Welcome to your life

“Welcome to your life.” Those were the words spoken to me by my therapist a couple of weeks ago and they’ve stuck with me ever since.

I was going through a brief phase of acceptance with regard to my anxiety disorder and seemed to be on the upswing at the time. That didn’t last long though as the very next week was one of the hardest I’ve had in a long time. I think a lot of it had to do with Ellie’s passing (we put our older dog to sleep last Tuesday and it was much harder than I thought it would be). I’ve had some other significant changes/stressors going on too – my little sister moved in with us and my mom went through a health scare. I went into grieving mode and a lot of emotions, thoughts and feelings, as well as anxiety and panic, emerged as a result.

Photo courtesy of Amanda M Hatfield

Photo courtesy of Amanda M Hatfield

I decided to start on anti-anxiety/anti-depression medication as of two weeks ago. Going on meds definitely wasn’t my first choice, but after going several months with only brief and fleeting improvements in the way I was feeling, I decided it was the right choice for me for right now. If being on medication can help me feel a little better while I continue to go to therapy and focus on sleep, exercise and taking better care of myself, then I will do it. I’d gotten to a point where I’ve been in nearly a constant state of anxiety and, as a result, I have been neglecting my kids and my marriage. I’m sick of telling my kids, “Don’t do that. Mommy doesn’t feel well.” I want them to be able to enjoy life and I want to enjoy it with them. I don’t want my whole family to have to walk on egg shells and constantly wonder how mommy is doing and how she will react. It’s not fair to them. A friend pointed out it’s not fair to me either to have to feel that way.

I’ve been taking Zoloft for two weeks now (a very low dose since when I tried to increase the dose, I started having insomnia, which was absolutely counterproductive) and haven’t noticed any good benefits yet, but my psychiatrist said it can take 2-6 weeks or even as many as 8, so I’m trying to be patient.

At the suggestion of my therapist last week, I picked up the book “The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook” by Edmund Bourne. It’s been a huge eye-opener for me both in showing me how I likely developed anxiety/panic disorder and in showing me steps to help myself recover from it. It’s also amazing how many things I can identify with in it. Talk about “welcome to your life.” This book feels like it was written just for me. If you have any issues with anxiety, panic, phobias or OCD, I strongly recommend this book. I am hopeful that it is going to have a huge impact on me as I try to heal myself. I’ve been doing the breathing techniques the past two nights and have found them alone to be very helpful.

One of the things I’ve found most frustrating in this whole process though is just how much of a process it is. There is no simple quick fix. Even medication takes time to kick in and to adjust the dosage and that (in my opinion) is really only a temporary solution and one part of the equation if true recovery is going to happen. And so I’m doing my best to be aware that the condition I’m in now took years and years to develop and it is going to take a long time to heal from as well. (Thanks to my dad for those words of wisdom.) I have to learn to appreciate the small victories and take it one day at a time or I will drive myself crazy.

I’ve taken a break from reading the news or anything that will likely raise my anxiety level. I read a little bit about the swine flu a couple days ago, and it sent me into a full-fledged panic attack. I’ve told Jody to tell me if there’s anything I need to know. Otherwise, I need to keep myself in the dark about some things for now for my own peace of mind.

Part of the reason I’m writing all of this is to let you know where I’m currently at, and also to encourage others who may be going through something like this that you are not alone. I also want you to know that I may not be blogging that often in the weeks ahead. (Subscribe to my RSS feed if you want to stay current.) I’ve already tapered off considerably from where I used to be – posting daily or nearly daily – and it feels good to take a break. I also haven’t been on Twitter much. I am sure it will wax and wane, but I also feel part of my recovery needs to involve looking at my internet addiction. Yes, I will freely admit to having one. I have lots of justifications for it too, but ultimately, I want to find a way to use the internet for productive reasons, not just to fritter away my time (which is what I’ve been doing way too much lately).

Yesterday was the first day this season I got out in the dirt in my backyard and did some weeding in my little strawberry patch from last year. I honestly haven’t felt at all like gardening so far this year, despite ordering seeds, seedlings and even some raspberry plants (that are still sitting, unplanted, in my garage). Although several of my friends have been digging in the dirt and planting for weeks, I just haven’t felt the gardening urge at all myself. That is, until yesterday. As I was weeding and getting the dirt under my fingernails and noticing that many of my strawberry plants have flowers on them, and the kids were playing in the dirt beside me, I began to feel alive and good and once again had the desire to garden. I think growing things and digging in the dirt will be very good for my mental health right now.

Like it or not, having anxiety/panic disorder is my life right now. It’s not what I would choose, but it’s where I’m at. I’m choosing to face it head on and do what I can to make it better – little by little, taking baby steps, one day at a time.

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45 thoughts on “Welcome to your life

  1. Hey there, just wanted to continue to lend my support. I am an anxiety/panic attack sufferer as well, and have been working on it for years. I had that workbook and *loved* it. It takes a long time, but it will get better. And there will always be bad days, but your bad days later will be much easier than your bad days now. Hang on, and keep working on it.

  2. This is so raw and honest and also encouraging. I feel like I’ve done little with my kids recently, between illnesses then having wisdom teeth removed, then getting ill again. We’ve missed so much schooling and watched way too much netflix and I’ve done way too much Internet. I do need to back off the net too. Spending a day weeding in the garden sounds wonderful.

    Love and peace to you. I hope your walk toward feeling whole will be a pleasant and successful one.

    Your friend
    xxx

  3. a,
    i’m very proud of you for acknowledging some of the things that you need to do a bit differently to help you get back to where you, yourself would like to be. first part of healing, IMO, :) is to acknowledge what’s going on and not be ashamed of it. only then do you get the support and encouragement you need. anxiety/panic attacks should not/will not define you. you are still a whole human being with a challenge that you face. just like me w/ food allergies. because it’s a long road it becomes easy to have the illness define you but i’ve found that i have had to redefine who i am w/o the label. it helped me a lot to do that and now i don’t feel “ill” but feel more like i’m just a person (and we are a family) that faces challenges that have made us stronger and more empathetic towards other people. i know you will find strength where you didn’t know you had it and will learn important lessons about who you are throughout this whole process. i love you tons and tons and you know that you can always call or email me. hugs to you and thanks for taking good care of yourself and your family. they deserve what you can give them and they will be forgiving and understanding because they love you. how good of you however, to try to be the mama you want them to have. love ya.

  4. From your post it sounds like you are taking a very sound and down to earth approach when it comes to handling your life. It is so easy to judge and compare ourselves to ourselves and to others and I wish you strength on this journey. Please remember that Baby Green Me and I are near by and more than happy to dig in the dirt with you!

  5. Hugs to you, my dear. And kudos to you for being open to the options. Of course, many weren’t your first choice but in the end, we need to do what is best for us and our children. You WILL prevail in your new life!

  6. hang in there Amy… and I think you should continue to be out in the garden, digging, seeding, weeding… it’s good for you, good for your soul…

  7. wow – it sounds like you’re doing all the right things to deal with the anxiety! and yeah, it’s so important to celebrate the baby steps and little successes along the way because they definitely keep you going. as someone who’s been working on getting better (from depression and anxiety – which i don’t ever recall NOT having, my whole life), it does take time and work and it’s sometimes scary. but it’s worth it. my guess is this opportunity for growth and insight will leave you smarter, wiser, and a better wife and mother than you’ve ever been. and when you do take little steps backwards or no steps at all for a while, yeah it’s very frustrating but you just have to stay focused on the fact that overall, you’re going in the right direction.

    honestly, i think your motivation is really admirable. i mean, naturally i compare it to myself and part of the reason i’ve been in therapy for, well, ever, has been my lack of motivation and the fact that there’s a part of me that’s reluctant to change. maybe having the family is a big motivator. maybe it’s part of your personality. but whatever it is, i really admire it!

    ~ your cousin

  8. I’m so sorry about you dog :( *hugs* How’s your mom, ok now?

    I have been where you are emotionally. After my toddler, I had bad PPD and anxiety. If you need to talk, I am always here, you can contact me anytime.

    Get out in the sun, that helps immensely (it’s been proven). Take vitamins, even walk with the kids, that’ll help getting blood flowing. Breathe deeply when you walk, too. Oxygen will also help.

    There is so much you can do to help things along. There are even essential oils, too, that can help.

    If you need anything, let me know, ok? I’ll help any way I can from here. *huge hugs* honey, things will get better, I promise.

  9. “Welcome to humanity” – a fave mentor of mine used this phrase often with me when I complained about not being perfect. Which was often, though I don’t use that phrase exactly. You’ve got a good head on your shoulders and good dirt under your fingernails– good start :)

  10. The meds generally take at least a month to kick in for most people, so do hang in there. This time can be the toughest, because you get all the bad side effects without the good effects of the actual meds — but don’t give up! Better times are around the corner.

  11. Zoloft was a wonderful thing in my life. I was on it (and a very low dose which can for some people be enough) for several years during which I was able to calm the whirlpool of anxiety going on in my head to the point I didn’t need it anymore.

    Good luck. Medication isn’t a magic bullet but it can take the edge off.

    Blogging? Oy. I used to post 2 times a day. Now I’m lucky if I do it once a week.

  12. Hugs to you, friend. I’m sorry I didn’t give you one on Saturday night. I think several of us local AP Mamas have a lot of sad things in common right now. We really must see more of one another!

  13. Hi there, I just stumbled on your site after looking up beeswax candles and, after reading about your anxiety, I just wanted to lend you my support and understanding. I too suffer with anxiety and panic disorder – I’ve had it for about three years and it’s been a nightmare. I don’t take medication as the Dr refuses to prescribe it, so I’ve had to rely on lots of natural methods – sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. This swine flu sent me into a full panic attack this morning, so I know how you feel. I too have decided to try and avoid the news at the moment. Suffering with anxiety is one of the worst things in the world and I wish you all the very best in dealing with it.

    Best wishes

  14. I’m so sorry you’re struggling right now, and I’m so very sorry about your doggie! I’ve dealt with anxiety myself, and it just SUCKS. It’s frustrating that it seems to strike down mothers so frequently, although it’s clear why that happens, since we shoulder the burden of most of the stress in our families. Hang in there – I’ll be thinking of you!!

  15. It is so nice to get an update and hear how you are doing. I’m glad that you are taking care of yourself. That is so important.

    I’d be interested in learning more about how anxiety/panic disorder develops, since my husband suffers from it a bit and my son is starting to show signs of it too. I’d like to be able to be more understanding and help my loved ones. I’ll have to look up the book you mentioned and would love to hear your thoughts on it too (in July at the latest!).

  16. (((hugs))) Amy. I was just thinking last night that I hadn’t seen you around Twitter lately and was going to DM you.

    I’m glad you’ve found support and agree that you and your family shouldn’t have to live with that shadow hanging over you.

  17. Amy, I’m sending huge huge hugs. I wish so badly that I lived close by because I love it where you live! And also because I would love to help in a physical way. Until then, you are on my mind. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help you from here.

    I can understand so much of what you write about and I’m supporting you 100%.

    Steph

  18. Good for you!! It’s kind of like when you’re on an airplane and you’re instructed to put on your own air-mask before helping others with theirs. Sometimes we forget the order of things. It doesn’t mean one thing is more important than the other, but the order we do things can make all the difference.

    I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this stuff right now. Good luck with your journey!

  19. sending healing prayers your way and letting you know that the nice thing about the internet is that we’ll be here when you find your way back…good for you for taking care of yourself.

  20. I’ve notice that a lot of times, when you have a major breakthrough, you have a bad week after. It’s almost like the Fear has it’s own personality and it feels threatened and wants to take back over. It’s that post-breakthrough week that takes the most mental energy.

    Staying away from news and Internet sounds great, although if you feel like reading a humorous approach to the swine flu panic, there’s one on my blog today. http://bit.ly/kEt82

  21. I’m sorry about Ellie and know she is in a good place.

    I’m not surprised gardening helps: my yoga teacher teacher (the one who taught me to teach, that was a weird sentence!) says that the earth can absorb everything and recycle it into positive. When you have negative thoughts, or problems, imagine giving them to the earth, she says. Mama will take care of you :)

  22. your third paragraph is exactly what i fear going through when i have kids.
    its so good that you are able to recognize it and do something about it.
    i have been around many people who just end up wallowing and don’t see (or don’t want to see)what an impact it can have on their children.
    and, coming from experience, i know how easy it is to stay in that place.
    so i applaud you for taking such an active role in your health and well-being.

  23. Amy,

    Let me just tell you from my experience of being a child of a mother who suffered horribly, you’re doing the right thing. My mom denied and tried to ignore it and we suffered because of it. You are soooo right you did not choose this but you have to deal with it. I’m thinking of you and knowing you’ll be strong and make it through this.

  24. Amy, my heart goes with you! I have an anxious brain and it takes a tremendous amount of work to unwind – taking medication can really help us rewire our brains, especially when combined with therapy and good self-care. During our move, and being ill, when I started having panic attacks again, I found http://www.anxietycentre.com to be an invaluable resource. I still listen to the podcast meditations that I downloaded, but the info on that site is very reassuring. I also did a few sessions with their anxiety counselors and it was very helpful.

    You are in my thoughts!! xx

  25. I don’t think I can add anything to what the others have said. {HUG} As someone who lives with family members who have had similar problems I can say that having to take a chill pill everyday is a better choice than living with the other option. ;-)

  26. These are all really great steps! Your doc is right about the drugs time to kick in. Hang in there, you are headed in the right direction.

  27. I could have written your exact words. Thank you for your honesty! I lost my beloved dog Scout almost 3 years ago and I know that caused a significant change in my life. I’m still not over it…never will be…but have 2 children now that need me to be calm and level-headed. I take medication every day and see a therapist. I also think yoga is a huge help. Hang in there…we are with you out here.

  28. Hi Amy,
    Thinking of you! I’m so glad you are doing what you can to make it better and that it seems to be working. You have such a level headed attitude about it- that I have no doubt you’ll overcome this. Good for you for getting your feelings out there. Being true to yourself is important during this time. Positive thoughts girlie! :) Losing a pet is never easy. Hang in there. ((hugs)) I hope your days get brighter. Take good care.

  29. I was recently diagnosed with panic disorder and so understand how you are feeling.

    I wanted to say that you are being extremely courageous by tackling this. It’s probably the hardest thing you will ever do, but you’ll learn so much about yourself and develop an inner strength that you didn’t know you had. (I laughed when people first told me that, but I strongly believe it now).

    I am finding that book you mention extremely helpful too. I also felt like it had been written specifically for me!

    The book talks about deep relaxation exercises. A friend gave me a cd of these exercises and I found it really useful. There are a number of them available for download on itunes if you aren’t up for going to the store. Mine has a title of Yoga Nidra.

    Also I wanted to say that I think you are really brave talking about this on your blog. While I have been very open with friends and work colleagues about what I am going through, I have not disclosed any of it on my blog. You’ve inspired me. :)

    Last thing… I have found this blog really helpful: http://www.anxietyguru.net/ Although I find I can’t read it on days where I’m feeling really anxious (when I’m feeling really anxious I don’t want to read, or think about anxiety).

    It will get better. And on days when it’s tough, there’s a lot of other sufferers out there to lean on for support.

  30. Amy, thank you for sharing what you are going through with your online community. I vacilate often between anxiety and mild depression, so am always keeping an eye on my emotions to see what affects them. There has been a lot of news lately about the impact of the outdoors on children and how it can affect behavioral disorders, i.e. “Last Child In The Woods”. I recently was out hiking and discovered myself feeling positively joyous just being outside, regardless of exertion level. I remember noting this in the past, but I always appear to need to re-learn how nature affects my moods and anxiety. I think kids are not the only ones who need to spend a good deal of time outdoors. I don’t know what your proximity to nature or interest in it is, but my two cents would be that you might spend more time outside, even just sitting in the woods and watching your surroundings, and see if that has a positive or grounding impact for you. Good luck with the learning and taking care of yourself. It’s nice to see other intelligent, articulate women speak of conditions that many of us feel ashamed by. Thank you for your honesty.

  31. Amy, thank you for sharing what you are going through with your online community. I vacilate often between anxiety and mild depression, so am always keeping an eye on my emotions to see what affects them. There has been a lot of news lately about the impact of the outdoors on children and how it can affect behavioral disorders, i.e. “Last Child In The Woods”. I recently was out hiking and discovered myself feeling positively joyous just being outside, regardless of exertion level. I remember noting this in the past, but I always appear to need to re-learn how nature affects my moods and anxiety. I think kids are not the only ones who need to spend a good deal of time outdoors. I don’t know what your proximity to nature or interest in it is, but my two cents would be that you might spend more time outside, even just sitting in the woods and watching your surroundings, and see if that has a positive or grounding impact for you. Good luck with the learning and taking care of yourself. It’s nice to see other intelligent, articulate women speak of conditions that many of us feel ashamed by. Thank you for your honesty.

  32. I’m so glad you are finding help, whether it be your therapist, the drugs, the strategies for coping; whatever helps, do it! I have been in a similar place in my life, and for me, the medication alone made a world of difference-even better when coupled with cognitive therapy. I hope you find the wisdom and strength you need to conquer!
    And take heart, as I have in reading the comments thus far: we are certainly not alone!

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