Alright, we did it. We completed the first 5 weeks of Focus T25, the “alpha” round, as it’s called. I have eaten healthier, not exactly healthy all the time, but healthier. In fact, didn’t eat any chips, except while we were in Texas. But, how can anyone go to the land of Tex-Mex and not eat chips and salsa?! They couldn’t and wouldn’t. Actually, we did a great job sticking to our “get healthy” postnatal workout planexcept the time spent in Texas. We were on vacation and visiting family so we may have splurged a little when it came to food aannndd we may have missed a couple of workouts. Woops.
Even after having an entire “cheat week” I am still seeing results and feeling stronger. This T25 business is for real. It is an intense workout with zero breaks and I am still sore almost daily, especially after double days! Speaking of double days I’d like to point out this isn’t exactly a 25 minute workout.. Monday through Thursday is a 25 minute workout with a 2 -3 minute cool down. I guess you could skip the cool down if you are really set on only doing 25 minutes. Then, Fridays are “double days”, meaning you do not one, but two of the 25 minute workouts plus both cool downs. So, Fridays are basically an hour. Again, you could just skip the 2nd workout, but it seems silly to do the program, but not do it full out.
Since we have a newborn there have been some challenges added to our daily workout regimen. Sometimes I squeeze in a workout while Luna naps, sometimes she’s happy to watch us from her oscillating chair and sometimes I have to stop halfway through to tend to her and finish the second half later. We often even hold her during the cool-down or while doing some modifications. “Whatever it takes” and “no excuses” are our mottos lately.
My health is better too. I am down from 16 blood pressure pills after having Luna to only 2 a day, and I will hopefully be down to zero in the next month. Yay me! I also feel 90% back to normal.
We still have about 2 months left (the beta and the gamma rounds), but here’s my progress so far:
I’m 11 weeks postpartum and I’m proud of my progress and hard-work. I’d like to see my abs tone up, but I think that won’t happen until I really cut out the crap in my diet. Can’t wait to see how strong I am at the end of this program. I hope to be 100% feeling normal, off all my blood pressure medicine, happy and healthy!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As of yesterday our little Luna is 2 weeks old! Boy has a lot happened in those two weeks.
After spending the majority of her life in a dark hospital room, our poor baby is probably confused about where she lives. I was feeling very depressed during that time, but I tried to bring myself out of it by focusing on her. A few of my Facebook friends had babies the same week I had Luna, and they were of course home and happy long before we left the hospital. I felt jealous of all of their happy “welcome home” and “baby’s firsts” photos. Normally, I am a “make the best of any situation” kind of person, but the depression and the TON of medications in my system made me a different person. After a few days I knew I had to fight for my happiness and sanity. I couldn’t do much, but began taking photos of Luna, sharing them with friends and making plans for what we would do once we were back home.
And, once we were home I was looking forward to the littlest things… Luna’s first bath, introducing her to our pets, putting her in her new cute clothes and just doing normal day-to-day things. Even now, I’m still too weak to do much… can’t even wash the dishes. You’d think I’d be grateful, but never in my life have I wanted to just do normal chores and what-not so badly. We did, however, get to give Luna her first bath. It became a whole family affair. Belle is so concerned when Luna cries or whimpers that we had to put her on the cabinet so she could watch and see that Luna was safe.
I’m so relieved that Belle seems to like Luna. Duckie, on the other hand mostly acts like the baby doesn’t exist. She just wants all of the attention for herself. In the first 30 minutes of getting home I passed out on the bed and was quickly joined…everyone was happy to be back together.
One good thing about having such a difficult first ten days is that everything else seems easier, funnier even. Spit-up. explosive diapers, all-night feeding sessions and even the poop catastrophe that ended up all over our white comforter are hilarious and even appreciated. It’s real life in our real home. I’m so happy to be able to stand and change her diaper that I can’t even feel frustrated when something like this happens.
Besides “first baths” and “first embarrassing moments”, Luna had a few other “first”. We took her out to a family dinner at a new French restaurant. She’s had her first two newborn doctor appointments (and is already WAY passed her birth weight). We went shopping at Target together (Mommy had to embarrassingly shop in one of those electric wheelchair thingys…it sucks being so weak and dizzy.) Oh, and the photo on the bottom left is when Belle tried to drop her toy donut next to Luna and it ended up looping her arm, so cute!
Luna has had a lot of visitors too! In the hospital I felt so depressed that I didn’t even want to see people. In fact, I didn’t even want to answer my phone. This is very out of character for me. You know, we always have visitors, so for me to not want to see anyone was a clear sign something was very wrong. I’m so happy to be home now, happier and able to enjoy company. And, I really love showing off Luna…she’s seriously the cutest.
I’m having to take life slower than ever, but that just means I get to enjoy lots of cuddle and downtime with Luna…and that’s what really matters.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
It has been about two months since I have had my anxiety medicine. I quit taking it for two reasons. One being, the doctor suggested getting it off it at the end of my pregnancy anyways. Two being, I am too lazy and stubborn to find a new physician here, tell her my issues and get a new prescription. I know it’s wrong and childish, but it’s the truth. I’ll find a doctor soon.
The good news is that I have yet to need it. My mind has been more calm than it has been since I can remember. This pregnancy has somehow brought on a sense of calmness that I never even thought possible. I have had zero panic attacks in over 3 months, my nightmares have lessened (I actually had a dream I was vacationing in France the other night… I NEVER dream like that) and even my blood pressure has been low.
For the last 5 years my blood pressure has been on the higher side at every single doctor appointment. The doctors usually chalk it up to “white coat syndrome” and high anxiety, but I can’t help but worry that my family history of heart disease reached me at an early age. However, since my first prenatal doctor appointment I have had ideal blood pressure. I look like the poster child for a healthy heart. I’m so relieved and feel so good that I went to the baby doctor by myself for the first time this week.
This must seem so ridiculous to most of you, but this is an enormous step for me. I was not even nervous, like, at all. In the name of full disclosure, I will say I have had moments of worry, but “normal” people worries. I have worried about breast-feeding, having a healthy baby, raising a child with Husband, etc, but these moments pass. I have not dwelled, worked myself into a panic or anything. Husband has not even once suggested I take my medicine. I don’t even know if he realizes I’m not on anything.
I don’t want to suggest that getting pregnant is the answer to anxiety disorders. I know this isn’t true. Pregnancy can often cause more anxiety; I assumed it would in my case. Pregnancy isn’t the answer to any “problem”, I know that, but it’s possible that it’s motivated me to stay on a healthier track. I workout at least 6 days a week, eat healthier, get more sleep, drink way less coffee and even think more positively. I have been careful not to put myself in situations that typically trigger panic attacks. I have been honest, maybe to a fault, with everyone. Mostly, I am focused on being the best version of me I can be for our family, and it’s working.
Less stress has made a huge difference, as well. Clearly, cutting out my work hours and allowing myself time to relax has both hurt and helped. I need to be busy and I like schedules, and the guilt of doing less has brought on it’s own sense of stress, but I’m learning to find a happy (and healthy) medium.
When my Grandmother passed recently, I was in the middle of a lot of intense moments. I worked with my Mom and sister in the funeral home to help write and edit her eulogy. We put together the photo collages in the director’s office and organized the food in the family room. I held my Mother and my Sister when they needed it, made small talk with relatives I haven’t seen in years and typed up my Grandmother’s entire journal. When everything began I thought the weight of the situation would break me. I thought, “this is it, call the doctor, call a therapist, a downward spiral is sure to hit”, but it didn’t.
Weeks have passed and I’ve yet to crash. I’m like a pregnant Zen master. Where did this come from? I now have a slight worry that the world will come tumbling down once the baby arrives, but who knows? Maybe, I’m taking a permanent turn towards peace and calmness. Or, maybe I’ll just have my ups and down throughout the years. For now, I just want to enjoy these moments.
If you are dealing with high anxiety, panic attacks or even just too much stress try to remember that it will pass. There is a light at the end of your tunnel, and eating healthy, exercising, keeping a healthy mind and living honestly will get you through that tunnel a bit faster. I’m so thankful for the last couple few months of zen-ness.
It’s been far too long since I have talked about anxiety and panic attacks. This is mostly because when I have panicked over the last couple of months it always centered around being pregnant. Since, the pregnancy was a secret for 10 weeks, I couldn’t exactly write about how I felt.
Overall, I am thrilled with how I’ve mentally handled everything. With moving, quitting my job, getting pregnant, attempting to fix up an entire house and traveling all summer I am surprised I haven’t had to up dosage and invest in a straight jacket. I am mostly happy, comfortable and positive about the future…mostly.
On any regular day I have to work to keep the negative and obsessive thoughts at bay and pregnancy has been no different. At any moment over the last 3 months I may have thought one or more of the below…
-I am not really pregnant.
-I am having a miscarriage.
-Something is wrong with this baby.
-We are going to screw up this kid.
-I am going to die in childbirth.
-I am going to get fat and stay fat forever.
-I broke the baby.
-I am having a heart attack (always).
-I am growing to fast.
-I am not being healthy enough.
-I should be teaching.
-I am doing everything wrong.
-I’m lazy, useless and should have a job.
-Everything is changing and I don’t feel the same. (Thanks Keane)
I know this all sounds so depressing and morbid, but that’s what high anxiety and panic attacks does to a person. It’s a little monster invading your every thought and forcing you to dwell on what might/could/will happen. My biggest fear after we decided to have a baby was that I will not be able to handle it. My panic attacks and anxiety have been mostly under control for a while, but what if the hormones and changes bring it all back? What if I go crazy? What if I can’t handle it??
28 years of experience has taught me that my anxiety is at its worse when I have to face big changes in my life. What could be bigger than moving, settling down and starting a family…especially for us? I stressed more about possibly having anxiety during pregnancy than the actual pregnancy itself.
Now, the great news is that even though these negative thoughts are sneaking in and trying to keep me from enjoying this exciting time in my life, I have been able to stay stable and stop them. All my practicing, retail therapy, medicine, praying and yoga are worth it because I feel stronger than ever. I am able to think rationally and remind myself that these scenarios are so unlikely. THEN, I am actually able to stop dwelling, or at least recognize I am about to go down the rabbit hole and seek rational thoughts from Husband.
I am also allowing/forcing myself to relax. Anxiety is common in pregnancy for everyone so I am making time to distress as often as I can. I have been taking baths, reading, doing yoga, writing and spending quality time with friends. It’s not easy for me to relax (I love to work and be busy), but I can tell it’s helping. I so often forget how necessary it is to unwind.
AND, the truly unbelievable thing is that I have not had any medicine in 3 weeks! Not because I wanted to stop taking it, but because I forgot to refill my prescription while traveling and have yet to do so. Miraculously, I still feel fine. I am so amazed at myself. (I do plan on refilling the prescription ASAP, but still…this is unbelievable.)
My advice to anyone who lives with panic attacks and wants to have children is to get control of them first. Do whatever you need to do to get healthier and stronger, be responsible and prepare yourself for the major changes. Change is hard, and we (panic-attack-havers) need lots of preparation before tackling any new challenges.
Here’s to 28 more weeks of a mostly calm and happy pregnancy!
This last week has been stressful, and I have not denied it a bit. I assumed that admitting the stress and venting a little has been helping me deal, but today I had a rude awakening. All day I felt ill. I was nauseous at work, dizzy and feeling so achy that my boss offered to let me go home. I refused because 1) I don’t like to feel defeated, and 2) going home just meant doing different work.
When I got home, I was ready to continue tackling my extra long to-do list and began with laundry. (Yay, for being able to do laundry in the building!) After loading the washer, I decided to take the stairs up so I could cross “cardio” of my list. After walking one set of stairs I broke….my chest hurt and panic hit me like a truck. All of my positive and realistic thinking exercises kicked in and I was quickly able to convince myself that it was not a heart attack, just a panic attack.
I decided to sit in the middle of the steps and just breathe. In and out…this too shall pass. Of course breathing turned into thinking.. why? How is doing laundry causing me to freak out? Why now? How am I to get everything done if I’m wasting these precious minutes sitting in a stairwell praying no one else decides to be healthy and skip the elevator?
Then, two words struck me, “everything done”. Of course, I’m panicking, I’m overwhelmed. I’m a control freak and I have no control over what is happening in my new home. I’m simultaneously losing control over my responsibilities at work. I’ve heard the phrase “everyone is replaceable”, but I tend to be a little cocky when it comes to my profession…NO ONE can replace me. I worry that the next person won’t do it my way right. (Secretly, I worry that they will do it better…) It’s so hard to lose control.
Anytime I have ever quit a job I have been cursed with horrible nightmares. Once I dreamed all my students were locked in a glass building while being chased around by scary men with weapons. I was trapped outside the building watching the whole scene. There was nothing I could do, but watch and scream for someone to help, I was helpless and useless. This is the common theme in my dreams every time I leave a school. It’s silly because there are hundreds of wonderful teachers who can do just as great a job (if not better) than I’ve done, but I guess that’s hard to accept.
Eventually, I stood up from the stairs and like a prince on a white horse, Husband came to my rescue. His spidey-sense must have alerted him because he called immediately. He just wanted to talk, and talking to him is exactly what I needed. He assured me that I was not dying. Then he told me about the deer in our front yard that he watched from our deck, how much Belle loves running free in the grass and how I have way too many clothes to unpack (NOT true).
I managed to pull myself together (thanks xanax) enough to finish the laundry and a good bit of my list. I rewarded myself with a long bath and a good book. The absolute most relaxing activity is laying in a steaming hot bath with a good book. I like to soak in a tub that is so hot I am sweating and read for so long that the water turns cold. Oh, how I have missed having a bathtub.
Tomorrow will be a better day. I’m sure of it, and if it’s not I plan to make someone else’s day better. I just read this quote from Glennon Melton’s new book Carry on Warrior, and it’s perfect.
“When you feel scared because you don’t have enough money, find someone to offer a little money. When you start to feel like you don’t have enough love, find someone to offer love. When you feel unappreciated and unacknowledged, appreciate and acknowledge someone else in a concrete way. Whey you feel unlucky, order yourself to consider a blessing or two. Then find a tangible way to make today somebody else’s lucky day.”
It’s been a while since I have discussed my anxiety because my anxiety has improved so much since I began my medication and healthy habits. I still deal with it daily, but it doesn’t seem as tremendous as it used to feel. So, I’ve been able to focus more on my daily life, travels, and events. I feel guilty though, because I started this blog to bring more awareness to anxiety and mental illness, and I have left it to the wayside lately.
The tragedy in Boston today reminded me of the anxiety and panic attacks I faced as a child. As an adult my panic attacks occur when I am compulsively thinking I am going to die of a terrible disease or when there are major scary changes happening in my life. As child though, they happened when others died and when major scary changes happened in the world.
I was an extremely sensitive child (okay fine…I’m still pretty sensitive), and I couldn’t help but put myself in everyone else’s shoes. If I heard of any tragic story…cancer, death, Oklahoma bombing, the book of Revelations, a sick dog, Princess Di, divorce, etc…I couldn’t handle it.
At night, I would dwell and dwell over the stories I overheard on the news or from the grown-ups around me. I began by crying for the people in the situation. Then, crying because I imagined myself in their position. Eventually, panicked because I had no control and no way to help anyone who was suffering.
I remember the Oklahoma bombing so clearly and I was only 10 years old. What I remember about this tragedy are the stories of the children, and the parents who lost their children. I couldn’t believe such a horrible thing could happen, and I felt heartbroken for those families because I imagined my own parents losing me. I panicked at night because I believed this would just keep happening.
When I learned about the book of Revelations in church (and through a weird brochure some radicals were handing out in the K-Mart parking lot) I had panic attacks for years. I thought the world was ending everyday. I panicked at night because I thought I’d never graduate, have a first kiss, get married, have kids, or have a chance to change the world. I had the most anxiety over my friends. I thought everyone was going to hell and it was my job to save them. At night I drove myself crazy thinking What if they don’t listen? Don’t believe? What if I can’t tell EVERYONE I know about Jesus and the end of times?! What about the kids in Africa!?!?! What about the kids who are raised Buddhist? How can I save EVERYONE!?!?! This isn’t fair.
I even stressed over much smaller things. If I saw a dog on the side of the road that had been hit by a car, I would dwell over the fact that his owners lost their pet. I would create an entire family in my mind and imagine how the little kids must feel when they find out what happened to their dog. By the time I got home, I had imagined a name for the dog, his owners, and their lives together. I now realize my compulsive thoughts started a very long time ago.
There seemed to be something tragic happening everyday and the little girl-me had a lot of trouble handling the world around her. Being extremely sensitive and sympathetic towards other people is a big reason for this, but I obviously suffered from anxiety and panic attacks for the majority of my life. Eventually I learned to deal with a lot of life’s major challenges, but more importantly I learned that I have an illness that can be helped, and I got help.
I wonder how many children in today’s society suffer with the same issues…and what kind of help is available for them.
Today, I cried. Of course. I thought about the fear the runners most have felt. Then the fear their friends and family must have felt. I put myself in their shoes and thought about them all afternoon. I have thought a lot about the people affected in Boston today, but I also carried on. I finished the day. I clapped along with DWTS, and I’ll go to sleep tonight without crying and without having a panic attack.
There is a happy medium. It is possible to be sensitive and not a mess. It is possible to have feelings, be on medication, and not be a zombie. Whatever you might be going through, remember that it can get better, you can get help, and things can improve. It is possible.
Monday was my one-month anniversary of finally visiting a doctor and getting my health on track. I’m already feeling better and I didn’t even cry this time! I want to celebrate by sharing some experiences and answering some questions about anxiety medication.
When I began writing Positively Panicked I began getting lots of questions like How does medication help? Is the medication addictive? Is it the only answer? Does it have side effects? Will you need to be on this medication forever? Is it really necessary?
I don’t mind the questions. In fact, I’m happy to answer them because I want my friends and family to have a better understanding of my life with anxiety and anyone who is dealing with any psychiatric disorder. As a disclaimer, keep in mind that this is strictly from my experiences with anxiety and medicine…everyone is different, very different.
Everyone gets anxious. We each have certain situations that cause us to stress or worry, but some of us stress and worry all day everyday. Some of us have panic attacks. We are the ones with anxiety/panic disorders. On any typical day I worry about every single little occurrence.
No one will like me because of my zits. My boss wants to meet with me, I must be getting fired. Husband didn’t call when he said…he was probably run over by a taxi. My stomach hurts because I’m getting a virus. I can’t breathe. My chest hurts. I’m having a heart attack. Oh, it’s going to be so embarrassing when an ambulance picks me up from work. I wonder if people will visit me in the hospital. I wonder if they’ll miss me when I die. What if I can’t have children….
And it goes on and on. I sweat all day, can’t keep food down, my blood pressure is high, my head hurts and my pulses races because of my constant anxiety. The anxiety is mental, but it causes physical ailments. This is not something I can fix through yoga, prayer, friends or relaxing. Believe me…I’VE TRIED. For years, I have tried.
I used to pray every night for peace, for God to carry my burdens… I would literally say “I’m casting my cares upon you! Please! Take them, I can’t carry them anymore!” It took me years to realize that prayer isn’t always simple. Sometimes I was really angry. Often I felt depressed, but now I feel grateful. I finally heard the answer.
The medicine allows me to get through a day and worry at appropriate times. I’m not a zombie or without feelings. I still cry at cheesy commercials. I get angry when Husband leaves his clothes on the floor for the 5,000th time. I get excited when one of my students masters a new skill, and I worry when I should worry. I feel like I can be me; the person the anxiety is always concealing.
Medicine is not the only option. Some people improve with lifestyle changes, others need therapy, but most need a combination of things. I need a little of all of the above. The goal is to gain control of my thoughts, reverse my negative beliefs and eventually stop taking medicine.
At my recent appointment the doctor said my blood pressure and heart rate were much better. Luckily, the medicine and dosage are working just as they should and it’s keeping me healthy.
One more question I often hear: Are you worried about being too open/honest with EVERYONE?
My answer: Not at all. Being honest and living so openly is such a relief. I’ve heard from several friends, family members and readers who can relate and are now recognizing their own struggles. I couldn’t be happier.
Thank you to everyone for stopping by each day to read about my life, my fears, and positively panicked moments.