Living with Anxiety


No joke, anxiety totally kicks my butt sometimes. Learning to live with it is challenging especially when my family doesn’t really understand. Here’s why people with anxiety can’t just “calm down”.


 

New Mommy Monster

Posted by on Jun 23, 2017 in Family Ties, Mental Health | 0 comments

The first few months of new motherhood have been harder and yet more rewarding than I could have possibly imagined. When that little girl smiles at me, I feel like I have won the lottery. It doesn’t get better than that. But it does get worse. Much, much worse.

No one can really prepare you, or at least they choose not to—and so you don’t know what you’re getting into until you are properly sinking in the quicksand that is parenthood. I think it’s partly because you get absolutely zero sleep, like none, that maybe people forget what it’s like and thus forget to tell you. Everyone just offers the same bullshit advice: sleep when the baby sleeps. Well, the baby never f-ing sleeps, so there’s that. And if I did sleep in the glimmers in which she has her eyes closed, the rest of the family would be starving and running around naked because the laundry and grocery shopping would just go straight down the shitter.

So, combine the lack of sleep with utterly ridiculous mood swings, crazy  hormones, clothes that don’t fit, bleeding nipples, and the sudden realization that life will never, ever be remotely the same…and new motherhood can start to seem a lot like a horror movie. The thing is, mixed in with all that rot, is this tiny creature who has changed your heart and ability to love into this huge, gigantic mess of a thing that you didn’t know was possible. Man, I love this kid. Who knew you could feel like that? (Especially now that she is sleeping through the entire night.)

The thing is, now that I’m getting some more sleep, I think it’s important for me to reach out. I need to draw back for a moment into those first few weeks and let you know that I totally get it.

Come back with me for a moment:

So there I was. Sitting in the dark nursery, by myself (ok, the baby was with me, but still), with torrential tears streaming down my face. Its week two of this tiny creature’s existence and I am clearly not cut out for motherhood. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself as I sit there in the dark trying desperately to get my child to eat. Allow me to set the stage for you—crying child at 2am; my husband needs to get up and leave the house early in the morning for work and my mother is sleeping soundly as a guest in our home: happily lapping up her role as new gramma. So I tiptoe with the baby to the nursery, where I can nurse and she won’t wake daddy or our other house guests. Only, breastfeeding is the single most frustrating and horrible thing I have ever tried to do. As I unhook my nursing bra from the shoulder in the dark, I can hear the skin tear before I feel the warm blood start to trickle down. You see, my nipples are chapped and raw from trying to nurse, and in my hurry earlier I tucked those suckers back into my bra before they were completely dry. Rookie mistake. The breast milk had hardened onto my nipple and quite literally glued my skin to my bra, so that when I removed my breast from its confines, I also peeled off a layer of skin. Clicking on the light only confirmed what I already knew, and pissed off the baby.

So, I grimace and move her over to the other side. “The bad side”. I don’t know if this is true for everyone but I have one good, rule following tit, and one that sucks. One side, my child will willingly latch onto and go to town. The other? Not only does it produce less milk, but the baby hates it. She simply hates eating from that side. Then, she begins to scream like one possessed by demon spawn.

That’s when it happens. I start counting how many hours of sleep I’ve had in the past several days and comparing it to the hours my husband has had. And then, I hate him. I wonder how many cups of coffee I can really have before it starts to infuse my breast milk. I start to wonder if I will ever feel normal or joyful again. I contemplate the idea that my body is not my own and has belonged to this tiny human for the last nine months and the foreseeable future…. And then I start to cry. I am an ugly crier.

So, the baby is crying, I am crying, and everything sucks. I feel more alone that I have ever imagined feeling, and to top that all off I feel guilty to boot. In my head I know I am supposed to be enjoying every tiny moment of this. That, too soon, she will be a child and no longer a baby. I shouldn’t be preparing to battle with my husband over his lack of help (or inability to breast feed as the case may be….it turns out he was incredibly helpful with said infant, but this is a dark moment here so bear with me) but I was feeling hateful and unjustly burdened… I felt guilty that I wasn’t swimming in euphoria. I was terrified that this new, hateful, tired, lonely person was the new me. I was so often cloistered and alone in the baby’s room to pump or feed that I was cut off from everything else. It was…awful.

So allow me to assure you, if you’re having feelings of doubt, hatred, homicide….. you are not alone. And, this feeling doesn’t last forever. (If it does, go. Go now. And talk to your health care provider because Postpartum Depression is a very real thing). Now, I’m all for wallowing in self-pity, but the angry tornado of emotions that I was during this time I was not a fan of. Every time my husband was contentedly snoring next to me in bed, and I lay awake obsessing over if the baby was breathing, I wondered if I was strong enough to place a pillow gently over my husband’s face. How long could I hold it there if he started to struggle? Someone should have warned him.

As the days pass I begin to feel a little more me and a little less an exhausted pile of crap. I like my husband a lot more too, and watching him become a really awesome daddy has been a lot of fun…You will too. This too shall pass. I wish we, as women, would band together to help each other through this whole child rearing nonsense. So much wasted time Mommy shame-ing one another. What we really need is each other’s support because this stuff is hard.

Today, I was able to get up, shower AND brush my hair before my daughter woke up for the day. (Write that success down in the baby book!) You’ll get there too. But for the moment, take a look at that sweet bundle of adorableness that you created. They grow and change so fast. This chapter will end. So, take a second and revel in the cuteness that is your kid. Do it now. Before they have a diaper blowout or something.

Marriage & Anxiety: Strength in your spouse OR strain on your marriage?

Posted by on Apr 29, 2016 in Anxiety | 2 comments

It’s no secret around here that I have suffered from generalized anxiety disorder for years. There have been moments in this life that anxiety has completely shut me down, times when no amount of prayers or tears could drag me out of it. I’ve seen counselors, I’ve taken drugs, I’ve  learned all kinds of deep breathing exercises… There’s a moment I remember from my adolescent years where my high school boyfriend (bless his heart) tossed me into a cold shower for lack of any other way to figure out how to calm my anxiety.  **note, this is not the ideal method**

Anxiety makes me feel less like the person I want to be. #mentalhealth #anxietyisathing Click To Tweet

The truth is, anxiety inhibits my interactions with others, it lowers my ability to be social and it keeps me from functioning in the ways that I would like to. One of the only things that has made a significant difference in my anxiety levels in years is my marriage to my husband.  Marriage has been a rock solid foundation which has given me stability, faith in tomorrow, and a general calmness that I have never experienced before.

There are three major ways that my marriage has supported me in my quest to conquer my anxiety and although there are countless other times I have relied on my husband to support me through this, these things below are at the forefront of how a healthy marriage can help anxiety sufferers. 

  1. My marriage has built my hope and confidence.

I spent a ton of time in my early twenties feeling like I wasn’t good enough. To say I was in a rut would be an understatement!  I was in a long-term relationship that was going nowhere and felt like it must be because I was lacking some fundamental element that would encourage him to want to marry me. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me, and why I was unlovable. My anxiety grew by leaps and bounds in this chapter of my life. Most of my thoughts swirled around the lack of hope I had for my future and my low confidence in myself. My self-esteem was lacking and I felt like there was nothing I could do to get out of this slump.

Since those moments when my husband and I promised to be true to each other through good times and in bad, in sickness and in health I have discovered that my most basic fears have been lifted.  When we stood at the altar of course, the last thing on our minds was the absolute guarantee that we were making to each other. I don’t think either one of us took into account the kind of “crazy” that comes with anxiety that cannot be explained with basic logic. I’m certain we weren’t calculating what that actually means “in sickness and in health”. I don’t think we thought about the ramifications that come with making that vow. My anxiety is definitely one of the larger issues and challenges we have faced as a couple and although it’s not what one thinks of when they think of a typical illness, it is a disease none the less. The beautiful thing is, no matter how big the challenge is, we signed up to tackle it together when we made those vows.

Dan’s approach to my anxiety has really been quite simple. He chooses to love me regardless, faces my anxiety like his next mission and knows that God put me into his hands for a reason. He is selfless about it, and amazing. He focuses on reminding me that we are on the same team, we are in this together, and boosts my confidence daily. Simply knowing that I do not have to handle any of life’s struggles alone, especially my anxiety has helped to alleviate the frequency of my panic attacks.

Since we’ve been married, my husband has told me I’m beautiful 239578 times. He holds my hand when I feel insecure, he reinforces our vows, he promises to never let me go…how can I fear the future when I have that?

  1. My marriage has helped to put my problems into perspective.

If something minor is causing my anxiety, we are able to talk through the details in a real and logical way to prove to my inner anxious self that everything is going to be OK.

Earth to Molly: the world is NOT spinning out of control!

Knowing that communication isn’t always easy, especially if I am suffering with some unrealistic anxiety or unmet expectations, I realize that sometimes talking through a panic attack isn’t a reasonable option. However, when my anxiety cannot be attributed to any identifiable triggers, it is important that someone helps to bring me back to reality. My husband can do that.

I feel like by working on our communication and talking through the little things I am able to get a better handle on what is truly important, what is really at the root of my emotions, and what things can trigger my anxiety. When an anxiety attack will hit me is extremely difficult to predict:  sometimes it can be brought on by truly life altering stressful situations (ie: hubby’s next deployment) other times a wave will come when I’m standing in the produce section on a lazy Sunday at the grocery store.

Because we are deeply invested in this marriage and have a true desire to understand each other we make an effort to communicate our feelings and thoughts regularly. That being said we aren’t always good at it, but his ability to try really helps me get a handle on the big picture. Dan’s ability to compartmentalize things, rationalize and ease my fears truly is what I rely on daily to understand how the world works around me. When he can crack a joke about what’s really happening, or change my perspective on a matter of minor importance it helps me to get a handle on what is really going on. Putting things into perspective in a way that I can understand and hold on to has been really helpful in crushing those anxious feelings.Exploring the benefits of a healthy marriage on anxiety symptoms. www.lovetheeveryday.com

  1. My marriage has helped to identify and minimize my anxiety triggers.

We spend a lot of time together. He knows me better than I know myself sometimes and he can see things in me that I cannot. By connecting our lives in marriage we have tethered ourselves for the long haul. Because of this, we are able to spend quality time investigating the ins and outs of my anxiety.

Together we have discovered some of the best ways to minimize my impending panic.  We now know that I am more likely to feel anxious when I don’t have a plan and a back-up plan. Dan is able to help me make lists and organize our day into a manageable order. In these ways we stop some of the anxiety in its tracks. I know that the weeks leading up to big changes are often the hardest. He’s pointed out that when I don’t get 8 hours of sleep I’m more likely to be triggered by something random, and when I’m hungry I’m just more prone to irrationality than other times.

We’ve also written down a list of the things that help me get through anxious situations (Drink very cold water. Turn off the radio. Pray. Count something. Make a list of what needs to be done next. Sit on the floor. Breathe. Hold something in my hands. Etc.) and he will tactfully remind me of them if I’ve forgotten.


The bottom line, of course, is that anxiety isn’t fun for anybody involved. It takes an infinite amount of patience and a whole bunch of trial and error. There are absolutely days when I want to wring his neck and moments when he totally shuts down and cannot help me. There are times when I want to scream at him (and I do) because he tries to logic-out my problems. There are days when he calls me “crazy” and I call him “mean” (toss a few curse words in here and there and sometimes it becomes a full-fledged battle). There are times when the tears outnumber the condolences. There are certainly times when anxiety gets the best of me and I am not the best version of myself. Sometimes my anxiety takes a pretty big toll on our marriage, and I know that my husband struggles to understand where I’m coming from and why I’m melting down. Anxiety is actually pretty tough on our marriage sometimes.


In collaboration with my friend Kristin, we’ve teamed up today to talk about how a healthy marriage can help anxiety and, on the flip side, how anxiety can put a negative strain a marriage.

To read the other half of this collaboration, head on over to Kristin’s blog, The Peculiar Treasure, to read about how anxiety can negatively impact a marriage.

**Kristin blogs regularly on The Peculiar Treasure but you can also locate her on Facebook and Twitter.

Day 5: Spread Love Like Jelly (Have Patience)

Posted by on Feb 16, 2016 in Anxiety, Counting Blessings, Faith, Hope and Hugs, Junior High, Mental Health, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Day 5: Spread Love Like Jelly Challenge (have patience)

I find myself so often losing patience in my day to day life. I use the excuse that I teach middle school so it’s only natural that I expend most of my patience very quickly, leaving not much left over for after work hours. But the truth is, I’m pretty quick to lose patience with them too, and pretty early in the day. When a student asks a question I have already answered, or doesn’t give me a chance to explain directions before they start saying they don’t “get it”…sometimes I want to scream.

As I head back to work after a long four-day weekend I’m challenging myself to have more patience, especially with my students. I plan to work on taking a deep breath before I am sarcastic or angry with the twelve year-olds and I’m not going to be irritated by the old woman in front of me at the grocery store or the bad drivers. Ok, I can’t promise that, let’s be honest: I’m no good at being unsnarky but I’m going to make a huge effort.

#spreadlovelikejelly | www.lovetheeveryday.com

#spreadlovelikejelly

I plan to take time today to remind myself that impatience rarely gets others to move faster, think more carefully or reassess their behavior, in fact–it can interfere with other people’s ability to this critically.

Every time I respond without listening, or jump to hush people all I am doing is creating more stress.  So, before I respond to my students, or better still, my husband, in an unkind or impatient way I am going to really try to take a deep breath first, practice actually listening to them and be careful how the things I say in impatience impact those around me.

Our patience will achieve more than our force. -Edmund Burke #havepatience #spreadlovelikejelly Click To Tweet

What about you? What tips do you have to help others to have patience?

 

Did you miss the beginning of this series? Not sure what I’m talking about or why? Pop back over to the instructions page to see the brain child behind #spreadlovelikejelly

Day 1: Love yourself

Day 2: Compliment Someone

Day 3: Send a handwritten note

Day 4: Writing Challenge

Day 4: Spread Love Like Jelly (Writing Challenge)

Posted by on Feb 15, 2016 in Anxiety, Blog, Counting Blessings, Faith, Family Ties, Hope and Hugs, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Today wraps up last day of our weekend get away to the beach. We’ve spent three days in the sun and surf, simply enjoying each others company. So because of that, I’m going to enjoy my last few hours at the beach and leave today’s writing up to you. I challenge you to write TEN four word sentences about what love means to you! Post your favorite one in the comments below. Happy writing and #spreadlovelikejelly


here are mine:

  1. Love allows ugly crying
  2. love is cold chardonnay
  3. love is laughing constantly
  4. love applies sunblock Liberally
  5. love never stops trying
  6. love’s trial and error
  7. love grows and changes
  8. tastes like chocolate cookies
  9. Love confides it’s secrets
  10. love colors on walls

 

In Four words: what does ️love mean to you? #spreadlovelikejelly Click To Tweet

 

Did you miss the beginning of this series? Not sure what I’m talking about or why? Pop back over to the instructions page to see the brain child behind #spreadlovelikejelly

Day 1: Love yourself

Day 2: Compliment Someone

Day 3: Send a handwritten note

Military Homecomings: The good, the bad, the ugly

Posted by on Feb 4, 2016 in Anxiety, Military Life | 3 comments

I’ll be the first to admit that I sob like a baby over every single YouTube montage of soldiers coming home to their families. USAA commercials also make me cry. Soldiers and their dogs: you bet, so many tears. Toddlers holding red, white and blue signs about their daddy–those pull at my heart-strings hard. You cannot be a part of this life and not totally throw in the towel when those things come on the screen. Homecomings are beautiful, first hugs are magical and life looks pretty darn rosy at homecoming.

The truth though, homecomings are not the as-seen-on-TV beauty that we’ve come to expect.

www.lovetheeveryday.com   | What to expect from military homecomings


The Good:

He’s home. Period. When you get that call that boots are on the ground and your heart is beating so fast that you swear it will explode and you cannot wipe that goofy grin off your face. That feeling? Well, that is amazing.

Then, there’s that moment. THE ONE. For us, our homecoming reunions are pretty mundane. I generally pull up to his team room in my car and wait until I see him walking toward me before I hop out. There is no pomp and circumstance, no huge crowds of people or banners. Just the wives of his teammates also waiting near their cars…but that first moment, when our eyes lock after months and months apart is the absolute best feeling. When we can give each other that look, the one that holds all the massive amounts of emotions that have been pent-up for so long. The look that says “I know” and “I love you” when no words have to be said at all.

We hold hands practically the whole way home and I just cannot stop staring at him as if he might, at any moment, disappear and I cannot stop smiling.


The Bad:

On the flip side, homecomings are horrible.

The nerves. I cannot be the only person that this happens to, but the supreme anxiety that builds up in the days leading up to homecoming usually leave me bedridden with a migraine. I’m guessing I’m not alone in this, I can’t be the only wife who has a mini-nervous breakdown while preparing for her spouse to come home.

It always seems like if it can go wrong– it will– in the lead up to their homecoming day.  It, of course, all starts with the ring-around-the-rosy waiting game as the date and time of their arrival inevitably changes. It’s a vicious circle. There’s the excitement, nervousness, disappointment, the waiting, the waiting some more, and the frustration of never really knowing when it will actually happen and feeling like it NEVER will. Phone calls and emails come in from your spouse, from other wives, from the FRG trying to help you nail down a time and place for pickup. The worst part? This can sometimes be pushed back for DAYS, not just hours of waiting– but days. Obviously, its wonderful to think of your honey coming home but the endless waiting game is apt to create mind-numbing craziness, and it’s ridiculously difficult to have patience when you’re in the final leg of deployment. Extremely tough.


The Ugly:

After all the waiting…

and waiting….

and waiting…

I cannot stress this one enough: ladies you could be wearing a brown paper bag to pick him up and he’s not going to notice.

I definitely have had those moments when I look in my closet and realize that I have absolutely nothing to wear, have developed a giant, red zit on the tip of my nose and I cannot find the earrings that hubby gave me for our wedding that I really wanted to wear. Those moments that almost make me cry. (You’ve been there right?)

The truth is, he's probably not going to notice the earrings anyway. #militaryhomecoming… Click To TweetHe’s going to be exhausted and my well thought out heels and perfectly shaved legs are most likely not even on his radar. (It’s hard not to get your feelings hurt by this. FYI). But it is important to note, that in the grand scheme of things none of that matters. In the end, I wore jeans and boots and a jacket, because it’s winter.  My hair was a mess, and the zit was still there. His first words? “God, you’re pretty.” And all is well.

(And I shouldn’t have shaved my legs until I heard his voice on the phone. I shaved them the morning I thought he was coming home and then the date shifted 48 hours to the right. Ugh!)

 


All-in-all, we are in this for the long haul, and although homecomings are hard and reintegration is an entirely different kind of crazy, when all is said and done we were together and that is all that matters.

 

When all is said and done we were together and that is all that matters. #homecoming #marriage… Click To Tweet

Military Homecomings: What to Expect  |www.lovetheeveryday.com

 

 

Dear World, Please stop asking

Posted by on Oct 1, 2015 in Anxiety, Family Ties | 10 comments

When are you going to have children? Are you aware that every year you wait to get pregnant, the harder it will be for you? Do you really want to be one of those old parents at the PTO meetings? You really have to hurry up, don’t you understand your eggs start dying by the time you turn 30?

 

www.lovetheeveryday.com   | When are you going to have kids? and why it is NOT ok to ask that question.

I don’t think that my age makes my reproductive life and thus my sex life anyone else’s business. I’m pretty certain that what happens under the sheets at my house is not any of your business. Click To Tweet
I realize I’m about to offend someone, I’m sure that some of you reading this have asked us when we are going to have kids, and let’s face it, I’m no good at sounding un-snarky. So, I’m sorry,I truly am, if you are about to be offended. If you’re worried about it, then maybe you should stop reading now, because I really do think you’re all darling, lovely, sweet people. But the fact is that some people ask us when we’re planning to procreate Every. Time. We. See. Them. Like it’s the only thing they could possibly think to talk to us about. Ask me about school please. How about that? Teaching junior high? Boy that’s a rough age. I remember being twelve, oh boy!

I don’t expect the cashier at the grocery store is going to read my blog any time soon, but I wish she would. Because I would like to tell her that every time she asks me (which is weekly), she makes me just a little bit more of an emotional wreck. The question all by itself is just a bit rude, but it is compounded with the fact that the people who are asking the question have no idea what is going on in my personal life.

“When are you finally going to have a baby?”

What if I was trying desperately hard to get pregnant, and I couldn’t? Or maybe we’ve been trying to get pregnant for a very long time, and have only just started to look into our other options. Maybe I’m fighting through the emotional upheaval and hormone ridden mood swings of fertility treatments, or have just come back from the doctor with another round of “I’m sorrys” to smooth over the fact that still the treatments haven’t been successful. Maybe I’m clinging on to the hope that this time, these embryos will be the ones that begin to grow, but that hope is so small that I’m cherishing it quietly in my heart, afraid that your poking and prodding into my personal life might damage the tiny lives I’m trying to coax into being. Maybe the emotions around trying to conceive are even worse than the fertility treatments themselves. Perhaps I’m taking extra time off from work for doctor appointments, having my arm poked until it’s bruised everywhere and so much blood drawn I fear I’m running on empty, and of course I could also be undergoing multiple uncomfortable pelvic exams with stranger’s faces all up in my business, and ultrasounds and injections and basal temperatures, maybe I’m so busy timing intercourse with my husband that I forget it’s supposed to be fun, and aside from undergoing various and sometimes scary diagnostic procedures I’ve been crying myself to sleep. As if the cost and discomfort of solving the problems with fertility aren’t enough, I’m possibly also a homicidal maniac on a roller coaster of emotions. But you wouldn’t know that…

Or, what if I wake up every morning with a deep and empty pain in my heart, because it was another day without a child? You see, when you ask me that, you have no idea if I’ve just experienced the heartbreak of miscarriage, and that maybe you’re asking me only moments after I’ve just been battling myself in the car to STOP CRYING and function like an adult. You don’t realize that perhaps I’m still bleeding from the tragedy (figuratively or literally) or that I’m carrying around an extra five pounds of baby weight left over from a baby that I don’t get to hold. You don’t understand how perhaps I’ve purchased hundreds of dollars-worth of plastic home pregnancy sticks, running to the bathroom every time I had to pee, only to finally see the tiny blue plus sign. You don’t know how excited I’ve been, or the fantasies of little league games and ballet recitals that have flashed through my mind, or how quickly and sharply that excitement was taken away. You don’t realize that just showering and putting on pants with a zipper has been a big enough accomplishment in my day. You don’t understand that this is something that I’m not allowed to talk about, because it’s viewed as inappropriate over sharing, so I’ve had to plod through my days pretending that nothing at all is wrong. You don’t understand the stupid social stigma surrounding the sadness I feel and the unfairness wrapped up in the fact that if my dog had just died I could cry in the faculty lunch room about it, but the loss of our unborn child I’m not allowed to mention…But you wouldn’t know that.

Or perhaps we aren’t even 100% sure we want children. Maybe we are worried about my husband’s next deployment, or career change and need to wait it out to see what happens next. Maybe we are struggling financially due to my really low teacher’s salary and aren’t sure how we are making our mortgage payments, so adding to our family right now is out of the question. Perhaps his deployment schedule and my cycle just haven’t aligned themselves yet… the point is you don’t know and yet you ask personal and probing questions anyway. And, you, “cashier-I-don’t-know”, decided it was okay to ask me a loaded and rude question. It’s not just strangers either, it’s the nice lady at church and the school secretary, and the innocent 7th grader, and the friend-of-a-friend, and the girl I graduated high school with, and my cousins and… and… and…

Honestly, and here I go hurting feelings again…it just doesn’t feel like it’s anyone else’s business if we’re going to have kids or when or, howespecially if I barely know you. It’s such an incredibly personal question and I promise you, I can hear my biological clock tic-tocking loud and clear without your help.

Please just wait to find out. Please wait until we are bursting with excitement to tell you. Wait until I send you that text message of an ultrasound picture or call you up with happy tears in my voice. Wait until you notice when, suddenly, I turn down a glass of wine in a social setting. Then you’ll know.

So yes, I assume you’re wondering, we have had a miscarriage, and I don’t usually share that with anyone. (Except, you know, the entire Internet.) Because, once you begin talking about problems, everyone wants to tell you that it’s completely normal and not a big deal. Which, let’s be clear here, it is a big deal. It’s a huge deal. I was excited about being pregnant. We experienced the happiness in telling our parents that after a long, long wait they would finally be grandparents. I secretly would glance at the clothing in maternity departments and I cut way, way back on caffeine. I was indulging in taking extra-long afternoon naps, and mourning the loss of a nightly glass of wine. We were quietly making lists of baby names and I had to buy a larger bra size… all the stuff that makes it start to feel like a real pregnancy. And then suddenly, it wasn’t. The aftermath of that wasn’t pretty, and not the point (although maybe the point of another blog post one day)… the point is you don’t know, and truly, it’s not ok to ask.

Avoiding alcoholism while surviving pre-deployment

Posted by on Jul 16, 2015 in Anxiety, Military Life | 7 comments

Just googled “How to not strangle your husband in the weeks leading up to deployment”. No results.

We’ve been here before, in this limbo before leaving, and it makes us both a bit crazy. One would imagine that you’d start to get used to it, when you’re preparing for trip #4 in a three year time frame, but it doesn’t get any easier even when you know what to expect. It usually begins right when your brain realizes that your spouse is getting ready to leave in 11 weeks, 10 weeks, 9, 8, 7…..the mental countdown that you can’t admit out loud you are already hearing in your heart. Then, you realize you only have so many more weekends, so many more nights in the same bed, so many more date nights and walks with the dog and you want each and every one of those moments to be as perfect and love-filled as possible.  (Spoiler Alert: That perfect and love filled part doesn’t happen.)

Emotions can be unpredictable during this time. I don’t know what it is about preparing for deployment that makes my brain explode, but at the moment, every time I see my soldier I want to sock him square in the face with my fist…or something harder. Everything he does right now is the definition of annoying. (I know what you’re thinking: “How can she be like that with her husband about to leave to risk his life for American freedoms and she thinks he’s annoying!? What is wrong with her!?) The truth of the matter is, that counting down to the inevitable separation is horrible. His things are tossed all over the house in various stages of packing, lists are being made of the way too many things left to do before he’s gone, the stress is immeasurable. So yes, sometimes I do have the strong desire to high-five my hubby, in the face….. but other times I just want to hold on to him and never let him go. Pre-deployment angst is making me nuts.

The short version is: knowing that the love of your life is about to leave for the other side of the world is really, incredibly, emotionally difficult. No matter how many times you’ve endured it before. And he’s no ray of golden sunshine either. The emotions he faces as he gets ready to leave are equally daunting and cause some serious behavioral and personality changes in him as well.

I spoke to a few of my milspouse friends recently about it, just briefly mentioning that we were a tiny bit stressed at our house, to which they all replied “it’s normal”,  and “just hang in there”…well, it may be normal, but it still sucks, ok?

But I remember the last time, and I do know that if I “just hang in there” this phase will pass. Because it seems to come and go in phases.

Phase 1: Imaginary Normal

This is where we pretend that there is no trip looming on the horizon. We may know the approximate dates and maybe even have a quick conversation about how we really ought to get the deck stained before he leaves, but we go on pretending that nothing has changed. Sometimes, in the back of my mind, I even pretend that there was a little mistake and someone ELSE was supposed to get those orders…imaginary. This is the easy part. The part where you brain can go on believing that life isn’t about to change again.

Phase 2: Anxiety, Angst, and Homicidal Feelings

This is where we are now. When there is no more pretending. There’s stupid arguments and stress. There’s an empty tuff box in the living room waiting to be filled, and the idea of the impending loneliness is constantly in the back of our minds. We fight a little more than we are used to, and spend quiet alone time, maybe preparing ourselves for the alone time that we know is about to come. I can’t help the thoughts that creep into my head at all hours of the night, keeping me awake: “How is this happening again so soon? I don’t want to do this.”

Phase 3: List Making

This comes next and often much closer to the actual leaving day. (Maybe we should start it now though because it really does help us both to manage some of the anxiety).  We both start to make separate lists. I usually have two: Things that need to get done or be purchased before he leaves, and Things that I will do after he has gone. He generally makes packing lists. We dive head first into these lists with single-minded determination, believing that as long as every item gets checked off the list then everything else is going to be fine.

Phase 4: The Guilt Ridden Horrible Wife Days

You know what I’m going to say here, I know you do. “The sooner he’s gone the sooner he can come back”…. “I wish he’d just get out of here so I can get on with my life.”….”If he would just leave already then I could figure out how to cope with this.”  I get to the point where the endless waiting gets the best of me and I truly just want him to leave. (NO OF COURSE I DON’T ACTUALLY WANT HIM TO LEAVE!) (Ok, maybe sometimes I do.) I can create a good and solid routine for my life when he’s deployed, but these long days waiting for him to deploy are painful and crazy and once he’s gone life will get back to normal. And then, I catch myself thinking those things and I am overcome with guilt.  And I feel so guilty that I cook him his favorite meals and I dig out the sexy night gowns and I try really hard to be positive and happy… and I know he feels guilty too, because he secretly wants to get on with his mission as well. I know this because he buys the super sized bags of dog food and carries them in for me so that I won’t have to while he’s gone.

7 Phases of PreDeployment   www.lovetheeveryday.com

 

Phase 5: The Honeymoon

Somewhere in there, in the last few days before he leaves we always have one really awesome day. I call it the last best day, I think I read that in a book somewhere. (You never know when the last best day is going to be so you don’t get to admire this day until after he’s left).  We remind each other that we are on the same team and that we can do this. We hold hands and kiss a lot. And it’s nice. I like to look back on this day when I’m feeling particularly self-piteous in the next phase.

Phase 6: Wallowing

This phase comes after. After the goodbyes and the hugs and the dropping off. This starts for me the moment I turn the door knob into my now eerily empty home. This is important, because if I’m not careful I will start to wallow before he even leaves. I’ll find myself feeling bad for myself about his leaving, and he’ll still be sitting there on the couch with me. (Don’t do this). I give myself a week to wallow, to drink too much and to eat ice cream right out of the carton for dinner, or breakfast, or whatever. I let myself wear his t-shirts to bed and I cry. Then, it’s game one.

Phase 7: Rock it

I realize that this is not technically pre-deployment but as we struggle through these pre-deployment weeks it is important for me to remember that this phase is on the horizon. This is the phase where I become a superhero, rock star and kick Deployment’s butt. My super-hero-ness isn’t polished like some of the amazing milspouses I know, but it’s pretty damn good. This is the part where you suddenly are able to do everything that needs to be done, which used to take two people, but now can be done (awesomely) by one. This is where I learn how to balance life again, make it to Ladies Night, attend church on a regular schedule, head to the gym, kick butt at work and remember to pay the mortgage on time. (Of course there will be those moments when you forget to take out the trash on trash day that reduce you to tears, but that’s for another post, this one is about being a rock star).

 

Because it is hard to deal with the snapping at each other, which seems to get worse with every passing day...but I am an Army Wife, and I can do this. (And so can you.) Click To Tweet

I have faith that God will see us through this trying time, as well as guide us through the impending deployment…but that doesn’t mean that I don’t struggle with it. I’m imperfect. I struggle to be a good wife and to be an encouragement to my husband during this time. This is a learning process, no matter how many times we’ve been through it before.

 


You can find this post linked up here and here. Check out the links for access to some really excellent bloggers. <3

 

You are not alone: When ANXIETY makes you feel crazy

Posted by on May 26, 2015 in Anxiety, Mental Health | 6 comments

This morning I had a big, crummy, panic attack. Not once of those “Oh my god I opened the electric bill this month and almost had a panic attack”… no. Not that. Nope, not a “Holy $#i! that spider gave me a panic attack!” And certainly not happy little butterflies that one gets in their stomach before a first date. No. Not that….

 

This was more like being chased by hungry dinosaurs and clowns with chain saws towards a cliff over shark infested waters. And it came out of nowhere -that’s the worst part.

 

I can handle emergencies, I can handle deployments, I can handle excessive amounts of blood and screaming toddlers from whence said blood flows. (The joys of nanny-hood and poorly designed playground equipment)….I was a rockstar-911-calling-superhero-with-a-fire-extinguisher that time a drunk kid drove his car into my neighbor’s house and the whole dang thing started on fire. I can handle an emergency with a cool head and amazing grace. Its regular ol’ life that catches me off guard some times.

 

Bible Verses and relaxation ideas for anxiety sufferers
You’ve probably figured out by now that I suffer from Anxiety Disorder. Most days this is not a big deal. Most days I even forget I have it. Most days I function just fine thank-you-very-much. Most days I am perfectly normal …. But every so often I get struck with a case of OMGICANTBREATHE followed by extreme embarrassment and often a killer headache and the urge to consume copious amounts of wine.
Occasional anxiety is of course normal and necessary for life. I would say that it is totally legit to feel anxious over an important decision at work, or a huge exam, or making a big decision, or right before a medical procedure. This kind of anxiety is one of those evolutionary necessities that tell us when to take action and keep us out of harms way. This is not the kind of anxiety I’m talking about. That’s not even close.
I’m not talking about everyday worries that are founded on something to be fearful of. I’m not talking about a worry or fear that is temporary… I’m talking about mind-numbing, baseless anxiety which renders its victim helpless and often in the fetal position on the floor.
It’s the seemingly out-of-the-blue panic attacks that upset me the most. I feel like I am a totally logical and rational person, but every so often, panic strikes. I know in my head that there is nothing to worry about and yet I’ll be standing in the middle of the supermarket feeling like things are out of my control. My heart pounds so that I can hear it in my ears, I get dizzy, I swear I’m having a heart attack…if it’s really bad I start to hyperventilate and suddenly I’ve convinced myself that I’m most likely going to die or be abducted by aliens any.minute.now.
The first time this ever happened to me I was a senior in high school thinking about going away to college. Fear and worry about leaving my mother alone, moving and saying good bye to friends and my long time boyfriend consumed my every thought. (This is normal. ) I had applied to 12 schools and was accepted at 11 of them. The only school that turned me down was, as luck would have it, the only one I really wanted to attend. Trying to decide where to go after that was a difficult process.

 

One evening, in the middle of a re-run of Saved By the Bell, I suddenly couldn’t breathe. It felt as though my body were closing in on itself. My boyfriend, who was sitting next to me, tried to console me, but it was as if I couldn’t hear his voice. It felt like the blood running through my body was too thick for my veins and my chest was constricting. I was convinced I was having a stroke or a heart attack, which of course made the fear worse. I wasn’t breathing…. Eventually my boyfriend carried me upstairs and dumped me into a cold shower. (I would not recommend this method.) It startled me enough though to bring my mind back to the present and to eventually calm down.


WebMD states that anxiety disorders cannot be prevented. But over the course of the past 14 or so years I have learned that there are some things you can to do help curb the symptoms.

  • Limit caffeine intake, and anything else that makes your heart race unnecessarily.

 

  • Talk to your doc! No really. I was so afraid that I was going crazy that it took me years to seek professional help. The doctor can recommend different therapies, herbal remedies and prescription drugs to help you cope.
    • One thing I learned was that often, just having the anxiety reducing medication in my pocket was enough of a secret weapon to keep panic attacks at bay.

 

  • Seek counseling or therapy as soon as you can. I went to a behavioral therapist for a while who taught me excellent relaxation techniques and counting exercises to help when I feel a panic attack coming on.

 

  • Learn to deep breathe. Controlled and counted breathing is an excellent strategy for both reducing anxiety and lessening the effects of panic. I breathe in for six-eight counts through my nose and exhale quickly through my mouth for counts of 4. This helps to get more oxygen quickly into my system and makes me focus on something other than worry.

 

  • Tackle known stressors. Stress is the enemy here. Really. I always understand, after the fact, that the underlying trigger of a panic attack was a much deeper and often hidden stress.
    Know that you are not alone and that this does not define you. Say it over and over to yourself. “I am not alone. I am not a panic attack.” (wait…. Talking to yourself, is that the first sign of some other mental disorder?)

OK but really, not only are there a gazillion other people in this world who stuffer from anxiety too. Above and beyond all that, God promises that he will not leave us in our times of suffering and that my friends, is pretty amazing.

God promises that he will not leave us in our times of suffering and that my friends, is pretty… Click To Tweet

Deuteronomy 31:6 Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

Dementia Sucks

Posted by on Apr 6, 2015 in Anxiety, Family Ties, Mental Health | 15 comments

You may know him as John, or maybe Bill. It doesn’t really matter if you call him uncle, or friend, or dad, or grandpa, you probably know that he is an incredible guy. To me he was Bapa, which evolved later in life to Papa, and he has always been my super hero.

I remember moments in my life where I’m absolutely certain he had super powers. Click To TweetHe could climb the tree in the front yard higher than it seemed that gravity would allow, while we waited breathless on the ground below. He’d quickly transport himself from the ground to the very top, balancing precariously on the delicate, slender branches, and gaze down at me, laughing at my panic. He could perform amazing acrobatics in the living room as he tried to teach me how to backward summer-salt (he did) and could chop wood and heft his axe better than I imagine Paul Bunyan could. I was in awe of his strength, his talent, and his ability to do pretty much anything I asked of him. I remember watching him throw apples farther out into the neighbor’s field than anyone else could and skip a rock across a pond as though it were weightless. He helped me catch salamanders and crawfish, build dams, make mud pies, design roads for toy cars and fences for plastic horses. He was my favorite playmate. Throughout my childhood, he was always an unbelievably strong, courageous man whom I admired and worshiped. It never dawned on me that this man who never cried, who never complained, who never showed any fear or weakness could change. It had never crossed my mind that this man, whom I idolized, could ever weaken.

For me he was truly even more than that, he stood in when my own father was absent. He was there the day my mother was helping me learn to ride my bike, running alongside until I got the hang of it, and helping to retrieve my bike when I toppled over into the grass. He taught me to play checkers ruthlessly, build a roaring campfire and use a hammer without smashing my fingers. He taught me how to skip a rock, identify deer tracks, color inside the lines. He helped with math homework, taught me to divide and helped with science fair projects. He spent countless hours one vacation as we shopped for the perfect prom dress and was there to see me off and even gave my boyfriend the required stern looks as we drove away to prom. He’d sneak candy into church in his jacket pockets, eat the last of the vegetables off my plate when grandma wasn’t looking, and always be the first one to open the cookie jar when he thought we wouldn’t get caught.

This is the man who taught me about life, about what it means to be a part of a family, about how a person can treat love as a verb. He is the one man in my life who has never let me down.  I can probably count on one hand the number of times I heard him say the words ”I love you” to me, but I never once doubted that he did. Because Papa lived his love for us, he showed it in the everyday things he did. He’d remind us all to change our oil, take note if our tires looked low, never let us leave the house without trying one of grandma’s newly baked cookies…He’s been my partner in crime, my example of what it means to be a man, and my lifetime cheerleader. I spent half my childhood tagging along after him in the garage or yard, his constant companion.

I spent a lovely week at home visiting my family last month and it reminded me that we are losing him. Slowly but surely the man that I idolized is being replaced by a man that I do not recognize and who, in turn, does not recognize me.

And it sucks.
It helps to say it out loud sometimes. To get those feelings out, even if no one is listening but me. Dementia sucks and I hate it. I hate it with every ounce of my being. I hate it to my very core. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it.

Watching this illness slowly take away his ability to be independent is not only heartbreaking, but it may be the single most difficult thing I have ever faced. He’s a natural story-teller that now struggles to find the words he needs to explain what he is thinking. He’s ambitious and curious and funny, yet can’t communicate the joke he’s trying to tell. He likes to do things his own way and enjoys being able to complete tasks by himself, and yet he cannot remember how to perform the most mundane activities, like buckling his seat belt. He easily misunderstands everyday conversation and is quick to anger as his frustrations with his limitations get the best of him.

And so, to help me just get it out. Here are the reasons why I need to shout from the rooftops that Dementia Sucks:

 

1. Because the person’s body can live on well after the mind has stopped working. It’s hard for me to come to terms with how much dementia sucks. Like, literally sucks the life right out of a person, one memory, one life skill, one broken heart at a time. The English major, writer inside of me can’t think of better words, the truth is: it just sucks. I would much rather lose him to a disease that takes him all at once, and not a disease that just leaves the shell of who he once was behind.

 

2. Because sometimes he just looks sad. It doesn’t seem like he’s in a happy place or thinking happy thoughts or even following basic conversation. He seems bored in a room full of people, as if he knows he is missing out on something but he’s not sure what it is.

 

3. Because it hurts (way more than I would like to admit) when they don’t remember who you are, even though it’s not their fault. Papa’s never been great with names. In my childhood both of my grandparents would run down the list of names before getting to me, naming me all of my aunts before they finally got it right. When calling me to set the table I remember being “Sally-Sandy-Molly” and never minding that I was usually their third try on names. It didn’t matter because they knew me. Now, it’s painful when he looks at me as though waiting for an introduction. He recognizes my face but can’t quite place to whom I belong.

 

4. Because I miss him even when he’s sitting right there, and I’m so sad my husband won’t get to know him. After this last visit I mentioned to my husband how sad it made me to see him like that, and my husband didn’t understand. He replied, “But he was great! He told jokes and he smiled a lot and seemed to have a great day.” To him, that was correct. Papa was great and seemed happy. But to me, he wasn’t himself, not the man I remember and not the man I wish my husband was getting to know. This version of my grandfather is not the real one, this is an imposter. The magic spirit of Papa is already mostly gone and I hate that growing up I totally took it for granted. Completely. And even though I knew this illness was there, that it was coming, it still all happened so fast. So fast, and it is starting to get to the point where his personality is much too quickly becoming a distant memory.

 

5. Because it’s just not fair. Its really unfair. And I hate what it is doing to someone so special to me. Human beings don’t lose their minds easily, it isn’t peaceful. We go down sniping and angry and lonely. These are not the memories I want to keep of this man.

 

6.  Because it’s just not fair.

 

papaI was reading through the mountains of old blogs on the web about Alzheimers and Dementia… everyone really has the same sentiments. No one really has any brilliant advice for dealing with the emotions that come along with this illness. Patricia over on her blog Laughter and Forgetting notes that “the families of people with Alzheimer’s go through the same grief process as anyone dealing with loss. Denial, anger, sadness, acceptance. For the person going through the dementia, I think they are going through this process all the time, every day, because they’ve forgotten that they went through all these emotions just yesterday.” That sucks. Have I mentioned this sucks? I cannot imagine what it must feel like. Is this what drowning is like? Knowing that you are slowly sinking and now being able to get your head back above water for another gulp of air? Is this what drowning is like? Knowing that you are slowly sinking and not being able to get your… Click To Tweet

As I think about how cyclic this is, and each day repeating itself. I wonder if there will be moments of clarity for him, or days when things just go well as my grandmother suffers through being his caretaker now, rather than his partner. I am particularly drawn to these parting words of Nancy Wurtzel on her blog. “Because when the next day rolls around, it all happens again and it will still suck.  Then, suddenly, there might be a bright spot.  Something shiny, uplifting, happy. I grasp onto this little slice of happy and think: Yes, I can do this. Even though it sucks.”

So we will cling to the bright spots and to each other and not take one everyday moment for granted. I know that before long he is going to forget my name. I know that my family will face countless challenges as this illness takes its toll on the man that we love. And it’s ok that he forgets…. I just don’t want to.

**My grandfather is suffering from vascular dementia. Vascular dementia is a decline in thinking skills caused by conditions that block or reduce blood flow to the brain, depriving brain cells of vital oxygen and nutrients.

 

 

Vascular Dementia and Alzheimer's |www.lovetheeveryday.com

 

 

 

Career Change?

Posted by on Mar 31, 2015 in Anxiety, Family Ties, Military Life | 0 comments

We’ve been dealing with some lifestyle changes and some possible career moves in our future. It's weird to think that at thirty years old we might be starting over on a new adventure. Click To Tweet It holds both endless possibility and endless fear. I wrote a guest post over on my friend Kathryn’s blog while she was busy moving across the country on how we’re handling the impending decision-making process.

Now that it looks like we might be considering not being a military family our whole system of life is under the microscope.

I’m having a serious identity crisis.

When I said, “I Do”, I proudly took on the title of military wife. I piled it on top of my head, balancing it with all the other hats I wear: sister, neighbor, baker, daughter, friend, teacher, dog owner, traveler, aunt, crafter, photographer… military wife. It looks nice there on the top, it makes me feel like I belong to some elite club, like I’m wearing the appropriate uniform.

You can read more here.

 

Let me know what you think. How do you make life changing decisions?

How to make big life decisions? | Life Choices and Transitions | www.lovetheeveryday.com

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