A Recent Panic Attack

Every since having Luna (remember that whole traumatic experience?) I have been battling high blood pressure and anxiety. The anxiety was expected. I’ve always had very high anxiety, so I just assumed it would be a little extreme after having a baby, with all the crazy hormones and whatnot. I did not ever think I’d be in the hospital for 10 days, be put on tons of medication and end up seeing a hypertension specialist at Vanderbilt. Since coming home with Luna, and a new list of prescriptions, I have  started (been ordered to) take my blood pressure daily.

For the first couple of months it was very low, like “my body only moves in slow-motion” low. The doctor cut my meds down and it stayed on the lower side so my meds got cut back again. (Woo!) About a week after cutting out one pill my blood pressure shot up. It was through the roof all night, and it sent me into a panic. And, in case you weren’t sure, having a panic attack isn’t a good companion for high blood pressure, nope not one bit.

My doctor is very cool, straight-forward and blunt. I called him late at night (bet he regrets giving me his cell number now) and tried in my calmest voice to say “Oh hey, so my blood pressure is high and also I am freaking out a little, okay a lot. Should I be worried about dying?” My doctor basically said, “Stop it. You’re fine. Take your medicine and chill out.” He so does not get “anxiety” or “panic attacks”. Anytime I mention it he just says, “Why? I don’t understand. You’ll live to be a 100. Calm down.”

His inability to relate or understand is somehow very calming to me. That night, I managed to go to sleep, but anxiety took over the next day. I don’t know what it is about health problems, but anytime something comes up with my health I completely meltdown. I kid you not, but for 2 straight days last weeks I was incapable of almost anything. I physically and mentally shutdown. I could not write, get dressed, run errands, clean, eat…nothing. I hate admitting this because it sounds lazy and selfish. It’s all so dramatic, but I truly can’t help it.

know that the more I do, the better I feel. I know how to take deep breaths, think positive and do all of that crap, but nothing would work. Whenever I panic, like for real panic, it seems impossible to reverse the effects. My mind was consumed with images of my funeral, with thoughts of Luna being raised without me and a constant stream of negativity. It’s awful and weird to admit these fears that reveal themselves during an anxiety attack, but they’re real for me. I don’t think I went half an hour without breaking down in tears for those two days.

I could feel myself sinking. As I got lower, everything good in life seemed further away. Husband, Luna, my life…they were all just above the surface as I struggled to keep my head above the water. By day two, I could see a little light. I could see the stress on Husband’s face when I broke down, and I knew I had to start taking steps. I remembered two very important words of advice at this point.

The first is a quote from my Grandmother’s journal.

I’m convinced that I will never be without problems of all sorts, but still I must never see the dark pit again. Only an idiot is continually happy, joyous and has no problems; but stupidity is another thing. A stupid person hangs onto that first step and enjoys all that muck he is in. Boy, this second step feels better all the time.

The second is something my Mom told me after having Luna.

Focus on the small victories.

I took their wise words and consciously made an effort to start climbing up that ladder and focusing on my little accomplishments. I forced myself to stop the negative thoughts. They still came, but each time they did I replaced them with something positive…like Luna’s face, dancing, good music, a smoothie, and yoga. I then took action. I forced myself to exercise (hallelujah, does that help!), I only talked about happy things, I hugged and kissed Husband A LOT and before long I actually began believing the positivity.

It wasn’t instant, but I was coming to life again. By the end of the week I was back to my regular kind-of-anxious self. By the time I went to my specialist this week I could actually laugh about my freak out and talk to him without crying. My health still isn’t where I want it to be, which is disappointing, but it’s not horrible either. I’m mostly healthy. I’m happy. I’ll most likely make a full recovery, but if I don’t that’s okay too. That’s why we have doctors and drugs, right? I think my doctor is probably right…I will live to be 100.

Cheers!

God, Drugs and Critics

Since starting this blog I have had lots of people (friends, family, strangers) reach out to me to discuss anxiety and panic attacks (and a myriad of other issues they may be embarrassed about). Most people who message or call me are simply in need of talking; letting it all out. These friends (old and new) are embarrassed to let their friends and family know that they are on edge all the time, but like me, they need to talk to someone about how they truly feel. I get this. I really get this.

I understand the importance of opening up and letting someone, anyone, know what you’ve been hiding, and what’s more is finding someone who can relate. I began to heal and grow when I was finally honest with someone I trusted, and turns out someone very close to them was experiencing my exact symptoms. Not only that, but this person had been to a doctor, tried a few different medications and worked with a therapist. This person had been there and could not only “get me”, but could give me real advice. It was a turning point in my life. I only hope that through this blog and living openly that I can be that turning point for someone else.

Which brings me to today’s topic: God, drugs and critics. I have debated writing about this for a very long time, but I am so scared of offending someone that I’ve kept it shelved. After a lot of venting, Husband convinced me that this is a topic I need to write about and get off my chest. Here goes something…

I grew up in a Christian home, we went to church at least a couple of times a week, I never missed Sunday school, and although I no longer attend a church I still consider myself a Christian. Maybe a non-traditional, gay supporting, liberal Christian, but still… I believe in God, I pray, and I believe my job is to love, respect and accept everyone and do my best to make this world a better happier place. It is never ever ever to judge. Now, that my beliefs are out there I can really be honest with you.

I suffered with anxiety for a LONG time; most of my childhood. I was told to pray, cast my cares upon Him, have faith, God will take my worries away, etc. etc. So I did. I prayed. I prayed A LOT. I had faith. I knew God would take away my fears and worries, but when the anxieties did not go away and ended in a panic attack I felt guilt. I had heard on numerous occasions that “to worry is to sin”. Ever heard this verse?

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. ” Philippians 4:6

Okay.

Obviously, I was doing something wrong. I must be at fault, right? So after having a panic attack I then began to worry about not being able to control my worries, AKA my sin. I must not be Christian enough. God knows I’ve been questioning things…I must not be worthy. Not only, is my faith not strong enough to take away my fears, but I cannot help but sin all the time because I worry all the time. I was caught in a vicious cycle and did not think anyone would understand if I told them what I truly felt. There was no way I would have shared my uncontrollable sinning with someone at my church. It was awful.

NOW, I know better. Now, I know that talking to a professional, seeking help, being honest and even taking medication for my anxiety is just as normal and helpful as if I had the flu. It’s nothing to be ashamed of and it is definitely not a sin, just like being bipolar isn’t a sin.  It is who I am. I was born with a heavy heart that causes worries about basically everything, but it’s not just a burden. It’s often a blessing. A blessing in a very ugly disguise that requires drugs and a therapist, but a blessing nonetheless. Perhaps I was made this way so I’d always be concerned and compassionate for others. Everyone’s troubles become my troubles, but I’ve learned to put that to good use. I also know that I’m not alone. I want you to know that you aren’t alone either. You aren’t wrong. You aren’t a bad person and it’s okay to get help.

The friends that have come to me with their real, open, heavy-hearted selves are so relieved to just talk that our conversation always leads to tears; tears of relief. However, the conversation very often has a strange ending. Once my friends, find this slice of relief and feel better, they tend to slip back to denial. I always always always hear “I’m sorry for bothering you with this.” “I feel much better now, I think I’m just PMSing.” “It was  bad, but I know it’s better now.” “I was going to talk to my doctor, BUT…” “I don’t believe in taking medication.” “I’ll just pray about it.” “I’m just emotional.”

These final phrases kill me. I’ve been there. You feel better, of course, it’s like being in remission. You forget how bad that moment of panic felt. You tell yourself everything is better, it won’t happen again… until it does and the cycle starts over. If you are having anxiety attacks more than once a year, if it’s affecting your day-to-day life, your family, your sleep, your eating habits, etc, than it’s a real issue. It’s not something to ignore or to simply pray away. Sorry, but it’s not.

Don’t get me wrong I believe that prayer helps, meditation helps, deep breaths and talking to others help, but for many of us it’s not enough. You wouldn’t tell someone with diabetes to simply pray it away or sleep on it, and you shouldn’t tell someone who has a mental illness this either. Our generation is so fortunate to have tons of research, doctors, therapists, psychiatrists, open-minded friends, holistic treatments, religious freedom, every kind of exercise we could possibly imagine that there is just no excuse to make excuses and allow yourself to suffer.

I’m not saying that everyone needs to be medicated, and I’m certainly not saying that your faith or religion (whatever it may be) is wrong. I just want anyone who felt like I did at 14 years old, full of guilt and confusion, to stop feeling ashamed and guilty. I wish I could go back and tell teenage Hilarie that it’s not her fault. So, just know, it’s not yours.

I say this all with love, you know I do. And, if you ever want to talk, I’m all ears.

Cheers

Being Brave

I had a doctor appointment today. It was just a standard check-up. My doctor wanted to see me one last time before I move to Tennessee. My last appointment went fairly well. My medicines had been working, and I really like my doctor so my nerves were relatively low. This doctor appointment was not quite as calm.

As excited as I am about moving and being a homeowner, I am also very very anxious. I don’t feel anxious. I feel excited and stressed at times, but not anxious. However, my body has a mind of its own and has been showing every symptom of anxiety, including: headaches, mouth ulcers, inability to eat/digest food, insomnia and panic attacks just to name a few. So, when my doctor asked “How have you been?” it took every bit of me not to cry.

I hate admitting that I am not don’t feel perfect. I typically only go to the doctor when I am sure that I am 100% healthy. I make sure to get eight hours of sleep the night before, eat only the healthiest of food the day before and I don’t even have coffee until after each doctor appointment. Every visit feels like a test, and I’ve always been a straight A student. I only want to answer her question with “Awesome! I feel absolutely perfect!”

The doctor just stared at me as I whispered “Not great” and then said “So tell me what’s going on”. I love my doctor she is calm, sweet, understanding and never treats me like I’m crazy. She takes everything I say very seriously and then proceeds to talk to me like child who is afraid of the dark. She assures me that I will be okay, things will get better and that it is perfectly acceptable to use a night-light when I am scared.

The doctor has been my substitute psychologist as well. She always asks me to tell her EVERYTHING, so I do. The words spill out of me like a faucet I can’t turn off….I’m moving. My husband isn’t here. I have to leave my job. I’m living out of a suitcase. I don’t have a new job. I’m scared I can’t get pregnant. I don’t know if I even want a teaching job. It’s driving me crazy that I can’t be at my house right now making sure the jobs are all getting done. I have one million things to do before moving. My medicine isn’t working. I had a panic attack in the stairwell….

She listened and let me talk without ever interrupting. When I finished she calmly said that she doesn’t deal well with change either. Some people just have a hard time with change. Even changes that one may be very excited about. She then gave me a list of things to do (workout more, eat healthier, drink less caffeine, don’t be too scared of my Xanax prescription, check blood pressure more often), and I just thought “awesome, more stuff to add to my list”.

We said our good-byes and thank you’s, and I left feeling utter relief. I began walking towards Starbuck’s (my big girl reward for going to the doctor) and without warning began crying. I don’t know if I felt so relieved to have survived another doctor appointment, or maybe it was verbally releasing all my concerns or that I just needed to cry. Whatever it was, I stood on the sidewalk between the doctor’s office and Starbucks and cried. I didn’t want strangers to start throwing pity change my way, so I pulled on my sunglasses and pretended to play on my phone as the tears rolled down my cheeks.

*I wrote this blog last night because I was feeling brave. Brave because I am still facing my fears, and brave for being so open here in my little blog world. However, I also felt wrong. After, all the news reports, photos and videos from yesterdays tornado’s in Oklahoma it just did not feel right to share a story about my “bravery”. I was brave, yes, but I cannot imagine the bravery the parents, teachers, neighbors, doctors, fire fighters and friends of the Moore and Oklahoma city are all showing.

Instead of ending this with a proper conclusion, which I suck at writing anyways, I’ll end by just sending out some positive vibes and a big giant prayer to everyone effected by the storm.

And with this video…because it’s so happy and so moving.

http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50147264n

This woman lost everything. EVERYTHING. She’s thankful to just be alive. Then, in the middle of the rubble, she finds her love! Such a miracle.

Cheers!

Monday Funday

You probably know now that my weekends consist of Sunday and Monday. I actually had to go to work both Sunday and today (only for a couple of hours), but that didn’t ruin my weekend. Husband has been out-of-town, as well as sister-in-law, so I decided to use the weekend for some much needed relaxation, organizing and cleaning. Fun right? I had a great brunch yesterday with several relatives and spent the rest of the day shopping (only for necessities of course…yes, Husband, Sephora is necessary).

Today, I had a doctor appointment,  a little work, but the rest of the day was glorious. I woke up to snuggles from my love pup and a very sunny city.

photo IMG_4852Belle and I took a nice walk, searched for new homes, played with her new toy (Petunia the porcupine) and bought some Gerber daisies to brighten up the desk.

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After I left the doctor, I rewarded myself with Starbucks, a great phone conversation with one of the best girls I know, and a coffee date with another good friend.

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Got to love the trains.
Got to love the trains.

I also got to snuggle my cat-nieces to death today. I’m the best sister-in-law ever and I’ve been cat sitting for Zoey for the last four days. These cats are super needy, but I still love em’.

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Now, I’m home eating delicious delivered vegan food (“chicken” and avocado sandwich, fries and a butterfinger “milkshake”) and watching the worst guilty pleasure, The Bachelor. Belle is busy being a Diva and hogging my favorite pillow.

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It’s been fun, but I can’t wait to see Husband tomorrow!

Cheers!

Still Going Strong

heartbeat
My soul must move all over the place!

I had my second doctor appointment today. I had to have an echocardiogram done to check my heart murmur. (No results yet.) I have not felt nervous or anxious about the appointment all week (yay me!) Until last night…

I started getting a teeny bit worried last night, but Husband did his best to derail my train of thought before it got out of hand. This morning was rougher. I was very nervous from the moment I woke. I couldn’t speak as we walked to the bus, and I tried so hard to not let my thoughts go there.

There was a car fire a block away blocking the bus so we decided to catch a taxi. We walked the entire 15 blocks to the doctor’s office without ever getting a taxi. By the time I signed in I was sweating, my heart was pounding and my nerves were not any better.

An echocardiogram is an ultrasound on your heart, “no big deal”. Husband stayed in the room with me and I lay on my left side as the tech rolled goo all over my chest. This would have been okay if I was not scared of my own heartbeat. I have a phobia of hearing or feeling my heartbeat. I never lay on my left side for this reason.

My heart was beating fast from my nerves, and feeling it pound against the metal table made it that much worse! The tech was not very helpful. She kept telling me all about my heart, turning the sound on so I could hear it beat and commented that my hear rate was really quick. I was this close (my fingers are very close together) to telling her to stop and allow me to sit up.

Husband tried to lighten the mood by asking, “So is it a boy or a girl?” The tech didn’t find him very funny. He decided to quietly squeeze my hand instead.

Luckily, it ended ten minutes later. My obvious reward was coffee; there’s a Starbucks directly across the street. THEN, I got another reward: a New Orleans’s style King Cake!!!

I feel much better now, maybe a tiny bit worried about getting the results, but that’s probably “normal”.

Everyday gets a little easier. Baby steps people

Cheers!

Facing My Fears

quote

I did it. I went to the doctor today. Whew….boy, do I feel better! Husband went with me for support, and because he needed a check-up as well. As much as I appreciated his presence, it was not very helpful. I was so sick all morning leading up to the appointment. I lay on the couch all morning, could barely manage to eat a banana, and almost threw up on the bus ride there.

While waiting in the doctor’s office I thought I might break down. Why on Earth do they play terrifying commercials in the waiting room of every doctor’s office??? 5 signs you are dying. A terrible story of a girl with a hidden disease. And, Everything you should be afraid of! I tried to tune out the disturbing messages on the TV. I tried to focus on the stack of papers I had to fill out, hands shaking, but it was a challenge.

By the time they called me back I was sweating and my heart was pounding in my ears. The doctor sat me down in her office first to get to know me a little better. I am oh-so very thankful she did this. I got to fully explain my fears, my anxiety and the whole reason for making the appointment in the first place. Of course, the second I opened my mouth I began crying. I hated to cry in front of her, but there was no stopping the tears. My body was just so relieved to let it out.

I told her EVERYTHING. Once I finished “letting it all out” she told me (in a very professional and understanding way) that I needed to be on anti-anxiety medication, to see a therapist and come back for regular check-ups. I agreed because I know I need help and more than anything I want to get back to being myself.

The physical was the most meticulous physical I have ever experienced. She took my blood, did an EKG, and a hundred other tiny tests. Surprisingly I learned that I have a heart murmur. I’ll be returning next week for an echocardiogram, but I am okay with this. She was confident that it is no big deal. Not surprisingly, my blood pressure was a little high…

It was 132/80. Not TOO bad, but not great. Husband’s was actually the same as mine, which is surprising. I will be working hard on keeping my anxiety under control, and we will both be eating less salt and exercising more (hopefully together).

The good news is that I feel much better. I found an understanding doctor, and I am finally on the right path. My journey is just getting started, and I’m sure it will get bumpy, but luckily I have all of you to support me and listen to my anxiety-filled stories. (Thank you so much for the sweet calls, thoughts and text messages today!) At first, I felt silly for having my friends worry about my simple physical, but it definitely made me feel stronger knowing I was not alone.

The REALLY good news is that the doctor said I do not need to quit drinking coffee; I just need to drink less. I can live with that. The second I got out; I went to Starbucks because I had not had any coffee yet and was suffering from a caffeine headache. The barista made me a large when I ordered a small…I think he knew I deserved a treat. Thanks Mr. Barista.

Here’s to many more positively not-so-panicked doctor visits!

Cheers!

A Spa Day

I am going to the doctor on Monday.

I have not been to the doctor in quite a while, and I am feeling very anxious. My fear of doctors started a few years ago after a terrible experience with a mean gynecologists, and has gotten progressively worse. However, I am trying really hard to be a grown up and do the right thing to “heal” and have control over my anxiety so I made the doctor appointment.

I have considered making an appointment all year, but always put it off because I am either sick, tired, pms-ing, on my period, anxious, or busy. I want to be perfectly healthy when I go to the doctor… I realize this is opposite of when most people visit the doctor, but I am trying to make sure I only get good news.

I have a problem…this I know.

To further ensure that I have a good appointment I am doing everything I can to be as healthy and relaxed as possible this week. This is never easy with work and life in general, but I have a plan.

My plan is to get 7 hours of sleep every night, spend some quality time with friends, work out everyday  more often, drinking lots of water, and cut out junk food. ALSO, I am spoiling myself a bit. For example, I went to a spa on Monday.

The Setai Club and Spa Wall Street (that’s a very long name) offered me a day pass to their facilities this week, and I just have to say OMG THAANNNKKKK YOOOUUUU!!!!!!

I did not even realize how much I needed an evening of total relaxation. The Setai Club is this very fancy spa on Wall Street for wealthy fancy people. It is peaceful, dark, luxurious, super clean, and very relaxing.

I arrived a little frazzled from a hectic day with my gym bag full of everything but workout clothes. The friendly guy at the front desk gave me a tour and informed me that they offer free workout shorts, shirts, and socks to their clients. Score! I still didn’t have shoes, but they were understanding enough to allow me in the gym anyways. I just made sure to stay off the treadmills.

My gym bag, FULL of everything but gym clothes.
My gym bag, FULL of everything but gym clothes.

After my workout in a quiet and basically empty gym (thank God no one was around to see me exercise in a borrowed pair of extra large cotton shorts), I decided to relax in the ladies private aqua grotto. This “aqua grotto” consists of a mineral pool Jacuzzi, an aromatherapy steam room and a Finish sauna. I slipped off my clothes and slipped on the complimentary large comfy robe. Then, I had a terrible thought…

What if this isn’t a “naked spa”? What if I walk in and everyone else has on swimsuits??? My only real spa experiences were in Europe…maybe it’s different here!?

I hate asking questions basically anywhere, and I was feeling very vulnerable while naked in my robe, so I decided to check out the grotto, robe on, and look for signs of naked people…

The grotto was empty. Just as I was slipping out of my robe, I began to worry that a fully clothed person would walk in, take one look at me and say, “What the hell are you doing? We wear clothes here!”  So, I sat for a few minutes and built up enough courage to ask the nice ladies’ room attendant for the proper spa etiquette. She, of course, was nowhere to be found. I swear she was standing, waiting to help, until the exact moment I needed her.

Eventually, I went for the towel-wrap option. That way no one really knows if you’re naked. I spent a lot of time in every section of the aqua grotto, and it was amazing. The Setai Club provides free cucumber and lemon water at every corner so I never felt dehydrated or overheated.

I brought my "clean bottle", but I didn't need it much thanks to the free cucumber water.
I brought my “clean bottle”, but I didn’t need it much thanks to the free cucumber water.

Once I finished the grotto I hit the showers. Their showers are phenomenal. They aren’t your average gym showers. They are enormous, very clean, full of all the supplies you will need and complete with an enormous rainfall showerhead. The shower was just as relaxing as the Jacuzzi.

After the shower I sat in the lounge chairs, drank a free glass of wine and read Harry Potter until I started getting sleepy. Upon arrival I was told I can have free wine or champagne, but no one actually offered me any. Again, I had to build up enough courage to walk out (in my robe) and ask for a drink. Everyone was super friendly, but I still hated to ask for anything. Why is that so hard?

Then, I was actually able to blow dry and style my hair in the ladies changing room with their blow dryers and hair products. Amazing! Plus, their shampoo and conditioner made my hair smell like citrusy goodness for two days!

I went home feeling like a million bucks. I was so relaxed that I ignored my to-do list and went straight to bed.

If you live in the area (and make a decent living) this place should be your haven. If you want to treat yourself every once in a while to a facial, massage or something else in that category then I suggest checking out the Setai Spa. It’s worth the splurge every so often (you know you deserve it).

Time for bed!

Cheers!

P.S. I just got home from a little girls night out and I may have been slightly tipsy while writing this so please ignore the many typos and sentences that make little sense. Thanks.