Get Me Off This Emotional Roller Coaster!

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!)

Cheers!

God, Drugs and Critics

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

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

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

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

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

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

Okay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers

So Zen

keep calm

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.

Cheers!

Positively Pregnant and Panicked

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!

Cheers!

Being Brave

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

We Bought a House, Not in NY

Remember that blog I wrote about making my biggest adult decision? I wrote about how I always make plans, how those plans always change and how our newest plan is to buy a home in New York City. Well, as you all have figured out now, our plans changed again.

We have had lots of trouble finding a home here. The apartments are either too expensive, too small or too far away. After months of frustration and terrible realtors Husband said words I never thought I’d hear him say…”Why don’t we look in Tennessee?” I was shocked, but excited because I have been secretly looking at houses in Middle Tennessee for months; not because I didn’t want to live in New York, but because I knew we would move back eventually and I just liked looking at what was on the market.

We  agreed to keep looking in both places, but Tennessee kept looking better and better. Over spring break I flew to Nashville to look at dozens of houses with our new realtor and my in-laws. I was supposed to look alone because Husband was in Boston, but fortunately he was flown in to work and had the day off my last day there. We spent this day looking at the house that was my favorite. We spent HOURS in this house discussing, planning, crying and debating.

Choosing a home is HARD. We want the home we buy to be as close to our dream house as possible because we want this to be the home we raise a family in, the home where we stay. This home has to have plenty of space, a big yard, outdoor seating areas, lots of windows, a good school district, big closets and character (no cookie cutter homes please).

The house we looked at that last morning has almost every one of those qualities, and where it’s lacking, it makes up for in potential.  After a few hours of discussing every possible pro and con we put an offer on the house, just minutes before I hopped in the car to head to the airport. I was so sick to my stomach when I landed in New York that I made the taxi driver roll down the windows even though it was 35 degrees outside. I felt like I couldn’t breathe and would vomit at any moment. Also, I wanted to soak in every bit of the city possible. I know Husband and I will be happy no matter where we live, but how do I know if this house/move is the right decision for us? For our family?!

The next day, while waiting in the airport for my friend Sara, I got the call that our offer was accepted, and I stood in the middle of the airport with my jaw on the floor because excitement and terror hit me like a train. We get a house. We get a real home with real rooms and bathtubs, closets, dishwashers and a laundry room. We get to start a family. We will be so close to family and friends. BUT, we have to leave NY. I have to quit my job, the job I love. We are going to settle down. We are going to live on 3 acres where no one will deliver Thai vegetarian duck at 2am!

All week I have had dreams that my teeth are falling out or that I’m in a pageant and I have no makeup on and my hair is a mess. My face is breaking out. I cry because I feel too blessed. I cry because Central Park won’t be 5 blocks away. Then, I spend an hour pinning home decor ideas on Pinterest. I’m pretty sure this means I feel unprepared and that I deal horribly with change. I am really very excited to move and start a new life, just a little sad to leave too.

I cried when I told my boss, but feel better now.

I want to tell you all about the house and share pictures, but we still have inspections and whatnot to go through before it closes so there is still a little chance something terrible could be wrong with the home, but let’s hope that’s not the case. Once everything is said and done, I will be thrilled to share many many more details. (Like the fact the most adorable little coffee shop is right down the road and they make the best lattes!)

Anyways, send us lots of love, luck, prayers, and positive vibes until then. Nashville….looks like I’ll be seeing you in June!

Cheers!

Being Medicated

anxiety

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.

Cheers!

P.S. Got anymore questions? Ask away!