Why Sometimes It’s Okay to Not Like Your Kids

Whoahh okay, before you all jump down my throat about the title let me be clear about something: I DO NOT hate my children. Far from it! I LOVE them more than I could describe in words. Any mom would agree with me that the love for our children is unmatched. BUT, sometimes those precious little humans we birthed can be little you-know-whats, (starts with an “s” to clue you in a little). Also, every mom on the planet can agree with me on that one!

The thing is, kids have no filter whatsoever, and can be so cruel without even trying. So, most of the time when they want to say something it just comes out with little to no thought behind it. Like my four-year-old son who, no matter where we are, will declare for whoever is within earshot that he’s farted. Or my eight-year-old daughter who when she saw my newly chopped hair immediately said “I HATE it Mom.” Sure makes a girl feel good about herself am I right?

When I was a new mom I remember holding my son and trying to imagine ever putting him in time-out or actually yelling at him. Oh boy was I naive! Of course when they’re tiny and can’t really talk yet it’s impossible to see what little monsters they can become as a toddler. Yes, the terrible 2’s are real my friend. As are the terrible 3’s, 4’s, 5’s, and so on. Every age has begun a new phase of parenting, and they’ve all had positives and negatives to them.

No matter what stage of parenthood you’re in though, it’s all just plain hard. Being a parent is THE hardest job in the world, but on the flip side also the most rewarding. When my husband Jess and I decided we were ready to start a family we had no clue how hard it really would be, I mean no one does, but we knew we were ready to try our best and to do it together.

Today was just a hard day for me as a mom. It happens to everyone. It got so spectacularly emotional for me that I needed to leave the house tonight by myself and just have some alone time. I went and sat by my mom’s graveside and had myself a good ugly cry. My husband gracefully finished dinner with the kids, cleaned up, and they all were ready with hugs and “sorry’s” when I came back. What happened you ask?

Well, first off, I was exhausted from a terrible night of sleep. The aforementioned flatulent four-year-old has a terrible habit of coming into our bed at night that we just cannot break. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he HAS to be on top of me, usually on my face. I have nicknamed him the “face hugger” which is a nod to the movie ‘Alien’ for those of you who don’t get the reference. So, starting off my Monday tired was not good.

We also are currently packing for our move to Nashville which has been no small feat. I am already stressed up to my eyeballs about that, and our house looks like a literal bomb went off because of it. Clutter and disorder in my living space really throws me off mentally too, so add that to the list. Also, my husband is leaving for Nashville this Friday with our first moving truck. He will be gone for several weeks and when he’s gone I tend to be extra emotional and vulnerable.

Then, when the big kids got home from school the mom-shaming began. And no, it’s not the same as mom-to-mom shaming. This is straight from the mouths of the babes you gave birth to telling you how crappy of a job you’re doing. Oh, they’re so sweet when they can’t talk yet, but once they can form sentences they also form little opinions, grudges, picket lines, committees, and okay I’m exaggerating juuuuust a bit. Once they can, your kids will judge you for everything! Your clothes, hair, makeup, how you drive, what you watch, your music, your cooking, how you talk, I mean this list is endless. Basically nothing is safe from them, and you are forced to take a good, hard look at yourself from the perspective of a ruthless child.

So, I actually got dressed today! Woo! What’s the big deal, right? Well, on a normal day I usually am never in anything but workout clothes or comfy T-shirt’s and sweats at home. But today, despite being tired I actually got up and went to the gym in the morning! I usually do go, but never until the afternoon because I’m too tired and unmotivated. So, since I was done early I went home and showered and got dressed in a decent shirt and jeans. My oldest son, when he saw me said:

“Where are you going?”

To which I replied:

“Nowhere, why?”

To which he replied:

“Oh, you are just usually never dressed up.”

Dressed up?! You’re joking, right? This ain’t dressed up honey, but this momma is allowed to actually put some effort into herself even if she isn’t going to go anywhere!

Granted, my son didn’t mean for his words to shame me, but I really was offended by it! So silly right? But it’s not! We as moms should not feel like just because we may spend a majority of our time at home, that we have to dress accordingly. There really is no “mom uniform”! Yes, most days gym clothes are what’s best for me, and that is GREAT. But today I felt like putting on makeup and doing my hair on a weekday and that’s okay too!

From there, it all just went downhill.The two oldest could not agree on anything it seemed. A game they were playing ended in tears because one wasn’t “playing fair”. Then building of forts turned into a battle of who was getting the most blankets which also ended in tears.

I was making spaghetti for dinner which should be easy right? WRONG. One kid doesn’t like spaghetti but she loves sauce, another one loves the noodles but no sauce, and the third? Well, he ate everything without complaint (bless him!). But the two who were complaining just wouldn’t let it go. So as I’m making a meal all I’m hearing is whining whining and more whining. THEN the same two children started fighting in the other room as I’m cooking. I listened for a few moments hoping they would work it out, but is soon escalated to hitting and crying so I intervened. I sent them both to their respective rooms and maybe raised my voice a little more than was necessary. My oldest son on his way out stopped, looked me in the eyes and said:

“I always knew you hated me.”

Whoah. Okay first of all, not even a little true! But no, you know what, it’s a little true right now. I love you so much son, but right now I don’t really like you and how you’re choosing to act…… is what I SHOULD have said to him. Instead, I stayed silent and kept making dinner, praying for bedtime to come quickly.

Dinner was no better with the bad behavior. By the end of it, I slammed my plates in the sink, grabbed my car keys and purse and headed for the garage. My husband knew what was happening and told me he would handle it.

My kids love me, but sometimes they have a crappy way of showing it! Kids tend to not realize how hurtful they are, until it’s too late. But that’s what we need to make sure to teach them so they are aware of what’s okay and not okay to say and do.

Sometimes I feel so beat up as a mom like I’m some sort of mommy punching bag. That’s where I was last night. When these times come and I feel myself spiraling down it’s okay to step back and take a few moments for myself. We mom’s are doing the hardest job in the world: raising little humans to be loving and good adults! It’s not an easy business and sometimes I just DO NOT like my clients, and you know what, it’s okay!

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

Advertisements

Holidazed

Pretty much the day after Halloween ends, the Christmas season begins. Or at least in every store it does! I feel like the Christmas decor starts sneaking out earlier and earlier, and it makes me a little mad. Thanksgiving hasn’t even happened yet- can we just Ho-Ho-Hold on please?

The holidays seem to go by fast enough on their own, so why do we feel like we need to rush on to the ones that haven’t even happened yet? Slow down people! Let’s savor each holiday and actually enjoy them for once!

Buy! Buy! Buy!

I’m gonna be honest, I have found myself relating so much to Cindy Lou Who in the Jim Carrey version of ‘The Grinch’ so much in the past few years. At the beginning of the film, (which my kids have been watching on Netflix since like May), she is with her Father Christmas shopping and holding an enormous stack of presents. She is watching the chaos around them as people are hurrying to buy as much as they can in the rush before Christmas. Cindy turns to her father and says:

Everybody seems to kerbabbled. Isn’t this just a little superfluous?

I agree. 100%. The stuff, all the stuff really isn’t so important. It is, in fact, superfluous. What IS important is making valuable memories with your families, and remembering the real spirit of Christmas which is giving and love. I loved my presents of course as a kid, but the magic of the holidays and our family traditions were what I looked forward to and remember most fondly. Some of my most favorite memories as a kid? Going to cut down our tree, baking cookies with my mom, decorating our tree, having our holiday celebrations with our adopted family the Quinns, Mannheim Steamroller on repeat, and going to see the Wanamaker’s Christmas Light show in downtown Philly. The stuff? Although of course meaningful at the time, is all but forgotten now.

My husband and I have been trying to be more conscious of giving our children more useful gifts. We get them at least one of their “wants” from their lists, (come on we are not monsters!), but then try to give them something educational. The past two years we have gotten various Smithsonian encyclopedia books which have been a huge hit, and last year we got a huge box of geodes that they could smash open themselves. We also make it a point that Santa brings us new board games and card games we can play as a family. Game nights are big in our house, and it’s a great way for us to spend time together and connect in a fun way. He also always brings the kids each a new book- reading is big with us too!

This year, we have also been trying to do more “experience” gifts like classes or tickets to events or performances. Getting out and experiencing something to me is far more meaningful than a toy. I am in no way parent shaming anyone. We still get our kids plenty of toys, but we are really trying to focus on what would be the most beneficial for our kids too.

Blue Christmas

Unfortunately this season of joy can also trigger really strong emotions. Depression, anxiety, and any other mental illness can be exacerbated tremendously. There always seems to be more and more pressure to have the best Christmas ever. We are constantly bombarded by movies, ads, signs, and social media telling us: our holiday decor needs an upgrade, reminding you how you’re still single, that your life isn’t where you want it to be, that you need to lose weight for the new year, how much your cooking sucks, and that you have to buy presents to show everyone you love them. I mean, I could go on and on.

This evening as my husband and I were putting up our house lights outside, he asked me a question that has been floating around my mind ever since. He said:

“What’s the point of all this? Don’t you think in a way that we have all taken the holidays to this extreme and we have lost sight of what it’s really about?”

I think this is true, but that you also need a good balance. For instance, I think the decorations and lights help make this season so magical for my kids! I love pulling out my boxes every year and watching the kids eyes light up as they re-discover favorite ornaments or nativity scenes we have. The magic needs to remain, but don’t go overboard and become Clark Griswald or anything.

For the second year, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has installed giving machines in some major cities around the US and the world. They sort of work like vending machines, but you are paying to give to people in need. It can be as small as glasses or socks, and as big as a cow! Your money will go towards buying what you choose and someone here or abroad will be given that special thing. I think this is such an amazing idea and gives people an opportunity to spread love.

Photo by R Scott Lloyd from Lds.org

Let’s just remember to be extra kind to those who need it this season too. Reach out to people who are single and maybe bring them some homemade Christmas cookies or invite them for dinner. If you have someone you know that struggles with their mental health, make sure they know they are loved this time of year too. A little love goes a long way.

Keeping the Memories Alive

For me, Christmas is especially hard without my mom. Everything reminds me of her, including most of the decorations I now have in my home that were hers. I have found myself this past week particularly missing her, and getting an ache in my chest as I wished she was still here.

The best thing we have done and will continue to do, is keep her memory alive by keeping traditions going.

Mom started these candy sleigh races when we were in high school when she was a seminary teacher. It was a fun game to keep her students motivated early in the morning, but it also became a favorite family Christmas time activity. The object is to create a sleigh out of candy- a large bar is the base and two candy canes are the runners. You can add as much or little candy as you want to try and make your sled faster. The names of the sleighs are always fun too. Then we turn a table on its side so it slopes down and we have heats and race them until there is a winner. My kids and my brothers kids look forward to it every year!

My stepmom has been really sweet and continued this tradition with our family, and has even started doing it with her own kids!

When I find my heart feeling heavy this season because I feel like I am not doing enough, or that the pain of missing my mom is too much, I will really try to spread some love instead. I have always found that helping others gives me so much joy. I want my kids too to understand how privileged they are and to remember to give back because they can. The reason for the season is not the stuff, it’s love. Christmas is about celebrating the birth of our Savior, not the presents under the tree. We need to remember to spend time and make memories with our loved ones, or give back to those who are less fortunate.

So, thanks to Cindy Lou Who and her inspiration – I won’t find myself kerbabbled this year!

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

I almost drowned once. I was an adult too, 26 to be exact. I was snorkeling on a reef in Belize, and I had wandered from the main group following a group of fish. Unknowingly I had gotten pulled by a current into the dangerous part where these enormous waves crashed down onto the edge of the reef.

Before I realized the danger I was in, a wave crashed onto me. It engulfed my snorkel and sent a tube-full of water down my throat. I began coughing, but the salt water made my throat close. I began to panic, gasping for air and nothing was going in. When I finally felt my throat opening again, another wave hit me and flung me into the reef. I inhaled water again and was flailing around in the confusion of the waves and the rocks. When I resurfaced  I was still coughing and managed a ragged breath before another wave took me under. I was terrified; I was going to drown. I have been a swimmer since the age of 6 and a lifeguard for 4 summers in high school. Swimming has never been a problem for me, yet here I was about to die in the ocean.

I was suddenly being brought to the surface by my friend who had been close by. She saw me struggling and bravely came to my rescue at the risk of being tossed around like I was. I was still struggling to catch my breath and she held onto me and slowly swam me to safety. At this point our guide spotted us, (like hello? Where were you this entire time?!), and jumped into the water in extremely dramatic fashion, and helped me back into the boat.

Obviously, I’m very glad I didn’t drown that day, but I can’t help but think of this story as I reflect on a year ago when I almost drowned a different way.

The Perfect Storm

Last summer, my anxiety began to become uncontrollable for me. I talked about all of this in my blog here. By the end of July when I was back in Utah, it had gone from being an occasional issue to a daily issue. Pretty much as soon as I woke up, the panic would start. I would honestly dread the mornings and what the next day would hold for me. I attempted my best to hold it together but it got so bad that I eventually broke down. I’m not sure I know anyone who would not have broken down after enduring the nonstop panic. Thinking back on how fuzzy and how detached from my body I was is scary. I never felt like I was “all there”, and constantly worried about the next panic attack. I didn’t feel comfortable even in my own home and would try to escape that feeling by leaving and staying busy, but being in public also made me feel panicked because I did NOT want to make a public scene if I had another attack. I was exhausted but couldn’t shut my brain off at night, and being so sleep deprived exacerbated everything astronomically. I was literally feeling like I was losing my mind.

As scary as it may be to say, I got to the point where I understood why people with severe mental illness commit suicide. I was never contemplating it, but it was such an exhausting mental cycle I would go through every single day, that I longed for it to be over. I just wanted all of it to stop and to feel like myself again. I had a full fledged breakdown on the day when everything came to a head last summer. It was so bad that my husband drugged me so I would just go to sleep because I was so spectacularly  hysterical. I felt like I was drowning in this mental anguish.

S.O.S

I was clearly in trouble, and my ship was sinking fast. Thankfully, I had the good sense to reach out to people that I loved and trusted to help. I sought help from my doctor who prescribed me life-changing medication for my anxiety. By the next day I could feel a huge difference and that fuzzy fog-like feeling I had was lifting.

I also started going to a therapist who specializes in anxiety disorders, and even after my first session with her I felt SO much better. Over a few months she helped me develop some mental tools to help me combat my anxiety when it would rear its ugly head. I finally was feeling myself again, although it was a rough road at first.

The best thing I did for myself was to ask for help. Instead of enduring this scary anxiety- filled world alone I made sure I had my people there to help me. If I had tried to go it alone, I’m not sure where I would be today, or in what mental state.

For anyone out there who feels like they are drowning in their own mental health issues, just know that you are NOT alone. Here is the number for a suicide hotline:

Suicide Prevention

1-800-273-8255

XoXo

Heather

The Raw Brunette

D0983D7A-3B7C-41D0-9A80-29EF4D6CC9FA

 

 

 

Anxiety: My Silent Stalker

Since the previous post I wrote titled:” The Light Inside My Darkness” , which describes my recent struggles with anxiety, a great number of people reached out to me. Some I know well, some I haven’t spoken to in years, and some were complete strangers. Many of them told me I was so brave for talking about a subject many don’t like to talk about, while others thanked me for talking about something they suffer from too. I guess I didn’t expect the impact of my words to help so many people. It was unexpected but extremely humbling. I in no way think of myself as an advocate for anxiety and panic attacks, but if I am helping people feel better about their own struggles, I will continue to discuss my own personal battle.

Warning Signs

Anxiety is something that I believe has always been present with me, but has gone through phases of being better or worse. The earliest memory I can recall was when I was around a year old. I was crawling down the hallway upstairs in the Pennsylvania home I grew up in. I can remember the carpet under my hands and knees. I came to the top of the stairs and paused for a moment, debating if I should go down or not. Apparently I decided I could do it, because the next thing I knew, I was tumbling all the way down. Just a few weeks or months later, I grabbed onto my mom’s curling iron cord and pulled it down from her bathroom counter and onto the top of my left hand. I still have a burn mark from it. I believe, that these two events that are seemingly inconsequential started my anxiety. The world became full of dangers that I never knew existed, and to such a young child it was scary.

When I was a toddler, I developed extreme separation anxiety. When my mom would take me to department stores, grocery stores, or any large place with lots of people, the moment I would lose sight of her I would freak out.  I can remember a few of those times. I really had no logical reason to think my mom would just leave me there, but I was beyond reasonable thinking.

A Series of Unfortunate Events

Fast forward to 1997 when I was in sixth grade. This was the year my mom was diagnosed with her cancer. Sixth grade in itself was just a hard year for me. I mean, middle school was not fun in general, but for me, it was rough. I was a complete dork. Glasses, no sense of style, and zero confidence. So the added stress and emotions of my mom being diagnosed with terminal cancer just exacerbated everything.

Over the next year or so, my mom was pretty much in a hospital. My dad was still working a full-time job, and would eventually have a nervous breakdown. So, my sister and I instead of being normal twelve-year-olds would come home from school and do laundry, cook dinner or clean the house. Our family had many guardian angels who helped us during this time, but it was not everyday.  We were responsible for things that most kids our ages weren’t doing. I’m not saying we never did fun things with our friends, or would go out, because we did. But for a majority of the time, we were basically forced to grow up and act like adults. It was a lot of responsibility and stress, and it would eventually break me down.

My OCD and anxiety started during this time. I became acutely aware of disease, and anything having to do with germs and sickness would make me panic. I always had hand sanitizer, and started to compulsively wash my hands until they bled. I was also always convinced something was wrong with me. If I got a bruise on my leg suddenly I had Leukemia, or a cough was pneumonia. For a period of time I was wholly convinced that I was going blind and even made someone take me to an eye doctor. My husband has forbidden me from using WebMD because this terrible habit will raise its ugly head if I look up the symptoms for me or my children.

I also became very cognizant of death. My mom was constantly on her deathbed which was so traumatizing for me.  There was even a night where they told us to say goodbye to her, because the doctors were convinced she would not make it until the morning. I cried so much that night when I went home that I made myself sick. My dad spent the night at the hospital, and when he came home in the morning he told us mom was still with us. Thankfully, like I have said before in other posts, my mom lived until 2015. She was a fighter. The idea of death stirred in me an anxiety that I am still dealing with: separation from loved ones. It all stems from the separation anxiety I dealt with as a child, but it manifests itself in me having the tell people I love them every time I say goodbye. It doesn’t matter if it’s on the phone or in person. I was constantly afraid when I said goodbye to my mom that it would be for the last time, so I started telling everyone I loved them every time we parted ways. This is something I still do to this day, but I don’t think it’s bad to make sure everyone I love knows that I love them.

Just Breathe

Quite a few people have asked me advice on how I deal with my anxiety. I tell them all that everyone is different, but I am still happy to share the things that have helped me. I have compiled a short list of some methods that have been very beneficial for me.

  • Breathing- This is a key one for me. Often when I’m spiraling into full-blown panic mode I am breathing fast. I have to slow my breathing down and take long drawn out breaths, and then count to five when I am exhaling. Just physically stopping and concentrating on your breath can snap you out of your panic mode, and it slows your heart rate as well.
  • A Change of Location- What I mean by this one is that you need to physically change where you are in that moment. Oftentimes, if I am inside and feel the panic racing in, I go outside. Fresh air for some reason helps calm me down, and I feel so stuffy inside and get claustrophobic so the fresh air definitely helps ease that feeling. If you cannot physically change your location, say when you’re on an airplane for example,  see the next one.
  • Grounding- Grounding methods have been a game changer for me especially when I am in a situation where I cannot go outside. Last fall I was boarding a plane from Chicago to Salt Lake City. I’m usually okay on flights but as soon as I stepped into this plane my heart started racing. It was a TINY plane which had two seats on each side of the aisle. I sat down in my seat and tried to talk the panic away but it didn’t work. Instantly I needed to flee, so I ran up to the front of the plane and stood with the flight attendant bawling my eyes out by the still open door as people boarded the plane so I could feel the fresh air. She consoled me and even started to cry herself because she felt so bad for me. I considered getting off the plane, but had a conversation with myself that pretty much said “You will need to board a plane either way. Might as well do it now and get it over with.” So, I sat back down in my seat with the air on me at full blast and my music on in my headphones. I was still on the edge of panic the entire flight, but I kept doing grounding exercises and it helped me get through my flight. So, what is a grounding exercise you ask? Simple. You basically need to use your five senses. You find five things around you that you can see,four things you can feel, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and finally one thing you can taste. It helps you to focus on the environment you are in, and bring you back down from the edge.
  • Music- This one for me has always been an escape. When I got my first walkman, (yes, I’m old), I would sit in my room for hours sometimes listening to music and just going into my own little world. It helped me to escape the harsh reality while my mom was sick when I was in middle school, and has been a huge help to me in many other events or times in my life. I’m a huge believer in driving with the music turned up and singing at the top of your lungs too. Music just heals your soul.
  • Find an outlet- This one can be anything really. Whether it’s a sport, hobby, game, prayer, reading books, crafting, scrapbooking, photography your options are limitless. And the great thing is, you can have more than one! For me, working out is one of my most important outlets. I am a much happier person when I take the time to workout. I also enjoy doing classes at the gym which motivates me more when someone is yelling at me what to do. I also love to play city league sports, and have played in several softball leagues, and do a women’s volleyball league twice a year. But whatever works for you, do it!
  • Having a Person- You know, your “phone a friend” lifeline.  I myself have multiple people who I know I can call if I find myself running for mayor of panic town, and I know they will answer their phones and will understand what’s going on. I trust these people and love them so I feel completely comfortable to be able to call them when I am at my absolute craziest. I think it’s important to have people you can turn to because anxiety is terrifying when you are trying to handle it by yourself. Believe me, I know. Another important thing is to educate your “person” or “persons” so they understand what anxiety really is. My husband for example, who is obviously my main “person”, has never experienced anxiety or panic attacks, so I have made sure to have him educate himself by reading many articles so that he can someone grasp an understanding of what exactly I am going through, as well as know how to correctly respond to me when I am in that state.
  • Getting it Out- Honestly, sometimes the best thing for me is to just let it out. I mean crying, and just let those emotions out instead of trying to hold them in. Sometimes just having a good five minute cry helps the panic subside much quicker than trying to hold it in for me. A release of those pent up emotions can really relieve your anxiety.

I could go on, but these are just a few examples of the things that have worked for me. I have also started medication and am scheduled for my first therapy session next week, (I was supposed to go two weeks ago but because I have no insurance they kept giving me the run around and now I am FINALLY going. But that’s another story!) but these things are what I believe at this time. Not everyone needs medication or therapy.

This Too Shall Pass

The mind is such a fascinating thing. It can really sabotage us though, and I feel like that’s what mine was doing to me when my anxiety was at its worst just a few months ago. But the good thing is, that with the right help and techniques, it WILL pass. During a particurlarly bad panic attack I had my face buried in my husbands chest sobbing, and he was rubbing my back and telling me to breathe, and he said “Don’t worry this is going to pass.” So, now when I do have anxiety attacks, (honestly they have been few and far between since my medication), I say to myself in my head over and over while I breathe slowly: “This will pass. This will pass.” and it really does help me.

The panic is always there, and probably always will be. Anxiety is my silent stalker. I decided, however, that I was no longer going to let it rule my life. It’s a real battle some days, but it’s a choice I am not going back on.

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw BrunetteIMG_5781

Image

The Light Inside My Darkness

I’ll be the first to admit that I hate asking for help. It makes me feel uncomfortable, and defeated. I’m pretty stubborn, so the thought of even asking for help is usually out of the question for me. A few weeks ago I came to a crossroads where I was desperately needing help, and was scared to give in to it. I was determined to figure out how to help myself on my own, but I kept slipping into a deeper into darkness and it was terrifying. I was cognizant of the fact that outside help was necessary for me.

Falling Down the Rabbit Hole

Much like Alice, I too went down a hole. Instead of going on an adventure with rabbits and the Queen of Hearts, however, mine led me to nothing but darkness and demons I couldn’t make go away. I have always struggled with anxiety, and have had bouts of depression throughout my life. Over the past 6 months or so, my sanity seemed to be slowly ebbing from me one panic attack at a time. It got so bad about two weeks ago, that I literally felt detached from my own body. I was living in a full on panic zone 24/7. If you have seen the show ‘Stranger Things’ (who else is so excited for the new season in October?!) it felt sort of like the “Upside Down”. I felt fuzzy, and just completely disconnected from everyone and everything around me. My sweet oldest son Calvin became very aware that something was happening to me. He would recognize the symptoms of my panic attacks happening, and would run to me and put his arms around me. He would actually comfort me until the panic subsided. He’s so sweet, and I don’t know what I ever did to deserve such a tender-hearted boy.

I tried everything to help ease my anxiety. Essential oils did nothing, meditation- nothing, breathing- nada, grounding excercises- nope. All these things that usually work for my occasional panic attacks were completely useless. I basically had to drug myself to even sleep at night because for some reason that’s when the panic would be the worst. I was exhausted, and finally could admit I needed to seek outside help.

Doctors Orders

I sat in the examination room of my general doctor, who I have known for almost ten years. He was asking me questions about my general anxiety and where I thought it could be coming from. All the while, my three children, (whom I had no choice but to bring with me), were fighting and being horrendously obnoxious. My eyes were filling with tears and I desperately wanted to scream at my kids to just let Mommy talk to the damn doctor for five minutes in peace. When my doctor asked me if I found myself yelling at my kids a lot, I actually started laughing despite wanting to sob! Uh, yeah. I yell at them, kind of want to RIGHT freaking now.  He actually informed me that a short fuse is a sign of depression and anxiety! Something that I didn’t even think of, but when I told Jess that later, he said “Yeah, I have noticed the past few months that you will blow up pretty easily. More so than usual.” Oops! At least I have a reason for it, and I’m really not just the meanest mom on the planet.

After checking my thyroid, and determining it was normal, he prescribed an antidepressant for me to take daily to prevent the feelings of anxiety, as well as Xanax to take if I happened to have a sudden panic attack. He used asthmatics as an example to explain it to me. They take a daily inhaler which prevents the attacks, but have an emergency inhaler as well in case there’s a sudden asthma attack. It made total sense to me. I have never been super excited to be medicated; I have tried antidepressants for small amounts of time when I had postpartum depression, but I hated how I felt on them. He assured me that the one he prescribed was a different type, and wouldn’t make me tired or feel loopy. At this point, I was willing to try anything to feel normal again.

Since that day, I have slowly gotten back to myself. I am no longer fuzzy, or disconnected, and am happy to report I have only had two attacks, which is SO much better than 10-12 a day!

Crawling Back Out of the Hole

Medication is not my end game. I have nothing against it, and anyone who needs it shouldn’t feel bad in the slightest. It’s a personal choice, and I want to be able to one day not have to rely on it. For now, it’s working for me, and that’s great. Ultimately, I need to determine the underlying causes of what is creating this incredible anxiety and stress for me.

My doctor suggested seeing a therapist. The thought hadn’t occurred to me that therapy would be an option, but he told me it’s one the most successful treatments for people with panic disorders like me. To be fair, the past five years or so have been an incredible roller coaster ride.

I’ve mentioned before that my mom passed away in 2015, which in itself was, and still is traumatic. When you lose someone you love, your entire life changes. You have to learn how to live without that person, and you yourself become a different person because of it. My whole world felt blown to bits, and I know I have changed. Two years later, it’s still a struggle for me to live without my mom. I miss her, and I know the pain of her loss is something I will have for the rest of my life.

The week my mom was diagnosed as terminal and literally given weeks to months to live, three of my closest friends all turned their backs on me. That hurtful loss of three women who I thought I would be friends with for life, coupled with the devastating news about my mom was unbearably painful. At a time when I needed them the most, they decided I was “out” of their group. It might sound silly to some people to be so upset about the loss of friends, but I am such an openly loving person. I feel things very deeply, even pain. My husband often tells me one of the things he loves most about me is how deeply rooted I get with the people I love. I’m fully committed to my loved ones, friends and family, so the loss of three at once was pretty devastating. Those friendships have not been mended, and probably never will be at this point, but I still have love for them in my heart. I also believe that things happen as they should, so I’m content at this point to accept that.

My miscarriage came six months after my mom passed away. I have an entire post about it here if you’d like to read about it.

I also had to watch as my twin sister suffered through a volatile marriage for almost 4 years. Her husband was a closeted alcoholic who decided to show his true self after they were wed. He was incredibly abusive and a very toxic person to be around. It killed me inside to not be able to help my sister, but she needed to leave because she was ready, not because I was. I was constantly in fear of her safety, and would stay up many nights crying myself to sleep with worry for her. They are now divorced and she is living the life she should have been all these years. I am so grateful that she is safe now.

And if all that wasn’t enough, for almost three years, my husband was involved in a legal battle with his former partners in a business. It got ugly. REALLY ugly. It was long and drawn out, and the true colors of people who we thought were kind and honest came out. It was disappointing to see how ugly and selfish these people really are. If anyone has been in any kind of legal battle, then you know it is exhausting. Thankfully its over now, but boy was it stressful.

So, it’s pretty obvious my mental state has been drastically affected by all this stress! I think any normal person would crack from it all. I actually am sort of excited at the thought of being able to just unload everything on a neutral party. A loved one said it to me perfectly: “I think moms with small children really know the value of having one person really listen to you.” AMEN!

There was a time where I was pretty hopeless and feeling like I would never be able to pull myself out of the dark place I was in. But the good news is that I’m going to be okay. I still have a way to go in terms of fully getting better, and I know I will still have hard days. Thankfully I have a great support system and lots of people who love me so I am no longer afraid of the dark.

It’s Okay to Ask for Help

Am I broken? No. Human, yes, but not broken. Mental disorders, and mental illnesses are something that not a lot of people like to talk about. It’s uncomfortable for some, and others are too embarrassed to talk about what’s going on. I was just afraid to admit I needed help. I literally felt like I was going insane, and I would ask Jess at least once a day “Am I crazy?” to which he would always reply “No.” People with mental illnesses and disorders are NOT crazy. It’s like any other illness. You wouldn’t ask a person with cancer to just “snap out of it” or just “don’t have cancer” much to the way you wouldn’t say similar things to someone with depression.

I like to keep the dialogue open about mental health, because so many people feel like they’re alone in the struggles they have. You are most definitely NOT alone. Please, don’t ever be afraid to ask for help. I am so glad I did.

 

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

Photo Credit: Alejandro Araos