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!

The Road to Recovery

Today I am 20 days postpartum and feeling a hell of a lot better. After the 10 day hospital stay, the dozens of tests, various doctor visits, and literally hundreds of pills I am happy to say I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and have learned some very valuable life lessons. Living in the hospital and having my blood pressure taken constantly while slowly having the life drained out of me was my definition of torture. It was as if someone force me to live through my worst nightmare. There were moments when I thought I couldn’t take one more second, but now I realize it was just a stepping stone to what life has in store.

This post is kind of serious, so I'll sprinkle some adorable baby photos throughout to lighten the mood!
This post is kind of serious, so I’ll sprinkle some adorable baby photos throughout to lighten the mood!

I am a positive person, (hello! my blog is called “positively panicked”), but anyone who saw me during that hospital stint will tell you I was in a dark place. I know and have studied all the ways to stay positive…I have been to therapists, studied the benefits of positive thinking, meditated, prayed, trained in yoga and read numerous books on not only how to stop a panic attack with positive thinking, but the benefits of it. Yet, at that moment, fear, anxiety and panic took over. No amount of deep breathing, music or change of thought helped.

After Luna’s delivery I quickly went from new-mommy elation to “I’m going to die” in a matter of hours. It didn’t help that some of the nurses were unaware of my high-anxiety and said the exact wrong things to me. One told me that if my guests didn’t leave I’d have seizure. Then,  a doctor told me that if this were 50 years ago I’d be dead, and Husband would be a widower. He then seemed surprised when I my reaction was to cry and curl up in the fetal position. The shocked look on the professionals faces after my blood pressure tests, the dark hospital room and the strict instructions to stay on my side scared me enough to constantly make me imagine Luna’s life without me in it. I’ve never been so scared.

The side effect of the medicines didn’t help. I had hot flashes, the chills, dizziness, weakness, headaches, numbness and more. They had me on 16 blood pressure pills a day, percocet, ambien, celexa and xanax. I was not only an emotional and physical wreck, but was quickly becoming a zombie. Over-medicated, I was unable to function like a new Mom and had no appetite whatsoever. Before leaving the hospital I’d lost all my pregnancy weight plus some. Not exactly how I planned on getting back into my skinny jeans.

Her nursery is still unfinished, but here's a little peak at her crib.
Her nursery is still unfinished, but here’s a little peak at her crib with her in it.

NOW, I realize this all sounds depressing and awful, but I tell you this to explain to you how I clawed my way out of that dark pit. I hope my experience will be able to help anyone feeling sick or depressed. While bed-ridden I was constantly googling my symptoms and searching for someone, anyone who had experienced what I was going through. I was looking for hope, which I found in many places.

The poor staff at my hospital probably dreaded coming in my room. I cried to every single doctor, nurse and tech I saw. One nurse reminded me over and over again to be kind and gentle to myself. She built me up by reminding me that not only did I go through a traumatic labor, but I created a human and am now solely responsible for feeding that human. She told me I was amazing, but I was also sick and not to feel guilty about that. She hit the nail on the head when she compared being internally sick to being externally sick. If my legs were broken I wouldn’t feel bad about having to wear a cast. I wouldn’t feel guilty for not being able to walk, but because I was hurt where no one could see, I felt ashamed. I couldn’t understand why everything had become so difficult, I didn’t want to accept being on so many meds and I needed to get over that kind of thinking.

I received advice from a few blogs, my best friends, Husband, family and even some of my favorite songs, but perhaps the best advice I got was from my Mom. Mom told me to focus on “small victories”. It seems really silly, but around day 7 in the hospital, I gave it a try. I decided to make one small goal for each day and to revel in its completion. First goal, was to take a shower, brush my teeth and change Luna’s diaper myself. Seems a bit ridiculous, but it took every little bit of me to power through the tasks. I did it, I felt successful and I had one small victory to focus on that day.

sleep

Next, I decided to walk down the hallway. I made it halfway before I began losing vision, but I did it. Once we were in our own home, I continued my “small victories” goals. One day my goal was to bathe Luna, next was to blow dry my hair, then do laundry, go to Target and so on… Eventually, these “small victories” felt like big victories. Before I knew it I had a whole list of little accomplishments to focus on and prove to myself that things were improving and I was healing… slowly but surely.

The biggest problem was my medication. The 16 blood pressure pills a day (for real) have taken their toll. They make me so weak and dizzy that often just walking from one room to the next feels like a marathon…and this is coming from the girl who was doing Shaun T’s Asylum at 9 months pregnant! I knew something had to change, and it had to change fast. Thankfully, with the help of my Mom-in-law I was able to get an appointment with Nashville’s only hypertension specialist at Vanderbilt hospital.

Of course, in typical me-fashion, I was anxious, sweating and terrified to meet yet another new doctor where I’d have to explain that I’m anxious and terrified of doctors and hospitals. This doctor didn’t really get “panic attacks”, but the one thing he did get was high blood pressure. It’s his life. After lots of more fun tests he decided that I’m basically healthy and way over-medicated (shocking, I know). My blood pressure was actually very low at this point. NOW, I’m down to 5 pills a day (woohoo!) and will just keep going down from there. This is the biggest victory so far, and I’m only 20 days into this new life.

My little eskimo
My little Eskimo

Through all of this mess, I’ve learned to overcome some big fears. I am forced to slow WAY down and take every day one moment at a time. Every little thing Luna does, Husband does and even each little chore is appreciated. Never again will I take my health for granted. I’ve also gained so much more respect for any sick parents. I can’t imagine how someone with a serious illness and children does it. Mentally, I think I’d lose it, yet I know there are parents out there facing far bigger obstacles than I just faced the first couple of weeks. I don’t know where they find their strength and bravery.

I read a blog recently that spoke about looking at obstacles with excitement. Sure, shitty situations happen to us all, but perhaps every bad day or every closed door is just part of the path to our destiny.  Maybe we are meant to hit 8 closed doors before reaching that opened door. If we look at the obstacles in our life in this light, then they don’t seem quite so bad. The idea that going through this awful labor and delivery experience has just prepared me for something far greater in life makes it bearable. I can see now that every day has gotten better and will continue to improve. And, when I feel normal again I can hopefully use this experience to help someone else.

If anything, I will do my best to teach Luna to be excited about the obstacles in her life and to believe that everything will be okay.

Cheers!

Luna’s Birth Story: A Not-So-Magical Experience

luna

In case you haven’t heard, we had our baby! Luna Hazel was born on Wednesday January 29th at 12:11pm. She weighed 5 lbs 14 oz and was 18.5 inches long. A perfect bundle of blonde hair and beautiful joy. She could not be a happier, prettier, healthier or better baby, and for that we are SO grateful.

However, her birth was far from perfect and was nothing like I ever would have imagined it. Before giving birth this is exactly what I hoped and imagined delivering our baby would be like….

Contractions would start and I would breathe through them at home for a while. I would do my makeup and hair, eat a big meal and try to relax until contractions got closer together. Once we arrived to the hospital, I would use the labor tub, the labor balls, the labor bar, etc, etc to get through the pain and try to not get an epidural. I’m not necessarily anti-epidural, but I wanted to try to go without one and be free to walk about and do what I please. I hate being attached to anything in a hospital. Anyways, after a few hours, we’d have our baby, a room full of people who love us and all would be right in the world. The end.

Here is what actually happened….

Last Tuesday, I had my regular 37 week check-up at my OBGYN at 8:30am. I felt normal and excited to hear if there were any changes. As the nurse took my blood pressure she looked a little concerned and took it again…and again. Then, she had another nurse come over and take it once more. They asked if my head hurt or if my vision was blurry…it wasn’t. They asked if I felt okay, and I said “Not anymore!” After, the doctor looked me over they told me to “relax” (yeah right) and they’d take my vitals again. The doctor then came in and told me I probably have toxemia and I need to go straight to the hospital…do not go home, do not pass go and collect $200… go directly to the hospital.

OKAY…if you are new to Positively Panicked, allow me to give you a quick description of myself: I have very high anxiety and panic attacks. My triggers are hospitals, sicknesses and high blood pressure. Also, my health during the entire pregnancy was perfect, so this all came as quite a shock.

A little scared, I called Husband to meet me there and drove myself to the hospital where the fun really began. I arrived at 10am and after being observed and tested for a few hours they decided to induce me at 2pm. Toxemia and preeclampsia had been ruled out, but my blood pressure kept getting higher. No one really knows why. So, they started me on pitocin and let the contractions begin. Eventually, my blood pressure only go higher so they put me on magnesium.

When they decided to put me on magnesium I had already been in labor for several hours, was shaken up and scared and really sick of having my blood pressure constantly taken. I was not allowed to eat or drink and was STARVING. (I had a yogurt and half a banana before my OBGYN appointment that morning…and that was it.)  Then, the nurse tells me that magnesium will keep me from having a stroke or seizure, but will make me feel like crap. She said I’d have to have a catheter, stay lying on my left side, I’d feel woozy, get a bad headache and have hot flashes and chills. Awesome, because the situation really wasn’t crappy enough already. Boy, was she right…magnesium makes you feel awful.

At 1am I was dilated to 2cm. I wanted to hurt someone when I heard this. 2cm? Only 2!? I’d already been in labor for almost 12 hours! And, being induced is really not a fun type of labor. They suggested I get an epidural, my first reaction was “no”, but the nurse told me I’d probably be in labor for 12 more hours and reminded me that I’m already stuck in the bed and connected to a million tubes and IV’s, so I said, “Let’s do it.” They also had me wear an oxygen mask the rest of the time.

The epidural made me sick at first (who knew I could feel worse?), but not long after it began working and I actually felt some relief. I even slept a little. Fast forward about 11 hours and I was FINALLY fully dilated and effaced. Now, I was scared. Scared to push, scared to deliver a baby, scared about my high blood pressure, but I was also ready. I wanted to get this over with. I wanted to have my baby, have my blood pressure drop back to normal and get the heck out of my worst nightmare.

Husband, was amazing, never left my side, held me, took photos and coached me through everything. After being in labor for over 22 hours, I only pushed for 25 minutes and our little Luna entered the world. We cried and just stared at her in disbelief because all of a sudden there she was… it was the most surreal experience.

tear untouched

First family photo
First family photo

I’m so glad I got an epidural because it probably kept my blood pressure at bay during delivery, AND I had a pretty bad perineal tear that I luckily did not have to feel get stitched. I wish this was the end. I wish I could tell you that we got cleaned up, stayed the night and then came home to be parents, but it is so far from the end. My blood pressure would not drop. I had to be kept on magnesium for another 24 hours (still no food, water or ability to get out of the bed). I could not enjoy any visitors because I was so scared, miserable and uncomfortable. Thank God, I got to keep Luna with me and breastfeed right away, but it wasn’t easy after not eating for over 48 hours.

Her body temperature was low for the first couple of hours so they had to take her and heat her up under lights for a little while. They also bathed her and put a tiny bow on her head!
Her body temperature was low for the first couple of hours so they had to take her and heat her up under lights for a little while. They also bathed her and put a tiny bow on her head!

The next day, I was taken off magnesium and allowed to eat, but still stuck in the hospital because my bp was still too high. To make a very long story slightly shorter I’ll just say I was kept in the hospital for 9 nights and 10 days. I felt as if I was tortured and forced to live a nightmare for hours on end. I couldn’t eat for about 5 days due to lack of appetite, nerves and medications. I couldn’t have visitors some days. My anxiety is through the roof. I’m on 3 different blood pressure medications for the time being and have had so many panic attacks over the last week it’s unreal. I was so weak upon being released I could only walk about 30 feet before almost passing out. I am still terrified and trying so hard to keep my mind thinking positively.

Besides, the physical ailments, I am emotionally drained. My hormones are all over place. I cry at everything. I know I am so lucky and blessed to have this beautiful baby and the BEST Husband ever (he never left my side for  the entire 10 days…not once).  At the same time, I am crushed that our first couple of weeks as parents has been so traumatic. I just want to be a mother. I am depressed about being on so much medication and I am really afraid of going back to the doctor this week to check everything.

Luna is perfect. She had jaundice and had to be in the incubator looking thing for a day, but other than that she is perfectly healthy and the most content little baby.

jaundice

There were a couple of times that Mommy was not able to breastfeed so Daddy took over with formula.
There were a couple of times that Mommy was not able to breastfeed so Daddy took over with formula.

It’s amazing now to look back to two weeks ago…I was so upset that our nursery wasn’t finished, our newborn photos weren’t scheduled, worried about stretch-marks and gaining too much weight… everything seems so silly now. None of that stupid stuff matters, at all. Our nursery is still unfinished and it’s the last thing on my mind. All of a sudden life has been put in a whole new perspective.

I want to scream “this isn’t FAIR! I’m young, I’m the epitome of health! I’m a vegetarian! I workout 6 days a week! Why is this happening to me?!?!?!” But, Husband has reminded me that it is fair. It’s life. And, I’m lucky. I am here, I am getting stronger and healthier each day. I have a healthy baby. I have a healthy Husband. I have a beautiful home. We have awesome supportive family and friends who have cared for us, brought us food, cleaned our house, watched our pets, prayed for us and supported us in so many ways. Things could be a lot worse.

I don’t know how much I’ll be writing over the next couple of weeks, but I have so much more to share and will definitely be updating as soon as life gets a little more normal.

Thank you all so much for your thoughts, prayers, encouraging messages and positive vibes sent our way. You have no idea how much we appreciate them. Please keep them coming.

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Cheers