So I’ve been MIA for a really, really long time.
And I’ve wanted to sit down and write a really revealing post, because I have lots to say on the subject. Alas, I just don’t have the time, or all the words yet.
I’ve been struggling with anxiety, which, honestly, is not new for me. I’ve always been prone to worry, and after 9/11 and a few other key events in my life involving fire, suicide, and sudden deaths: well, yeah. I have a tendency to get panicky. And sometimes my mind goes quickly to the worst possible outcome. But on the plus side, I always know where the emergency exits are. So follow me!
Normally, I can talk myself down. I’ve had five or six full-blown panic attacks (one in November 2011 in which I really thought something was seriously physically wrong, and – all alone on the highway – I pulled over in Melissa, TX and called 911. A fire truck and a police car and an ambulance pulled up, checked me out and said: “Yep, panic attack. Did a truck swerve in your lane?” There was no truck. Just mah poor, addled brain.)
Still, after about a week of feeling jittery, I was fine. I got pregnant shortly thereafter, and my pregnancy was normal except for being a bit cranky and swollen and all the standard fun stuff.
Even after A was born, I was handling things. And then she stopped sleeping. And then I went a little whack with self-inflicted grad school pressure. And then A never slept again. And sleep deprivation, plus grad school, plus no outside help with kiddos, plus THE NEWS (seriously, have you read the news? Today a few FB friends are blowing up my newsfeed with a terrible story that I did not click on about a mom and a molestor and a baby rape. SERIOUSLY: THE FUCK?), and a health scare (of the lump-in-the-breast variety. The doc was unconcerned, but scheduled an ultrasound to be sure. The ultrasound didn’t show anything, which: YAY! And also: crap. The thing-a-ma-jig is still there to torture me, but hopefully not kill me any time soon.)
But somehow, my life reached a tipping point in which I couldn’t be optimistic anymore. My thoughts were dark. I didn’t want to harm myself or anyone; on the contrary: I wanted a guarantee that nothing will ever harm me, my husband, or my babies. Realizing that that guarantee is never coming? It made me a little nuts. Because bad things keep happening everywhere. And I’m not special. So really, my mind became consumed with waiting for the bad things to happen to me. And us. It’s a terrible way to feel and be, and finally, the night before our vacation, I sat miserably at the kitchen table and told my husband: “I’m exhausted. I just don’t want to be this like this anymore.”
And now, I’m getting better.
I think J and I began throwing around terms like “postpartum depression” a few months back. It was tricky, because I wasn’t “classically” depressed. I still went out and tried to have fun. I had energy. I slept when the baby let me. I got things done. But my overall joie de vivre was gone. There was this undercurrent of sadness, a what-does-it-matter-because-a-crazy-lone-gunman-can-shoot-up-a-room-of-first-graders-anyway. I was faking it. In a big way.
So we went on vacation, and in many ways, it was wonderful. Idyllic. But still, the nagging thoughts plagued me. You have it too good, my brain warned. One morning I woke up with a very slight tingling below my lip. It felt as if I was getting a pimple; but while Ailie napped and J took Hendrik to the beach, I consulted Dr. Google. By the end of that research session, I was shaking. I was sure I had ALS or Parkinson’s.
It was obvious I needed help. I made an appointment with my general practitioner. I’ve not had occasion to see her often. She is an older woman who was a stay-at-home mom for many years before going back to school and getting her MD. I love her for this fact alone.
She was so unbelievably kind to me, as I started speaking and then crying with relief. I was so happy to have someone to listen and attempt to make me better. I explained that I thought I was suffering from a PTSD, postpartum-hybrid anxiety. I told her about the kids. About not sleeping properly. About nursing. About graduate school. About little outside help. And even about my grandmother’s death. (My Farmor was essentially another mother to me and the nature of her death was sudden. I wasn’t able to attend the funeral to properly say goodbye. Now, I feel like there is a gaping hole in my life that makes little sense to me as I was not privy to anything that happened, before or after she passed.)
She told me I was going to be fine. She told me she believed this was situational. And we came up with a treatment plan together.
It’s been several weeks, and I feel so, so much better. I’ll share more as we go along, but I’m really just trying to be more mindful and open and calm. I’m reading more; I’ve created a “stress-free” binder (of course, I love an organized project and helpful tips), and I’m allowing the days to unfold as they will.
I spoke to my mother-in-law about some of my feelings recently, and she said a few things that helped me immensely. First, she told me that I wasn’t just lucky: I’ve worked hard for the life I have. I’m not sure anyone has ever said that to me, and I suddenly realized I was guilty of the Imposter Syndrome. Realizing that Hey! I’ve had at least a little to do with the choices I’ve made and the life I’ve created felt incredible. Some things are within my control.
My MIL also said “You have a beautiful life and a wonderful family, and I don’t want you to miss that.” Sweet Oprah, if ever there was an AHA moment. I was – and still am, often – missing the point. O once said “We sleepwalk through the possibility of joy.”
I was sleepwalking. And now I’m taking steps to wake up.