Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Anxiety, Loss & Mental Health

Well folks, it's time for another tough blog post bubbling over with honesty and shit I probably just shouldn't say. I've been sitting on this post for a few days now trying to figure out how to go about it.  What I can and cannot say without hurting people I love or revealing more of myself than even I feel comfortable for.

I think it all started when I received quite a bit of love following my highly anxious "Ugh, Overwhelmed..." post. I was surprised actually. I often forget how those who don't live directly in my household sometimes fail to see that THAT is my pretty typical day some days. I don't think I've ever shared it directly on the blog, but I suffer from/carry a diagnosis of/battle live with anxiety.  Not just your everyday worry about whether or not I unplugged the curling iron anxiety, but what is labeled Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Yep, I'm bat shit crazy *wink*.

What does that mean? NIMH describes GAD as:

 All of us worry about things like health, money, or family problems. But people with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) are extremely worried about these and many other things, even when there is little or no reason to worry about them. They are very anxious about just getting through the day. They think things will always go badly. At times, worrying keeps people with GAD from doing everyday tasks. Physical symptoms that often accompany the anxiety include fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, muscle aches, difficulty swallowing, trembling, twitching, irritability, sweating, nausea, lightheadedness, having to go to the bathroom frequently, feeling out of breath, and hot flashes.
GAD develops slowly. It often starts during the teen years or young adulthood. Symptoms may get better or worse at different times, and often are worse during times of stress.
Well, I think it is something that looks a bit different for everyone. This is what it looks like for me. First, in order to understand, you must know I consider myself an introvert.  I get my energy and my "fuel" from quiet time and being alone. Reading, art, listening to music; these are all things that recharge my battery.  When I'm running at full capacity things seem to generally be fine.  I'm a loving wife, thoughtful friend, patient mother. Hell, I'm Calliou's fucking mom! Patience without end; a PBS mom like no other.

But I live in the real world. I'm a mother & a wife and I get very little time to myself.  Even the bathroom isn't safe! Most days I'm not fully charged, hell, I'm barely functioning.  When this happens I  can start to get this edgy feeling. I don't know how to describe it. I feel irritable and short fused- like I'm always sitting in the orange alert zone waiting to hit red.  I start to feel anxious about something, anything really- finances, a tiff I had with my hubby, a deadline, the way the kids' room looks and it starts a bit of a snowball effect. Or it's instantaneous. It's funny, it can be the tiniest of things- a simple voice inflection, kids failing to follow instructions, or just my own self hatred at how I feel I look that day- and it seems to set off this chain reaction. As an empathetic person, it can also be very difficult for me not to take on other people's emotions.  If Brian is having a tough morning that may be all it takes to set things off for me though he never once directed his frustration our way.

 Many days I can see it starting and it's like I'm powerless to stop. I'm angry and frustrated and overwhelmed.  I get headaches and become really noise sensitive.  The crying, the fighting, the whining, TV on and microwave running is like electric volts through my brain.  Next thing I know I'm yelling to "turn down the ___!!" and "Didn't I tell you to pick up your ____? Why aren't you listening to me?!" And I can see it happening.  I can see myself yelling at my husband or yelling at my kids and KNOWING that this is me and my issue and not really theirs, but I can't stop it.  Some days it ends in tears.  Some days it ends because it's time to go to bed.  Some days my hubby is able to talk me off the ledge.  Some days I am able to stop, to separate myself for a bit until I can get it all back under control until I start again.

And it's shitty. It's shitty how my kids know at age 5 that "that's just mom. She's crabby again." Or that they know how to rub my back, give me kisses, and tell ME it's going to be alright on the days it doesn't feel alright. That's my job. I grew up in a house where there was lots of yelling.  My parents were different people then.  I remember feeling like I deserved it. I remember feeling "no good".  I don't want that for my kids so I make sure we talk about it. No name calling. No belittling. Ever. They know that sometimes I have hard days and that when I get upset and mad that it's because of other things I'm upset about that I don't know how to handle and that I'm not really that upset with them.  We talk about what I can do next time to feel better, just like we talk about it when they are beating the hell out of their sibling or hiding toys under their bed instead of putting them away.  I'm getting better at telling them ahead of time that I'm having a day with little patience and that it would help if they would listen and ___.  They're 5 so sometimes it works and other times, well...

Then there are days where I am just preoccupied (when I'm worried about what I NEED to get done), easily hurt or wounded (when I'm worried about how I look or who I am), unable to concentrate (when I'm worried about what I COULD be doing) or where I feel the need to put all of my energy into this one little thing because if I can "fix" that or accomplish that, then I will feel better, but the thing is I usually don't. It's a weird thing to try to describe. Because I never actually feel "worried" about something, but whenever I have to try to describe what's going on I can't seem to do it without saying I'm worried about ___, or that I'm nervous about ___ or I fear ____.  Strange, huh?

When I've thought back about how I "used to be" I always imagined I was once laid back. I think the truth is that I've carried this for a long time, starting in high school or before, but found a way to self medicate with various illicit drugs. It's hard not to be laid back when you are stoned all the time (sorry grandma I hope you're not reading this).  Eventually though, I met a man who made me own up and grow up. He changed the path my life was on and for that I will always be grateful though we no longer talk. Had he not, I cannot say with any positivism where I would be today. Most likely, it would be grim.

Luckily, my anxiety isn't an everyday thing. Sometimes it doesn't bother me for weeks. Sometimes it's only for a few hours, sometimes it for a full week.  It did get really bad about 1.5 years ago and I was on medication for awhile.  It definitely helped at the time.  Without it I think I might have slowly destroyed all of my relationships.  It's true what they say, we hurt the ones we love most. It took me a long time to realize what it was.

So when I started thinking about writing this blog post it was to tell you to not worry when you see these posts about me freaking out because "that's just normal" for me and it's really no big deal.  But it is, isn't it? I'm sure that this post may be viewed by some as an admission to how royally I'm fucking up my kids. And I guess I am, but not any more than the average person. What I am hoping for is that this will let some people know that being this way is an actual thing, most would call it a mental illness, but I know that can be a tough hat to wear so we'll just go with thing. But that's good news, because if it's a thing then it's something you can work to improve, to change, to control.  It's not you being a bad person.  It's not something that has to prohibit you or change you or ruin you or your family. It's not who you are.

I think this post changed in tone when I heard about the apparent suicide of actor, Robin Williams. That shit hit me hard. It's weird right? Because I didn't even know him; didn't know the first damn thing about him.  What I do know is that if someone as revered and talented as Robin, someone who has brought to others so much joy can feel so desperately alone, so terribly pained that suicide would seem like the only end, then it could happen to anyone, right? I know it's crossed my mind. That year and a half ago before I started meds my anxiety and stress were causing depression.  I remember thinking about how I could leave to just "run an errand", leave the kids safe with Brian, and just sit in the car in the garage while it ran.  That that would be okay because it would be enough time before he began to worry.  It would be so simple and so easy.  And I know some people want to call that selfish, I suppose you can.  I know that I didn't really bother to think about how that would affect my family.  I mean, if you have your leg severed in a bear trap it hurts so bad, so fucking bad that you don't really think about anything but that pain.  Luckily, I was selfish enough to want to have more great moments with my daughters, selfish enough not to want to miss out even if it meant giving them a bat shit crazy mom. And that's when I reached out. I got help.

So what I want to say is that my anxiety is part of my life. Better, but frequent enough, anyway. You will see more posts where I'm freaking out about deadlines, and to do lists, and the irrational fear of planes falling from the sky through my roof (I'm mostly over that one) and it's okay.  I'm okay.  I've got a great support system and I'm learning along with my family who to control it rather than letting it control me. I'm so thankful to all of you who "checked in on me". As long as I'm talking about it I'm okay. But if you are out there and you're not, tell someone.  Recognize it. Get help. And if your not, well bless you, but be aware, be gentle, spread love, because even the most awesomest of us are human too and as humans we can carry so much, but only so much before we break.

Peace and love to all of Robin's friends and family.

2 comments :

  1. Holy crap, this is an amazing post. I have this "thing" too. I even have the 'airplane hitting our house' worry. I am also working through co-dependency (which I always thought was my empathy, but it turns out it's more than that and something I need to - and can - learn to control). I will say without hesitation, that the parents that are messing with their kids the most are the parents who DON'T admit and seek help for their "things"...we are all a work in progress, and the kids who understand that can have a more compassionate world view; and will undoubtedly feel more comfortable talking about things as they grow--about the things that don't feel "all right". After reading your Overwhelmed post, I felt like you actually had things pretty under control, given the fact that you could name all of them...and that you could probably also take a deep breath and find out if there was something that could wait or be moved down on the urgent list. The days I cannot put my finger on the things that are raising my stress levels or the stimuli that are making me feel like a rubberband stretched too tight, or the thoughts/worries that are making me feel like I need to run away and hide under some bushes are the days I need to be extra gentle with myself and try to name what is going on, and also communicate with my little family what is going on. It is so hard to do this and be Mom at the same time. It's like - to be the "perfect mom" you have to be a robot, with no emotions of a real person and no blemishes and no worries and no room for imperfections or bad days or bad hair days or anything that is other than the BEST. No human being can accomplish that, Mom or not, so we have to give ourselves space to be fragile humans who can work at doing our best and also take care of ourselves....and to be good examples for our kids, we are their mentors ...we are showing them how to deal with the things that life throws at us and sometimes that includes getting professional guidance. I had the same thoughts you did about Robin Williams...and I also understand laughing and smiling to hide the pain/tears that are so close to the surface. Maybe his death will get more people to open up and get help. Thank you, Kelly, for sharing this special information about yourself! You rock!

    Big Hug!
    ~Abby

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  2. Holy crap, what a great comment, Abby! When did you say you're starting your own blog? *wink*
    I agree, it is the days that I can't pinpoint it that are the worst. Isn't that strange that some unknown (or rather unrecognized) thing can have such control? There are times that the whole day suddenly falls apart because of one little thing and the funny part is I would never have thought I was anxious at all that day- I'm learning to look back and recognize this anxiety when I have those sorts of reactions and be better about owning it and working it out.

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