A couple of months ago, an article popped up in my Facebook feed with a title that went something like….10 Facebook Pages Every Writer Needs to Follow! I would never ever call myself a “writer”, but I do enjoy writing and am always looking for ways to improve my writing so I read the article and found a couple of pages that offered writing prompts, quotes, interesting articles and whatnot.
I followed the pages, then, I completely forgot about them and because Facebook is super annoying these days and only allows certain people and pages to show up in your feed, I didn’t ever see any of their status updates, until today. Today, a status from NaNoWriMomagically appeared in my feed and caught my interest. It read…
“Now researchers are studying whether the power of writing — and then rewriting — your personal story can lead to behavioral changes and improve happiness.”
Today’s writing prompt? Write a sentence summing up your year so far… then write the next sentence in that story as you look forward to the rest of 2015!
So I tried it. It’s much harder than it sounds. Go ahead try it. Just think of a sentence. Here’s what I came up with… (It’s 3 sentences, but whatever.)
Happily trying to keep my head above water as I finally figure out how to manage life as a Mom. Everyday feels like a race these days, but it’s a race I never want to end. I only want to continue growing, learning and chasing dreams.
Afterwards, I went on to read the actual article from the New York Times that is linked on NaNoWriMo, and found it no only intriguing, but oh so right! OF COURSE the power of writing can lead to behavioral changes and improve happiness! Isn’t that why I write. Yes, yes it is. Don’t I always tell everyone that writing is what helps my anxiety most? It keeps me sane. It brings me back. It reminds me of everything that really matters. And, now I’ve found proof.
Apparently there have been studies done that prove that writing about your life, your problems, your loves and your dreams can actually “improve mood disorders, help reduce symptoms among cancer patients, improve a person’s health after a heart attack, reduce doctor visits and even boost memory.”
When I write about any issue that has been eating away at me, and nervously press that powerful “publish” button I immediately feel a weight taken off my shoulders. Sharing my truth allows me to let it go. Then, when I begin connecting with you, reading your comments and emails, and learning that I am not alone, I am lightened. Beyond that, I learn more about myself, my mistakes, my habits and my fears through reflection. Putting pen to paper (err..fingers to keyboard?) allows me to make corrections, outline my future and began creating a new chapter.
Perhaps, the most powerful quote in the article is the last…
“When you get to that confrontation of truth with what matters to you, it creates the greatest opportunity for change,” Dr. Groppel.
That’s important. How do you get to that truth? Do we all find it through some form of art? Can you write and tell your story? Would you prefer to paint it? Choreograph it? Photograph it? Will it have the same effect as writing? I think so. I think, perhaps, we all have a way of finding and sharing our truth. Find yours.
Writing this blog has changed my life. It began as a way to share my life abroad with friends and family and has since morphed into therapy. Therapy, that is constantly curbing my anxiety, healing me after many health scares and teaching me what’s important. Thank you for being a part of the process!
If you are ever debating to write, or not to write, whether it be in a journal, a blog or an email, please do it. You will not regret it.
Life has been so busy the last couple of months, and with the holiday season already starting, it is sure to be even busier. I love busy, so I am not complaining. I’m actually making an excuse, an excuse for steering clear of the topic of anxiety. For a while, my anxiety seemed to be disappearing, but the last month has been a brutal reminder that my anxiety is always lurking in the background, just waiting to jump when it sees a moment of weakness.
Over the last month of or so I’ve had a few little hiccups in my health (my anxiety trigger)… I had a small mass appear on my hip that had to be removed. It turned out to be nothing, but scar tissue and fat, but there were a couple of weeks of worry. Honestly, I didn’t think I was that nervous, until the very small operation. And, why?? Simply because I was afraid of having my blood pressure taken. I am having the hardest time recovering from the post-traumatic stress of being so sick after having Luna. Then, my nerves really kicked in as a waited for days for the results of the testing. I felt much better after the whole episode, but a week later was my next appointment with my hypertension specialist.
I LOVE my doctor. He is blunt, bald, a traveler and has a very dry sense of humor. He does not understand my anxiety or panic at all, yet we somehow work well together. His nonchalant attitude toward my tears and questions of “AM I ABOUT TO DIE???” is very calming. Last time, I saw him I cried and told him how scared I was of dying and not being a Mom anymore. He looked at me seriously, and said, “Why? I’m not worried. It’s my job to worry about you and I’m not. Let me worry. You have no reason to worry. Stop crying.” This brought back memories of church and my Sunday School teacher telling us to “cast our cares upon Him” and “let God worry for you”… it was actually extremely helpful. I love my doctor, which is why I don’t know why this next appointment freaked me out big time. I was so anxious that I was physically ill days before my appointment. Obviously, the appointment didn’t go swimmingly…
Between the doctors (squeeze an OBGYN appointment in there too), the sleepless nights (thanks Luna) and the hectic schedule, my brave walls of tranquillity began to fall, and Mr. Panic Monster invaded. It’s been rough. Anxiety is always a vicious cycle. Going to the doctor makes me nervous, when I’m nervous I can’t sleep, lack of sleep cause anxiety, the anxiety makes me worry about my blood pressure and so on and so on.
I tried to do all the right things. I made myself exercise every day. I tried really hard to get more sleep. I ate healthy, even drank less coffee. I took deep breaths and my medication, but nothing seemed to help much. The one thing that has helped the most is simply going to all these doctors and being told I’m more or less healthy. Just that bit of reassurance has made me a much happier person this week. It is so very hard to face a fear when you suffer from anxiety disorder, but please know that facing that fear is sometimes the only action that gives relief. At least, that what works for me anyways.
The problem now is fearing fear itself. When you have a panic attack, it’s typical to suffer from anxiety about having another panic attack. You’ve got to understand that having a panic attack is one of the scariest experiences, and often forces you to believe you are dying. Who wouldn’t be afraid of that happening again? Especially, since it leaves you feeling powerless. I’m working to stay in control, which is one big reason why I’m writing this now. Writing is a huge release for me. However, I need to take further action. I need to speak to a professional.
I have been putting off speaking to a therapist/psychologist/psychiatrist/counselor for a VERY long time now. Partially, because I don’t actually know the difference between any of them and partially because it’s embarrassing (though it should not be) and time-consuming. I will do it though… I will. I will. I will. I will. I will.
Now, if someone could just hold me accountable, or perhaps pick me up, tell me you are taking me to Starbucks and then drop me off at a shrink instead! But, then be sure to bring me Starbucks when it’s over.
If you suffer from anxiety and panic attacks, please do your research, find solutions and do what works for you. Talk to people you trust (like me!), take a deep breath and repeat after me, “It get’s better. It always get’s better.”
Luna is about 5 1/2 months old now and it’s already hard to imagine life without her. What did I use to talk about? What does a full night of sleep feel like? Where did all the time go? It’s crazy how life can change so much, yet feel so complete and normal at the same time. I think it’s clear that I am really enjoying my life with Luna and everything she brings to the table. She has been perfect. I, on the other hand, have not fully healed. I’m almost 6 months postpartum, and I still feel like a stranger in my body.
Luna’s birth was not exactly ideal, the long road home was certainly no fun and now, the recovery, is much slower than I imagined. My physical body is good. Sure, I’ve got a few stretch marks and my belly button may be forever misshapen, but that’s nothing. I love my body and I’m proud of its abilities and strengths. It’s kind of amazing. It’s my mind and health that are still on the mend.
Thanks to medication, my blood pressure is under control, but hopefully it will even out without meds soon…only time will tell. It sucks to be on medication and have to deal with ongoing doctor appointments, blood pressure monitoring, side effects, etc, but I know it could be worse. I am truly grateful to be where I am today and I can handle this challenge I’ve been given. It’s a lot more challenging than my new body, but I like challenges. They define us, right? Or, I guess the way we respond defines us, and I’m hoping to create a strong definition for myself. The biggest challenge, the one I don’t handle so well is the post-traumatic stress.
The first few weeks after Luna’s arrival were the toughest. Once, I stopped blacking out, gained some strength and realized I’d survive I began living life again. The worst was behind me, but I didn’t realize the tough road that lay ahead. I still have nightmares. I will dream that someone is taking my vitals in the middle of the night, I’m having heart attacks or something is keeping me from being with Luna and I wake up in a hot sweat and tears. Sometimes just getting to sleep is a struggle, which is odd considering it’s what I want most during the day. My mind races, as does my pulse and I get lost in “what if’s” that leave me wide awake and searching for anything to distract me from my negative thoughts.
Little things take me back. A hospital scene on a TV drama, a friend’s Facebook picture, the song that played during Luna’s birth or just passing my doctor’s office can send me right back to that dark hospital room. The flashbacks are as real and scary as the nightmares. They bring tears to my eyes and a lot of anxiety. I hate them. I hate that the memories of Luna’s birth bring so much anxiety and fear. I hate that our birth experience was so traumatic. I hate it for all of us.
It all feels so fresh. I get headaches from the tension I hold all day. I feel alone often, and when I forget how grateful I am I’ll let bitterness sneak in and make me question, “why me?” Why do I have to take so long to heal? Why can’t I pop out kids and hit the ground running like so many other women? Why do I have to deal with the not-fun-at-all side effects of blood pressure medicine at the age of 29? It’s dangerous to think this way.
It get’s a little easier at time goes on and I’m learning to talk about it more, which helps. I’m lucky and it could be worse, a lot worse, but that fact doesn’t take away the very real fears and anxieties I felt in that hospital. It doesn’t stop an anxiety attack when I lie in bed at night and flashback to the hospital bed where I thought I would never leave. It’s very real and if you have ever suffered from anxiety or panic attacks don’t feel guilty for your very real struggles. The more I heal the more I know it’s okay to cry, to let it all out and to break sometimes. It’s then that we see all the different pieces that make us whole. It takes time to put those pieces back together, but when you understand each piece and how it fits into the other, you understand what makes you whole and what makes you strong.
That’s where I am now. 5 1/2 months in and I’m putting myself back together again. Everyday I feel a little more whole and a lot stronger. I don’t know if or when these flashbacks and nightmares will end, but I’m facing them one day at a time. I hope you do the same.
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.
OMG, I am SO pregnant! I know I have repeatedly told you that pregnancy has been awesome….I have felt great, been super healthy and even had my anxiety under complete control. Well, ladies and gentlemen at 36 weeks and a few days pregnant I can now say I do NOT feel awesome. In fact, often I just feel like crap. *Now, excuse my while I clean the spilled and reheated coffee off my keyboard.
My lower back is killing me, I have crazy sharp pains downtown, sleep is near impossible, leg cramps are now a part of my daily life, I’m incredibly irritable (hard to tell, right?), heartburn is awful and I can rarely eat a full meal without getting sick. Everything just feels different. She has definitely dropped, so lots of trips to the bathroom are also inevitable. I know, truly I know, it is all worth it, but I think I’m ready for our baby girl’s arrival now.
This morning, I met with a pediatrician to determine if I like her and the practice. I waited for the doctor in a bright purple exam room decorated with trains and stared at myself in the mirror across from me. All I kept thinking was, “What is wrong with my eyes? Open your eyes, Hilaire!” I had remembered to put on mascara, so that wasn’t the problem. Then, I realized they were just big and puffy and surrounded by dark circles. I barely recognized myself.
Exercising and eating healthy still helps, but after working on my feet all day today I feel completely immobile, which just sucks. A hot bath seems to be the best remedy for my aches and pains. In fact, every night lately has consisted of a nice warm bath, a good TV show and a giant cup of red raspberry leaf tea. Did you know that this tea is like a magic drink for the female system? I drank it while trying to get pregnant and now I drink it because it’s supposed to boost my immune system, help circulation, strengthen my uterine muscles, tone my pelvic floor, make contractions work better and even increase breastmilk supply. It’s worth a try, right?
As far as emotions go, I’m still doing really well with my anxiety. Shockingly well. I am feeling nervous about delivery, but it’s a normal-person type of nervousness. I’m sure most moms-to-be get some anxiety about going into labor. I can’t help but worry about what it will be like, what will happen, how will it feel, how will my body respond and a myriad of other things. However, it’s not an obsessive worry and I’ve yet to have a panic attack. Thank God! Of course, I am having a little anxiety about what will happen after the baby comes. I’m afraid I may slip into my old high-anxiety ways again. For now, I’m just going with the flow and taking it one day at a time…which is not like me at all! It’s a miracle people.
Also, remember the whole nursery debacle? Well now, not only have the ladder, railings and closet been torn out, but drywall has been repaired, the walls have had to be re-painted, and this week the carpet is getting torn out. Our entire nursery is now stacked in the living room. Soooo, the fact that I have yet to kill my Husband is also a miracle.
Now, I know that babies come when they’re ready and there’s really no way to predict their arrival, but I am trying very hard to persuade this baby to come at 38 weeks. I think if I say it enough, she’ll be convinced. There are SO many things happening in our lives over the next 6 weeks, and it just works out best for everyone if she can manage to arrive around that time… you hear that Luna?
Husband thinks I’ve jinxed us and she’ll come late now, I guess only time will tell. And, I know, as long as she is fully cooked and a healthy baby that’s all that matters. What do you think? Any guesses on Luna’s arrival?
During my first trimester I was a little emotional… Husband began to irritate me with things that never bothered me before being pregnant. I mean, seriously, do you have to constantly tap on me and hum while you eat??? I also cried a lot easier, which is really ridiculous considering that I already cry at 50% of TV commercials. However, once the second trimester arrived, I seemed to even out and feel like my more normal emotional self again.
Enter the third trimester.
My emotions have been all over the place the last week! I’m up, I’m down, I’m all around. Within minutes I can go from laughing to crying to fuming. I stayed up one night crying over sad things that happened in life two years ago. Sometimes I feel so elated with being pregnant, being with Husband and loving our life that I can hardly contain myself. Then, I find myself wanting to strangle Husband for putting a coffee cup in the wrong cabinet. The biggest emotional change has been my newfound fear of becoming a Mother.
If you want to scare yourself from having children, take a flight to anywhere. While flying back and forth between Nashville and Dallas I found myself thinking, what the hell did I get myself into??? There were SO many screaming temper-tantrum throwing kids. Normally, I find it easy to put on my headphones and ignore these naughty little ones, but this time I couldn’t help but notice the Moms. They looked exhausted, frustrated and a lot like zombies. I’ve never seen such dark circles under someone’s eyes. They were carrying vinyl diaper bags, princess accessories and wearing sweatpants. One family was eating hotdogs on the floor while their son threw chunks of bread and weenie out of his stroller. Is this what my life is going to morph into in a few months? Is it too late to back out? I was horrified.
Ten minutes later I noticed a toddler sitting with her Mother and eating fries and nuggets. She was adorable, singing to herself and politely asking her Mom to blow on her chicken nugget even though it was obviously at room temperature by this point. Her Mom laughed with her silly little girl and snapped photos of her with a big cheesy smile to send to “Daddy”. It was so cute and sweet that I almost cried. It made me yearn for Luna’s arrival and our future Mommy/Daughter dates.
The whole trip went back and forth like this, and shopping was exactly the same. One minute I was on the verge of panicking as I watched siblings throw down in the middle of a store as “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” blared in the background. The next minute I was sappy and hopeful as I watched a little boy whisper his wish list sweetly into Santa’s ear.
I’m sure all of these scenarios are bits and pieces of what parenthood will be like and I’m certain Husband and I are both ready for this next step in life, but my God is it scary! I can definitely imagine us toting around princess toys and eating hotdogs on the floor at the airport, but sweatpants and vinyl bags is where I draw the line. Honestly, I found it hard to believe that this was the last trip I’ll be taking alone for a while. I became fully aware of my alone adult kid-less time and tried to savor every sip of Starbuck’s and every bite of Five Guy’s fries and felt thankful that I didn’t have to share my iPad with anyone.
Hopefully, this emotional roller coaster comes to an end soon. I’m ready to only feel excited again…does that even happen? Only 73 days to go! (Hopefully a little less than that!)
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.