a licensed therapist. Before getting engaged, promoted to running the therapy department at my old job, married, quit job, moved, pregnant, house, baby, then one more baby. I wonder if all that is reflected in my writing? It’s hard for me to tell.

But I’m still here and I’m still me.

I’m proud that I’ve kept this up for so long, and through everything that’s happened. It’s sad that the vast majority of the little blogging community I was a part of when I first started has disappeared. I miss them. I miss reading other blogs and getting comments and feedback from them. I felt like I knew them. I wish them well, wherever they are and whatever they’re doing. I wonder how long the average blogger lasts?

Here’s a pic of yours truly from 2013, in California, post licensure, promotion, and engagement, but pre-wedding and everything else. I was reminded of this pic when I wrote my poem from yesterday (except it’s totally not raining, I know, but the way I felt was the same), but in my haste to post I forgot to search for the picture to accompany. Enjoy.

IMG_0780

aaaaand now it took me so long to find the picture on my computer that it’s after midnight so I technically missed posting for Day 11. FML.


NaBloPoMo Day 11 because I say so, dammit.

Naming my Gremlins

So there’s this weird thing.

I want people to read my blog. I like the attention and the likes and the comments (not gonna lie, dopamine is one hell of a ‘drug’). And I just started sharing this blog with mom friends and locals that I actually see in real life. And I think they might actually read this.  Which is awesome, right?!  I appreciate the support and it’s a rush and I want to work on my writing, create some space for me, and express my feelings.

But.

I’m worried I’ll be judged. Ripped apart. Either in comments, or worse, silently and behind my back.

It’s the feeling where I put myself out there by writing something emotional and hard and true…and then immediately after hitting the ‘publish’ button, I want to take it back.  Because people are going to see whiny and weak and selfish instead.

I know what this feeling is called. It’s called vulnerability. And I’ve come to know that when I feel this feeling, I’m taking a risk. Putting myself out there. Which means I open myself up…to the bad AND the good.

What if people actually like my writing? What if they see courage and authenticity? What if some publisher wants to give me a million dollar advance on a book deal and a free nanny for a year?!?! (One can dream…)

So I’m going to take Brene Brown’s advice and name the gremlins* (like I did above). And then I’m gonna keep writing and keep posting, and tell those gremlins to go fuck themselves.

Because as long as I am writing what’s true and productive and respectful, then I am writing for me and no one else.

And I (and my writing) are enough. (I think I need to type that a few more times before I believe it fully.)

I am enough.

I am enough.

I am enough.

I am enough.

I am enough.

I am enough.

I am enough.

I am enough.

I am enough.


*gremlins are the word Ms. Brown uses to describe the shame voices that tell you you’re unworthy of love and connection.

NaBloPoMo Day 9