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Dealing with Anxiety: One Mom’s Double Whammy

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My life completely changed this year.  And not the way I thought it would.

On December 31, 2013, I toasted the beginning of 2014.  That year had been hard and I felt sure 2014 would be better.  The book that I had been working on for years would finally be released just after the New Year, so how could I not look at the coming months with anything but optimism?

Huh.  Stay tuned.

In the beginning, it was great.  A book launch at the Tattered Cover where they sold out of copies.  More book signings on the calendar.  Travel.  The beginning of a new chapter (so to speak).  It was all that I’d hoped for.

And then it happened.

What started out as potential motion sickness on flights to events turned out to be nothing that could be controlled with motion sickness pills. Sitting at lunch with a smile on my face, trying desperately to focus on the person across from me at the table and feeling like the whole room was spinning, I dismissed it as possible vertigo.  I did everything I could to grab ahold of my life and equilibrium until I realized they had ahold of me.

“I think I’m…um…having some anxiety issues,” I told my agent.  “I can’t do anything for a while.  I’ll keep you posted.”

That was in February.  It’s August and I’m still keeping her posted.

I was given a prescription for anti-anxiety medication to take as needed, but was determined to tackle this problem without it.  I stopped everything for weeks – writing, responding to emails, returning voice mails – vowing that I would take the time to figure this out.  I tried counseling, yoga, meditation, long walks…only to have this monster sneak up on me when I least expected it.

And it was frightening.

My throat would close up.  My stomach churned.  My head would spin.  My hands would sweat.  The bottoms of my feet would sweat.  My legs seized up. My heart pounded irregularly.  It was almost impossible to find the right way to breathe.

It was as if my mind and my body had decided to revolt together.  And there wasn’t a darn thing I could do about it.

~

I’ve been in therapy for much of my life – I’m one of those weird people who love therapy.  I like the questions, the inner search.  I like how one question might make me look at life in a different way. And I’ve always been honest about it with my children, explaining to them that it’s okay to ask for help when you need it.

“Where are you going?” asked my 13-year-old daughter earlier this summer as I was walking out the door.

“I’m going to my therapy appointment,” I said.  “Sometimes we all need someone to talk to.  If you ever feel like you need someone…just let me know.”

“I know,” she said and rolled her eyes as she bit into an apple.  “You’ve told me that like a thousand times.  Just don’t get too sane.  My friends like that you’re a little crazy.”

Coming from a teenager, I took that as a huge compliment.

~

There is not an overnight solution, which is very frustrating to me. 

I thought that if I followed the rules, I’d have this anxiety thing figured out in no time.  Stretch. Listen to the gong. Sit in silence. Rest. And when that doesn’t work, hit the gym in frustration and congratulate yourself with an occasional glass of red wine that you made it through one day with dry palms and an open throat.

But it doesn’t work that way.

I’m finding, actually, the more you work against it, the more it works against you.  That the moment I start feeling like anxiety is approaching, I start back-peddling and in my effort to make it stop, it just makes it worse.  I’ve realized in the last few months there is no one solution that works for everyone…that this is a lifestyle change. No, wait.  This has changed my life.  There is no blueprint.  Only I can figure this out.

I’m a work in progress.

~

Last night I tried putting my 8-year-old to bed four times.

“I don’t feel good,” she said mournfully when she came down the stairs the last time.  “My tummy hurts and I feel like my legs won’t go to sleep. My throat feels like I can’t breathe.”  Her hands shook a little as she tried to move her hair out of her eyes and a tear fell down her cheek.

I looked at her for a moment in disbelief.  She had just described, in the most perfect elementary school third grade way, what anxiety feels like.  And had I not experienced that myself, I might have dismissed it.  But knowing what it feels like when my legs sometimes won’t go to sleep and my throat and tummy hurt…I had immediate sympathy for her.  More than she will probably ever know.

“Don’t worry,” I said as I cuddled with her and her security blanket, desperately wanting to absorb everything that was making her feel that way into my own body so she didn’t have to go through what I knew sometimes felt unbearable.

“We’ll figure this out.”

 

Catherine Tidd is the author of “CONFESSIONS OF A MEDIOCRE WIDOW” and the owner of www.theWiddahood.com. She is a mother who always tries to find humor in distressing situations and continues to write so that she can keep telling her kids that she’s busy and they need to get their own snacks.  Find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Comments
  • comment avatar Amber Johnson August 27, 2014

    Catherine–What a raw, wonderful post. I have so many friends who struggle with this and I’m sure this really hits home.

    What advice would you give for kids who struggle with this?

  • comment avatar Tammy August 27, 2014

    I dealt with anxiety as a kid and though I’m managing it better, my twin 4-year-old girls now have it. I don’t know the right balance. Do I let them avoid everything scary (which is what they want to do) or make them do it and work through it? I don’t want to traumatize them but they need to figure out how to work through it.

  • comment avatar Katie August 27, 2014

    My 10-year-old daughter is really anxious and worries about everything. As an example, she cries every night that she doesn’t want to grow up/grow older. Who does that?! It just makes me sad. 🙁

  • comment avatar Catherine Tidd August 27, 2014

    Here’s the thing that’s so hard about it: It’s so individual! It’s not like when you have a cold and then your kid catches it and you think, “Oh, I’ll just give her some antihistamines and she’ll be fine!” What works for me, may not work for her.

    As with myself, I’m trying to figure out her “triggers” and I think, at this point, I’ve figured out that she has some stomach issues. We’re trying more yogurt, more fiber to try and work them out. My therapist also mentioned that I might want to up her iron in her diet a little – that low iron can sometimes cause that restless leg feeling.

    What I’m trying to figure out with the BOTH of us are the tools we need to move forward. I’m working with my yoga studio to give my daughter and me some private lessons to really focus on breathing and calming the mind when we need to. I’ve talked to her school about finding therapy resources (all of which she’s very open to which tells me she’s been feeling pretty bad).

    This will be ongoing, I know, because there is no quick fix. And for all of you mothers out there who are struggling with it…I feel your pain!

  • comment avatar Colleen August 27, 2014

    I was always the strong one, I could do anything, that is until my husband died. What I didn’t realize was he was my anchor. I could do anything because he always had my back. Now that he is gone I have anxiety whenever I am doing something big, buy car, anxiety attack, buy a new condo, yep, anxiety. Went back to counseling and found a sleep specialist so I am doing much better. You can do this, good luck!

  • comment avatar Renee August 27, 2014

    Hi Catherine, I can so relate to what your going through. It all started 3 weeks ago at work, I started to shake and thinking my blood sugar was low I ate something and went home and passed out, tried to go to work the next day and made it all of 2 hours. I pretty much had a breakdown at that point. Crying and my mind feeling so spaced out for the following 8 days. I thought for sure I was going to die. I mustered up enough courage to go to Church and have them lay hands on me and pray for me, this was the only time in this entire process I felt a release. My mind feels so out of it and then I just dwell on the problem. I tried to go back to work this last Friday and cried the entire 4 hours I was there, feeling completely lost and out of it, kinda in a dream like state. I have forced myself to leave the house, spend time with friends, I have tried acupuncture with little relief. I don’t feel comfortable taking medicine but really need to go back to work, I feel so stuck. I am going to try CBT therapy this Friday in hopes for some relief, I believe I might have Candida overgrowth as well, but who knows my flesh just wants an answer, so I seek to find an answer as much as I can. The crazy thing is this happened to me one other time 4 years ago, it lasted around 2 months and then I was completely fine no anxiety what so ever. Thanks for sharing, you’re not alone.

  • comment avatar froot loop September 9, 2014

    I’ve had an anxiety/panic disorder for over 30 years with a side of agoraphobia thrown in just for fun. I tell people it is like being held prisoner by invisible bars of your mind. I know I am not the only person that has this but when you are in a downward panic attack spiral you feel frightened and alone. Sucks.

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