Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Anxiety makes me anxious

I've been feeling very anxious the last few days, and it has me worried.

I used to suffer from horrible, crippling anxiety after Gutsy was born. It was so bad that I begged my doctor for medication (to no avail), even though it's similar to the stuff I was on for postpartum depression after Intrepid and I hated what it did to me. But I was desperate to change my thinking because I felt out of control. It was like the gas pedal of my mind was pushed down all the way and there was a Diet Coke can lodged under the brake. There was no stopping the thoughts whipping through my noggin from the time I got up until the time I went to sleep.

Every day Geekster went to work, I was sure he'd lose his job. Why? Because he just would, that's why. He would go to work and they'd be downsizing, outsourcing, redirecting, selling off the department, or any other number of things that happen in the corporate world. And he would get a pink slip, and never ever find another job, and we'd be on the street with two children and I'd have to teach them to steal food from market stalls, and train monkeys to dance and grind organs for money.

Every little health concern was deadly. When symptom-checking on the internet, all roads lead to cancer, heart disease, or sudden death, just so you know. Although I was pretty sure I wasn't dying of sudden death on account of probably being too dead to do any research about it.

Every friend who didn't return my calls was obviously rejecting me because I was annoying and abrasive. (Actually, both those things are true at least some of the time, but thankfully most people haven't caught on - yet.) Or, I was simply not good enough, had lost my edge - you know, the "friend edge" I'm sure everyone else is not only aware of, but stresses over having or losing all the time, right? - or I simply was too damn boring. Yes, boring.

And this went on, and on, and on, and my brain got darker and weirder and more twisted. And I found myself wishing I could go sit in a padded room for a little while, completely lose my marbles, and come back home a few days later refreshed, happy, and maybe 30 pounds lighter.

(Actually, I just threw the weight loss thing in at the last minute because if a girl is going to dream, she should dream big - or small, or whatever.)

Basically, there was a mental illness monster taking up residence inside me and I didn't know how to kill it. It took over every minute of every day. My laughs were forced, my writing sucked, my parenting sucked even more. Intimate moments with my spouse were always coupled with a distracting list of all the things that worried me, so date nights were dreadful.

What got me through it? Being really honest about it with my closest friends and relatives. Reading some good books on it, watching shows about it. However, the final death blow for my friend Anxiety was getting pregnant with Spawnling.

For some reason - be it hormones, maternal instinct, a sudden slap of reality, or maybe all three - his pregnancy jolted me into a better place. I felt more centered than I had in years, better equipped to deal with the ups and downs in life, happier, more realistic about each situation, more relaxed than ever. I loved that feeling; I lived that feeling for over three wonderful years.

And then, a few days ago, I felt a very familiar twinge. I don't know what got its heart pumping again, but the beast is back. It's smaller and weaker than it was, but it's definitely here. I want to hit the damn thing with a shovel and throw it down a well.

How do I know this isn't normal anxiety? Because I know what normal anxiety feels like, and this isn't it. When I get anxious about something serious, my brain is demanding me to focus my attention on something pertinent. When that situation is dealt with, I'm no longer stressed out about it. Anxiety can be good.

This anxiety? Well, it's not the good kind. It's the kind that has me wondering everything from 'Why hasn't that person talked to me in so long? Is it because they don't like me? What's wrong with me?' to 'Why isn't anyone commenting on my blog posts? Is it because they've finally figured out what a shitty writer I am?'

Yes, I'm even anxious about comments. But please don't leave one just because I said that. I'm smart enough to know this usually insignificant worry makes absolutely no sense and is just a symptom of my overall insecurity.

The Maven? Insecure? Well, now we know there's a real problem.

I need to kill the monster. Here's my plan:

Step one: Admitting I'm anxious. Hello, I'm anxious. I'm even writing it on my blog so everyone can read it. Now I'm an anxious exhibitionist. Exhibitionism is rather anxiety-producing in itself, I think, so this could be counterproductive, especially with the lack of comments lately (That was a joke)

Step two: Admitting that being stuck at home with two sick kids - one who sounds like he might be getting pneumonia again, and the other who runs around naked hitting people on the head with sticks and laughing evilly - is probably fueling my anxiety just a little bit.

Step three: Understanding that maybe I have some residual stress from the last year that I haven't dealt with. To be honest, I let a lot of things roll off my back that were probably cry or scream or hit-my-head-repeatedly-against-the-wall worthy. Things are actually pretty good right now, so maybe my brain is processing. I just wish I could convince it that processed things aren't good for you; that's what Dr. Oz says, anyway.

Step four: Understanding that this may very well be hormonal and I'll get over it in a few days. That being said, I told myself that for three years last time. Just sayin'.

Step five: Eat chocolate.

The last step solidifies everything. It's a fool-proof plan, I tell you.

21 comments:

  1. Oh and PS Chocolate is good for anxiety read it today I did :P

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  2. Do not let it linger. I have been dealing with it without help from a doctor since July 2008 and as of August 2009 it is out of control. I should of bucked up after a couple of monthes and gotten help. After serveral visits to the emergency room and finding a new doctor I am starting treatment.

    Call if you ever need to talk. And BTW LOVE YOUR BLOG AND YOU ROCK

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  3. Anxiety is a bitch - a complete and utterly demanding bitch. I live with it too, if that helps. It's not fun and not easy. I can see where you are coming from when you say it's been building itself up in your life. Let's hope you can deal with it and let things roll off your back. Life is easier when we have that coating that lets things bounce off us. *hugs*

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  4. Thanks so much, girls. I just can't believe it's back after so long. I really thought I had it kicked, you know? Silly me :P I forgot to add in exercise to the mix. I'm going to step it up a bit because i find that helps me immensely when I can find time to do it!

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  5. oh wow. you and i should have coffee sometime. the only good think i have to say about anxiety is that i lost about 20 lbs of baby weight in about three weeks. i still get a twinge now and then and it scares the shit out of me.

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  6. I am a 32 year old mother of 2 teenagers. I have an anxiety disorder that runs in my family. ALL the females in my family have it including my 15 year old daughter.
    At the age of 22 I was medicated for it. At the age of 27 I decided I was going to change things.

    I stopped taking the meds. Since then, I have gone through a divorce, am raising 2 teens, and just recently found out that I will be out of a job on July 31st.

    How do I do it? I still ask myself that question.

    The children think Im crazy and their friends think Im a cool mom!

    I learnt how to control my anxiety. I also learnt how to "talk to myself" so that it does not go too far.

    Quite honestly, when I was on the meds, I really did think I was losing it.

    For some people meds are the way to go because it is the right treatment for them!

    Hopefully this advice helps: BREATHE!! Take time for you and "talk to yourself"

    You have lots of supportive friends and you have a gorgeous family!!

    Take care Amanada!!!

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  7. Sounds like it could get pretty heavy, pretty fast. I would suggest talking to your doctor again.

    BTW, I miss you.

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  8. Life after PPD/PPA is this way for many. It is for me, at least. Take it one day at a time and know you are not alone.

    Amber @Beyond Postpartum
    www.atlantappdmom.blogspot.com

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  9. As a long time anxiety sufferer and fellow writer, I suggest writing your way through it. Become a little OCD if you need to. I found that getting all those crazy-making thoughts down on paper was a way of allowing my brain to let them go. Of course, once I did, they found something else to worry about... but eventually I found that the root issues were coming out in my writing, and it turned into personal therapy. It's a great (albeit painful) way to exorcise demons.

    You're not alone. Some of the best creative talent suffer from serious anxiety.

    XOX

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  10. Slow down, take some "me" time. I know you love spending time with your friends a lot but we will understand if you need to take a break. COFFEE: I know you love it so, but it mihgt be a contributing factor, I suggest going for decaf until this subsides a bit.
    And breathe..it's most important. I know. When the anxiety comes, tell it to eff off. Take some deep breaths and remember it's only anxiety. Your real friends will love you unconditionally, shitty wirter or not..which you aren't, sillypants.

    I don't care if you have to hole yourself up in a room and not blog or see friends for a while, I will understand and I will be there for you when you come out of it.

    XOXO
    Love,
    Andie

    btw..thank you for not being afraid to post about this type of subject. It's about time we started to show the world that just because you have mental illness, it doesn't mean that you are certifiable!!

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  11. I can relate! In fact, your post made me feel a little better. Lately I've been over analyzing changed friendship communications. I like your plan. Especially the chocolate part. :) Hope things start to feel better soon. Like Amber said: One day at a time!

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  12. Me too with the anxiety. There does seem to be some level of correlation with hormones, also. Therefore, in my deductive reasoning anyway, it is a chemical imbalance. Unfortunately, the best meds for this are the ones the doctors don't like to prescribe for long term because they're regulated and reportedly habit-forming. That sucks the big one. Luckily, my doctor doesn't care so much about that. Luckily, also, I DO care. I've never liked taking meds, so I monitor myself very closely and do my best to not become dependent too much.

    Cognitive therapy approaches are the best bet. Seriously. Even though those evil little chemicals are swarming your body, revving up the adrenaline, you CAN maintain reason and rationality (while you're body feels like it's going to explode) and you can create a distance from this experience. I recommend David Burns approach (http://www.feelinggood.com/) as I had some experience with it as a therapist. And to be honest, with myself. It can help keep your sanity.

    In the meantime, go on decaf. You heard me: coffee is the enemy. Learn about tea. And ginseng. Seriously. It'll help. Hey, I'm just passing on my amazing repertoire of tricks. Don't kill the messenger....

    ;)

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  13. *hugs*

    I know, I don't call, I don't write, but I still love you! Just not right now..fever of 100F and slight cough and total head congestion with runny nose. So..to save you..I am not loving you. (And if I ramble, I'm blaming the fever)

    Anxiety seems to be a lot more common than a lot of people believe. I was diagnosed with Dysthymia (mild to moderate cyclical depression) after my PPD. I had 2 other major breakdowns in my life before that. That was all by 27.

    I have done the drugs, and the treatment. I recommend that if you have a mild case (like you do), don't do the drugs unless you couple it with therapy. I got a referral from my family doctor and it was covered by OHIP (hopefully the PQ govt has similar).

    I never 'completed' my therapy (real life timing) and I stopped the drugs when I ran out. However, with the tools that I had learned in therapy, I was able to recognize when I was slipping, and take steps to combat it.

    My month was October, when the sun started going down earlier and there was less sunshine. Might be a bit of that with you too. It's not so bad now that I am in Cali. I also stay active and yes that does help. If you know you are productive and contributing, even subconsciously it is a big boost.

    One thing that was hard for me: Learn to ask for help. So..you are on the right track. I always had to internalize my problems and issues. I didn't want to burden others until I knew I had it under control. That, of course, would just contribute to more stress and anxiety.

    My shrink also said that I had a tendency to think of worst case scenarios.

    Anonymous (with 2 teens) is right about talking to yourself. I would imagine the worst case scenario. Play it out, then pick it apart. I would consciously think of the more likely alternative that would happen. ("I'm running so late and this is important, they are going to kick me out or refuse to help, I just know it!" Would turn into "I will get there, I will apologize for being late, and we will focus on what needs to be done. I may not have as much time, but I can do this in the time I have.") I would talk myself down from my anxiety.

    If you do go the doctor/shrink route, don't be afraid to 'shop around'. If you don't like the first person you go to, find another one you are comfortable with. This is very important. They can't help you if you aren't comfortable telling them what is wrong.

    When I feel I am slipping into a funk, I tell my husband. I let him spend time with me. I allow myself to be convinced to be more active and get out more.

    I have been suffering from this since I was a teen to be honest, it has just taken me time to come to terms with it. I don't know that I can permanently rid myself of this 'problem', but I understand it, I recognize it and because of that I can fight it when I need to.

    You'll get there! I have faith in you! *hugs*

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  14. Very cool post. I don't suffer from an anxiety disorder but I live with someone who does so I kind of know what it's like sort of. You are doing all the right things to fight this thing keep up the good work.
    :) Kerri

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  15. You might want to consider talking to your doctor... I know the drugs didn't work last time but s/he may be able to suggest some strategies to work through it.

    We should do coffee soon. (Just not this week, we have the barfing and the coughing.)

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  16. Folks. Wow. You're so awesome. It's reassuring to know I have good people in my corner.

    Nat: Coffee soon for sure. Right after you won't spread the puke. So basically we're not going to make out this time, ok? Sorry :(

    Astarte: You're so right. Thankfully, I'm no stranger to cognitive therapy as it's something I had to do when I had PPD. I used it again with my anxiety and it would work, some of the time. I'm using it even more now, let me tell you!

    WhackyMummy: ... Tea? TEA!?! You dare come here and spread blasphemy in my temple?! Good thing you're hot or you'd be banished, I tell you! (I actually really like tea, and I don't mind decaf in the slightest. I drink both often!)

    ~julie~: It really is all about the chocolate. I had some last night while watching Doctor Who. Best therapy EVER.

    Andie: You're a honey. But again with the coffee! Everyone quit dissing the coffee! (I kid, I kid. Point taken! Switching primarily to decaf)

    The Single Screenwriter: Our phone call yesterday? I think you're right. Peri-Menopause is a very real possibility for me right now. I feel so OLD!

    Amber: Love your blog. Thank you so much for pointing me in that direction. I'll be an avid reader for sure, mama :)

    Sky Girl: I miss you, too! And if this doesn't let up or gets worse, I'll be going to my doctor. Want some 'me' time soon? Come soak in my hot tub and I'll serve you some wine. I'll drink coffee... No, wait. Tea. LOL

    Anonymous: Thank you for telling me your story. It gives me a lot of hope that I can work through this long term and not feel trapped in my own skin the rest of my life. You rock!

    Meanie: You, me, coffee (decaf! Quit glaring at me, everyone. Sheesh!) It's a date.

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  17. I'm horrified your doctor wouldn't help you! I'm taking Effexor and I have a script for Ativan but I avoid it unless absolutely necessary. I was really resistant to taking the Effexor because I'd read getting off it was horrible. Then I read the withdrawal symptoms and they were exactly what I was living with every single day not taking anything!

    I've dealt with anxiety since childhood. I have PTSD. Postpartum has always kicked it into overdrive. Pregnancy always gave me a reprieve too. Might be why I have 4 kids!

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  18. As someone who also has grappled with mood disorders, I'm hoping to get back into yoga and meditation soon. They really do help you to focus and calm down.

    Perhaps you could join me? :)

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  19. Thanks for writing about this issue - I'm sure many women out there can totally relate. I find myself doing the same things, worrying about how friends perceive me, etc. Take heart in the fact that you're doing an amazing job raising your kids - the hardest job on earth!!

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  20. "When symptom-checking on the internet, all roads lead to cancer, heart disease, or sudden death, just so you know."

    *snorts* and then when its not, nice friends make you congrats on not having tit cancer cards

    LOL!

    you got thru it before and you will beat it again. but not let it eat you up this time. im here *hugs*

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  21. Just wanted to pop by and let you know it will pass. When I have bouts of this sort of thing, frequent rigorous exercise pump endorphines into my system that help my outlook and my self esteem.

    So if you have stopped running, try and find a motivation to pick it up again.

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Go ahead: feed the attention whore (just don't tell the zookeeper).