Life & FamilyMarch 10, 2014

My Anxious Life

** NOTE:  The cover reveal and pre-order have been pushed back to tomorrow due to some issues getting the book up on certain websites. Sorry, but I promise it tomorrow!!! In the meantime, it’s been a long time since I did an emotional dumping on you so prepare yourselves. ;)

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Earlier this week I sat in my doctor’s office complaining of a host of ailments. As I fidgeted on the table atop the crinkly paper sheet I ran through all the things that COULD be wrong, but deep down something reminded me that most likely whats wrong is what’s always wrong ever single time I feel like I’m dying-

My anxiety.

My people are an anxious tribe.  There is certainly something genetic and chemical about my long struggle with an anxiety, as proven by the prescriptions held and nervy nature those I love and that are genetically linked to me.  I have been on and off medication for my anxiety my entire adult life, and just now am I coming to grips with it’s true affect on my health and life. Late is better than never I suppose.

I honestly don’t know what it’s like to not be anxious or full of worry.  I envy those, like my husband,  who do not operate with a daily current of dread running through their system. That relentless tug in my gut that says “what if what if what if what if”.  EVERY. DAMN. DAY. I worry about being on time. If my dogs are being walked/have run away/ eaten something poisonous.  Did I turn the oven/ curling iron/ iron off? What if someone I love gets hurt? What if a client hates something we ordered and I have to pay for it? What if my house explodes? What if my husband gets sick or gets in an accident? What if we don’t have enough money?  What if my book fails? WHAT IF.  I have convinced myself that this kind of behavior prepares me for the worst, so when it happens I’m ready, and when it doesn’t I’m relieved.   But Andrew sees this is suffering twice instead of once or not at all.  Why freak out about something that may not happen? Somehow my DNA can’t compute that kind of thinking.

But most often and dramatically my anxiety likes to manifest itself as hypochondria.  It’s kind of a family joke that I am always dying of something. Like that time I thought I had a neurological disease and after a MRI it turned out to be my new handbag rubbing a nerve in my elbow and cutting off circulation.  Or the time I had to go to the emergency room because I was having a panic attack that my hair was all falling out after a bad dye job.  Or the year long back pain that turns out, was caused by muscle tension from stress.  Or my sometimes severe TMJ (temporarily cured by the best thing ever, “Jawtox”, by the way). Or my horrible bout with insomnia after getting married. I would gladly take a full body scan over a Birkin bag any day of the week.  But it’s always something that turns out to be “nothing”.  Except anxiety isn’t nothing. It’s a whole lotta something and it’s hell to live with and oh-so-real for those of us who struggle with it.

But back to my doctor’s appointment- while I had come in pretty sure I had a brain tumor, the doctor did not seem so worried. In my book, dizziness + sinus pain +  full ears +  vision weirdness = BRAIN TUMOR. But she knows something you don’t. That about three weeks ago I went through something incredibly shitty and painful and anxiety provoking and that’s oddly when these symptoms started.   And I have a feeling it’s all related. Farther back and wider spread than I had imagined.

As you know, we have been trying to get pregnant for a few years with no success and no explanation.  We decided it was time for intervention and planned to have our first IUI in the end of January. All was looking positive- I had two great eggs, a “impressive” sample from my husband (he’ll be super psyched I put that in writing) and timing working in our favor.  We got the green light to come in for the procedure and what happened? I freaked out. Big time. In the garage elevator at the hospital.  Were we really ready? Could we really do this? I mean, REALLY? A baby? I was so used to not getting pregnant the the concept of it actually happening hit me like a ton of bricks. I was practically hyperventilating and Andrew was about ready to kill me.  After all, this was what we had talked about wanting so badly how could I be second guessing it now after all the drugs, shots and horrible invasive 7 am ultrasounds?! I was shaking while waiting to be called in and could almost fell the adrenaline pumping through my blood when finally I was laying on the table.  I thought how negative an effect all this anxiety probably had on this expensive procedure and honestly, after it was all over (a shocking 2 minutes later), I thought to myself ” it probably didn’t work anyway, I was way too anxious”.

Except it did work.

About two and a half weeks later I took a test. The two minutes clicked by like hours and when I ran to look at the test I was defeated to see one stupid blue line. I chucked it in the garbage and got ready to take a shower, and then as I stepped into the shower I looked down in the trash quickly and there it was.

The test facing up with TWO blue lines clearly visible.

My stomach lept into my throat. I had to blink and look a couple times before I walked out of the bathroom and called for Andrew. I was shaking like a leaf as I told him and the joy in his face was indescribable. My reaction however, was horrific.  I started crying, and fell to the floor, a bundle of nerves bleating things through my sobs like “but the baby will be due the month my book comes out” and “I’m gonna get so fat” and “I can’t drink wine on vacation!” All stupid, stupid concerns but all very visceral in the moment. Andrew really wished we had been recording it because it was an oddly entertaining mixture of pathetic and incredibly hilarious.  I finally gathered myself together and we laughed about it for hours later as we settled in with the thought that I was, indeed, pregnant.

With this knowledge I made the decision to taper off my anxiety medication.  I had consulted with many doctors who said the risk was very minimal to the fetus to remain on it but I believed I was totally fine without it, as I had been in the past.  We were in a good place, I had a lot of good stuff going on and I thought it would be best.  I didn’t want to spend my whole pregnancy worrying about what my meds were doing to the baby.  But I didn’t think deeply about what my anxiety could do.

We excitedly went to get a blood test to doubly confirm our news, as we were leaving for a family trip to the Dominican Republic a few days later.  That night I sat with a sparking water instead of wine as I searched maternity sites planning for my future wardrobe.  The next day I got a call from the fertility doctor’s office and the brusque and em pathetically-challenged nurse told me that yes, the test was positive, but it was a “low positive”- which mean one of three things, this  it was very early, that this was an ectopic pregnancy or it wasn’t going to be viable and fail.  She followed that up with “and you aren’t going on vacation- we need to monitor this”. I didn’t quite know what to do with that information.  We chose to be hopeful (not normally in my nature) and went back in 24 hours later for another test.  My hormone count had risen but not as much as they liked to see. This happened once more two days later when they said they needed to do an ultrasound to see if they could find the location of the pregnancy.

As I laid there in the dark I watched the nurse’s face for any sign of a smile.  Instead I got a lot of prodding and squinting eyes in front of the monitor after which she finally said “I don’t see anything”.  I walked out of the room and my heart broke and a sobbed into Andrew’s chest.  The doctor said I had to watch my symptoms carefully as ectopic pregnancies “could be fatal”.  To a normal person this would sound like a casual warning, something that rarely happens. To me it was like yelling in my face “YOU MIGHT DIE!”  I spent the next few days tortured by the unknown, my baffling rising hormone levels and the sheer panic I felt from every slight cramp in my belly.  Even through the worry though,  I still held out a teeny bit of hope that it would work out somehow.

And then one day, it was over.  And I wasn’t in danger, I wasn’t in pain and it all went as it should naturally.  And I felt like a huge failure.  I felt (and still feel sometimes) like my level of stress and anxiety caused me to lose the pregnancy.   And perhaps it’s been my issue all along in our quest to be parents since medically we appear to be the perfect candidates to get pregnant.  I know it’s good news that I was physically capable of it, but the whole ordeal has left me a bit of a shell of myself right now.  The emotional roller-coaster I went on and the health scare that accompanied it set me back ten steps in my life-long quest to quell this horrible affliction called anxiety.   Previous to this I had been feeling relatively happy and almost never checked to see if a headache was anything but on WebMD. So I went back on my medication.  I have to accept that I need it and that there isn’t an evilness about it.  There shouldn’t be a stigma attached to psychiatric drugs- for some people diet, exercise and meditation may work fine, but for me and many others, it’s just not enough.  And it’s about time I also accept that I need to find a shrink I want to hang out with on a weekly basis so I can make cognitive changes too.  I am working hard to regain my health, my peace of mind and hope that as I do, our second try at this whole parenting thing goes as planned.

I know I’m not alone in this struggle. I know there are so many people who live day in and out with worry and paralyzing fear (of different things and with different manifestations).  I know that parenthood is way more stressful than most things I’ve experienced and I need to be in top form to conquer it.  I also know that we are all a little broken in parts.  We all have our bullshit and our weaknesses.  But I also know that talking about them makes it SO much easier to heal, deal and cope.  Keeping quiet does no one any good.  Writing is my catharsis and a form of therapy, and while this may be the most unflattering portrait I can paint of myself, it’s my truth.  And I think we all need to be a little more truthful and open so we can judge each other less and empathize more. No one is perfect.

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