I hope that when people visit my site or my social channels, it serves as a mini escape. I keep it light, I share things that make me happy, and as a result, you see lots of smiling, happy photos. I am going go out a limb and say that most of social media operates the same way. It’s the highlight reel of our lives. But when it comes down to it, we are all human. Nothing is as perfect as it seems. I am so grateful for the beautiful life I have, but no one is invincible. I am sharing this post as a reminder that people don’t generally post photos of their kids screaming or not listening or fighting (ok that’s always for me), or when they are stressed out, or sick, or when they haven’t showered in 36 hours and have giant bags under their eyes or when everything is seemingly ok, but deep down something is just not right. Just because we don’t post these things, doesn’t mean that it’s not happening.
Four little syllables have rocked my summer – an.xi.e.ty. This is something I have never dealt with before in my life and boom – out of nowhere I felt like my life was being taken over by intense feelings of panic, doom, and fear. I debated whether or not to share this here and have been writing this post over and over in my head. But obviously I decided to write it and and here is why – one of the biggest thing that helped me overcome anxiety was talking to people. Turns out a lot of people have anxiety. Like A LOT. Women, men, kids, young, old and everywhere in between. I hope by telling my story it helps anyone who is experiencing anxiety to feel less alone, more normal, and opens a conversation about the importance of talking about mental health.
First a little backstory about my personality…..
I have always been a very relaxed, chill, go-with the flow type of person. Once I had kids, normal “mom anxiety” kicked in. Now when I look at an ocean I see beauty, but I also see danger. Road trips = the worst. Why are there so many insane drivers? Don’t even get me started on airplanes. I used to think they were kind of fun – now I dread them weeks in advance. Sending my kids to school everyday – yes, today, that is a very scary thing. It’s not to the point where I keep myself and my family from doing these things, it’s just at first I fear it, then I tell myself I can’t live in fear, then we do it, enjoy it, and later I am grateful that it all worked out ok for us. But a lot of the time I feel like I am playing the odds.
In April, I was reminded about the fragility of life. One of my dear friends passed away suddenly and it rocked myself and my entire community to the core. In many ways we led parallel lives – we both have four kids exactly the same ages, shared the same babysitter, had kids in the same activities, we carpooled for everything and many times we were late because we would get caught up in conversations picking up each other’s kids about god knows what… probably the crazy life we both had raising 4 littles… and then she was gone.
The days and weeks after her passing are sort of a blur, but I remember feelings of guilt that I was still alive and able to see her kids, and then panic… I convinced myself that I was next. That is how life works – one second you can be here and the next second…. it’s hard to even write. But the reality is, there is a fine line between life and death and when I looked at my four kids…..it’s just impossible to put the pain into words.
I started having these intense episodes where I would get dizzy, my heart would race, I would get short of breathe, my arms would go numb, my neck would stiffen, my finger tips would tingle and I had no idea if I was having a heart attack or a panic attack or some underlying medical condition that was undiagnosed. This happened almost every day at varying intensities for a few weeks – I could be sipping morning coffee and boom, anxiety attack. Or was it something else? Watching my son play baseball, pushing my kids on the swings, writing a blog post, and out of no where I would experience these debilitating episodes.
So what did I do about it?
At first I tried meditation apps to calm myself down, then CBD oil and anti-stress supplements, drinking wine at night. Then I got not one, but two EKGs, two physicals from 2 different doctors, 2 rounds of blood work, a blood clot test and a chest x-ray and even though I was given a clean bill of health, still… I kept thinking something was wrong with me.
So then I decided I needed to open up about this. I told my family and friends and even people I didn’t know very well about what I was experiencing. I just talked about it. And almost every time I talked about it, I learned that that person had experienced anxiety in some form at some point. Hearing about their experiences calmed me and reassured me that this wasn’t going to be “the new me”. Maybe my mind was doing such crazy things that it was, in fact, causing my body to react in this way?
And the thing about having anxiety is that you start fearing having anxiety. In the past when my friends made plans for dinner I was without a doubt totally in. But recently I found myself hesitating and thinking to myself, “What if I have an anxiety attack during the dinner?” I started fearing going places because I was unsure of what I would experience. I was scared to work out, scared to be my myself, and scared to go to places that I had anxiety in the past. I found myself being distant to my kids. It was hard for me to truly engage because this fear of anxiety was always in the back of my head.
This went on for almost a month. May was rough. I tried to convinced myself that what I was experiencing was, in fact, anxiety and not some other medical condition. Although if we are being completely honest, I am not sure I will ever fully believe that. When I became such a hypochondriac, I will never know. I decided I needed to do something about my mental health.
I booked an appointment with a psychiatrist. I had to wait three weeks. Yeah, that was not fun.
Finally it was the day of my appointment. I told the doctor my life history, my current condition and she said my case was pretty cut and dry. She likened my situation to one where I am walking outside with my kids on a beautiful day and they are skipping ahead. I am tip-toeing behind them with an umbrella, waiting for the rain. We needed to get rid of that umbrella.
My doctor said I had a form of PTSD that was manifesting as anxiety. Ok great. How do we fix this? If I have a headache, I take Tylenol. If my kids have an ear infection, I would put them on antibiotics, if my mind wasn’t functioning the way it normally does, I would want medicine to help. I know everyone might not agree with this, but I learned enough about anxiety in the past few months that if left untreated (without therapy and/or medication) it can turn into depression. I left the office with some calming techniques, a reassurance that there is a strong mind/body connection and my symptoms were due to anxiety, and a low dose prescription to help bring my serotonin levels back up.
The thing about anxiety medication is that they don’t work right away. In the meantime, I leaned on friends and family, I used self-talk, I started exercising again (but made my husband run with me) and now in July, I can say I feel so much better. Maybe not 100% – some days I have moments, but I feel so much more like myself.
I will say, that I am forever changed, and maybe anxiety is something I will have to deal with for the rest of my life. I’m not really sure. But I do know that talking about it and acknowledging it is the first step to managing it.