We haven’t been living the same since.

This past two weeks has been nuts and I kinda want to document it more for my own mental recollection, but y’all can read it too if you’d like.

Mostly, I am amazed at how quickly things progressed. I remember watching the special features on the Titanic DVD, and James Cameron gave the extras a number on his panic scale as a way of letting them know how freaked out they should be acting. You know, 1-10, where 1 is totally chill and 10 is THIS SHIT IS SINKING WHERE IS THAT FLOATING DOOR?! My point is that I feel like I went from 1 to 10 in the span of about…5 or 6 days. Well, that’s not true. I suppose I was at a 2 for a while, but honestly I expected Covid-19 to be more how I remember SARS or Swine Flu – I remember seeing it on the news, and I was concerned, but it never affected me and I was never all that scared. We made jokes, and it passed. But this – I suppose I went from that 2 to about…a 9 in those few days. And then each day that passes I think that I can’t possibly get more paranoid but oh yes, Melissa’s nervous system, I sure as hell can. Especially when I intellectually know that this shit is going to get way worse before it gets better.

To back up, on Monday, March 9 I was having a meeting with the board members of my MOMS Club. We met in a happily crowded cafe, and we went over our agenda and planned out activities for the spring. I remember assuming that we would actually attend and enjoy all of these activities. An Easter egg hunt, a moms night out, an end of the year picnic. And then the week continued on and things in Washington state started ramping up a bit, Seattle had been shut down, their schools were starting to close, and there were rumblings that ours would soon close. Perhaps after our spring break, which was to start effectively on the 19th. Had there been deaths in Oregon yet? I can’t remember.

And then, that Thursday the 12th, a neighboring school district suddenly decided to close starting the next day. I say “suddenly” because it felt sudden to me. I’m pretty sure they were the first school district in the state to close, which was surprising considering there were more cases in other districts. At any rate, we knew ours wasn’t far behind. Turns out ours was only hours behind! Our school district decided to close starting the following Monday (the 16th). I remember this starting a second wave of local food/toilet paper shortages. There was one (just one? more?) even before all the school closure junk started. At this point I had resisted any panic buying, mainly because 1) we already had much of what we needed and 2) there wasn’t any availability of stuff that I was actually interested in buying, like all the cleaning supplies.

A side note: after all this, I find out that my husband, who does all the grocery lists and meal planning, had been stocking up on certain things for weeks. I’m the one who does the grocery shopping and putting stuff away, and so my misguided assumption when he bought more coffee when we had just bought some, and an additional box of wet cat food even though we had plenty, was that he was just forgetful. Nope. He was being awesome instead. PLUS, on a whim in early March I had just bought more toilet paper than I usually did. Why? I supposed only because I didn’t want to have to worry about remembering more too soon. I don’t know. I like these weird coincidences; we’re also not a family who tends to buy “too much” or in bulk or to store and/or hoard. We only buy what we know we’ll use in a reasonable amount of time. It’s how we stay frugal and make sure we’re not wasting stuff. But I digress.

Once we got notice that schools were actually closing, shit got real, at least for me. I started to internally panic…which quickly led to external panic. I announced to my husband that I was going to go to Target. I’d been seeing empty shelves for a few weeks now at the grocery store and I especially wanted to get some extra cold meds because we were (and still are) super sick with a nasty cold bug. I was terrified that we’d be stuck at home with sick kids and wouldn’t have Tylenol.

I got to Target and got what I could, which was a few paper towels and some Tylenol meant for infants (my youngest is 3) because it was ALL THAT WAS LEFT. When I got to the cold meds aisle, I almost burst into tears. My worry was starting to consume me, and the only silver lining was that everyone in the store was being super, duper nice. We were all fucking scared.

The next morning, Friday the 13th (woo), my husband told me as I got up that my oldest had pink eye. FUUUUUUUCK. There went his last day of school. I seriously started whining that all I wanted to do was GET TO MY PILATES CLASS BECAUSE I KNOW ITS THE LAST ONE AND THE WORLD IS ENDING and so my husband graciously stayed home from work for a few hours so I could 1) run to Walgreens because a friend had told me that had cold meds AND THEY DID! Thank god because we’re about to break into the meds I ended up buying that day, and 2) work my ass off so hard in Pilates like my life depended on it.

I got home, and another friend texted me. I don’t want to freak you out, she began, but there’s a run on the store and the food is going fast if you want to get down here.

I can’t! I texted back, panicked yet again. I fucking still had to pick up my youngest from preschool (which turned out to be her last day, because endoftheworld).

That friend was amazing and picked up some stuff for me, that totally got us through the following week (Thankyouthankyou) because we had to wait longer than we’d planned for our normal grocery pickup slot. It also allowed me to continue doing Whole30 because GODDAMN IT I AM FINISHING THIS THING BEFORE THE WORLD FINISHES BEING A CUNT. (too much? I’m stressed.)

And after I got my girl home, that’s when everything changed and we haven’t been living the same since.

A Surprised No

Everyone, knock on wood for me first. Seriously, do it.

Ok, good.

So…I’ve been feeling pretty good lately, anxiety-wise. My therapist mentioned that it’s the longest I’ve gone since I started seeing her since I’ve had an anxiety flare up. I didn’t believe her at first, but she’s right. I counted, and it’s been 36 days. Granted, I’ve had a few moments when I felt my panic creep in, but on all of those occasions in the last 36 days I’ve been able to squash them. Holy crap.

I need one of those workplace signs that reads “X Days Accident Free!” only replace “accident” with the other A-word.

Oh yeah, and this accomplishment is medication-free, by the way. And not that I planned it that way, either. I actually had an argument with my (now ex) psych nurse practitioner over the phone. Ugh. I suppose what happened is that I’ve been doing my homework on meds, and I had an opinion on what I wanted and what might work for me. I want something more as needed because 1) I didn’t like how the blood pressure med made me feel, and 2) I’m getting to a stage where my anxiety isn’t every day anymore. Unfortunately, she disagreed with me and basically refused my request, and not very politely. I didn’t feel like she listened to me and her bedside manner was crap, honestly. Sooooo we ended the conversation with me in tears and without a new prescription. Now I’m worried she’s written in my chart that I’m one of those demanding med-seekers. Sigh.

But, strangely, I’ve been fine. Pretty good, even. I’m on a waiting list for another pnp, but I may not pursue drug-drugs, I dunno. In the meantime I’ve been enlisting the help of a naturopath to see about tackling some of these pesky health issues, anxiety included, in a more homeopathic way. We’ll see how that goes.

Now I’m left fighting the urge to be hypervigilant about if and when the anxiety returns.

My therapist tells me not to go down that rabbit hole, and that it’s a when, not an if. The anxiety will return at some point – accept it. And when it does, I will deal with it. Ugh. I don’t like thinking about it, but that’s what is going to happen.

Sometimes I check in with myself during the day, where I’ll actually ask myself, “Am I anxious right now?” Because too often I think I just assume I’m always anxious and that’s who I am, that’s my normal. Not so. More often now, the answer is a surprised no.

I like surprised nos.

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.

 

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.