Friday, June 7, 2013

Wrapping Up The Anxiety Topic

I'm sorry for the delay in posting this final segment.  I appreciate how many of you have reached out to me while reading the first two parts.  I wish I had spoken out two and a half years ago!  Little did I know that so many people were out there, willing to share and sympathize.  

If only I knew then what I knew now.   How many times do we all find ourselves saying that?

So, I left off wondering how I was going to find help.  Clearly there wasn't any organization or doctor that was going to say, "Ah, yes!  This is very common.  We see it all of the time!  Read this book, take this medication, talk to this therapist and you will be back to normal in no time.  We have all of the answers!"  

Nope.  Nuttin.

One of my saving graces was a strange communication chain I had.  I had a relative that suffered with postpartum issues as well and from what I could tell, I was following the exact path she was on.  

We will call her in My(a) Relative. Corny I know, but I over-thought finding a witty name for her and it's the best I could come up with.  Suddenly I think I'm someone's Italian grandmother.  

Unfortunately  I hadn't spoken to Maya  in years, so I didn't feel like I could just call.  I mean, what do you say?  "Well, hi there!!  Remember me from six years ago?!   I hear through the grapevine that  you're out of your mind and thinking freaky crap too.  What are the chances, huh?  So, what kind of scary, weird shit do you worry about?  What are YOU doing about it?"  If I was her I would think that my family is talking about what a nut job I am behind my back, amongst themselves and whoever else might listen.  

The truth is that the only people who knew were my mom and one of our mutual relatives.  We will call that person Aunt Herah.  As in Her (ah) Relative.  Yes, the Italian grandmother naming cycle continues.

My mom mentioned my situation to Aunt Herah, who said, "Guess what....Maya went thru that too!"  Suddenly, I felt like there was someone out there.  Life on another "planet"!  I literally felt like I found the only other person in the world who spoke my language.

This was my ONLY personal connection to information and help.  The chain gets a little confusing here, but here is how every question that I had was answered: I would ask my mom, who would call Aunt Herah, who would ask Maya, who would report back to Aunt Herah, who would call my mom, who would call me.  

Whew. It was like playing that game Telephone that we all played as kids.  The difference was that I was desperate so the information was received exactly as it was given.

I'd listen to the information Maya shared, review it with my mom, analyze the shit out of it, hang up and cry.  I was either relieved that I wasn't the only one thinking this craziness, or I had gained insight and now knew how I could proceed.  Regardless of what it was, I was not alone and that in itself was huge.

The only thing missing was the feeling of hopefulness.  I needed a sign.

One afternoon when Allie was about 2 months old, we were standing in my front yard enjoying the sun.  I was feeling really anxious and couldn't seem to "get good air".  Anyone who suffers from anxiety or panic attacks will tell you that sometimes they feel like they can't get a good, deep breath of air no matter how hard they try.   I call that not being able to "get good air".   Those big deep breaths that you take when people tell you to calm down don't exist.  It's as if you're laying down with a brick on your chest.

Anyway, my neighbor, who I've always respected and admired, drove by.  She stopped and rolled her window down.  She had been the first friend to visit me when Allie was born so she had seen the happy, elated person I had been during that first week.   I guess I didn't look the same.

"Hey, neighbor!  How are ya doing?" she called out.

"Okay!"  I tried to fake it with a smile and a bouncy nod.

"You know, it's gonna get better!  Somewhere like around eight or twelve weeks, you'll feel more normal.  Trust me."

I remember thinking, 'Where did that come from?'  It was as if God knew I needed something, so in the immortal words of Bill Engvall, He said

Somehow she had picked up right away that I wasn't really okay.  She kind of knew what I was going through.  I can still see her smiling at me from behind the wheel.   I can hear her yelling over that I was going to be fine.   She had two kids and she was doing great, so she had to know!  That was my first glimmer of hope.

Sign, check!

I started seeing a doctor who put me back on medication and I have a trusty, ole therapist who was trying to help me control my wacky thoughts in the process.  To this day its still difficult to stop my mind from going off on a horrible tangent, but at least now I can stop it early instead of waiting until I'm a total mess.  

There is no perfect,  Hollywood movie ending to this little story.  That's part of the reason why it has taken me so long to finish this.  I've been searching for something that will leave you saying, "Well, that was a feel-good, happy story!"  Here's the best I can offer:

It's two and a half years later and I feel like I'm 80% back to being me, which is a lot better than it sounds.  I'm less claustrophobic and can hold my husband's hand without feeling weirdly restrained.  I don't have to keep Allie in arms reach at night while we sleep.  No more hysterical screaming in my car.  And I don't look like Janet Leigh in Psycho while I'm showering anymore.

I no longer let my mind torture me about my daughter.  That dark and evil thing is almost gone.  On rare occasions, I'll hear that he's at my brain's door.  When I look thru that peep hole, I see him standing there holding a sign about something new for me to get totally freaked out about.  When it happens, it pisses me off.  So, I fight it.

My advice to anyone going through this, or something similar, is this:
  • Reach out to everyone and anyone.  If your family and friends can't help, look for strangers who might have even the tiniest of potential to help.  
  • Don't be afraid of what people will think of you because in the grand scheme of things, what people think isn't going to make you happy or unhappy in life.  What you DO will accomplish that.  
  • Be prepared to be surprised by how many other people are keeping something similar to themselves, only to reveal it to you when you open yourself to them.  
  • Call a doctor and tell them you need help.  They will try.
  • Don't call Tom Cruise.  He will tell you that you're crazy.  This coming from a man who jumps on couches because he's in love on national television.  Hello, Pot!  This is The Kettle.  You're black.
And if none of that helps, I'm right here.  I understand.  I can't fix you or save you, but maybe I can help you find a direction to go in.  That's all I was ever looking for.  The truth is that YOU will save you.  Sometimes you just need someone to say that you CAN and WILL do it.  

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