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.

 

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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.

50 Happy Things 2016: Bloggers Flood the Internet With Gratitude

My fellow blogger friend, Dawn, did this gratitude post last year and it was awesome, so I am joining in again this year.  Read my list and then see below for how to join in!

50 Things I am Grateful For, and/or Made Me Happy in 2016

  1. My son
  2. My husband
  3. My house – making it feel more like a home
  4. Potty training my son – no small feat
  5. Getting pregnant and all the anticipation that comes with that
  6. My health
  7. My family’s health
  8. My ability to practice self care
  9. Reading to my son, both with and without my husband
  10. Watching my son grow and learn with amazement and pride
  11. Hillary Clinton
  12. The hope that Hillary’s campaign brought to my life
  13. Last Week Tonight – you know, John Oliver’s show
  14. Discovered The Newsroom – makes me wish that show was real
  15. The local moms I have met and gotten to know.  They are so kind and willing to help me out.  Giving me baby things and watching my son for free – it’s amazing and I am so thankful.
  16. My OB.  I found a new one and she’s funny and smart and no-nonsense.
  17. My Portland friend who listens and helps without blinking an eye.  Thank you.
  18. Blogging and writing.  I hope to do more of it…someday.
  19. Sleep.  I’m on the verge of not getting much anymore, and so I cherish it now.
  20. The new bed we bought this year.  Seriously.
  21. Trips into Portland for good food.
  22. Trips to California to see our families.
  23. My family of origin, who visit and help out and love me and my son.
  24. Thankful that I am ready for baby to come, and also ready for Christmas.  The feeling brings peace when her arrival is so unpredictable.
  25. The look on my kid’s face when he’s discovering something new, exciting, enchanting, or delicious.
  26. Singing, and music.
  27. Really good books.  Like Amy Schumer’s book, which I just finished.
  28. Alan Rickman.
  29. Harry Potter.  I can’t wait to share these stories with my kids!
  30. Robin Williams.  I still end up quoting him almost once a day.
  31. Laughter.  Especially the shared kind.
  32. Baking. (and eating what I bake)  I don’t do it nearly enough.
  33. A really neatly wrapped present.

…aaaaaaand the timer just went off, so here I stop.

UPDATE:  So I totally thought of a few more things after I originally posted this, so I am adding them here:

34. Yoga.  It centers me, it calms me, it makes me feel strong.

35. Barack Obama.  I am REALLY going to miss that guy.

36. Michelle Obama.  She is a class act and an amazing role model and source of hope.  When they go low, she goes high.

37. The snow, when it insulates the world and makes everything magically QUIET.

38.  The pouring rain, when I am inside and warm and cozy in bed.

39.  Summer.  My god, summer.

———————-

Want to do this too?!  GREAT!  Here’s how:

  1. Set a timer for 15 minutes
  2. Just write as many things as you can, even if you go over or stay under the 50
  3. Then add links, photos, whatever, after the timed part is over
  4. Publish it, and link back to Dawn’s post or mine (or both) and if you wanna be included in the InLinkz, see instructions on Dawn’s post.

I’m definitely not done with 2016 yet, but so far, it’s been real.

Bloggers for Movember: Cancer Sucks

Sometimes I feel like cancer is everywhere.

Well, when it happens to your dad, it really is everywhere.

My dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer about 1.5 years ago, and it was a huge emotional blow.

It brought up my own crap around my own cancer experience, but it mostly reminded me of human mortality and that my dad wouldn’t be around forever.  It was uncomfortable.  It was scary.  It was painful.  It was overwhelming.

I am thankful for several things around this experience with my dad.  I am thankful that he got treatment right away.  He listened to his body and he knew there was something wrong, and so he went and got checked out.  Thank crazygoodness that he did.  My dad got the treatment that he needed, and to this day, he’s still cancer free and healthy as a horse again.

I am thankful that my dad was able to talk about his experience.  I think my family was put to the test when I got cancer almost 10 years ago now, and my dad and I were actually able to bond over our similar medical experiences.  My dad also told his friends and coworkers about his cancer, and you know what happened?  Because my dad had the balls to open up and talk about what he was going through, he found out that he wasn’t alone.  Not by a longshot.  He found out that some of his friends had also had prostate cancer, and friends of friends, and fathers of friends, brothers of friends.  They were able to trade stories, give advice, and comfort each other.  That part was pretty awesome.

So, I have four things to say, whether you’re male or female:

1. Listen to your body and go to the doctor.

You know your body better than any medical professional with a white coat and a God complex.  Advocate for yourself.

2. Talk to people you trust about your health.

You’ll be surprised just how many people have been through what you are going through.

3. If you have a loved one going through cancer, please don’t stay silent.

In my experience, often people feel so overwhelmed and afraid to say the wrong thing that they end up saying nothing at all.  Please, if you don’t know what to say to a loved one, just let them know that you care and ask if there’s anything you can do to help.  Trust me, just knowing that there are people out there who care and who are thinking about you really means a lot.

4. Contribute to the cause.

USA: follow this link – you can also donate by phone: 1-310-450-3399;

Canada: follow this link – you can also donate by phone: 1-855-447-6966;

Check out Le Clown’s post on Movember and get inspired!

Where’s YOUR ‘stache?!