Did you know that boys can wear pink if they want to?

We were having dinner the other day as a family. My kids were talking about what they were gonna do when they grew up.

My son said, “When I’m a daddy, I’m going to go to work!”

My daughter chimed in, “YEAH! When I’m a daddy TOO, I’m gonna work!”

My son corrected, “NO! You can only be a mommy, cuz you’re a GIRL! And mommies stay home, they don’t go to work!”

My stomach gave a lurch.

I interrupted them – both my husband and I did – and we together explained that some daddies stay home and some mommies go to work. And that me, this Mommy, used to work, and that someday soon, I will again. And that we know mommies who work!

I totally understand that kids his age are very concrete, very black/white, right/wrong, what have you. They need to categorize in order to understand the world, and all those shades of gray can be confusing. Girls do this, boys do that! Easy-peasy. Plus, my kids have never seen me work. Why would they think any differently? To them, whatever our family does is familiar, natural, expected, normal.

I’m just very quick to point out that gender stereotypes don’t have to be followed if we don’t want to. I don’t want my kids feeling like they have to be put in a box, act a certain way, be a certain way, in order to be liked, accepted…whole.

One time, I took my son to get some rain boots. I was going to pick them out myself, but I figured I’d let him choose because then he’d be more likely to actually wear them. I was going to pick out some dark-colored ones from the “boy” section, but when I led him to the kid rain boot aisle, I made sure to motion to ALL the rain boots, the “boy” ones and “girl” ones. He looked at some pink ones, put them down and then mumbled that oh, those are girl ones.

How do you know that? I asked

Because they’re pink. He replied

Did you know that boys can wear pink if they want to?

(Pause.)

And you can choose whatever color you’d like.

Okay.

He still chose some “boy” ones, and that’s fine (they were freaking awesome, actually. they were green alligators with fucking sunglasses on, that’s how cool they were). I just want him to know that 1) there actually are boys who choose pink and mommies who choose to work, that there are many shades of gray and they are all okay, 2) he has the choice, for real, it’s not just lip service, and lastly, 3) he has my support whatever his choice.

I just hope that, if I say it enough, my kids will hear and understand. But it’s so hard when they’re mostly seeing family and friends and a world that strongly encourages and rewards adherence to gender norms. Because if they can’t see it, they can’t be it.

Hopefully I can help them see it.


nanopoblano2019

For the first time

My little girl

letting me braid her hair for the first time

had to do it on the sly

while she watched Frozen for the first time

so full of questions

who is that? why was he mean?

told her she’d look just like Elsa

with her beautiful braid.


nanopoblano2019

 

I wrote letters to my representatives about gun control

Today, I am reposting this older post because not enough has changed.

When I originally wrote this post, I had one baby boy. Now I have two kids in school and shit is getting real. As a mom and citizen, I am getting increasingly scared, angry, and frustrated.
Let’s place human life above politics and money, research the hell out of the American gun violence phenomenon, and then implement evidence-based practices to prevent it.
Moving forward, no politician gets my vote unless she/he has a comprehensive gun violence prevention plan.
No more excuses.

nanopoblano2019

Psychobabble

The shooting in Roseburg, OR last week motivated me to write letters to my representatives encouraging them to pass sensible gun control laws.

I’m listing the Oregon reps (and their contact info) to whom I wrote, and below that I will include the basic letter that I wrote and adapted for each representative.

It’s not okay to take my writing from this site without my permission, but today, everyone has my permission for this post.  Please- take my letter and use it!  Write to your representatives and adapt my letter to make it say how you feel.  Make your voice be heard!

I’m sick and tired and frustrated, but I am also realistic.  I know there’s a good chance that all these reps will ignore my letter.  That is what it is.  But at least I did something.

Today, I did something.

What will you do?

———————-

Oregon Representatives

View original post 306 more words

Freedom, PSL, and Winning

Holy crap, it’s here.

Right here, right now, I’m experiencing my first little break where both my kids are in school.

The first ever. Because I don’t have family in town (or in state), and because I haven’t worked outside the home, and because we can’t afford childcare all the time, this is the first time I’m having a legit break during the week since these kids have been alive.

At the same time I’m both crazy ecstatic and utterly lost.

I’ve realized I need to construct a precarious balance in order to maintain my mental health. At least, sometimes it feels precarious. If i don’t have enough to do, or places to go, or people to see, I quickly slip into feeling depressed. purposeless. empty. And if i have too much to do – if i am going from activity to activity with little downtime – then I find myself feeling anxious. exhausted. used up. unhinged, even. Kinda wild and manic, but in a bad way. In a way that feels unsafe and uncontrolled.

Now that my kids are in school and getting into activities of their own, I am concerned that I will have an even harder time managing my own activities and obligations along with theirs, that this delicate balance between stagnation and white water rapids will be even trickier to maintain. It’ll be interesting to see how much my kids will want to be involved in stuff, especially versus how much or little I’ll want them to be involved in stuff.

Balance, balance, balance.

In order to keep myself from going nuts or feeling empty during these small, sweet pockets of kid-free time, methinks I’m going to have to plan and schedule. Even if it’s just planning to watch TV or hang out at Starbucks.

Today, I am congratulating myself on a spectacular first morning of freedom. Observe the following:

1. I dropped off my daughter without crying (I cried on the inside)

2. I promptly posted my daughter’s totes adorbs First Preschool Ever pic to the interwebs.

3. I signed up for a gym membership for the first time ever. Weeeeeird.

4. I’m having my first PSL of the season and it tastes like sweet, delicious with the crispness of a Fall morning and the excitement of a zombie chase!

5. I got several MOMS Club business items DONE with the taste of synthetic pumpkin in my mouth.

6. I just got an email from my local library saying I won a prize through their adult summer reading program and I AM STOKED. I don’t know what it is but this is me, THOROUGHLY STOKED.

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Pumpkin-flavored Freedom

 

Preschool Must Think I’m a Hobo

My family, we’re not morning people.

Mornings are filled with grumbling and swearing and yelling and coffee and more yelling and sometimes tears. Eventually, we get pants on our asses and food in our tummies and we get strapped into the car to get to preschool about 5-10 minutes late every goddamn day.

I’ve tried different shortcuts, different mom hacks along the way to try and make it to preschool on time. I’ve tried setting my alarm earlier – didn’t work out really well because I’m in an abusive relationship with my snooze button. Long ago I stopped trying to put on makeup or do anything beyond getting dressed, washing face, and brushing hair. I get breakfast ready with machine-like efficiency. Cereal, milk, pouches, DONE. For a while I tried running out the door without brushing my teeth or doing mouthwash, convincing myself that I’d just do it when I got back home…and that rarely happened. I realized I was getting to the end of the day and there was fuzz growing in my mouth. Yuck. Plus, we were still arriving late.

The solution? I started bringing my mouth hygiene items along with me in the car! We’d rush out the door, drop off my son, and then I’d spend the 3.5 minutes in the parking lot brushing my teeth and mouth-washing. This, ladies and maybe two gentlemen who read this, was brilliant. Finally, I could do it all! I became evermore the Supermom, and my car the invisible jet.

…Except, we weren’t invisible. While I felt like a strapping, young backpacker going on an adventure through the wilderness of motherhood, I realized what I must have looked like to the other moms rolling up late with their kids, and to the preschool teachers who could clearly see me spitting into the parking lot bushes.

That’s right. I was barely dressed, still showing up late, standing in a parking lot and hunched over the shrubbery with white foam coming out of my mouth. I looked like a hobo. A hobo with great dental hygiene (or maybe a mild case of rabies), but still.

Over time, as my kids became more and more able to put their pants on by themselves, I was able to carve out time to brush my teeth at home again, and I figured this was it. Life was on the upswing, you guys. Everything’s coming up Milhouse!

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And then my youngest started potty training. If you remember from previous episodes, she rocked it, but having her diaper-free meant that I had to cart around her little potty to avoid accidents. We brought the potty to the park. The potty comes with us on beach trips. And oh yes, you bet your mama wine sippy cup that it comes with us to preschool drop off and pick up.

So now I’m also the mom in the school parking lot whose kid is dropping trou and I’m discreetly pouring out the liquid waste if we don’t have time to make it to a real potty. (I also added another hairbrush to the center console because I can never manage to brush my daughter’s rat nest hair before we get out the door. Sigh.)

With all the teeth/hair brushes, potty, and wipes, my car is basically a rolling bathroom, you guys. It already smells like shit, might as well lean in to the stink (can I trademark that phrase?). I don’t know how other moms do it, but, all outside judgement aside, this seems to be working for us moderately well. Basically, I’ve lost all sense of shame. At this point, I might as well set up my own tent.

Who wants s’mores, y’all?

Motherhood has ruined me; I’m now comparing myself to butter.

I’m going to take this time and do some complaining.

I’ve been in a funk the past two days and maybe this will help. Maybe it won’t. But let’s try anyway, shall we?

Before I get started, I’d like to remind the internet that it’s possible, even normal, to possess two or more emotions at once. Yes, I’m complaining. I’m frustrated, I’m sad, I’m mad, I’m exhausted. That doesn’t also mean that I’m not (hashtag) grateful, full of joy, happy, fulfilled, etc. Moms get to complain sometimes and that doesn’t mean that I hate my kids. Not all the time, anyway.

I feel like motherhood hath turned me into a monster. I’m constantly cranky. I’m irritable. I’m so tired. Even when I get enough sleep, I’m tired. I’m drained. I’m so burned out. (burnt?) If this were a normal paying job, I’d be preparing my resume, putting in my two weeks.

I feel so used up.

You know how I (along with every other good therapist you’ll meet) preach about filling one’s bucket? It’s really hard when your bucket has a hole in it. Dear Liza.

I yell at everyone. All the time. I yell at my kids. I yell at my cat. When he gets home, I yell at my husband. I yell at myself. In my head. All day long.

I no longer have patience, or strength, to argue with a 4 year old about why he needs to PUT ON HIS FUCKING SHOES or EAT HIS GODDAMN DINNER. Instead of doing what I ask, he slumps to the floor in a pile of snot, tears, and belligerent evil. And then I have a hard time comforting him because IT’S TIME TO GO AND HE NEEDS HIS SHOES ON YESTERDAY.

I’m not myself. Anyone who has met me after having kids doesn’t really know me. I’m fun. I’m funny. I used to be a heck of a lot more carefree. Sure, I’m Type A, but now my borderline OCD has jumped the shark and I’m batshit cray. Case in point, I’ve Marie Kondoed my entire house and now I don’t know what to do with myself. Is she hiring? Moving to Japan sounds great right now.

I’m done being tied down by my kids. By this, I mean I want to schedule a yoga class whenever the fuck I want, without having to check with my husband to make sure someone is home keeping the kids alive. Oh yeah, I’m also done being a mom with no family around for hundreds of miles, who could theoretically swoop in and help me when I had a yoga-conflicting schedule. I’m thirdly done with not having piles of money to hire babysitters any time I’d like a break, which is all the time.

None of my clothes fit. Sure, my body isn’t quite where I want it to be, but that’s not the point. I don’t have clothes that fit the body I have at this moment. I pull and tug and complain and feel self-conscious. Like I have the money or the time to shop and own the clothes that would make me feel good about myself.

My body is falling apart. Pregnancy has mashed my internal organs around so much that I’m left with these odd GI symptoms that my doctor and I are trying to figure out what species of demon is lodged in there. My abdominal muscles have separated. I may or may not have some kind of food intolerance that never existed before. My eyesight is swirling down the toilet. I’m still having skin breakouts like I’m either pregnant or 13 years old (or both) and I’m so over this shit.

On one hand, I’m super motivated to get all this junk in check. Notice my anxiety wasn’t on the list of gripes above? Holy crap, for the time being it hasn’t been bothering me. Let’s all knock on some motherfucking wood together please. I went to therapy, I see my doctor, I make time for yoga, I try to run sometimes, I get out and see my friends. I shower, I read. I nap. Heck, I nap almost half the days just to get myself through them. I don’t have a choice, really. I’ve been Marie Kondoing because the act of organizing and the state of my house once it’s in order make me feel at peace. I get so much satisfaction from being able to control my surroundings and make them pretty. Ordered. Predictable. Accessible. Mine. In my world where so much is out of my control (especially two out-of-control toddlers), highlighting what I can control is super important to me.

But I digress. The point is that I’ve been working very hard on self care, especially these last two years.

I see progress in bits and pieces. I see how my job description is changing, little by little. Often, I don’t have to wipe the floor after breakfast anymore. My 4 year old goes to the bathroom completely on his own at the library. Like, I don’t even go in there with him anymore. Weeeird. My 2 year old puts on her own clothes. Really?! All these tiny reminders that as they claim more independence for themselves, I get more of my life back.

But man, it’s not enough. It’s never enough.

Irritability is always there for me when I get back from whatever little break I just had. Also, whatever motivation I get in little spurts gets quickly doused by the antics of my adorable children. I’d love to run and do yoga every day and get super fit (I just read that back and laughed. never would I “love to run,” like ever. but you know what I mean), but I can’t because my kids make getting out of the house feel like climbing a mountain. I’d love to open an Etsy store and paint one canvas every day, build some inventory. But there’s no way, at least not right now. I don’t have the energy, or I don’t have it consistently. I survive on a day-to-day and sometimes hour-to-hour basis. I do what I can, when I can. (like right now, writing this blog post. zing.)

I’m not sure how to end this. Should I try to end this on a positive note? I don’t really feel like it. This is where I’m at.

A quote from Lord of the Rings comes to mind:

“I feel thin. Stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.”

 

The Other Shoe

Anxiety is so freakin weird, you guys.

For the past several weeks I’ve actually been on a really good kick. My anxiety has stolen morning sleep from me only….twice (three times?) lately, and once was because I decided it was a great idea to watch Bird Box.

As a rule, I’ll never say I’ve beaten anxiety or that I’ve banished it from my mind and body forever. I know that’s wishful thinking, but it’s just not going to happen. Anxiety, in acute, appropriate doses, is actually healthy and adaptive. It keeps us out of danger.

Anxiety has always kinda been in the background of my life, but for the past two years it’s been (almost) ever-present. Right now, I seem to be in one of those almost times when I get to have a break. To a certain degree, I can enjoy these times. But then a funny thing happens. I don’t even know what to call it. It’s this state of mind where I’m worried that I’m forgetting about something that should be causing me anxiety. (I just reread that sentence, and yes, I know exactly how crazy that sounds.) It’s because anxiety has been my BFF, glued to my side, banging around in my brain, burning a hole in my chest, hitching a ride on my back, for so frickin long now, that when she’s gone, it feels…unnerving. Weird. Not normal.

It’s like waiting for the other shoe to drop.

So even though it’s a “break,” I still find myself having to do a lot of daily (sometimes hourly) work reminding myself that I’m safe, my kids are safe, the sky is not falling.

First, I stop and ask myself if what I am feeling is, in fact, anxiety. If the answer is no, then I employ a certain flavor of self-talk and any number of mantras I’ve collected over the years that feels helpful.

I am safe now.

I will figure it out.

I have nothing to be worried about.

Everything is going to be okay.

There is nothing wrong.

I have everything I need.

I am capable.

I am healthy.

Sometimes, it feels ridiculous that I actually have to say these things to myself, and that I have to say them so often. But, as I spontaneously explained it to my husband the other day, because I’ve dealt with anxiety so intensely for so long, it’s been seared into the neural pathways in my brain. Responding to situations with panic has become automatic, and the process of interrupting and rewiring those pathways is long and hard. The good news, however, is that it’s possible. In no way am I doomed to always feel this way.

And so, I do my best to inject hope into this shitstorm that is all too often my life.

Please continue to wish me luck, and I’ll keep telling my anxiety to go to hell, where it belongs.

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.

 

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.