Can 5 year olds have anxiety?

I think Biggie might have anxiety.

I’ve discussed in previous blog posts about being worried about passing anxiety on, and how there is a hereditary component to it. Smalls is too little and frankly too monstrous to be concerned he has anything but the desire to try and kill me with stress.

But Biggie is another story. Biggie is my cautious child. My thinker, my question asker. This past month he has been on and off going through a phase that I have been told is normal for this pre-kindergarten age. He’s trying to be more independent, while also being very clingy. He’s got a teenager attitude in that 5yo head of his sometimes.

Any deviation from the schedule makes him clingy. If we drop him off at a different time in the morning, he cries and doesn’t want us to leave. He spent a different night of the week at Gramma’s instead of the usual Tuesday and he couldn’t deal. He was crying big crocodile tears when we dropped him off, and had to call us before bed and cried when he was dropped off at school the next day.

He has to know the agenda for the day. And he has to ask questions until he understands exactly what we are doing and where we are going for the day. It usually pisses me off because I just told you what we are doing why are you asking me all these questions?! But lately I wonder if that gives him security and eases his anxiety. I’m an OCD planner- maybe he is too? He’s always liked things neat and lined up, even as a little toddler. So I’ve been trying to keep that in mind and really try to lay out what we are going to do on the daily- especially if it’s a change from the usual.

All this makes me feel some kind of way- that maybe he got his anxiety from me. Did seeing me so anxious before I started treatment affect him? Is he really anxious or just 5? (This is our first time going through the 5yo phase so fuck if I know). Is there something more we can be doing to help him? How will this affect him when he starts public school in the fall?

This will be discussed in therapy tomorrow.

Caffeine and anxiety- two star-crossed lovers.

“For never was a story of more woe, than this of a stressed out mama and her morning Starbucks caffeine load.” That’s how Shakespeare worded it, didn’t he?

Caffeine is fucking with my anxiety. I have known this for a hot minute. A few months ago, I asked my therapist the dreaded question about the relationship between the two. I knew the answer. But I cringed anyway when she confirmed my fears.

“Hey lady, why don’t you just drink decaf and quit being dramatic?” You might ask. Because cold brew doesn’t come in decaf YOU SAVAGES! So after some attempts at iced coffee, I went back to my usual morning deliciousness and ignored the effects.

It isn’t just coffee, it’s the diet soda I drink at dinner. I have been treating my body like a garbage dump due to stress about our living situation and the new house- I don’t look my best and I sure as shit don’t feel my best either. I know the caffeine is too much- I’ve only started drinking so much since we moved right fucking next to a Starbucks and I discovered what I had been missing all my adult life.

Considering the circumstances, my anxiety has been in check lately. But tonight at dinner I had a wake up call- I am tired and over it today, and three sips into my Diet Coke my anxiety hit me like a freight train. And my brain went- “yeah bitch we’ve done told you.” First of all- anxiety, you scornful bitch. I thought I had you on lock. Second- can I just live?!

So as in the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, I too am experiencing needless loss. I am going to give up Starbucks during the work week. And cut back on the soda. And hydrate with water and good shit.

It’s not you, it’s me, Starbucks. Please forgive me, and don’t shade me when I see you on Saturday morning for my fix.

Anxiety attack: the sequel

The other night I had another anxiety attack. I haven’t had one of those in a while. It had been building up all weekend. I was on edge, I was super emotional and as ragey as a honey badger, with just as many fucks to give. I was sobbing at How to Train Your Dragon 3, and don’t get me started on Frozen 2. I have had little patience these past 2 weeks. Honestly, I have been feeling like I did after Smalls was born, right before I started on therapy and medication. But that’s the thing about anxiety right? It circles back around just when you think you have made it your bitch.

So as soon as we put the kids to bed, I started sobbing. I was apologizing to Dading about how I felt like a freak, and how I didn’t know what to do because I don’t feel like myself. I am a control freak, and I felt so out of control. Anxiety doesn’t discrimate- you don’t just freak about one thing- oh no, you sweet summer child. EVERYTHING that has been bothering you for the last like 5 years jumps on the band wagon. Now it’s stress, and oh yeah I haven’t been eating good, haven’t been exercising as much, I totally lost my cool on someone and oh hey that one thing I said to so and so like last week- do you think they are mad at me about it? The compartmentalizing walls in your brain all come crashing down and now it’s an avalanche of stress, and tears. And then the next day you go to work with puffy eyes and dried out contacts.

I have made it through therapy without crying once. Cursing- fuck yes all the time. But never tears.. until the other day. It has been zero days since I sat on the proverbial couch and attempted to keep my non-waterproof mascara from running. You’re probably thinking therapy is like the ideal place to ugly cry. But I don’t like to let anyone see me cry (except Dading the poor dude), and I never have. Here’s my therapy plug again for those of you who don’t go- I did feel better when I left. I got told my emotions and emotional responses to things are totally normal. And to focus my energy where it will see the most change and do the most good, and don’t waste my time on the other stuff.

I am a successful, hard working woman. I am a good mom and wife. I am a good person. I am doing pretty good in the world for myself and my family. But I have anxiety and it tries to make me forget these things. Hopefully when it tries to fuck me up again I will come back to this post and reread my words and know that I am truly ok.

Making it rain- anxiety, not money.

I have been stressed lately, guys. As I’m sure you can imagine, not having your own house is stressful. No matter what you do or how good your living situation is, it isn’t your own house. We are looking at another 6 months and our house should be completed. It’s hard to live bare bones, with most your stuff in storage. It’s hard to have your life and friends and kid’s school one place, and you living in another.

The old anxiety trigger of money has been rearing it’s nasty head these past few weeks. According to my therapist, and she is always right, I like to live in the extremes. Extreme dieting, where its balls to the wall or I’ve fallen off the wagon. And in this case, the extreme of feeling like we have to save every fucking dollar we make to prepare for the new house, competing with the fact that we still have to live and that isn’t possible. We know where we need to be when we move and we are on track. Yet here I am, still feeling guilty for feeling the freedom of not having a mortgage currently. We aren’t freeloading at our current place so don’t look at me like that- we help out with bills but it still isn’t a mortgage. I felt guilty about our impromptu vacay to the Aquarium a few weeks ago. My internal dialogue goes something like this:

Anxiety me: but lady, you don’t have time to be going on vacation with this new house and the big mortgage coming up next year.

Rational me: but we still have to live right? We have to have fun and take a break from the hustle of our busy life.

Anxiety: you bought something on Amazon again. Tsk Tsk. You aren’t being responsible.

Rational me struggles with this part. In my head I go “well shit, maybe that bitch is right. Then I use Dading as my sounding board, the poor bastard.

It’s been a week, ya’ll. Everyone I talk to, including my therapist, tells me to chill the fuck out. That it will be ok, that we would never feel ready to take on a mortgage on a bigger house. And I hear that, because we thought we couldn’t afford our last house and it was fine. I feel so guilty, and like such a POS for buying anything, for going out when we said we weren’t going to go out at all to save money.

Life gets in the way of your best laid plans, I guess. I wish I could believe that we are on track and doing ok. And not to be freaked out about having a mortgage again next year when we close on this house.

When do I stop feeling like a reckless kid and start feeling like the responsible fucking adult that I am? Why am I so hard on myself? These are the things that have been weighing on my mind, and I am trying really hard to figure out how to believe in myself and us, and that things will be ok because we ARE responsible and doing what’s best for our family. #2020Goals maybe?

World Mental Health Day.

If you have Twitter, you know that today is #WorldMentalHealthDay. 2 years ago, this day would have meant nothing to me. Today, it makes me pause and take stock. Accepting and embracing (sometimes unwillingly) the fact that I have anxiety has opened up more doors for me than I ever knew were closed.

In my job, I see the effects of mental illness and the hopelessness it can bring on a daily basis. Old me would have thought nothing of it. Wondered why everyone gets diagnosed with some disorder or another. Like can everyone really be bipolar and depressed? Now, I know better. I see now how devastating mental illness can be for a person. How improper diagnosis or inadequate medication can lead people to self medicate with drugs.

Learning to live with a mental illness, no matter how mild or severe, takes a fuck ton of work. You have to look at the deepest, darkest parts of yourself and accept that the person in the mirror might not be who you imagined they would be. And maybe the harder part- believing that you aren’t a failure for your struggle.

Take inventory of yourself today. If you have been putting off seeking help, go get it. Make the call, schedule the appointment. Tell someone you’re having a hard time. Admitting you need help doesn’t make you weak, it makes you strong. Everyone has shit they are dealing with, so know you aren’t alone. When you are honest with yourself, and living your truth, it makes you a better, more compassionate person. Don’t let your fear hold you back. You got this, now go get em tiger.

Dear therapist.

I’ve only been seeing you for about a year and a half, but it has changed my life. I’m not a stranger to therapy- I saw someone when I was in college and I remember it helped me then. But this time was different. When I came to you I was a mess. I had finally seen that straw that broke this camel’s back. I was stressed out to the max, still coming off the fourth trimester after Smalls was born. And god was my anxiety bad. I was terrified I had post-partum, that there was something seriously wrong with me for being such a train wreck when my life was really good. I did not really confide in anyone but my husband, and one person can only take so much before they start charging me for 45 minute sessions.

I have always been anxious. I see now how crippling it has been in my life, even when I just thought it was my “normal.” It got in the way of so many joyous things. It tainted everything with shades of gray, things that should have been in rainbow colors. It was normal then, but now I can see it from the outside for what it really was- debilitating. I owe that new perspective to you. You have helped me see that, although this is something that will never be “cured,” that it is something that does not have to define me. That I can be Momingwithanxiety, not a mess of an anxiety riddled mom. Seeing you has led me to start this blog, which has been a form of therapy and release that I cherish like a third child. (One doesn’t talk back or wet the bed).

You have helped me see people and situations for what they are, not what my nervous predisposition makes them out to be. You have helped me learn to say no, and to be confident in who I am, and who I am trying to become. I feel like I am living my best life, even though the days I know I’m coming to see you are a big relief for me still.

Your support of my ambitions, your wise cracks and honesty have done so much for me. I feel like I have my life back. That I am in control of it again. I have found the confidence to be myself, to stand up for myself, and to strive to better myself. I am a better wife, a better mom, a better person thanks to you.

For anyone out there on the fence about taking that first step to go and talk to someone, don’t be afraid to take that leap. I cannot put into words what it feels like to always know there is someone in your corner, there to listen and laugh with. To work out problems with. Someone who sees the very best version of you, even when you can’t see it yet yourself. So go- make the call, schedule the appointment. Don’t be afraid. The best version of you is out there- the one under all the stress and fear- go grab that person, one 45 minute session at a time. I promise you won’t regret it.

And to my absolutely amazing therapist who I consider a friend- I know you’re going to read this because I’m going to send it to you 🙂 I want you to know that in this girl’s life, you have made all the difference in the world.

What an anxiety attack feels like for me.

I have been overwhelmed lately.

Our house is under contract now and we have a closing date, but last week we had showings every day, and had to spend most of our evenings out of the house. That means we’ve been eating out or at family’s house literally every meal. It means the house being staged every morning before we get out the door for work and school. And before we had an offer, it was stress every day about how long it would take to sell the house, and what if we didn’t sell it after we already put a deposit down on the new build? It was stress about the impending inspection and appraisal and will we make what we need to get into our new house with money to spare?

On top of all this, we switched the boys school last week. The new school is more expensive, but we felt we had to do it to give the boys their best opportunity, especially Biggie who is starting VPK. The last day of our old school was a tearful one. These women have raised my babies since they were 3 months old- and Biggie is almost 5. The first day of the new school was Monday, and it was rough. We asked ourselves if we made the right decision, if moving to a more expensive school was a great idea with everything going on. In the end, we did make the right choice. We love the school already, and the kids are having a great time. Smalls is not sold yet, but he will come around 🙂

So I hope I’ve painted an adequate picture of all the big life changes going on in my house right now. Factor in some family drama, and I am hashtag over-fucking-whelmed. I am not sleeping well, nor getting enough of it.

Spoiler alert- I’ve been having anxiety attacks. I am pretty sure that an anxiety attack looks different for everyone, but here’s what it looks like for me…

It can come on all of a sudden, it isn’t usually something that builds up over time. I get an immediate sense of an almost panicky feeling, and/or feeling suddenly completely overwhelmed. My heart rate spikes, which makes me breath harder. Sometimes my chest starts feeling a little tight. It happened really bad the other night, starting on the way to dinner. Smalls screamed so loud in the car and I almost lost it. I was driving and it was just too much. Then we got to dinner and I had such an overwhelming urge to flee. I felt like I couldn’t breathe and was fighting back tears. I can’t concentrate on what people are saying, because I can’t listen over the panicked voice in my head. I feel nauseous and lose my appetite. My hands and feet get clammy. It sucks.

So what do I do to combat it? I take my backup anxiety meds. I de-stimulate by going into a room by myself, by going to get a shower. In a perfect world where I had the time or energy to exercise (LOL), it would involve going for a walk. I take something to help me sleep. I play on my iPad. I tell Dading how I’m feeling and he tries to help me work through it.

And sometimes I can’t work through it. Sometimes I just have to ride it out. And that is the hardest part. Sometimes I just have to wait for the stressful thing to pass- like getting a buyer for our house and going under contract. Sometimes there isn’t time for me to get a shower right then, or have quiet. At those times, I think it’s important to lean on your people to help you get through it. In my case, it’s my therapist and Dading.

So that’s what an anxiety attack looks like for me. Even after all this therapy and self discovery, I still have times where I cry on the couch and wonder what’s wrong with me. Mental health is a journey, and there are always set backs. Sending out support to anyone who is going through some shit today and is having a hard time. You got this, and you are tougher than you give yourself credit for.

How do you know if your toddler has anxiety?

I have mentioned before how scared I always am of passing my anxiety on to my kids. Especially Biggie, who is almost 5. He is my cautious child. The worrier. Smalls is an absolute toddler tornado who has no fear AT ALL I AM NOT JOKING and I thank the universe that they both aren’t like that. Again, I don’t get enough credit for not being a raging alcoholic.

Biggie is notorious for asking “what can I do for you right now?” When we are hustling with the bedtime routine especially. Normal people would think how adorable and sensitive he is, and how helpful. If you’re me, however, you wonder if it’s because he thinks he has to do this to decrease our stress.

Before I got a handle on my anxiety, I would cry all the time. I was a mess. And he would see it. He would come over and hug and kiss me and I loved it, but it also breaks my heart that he had to witness it. All my comments about my body image, how I had food guilt… he heard everything. And still hears it because even though I say it less, I am not perfect.

Or what about every time he hears me say I’m stressed, that I am overwhelmed?

We expect a lot out of him, as a big brother and as a member of our family. We are always on the go and hustling from this place to that. We are always getting on him about not getting buckled when he gets in the car (seriously trying to get your 4 year old to move quickly is the most frustrating thing ever. Try and convince me otherwise. That’s right, you can’t. I rest my case.) I feel like we are always rushing him, and we sometimes have to remind ourselves to ease up and let him just be a toddler.

How many other 4 year olds are the same way? Is it normal for them to be cautious and nervous around new things? Is the fact that his little brother is balls to the wall 24 fucking 7 just due to his age, or is it because he is too little to understand what’s going on? I am thankful I don’t have girls, because I worry I would not be able to give them the body self confidence they need. How can I teach it if I don’t even have it myself? Every time he is nervous to try something new, every time he tries to help out when we are busy, every time I get on him about doing something that might cause him to get hurt, even if it’s a minor thing… I worry. I worry he is this way because of the way I am. I work so hard at being a mom, and being a good one, and that little voice in the back of my mom brain always wonders how much my struggles are affecting him.

I hope that one day he will look back and see how freaking hard his mommy worked to make herself better, to ask for help when she needed it, and to own her mental health and overcome her struggles. I hope it makes him better equipped to handle his own.

Will this keep me from worrying? Pfffft.

Anxiety… excitement… same diff.

Funny thing about anxiety- it doesn’t just show up when you’re nervous about something. At least for me, a huge trigger for my anxiety is excitement. See also- big life events. For example- we are selling our house and building our dream house. Big deal for anyone, right? Lots to figure out, lots of waiting for the house to be built, etc. I’ve been in high alert mode lately. Worried we won’t get to lock down a lot before they sell them all, worried we will have too much to do to fix up our current house. Worried about going nuts while we wait the long 9 months for our house to be built.

Why does this excitement make my anxiety stand at attention? I think I’ve always been like that. I don’t like surprises, they make me nervous. I feel the expectation of having to love it for the other person, so I don’t seen ungrateful. I tend to have to warm up to whatever it is once it’s revealed, and I don’t get excited until later. Dading is used to this and doesn’t let it bother him. I was even like this when we got engaged, even though I wanted nothing more than for him to ask me to marry him. Sitting here now, I wonder if it’s because it takes my anxiety time to calm down so normal emotions can show themselves.

I am also literally THE worst about gift giving. I always give them early because I’m too excited to wait. But again, sitting here I wonder if it’s just nervousness that makes me spill the beans.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I am super nervous around grief. I remember being young, when my Poppop died, I could not be around my parents when they were upset. I also hid my grief and cried alone. Even to this day, when there is a death in the family, I never let anyone see me cry if I can help it. I feel panicky when I am around others who are grieving. Michelle Obama says “when they go low, we go high”- well when they get sad I get tough. It’s a coping mechanism.

Is anxiety linked to any strong emotion? This will be discussed in therapy. Stay tuned.

Hello anxiety, my old friend.

It’s been a rough couple weeks, folks. Of course there was Dading being in Nashville, but even since I have been feeling very stressed and anxious. Today was a perfect example- I went to get my monthly massage after work, which is amazing. The car drive home, in the rain, in traffic, was very stressful. In that hour plus it took me to get home, I was thinking how I had to pick up take out on my way home, and that we had to fix the water heater that wasn’t working. (Yes, I took a cold shower on Saturday like a fucking primitive Neanderthal. Don’t talk to me about sacrifice.) I thought I would be home earlier, and it was nearing Small’s bedtime, and I wanted to be able to pitch in to help with the kids. I felt guilty because I was running late due to a luxury, not a necessity.

Yes, self pampering IS a necessity- I know I need to listen to my own advice. We are back to not getting a lot of sleep lately. Basically I hope someone out there takes my advice, because I certainly am not at the moment.

I’ve also taken a lot of time off work lately. Sick kids, mental health day, etc etc. My job never makes me feel for a second that it is an issue, but I have that guilt. That working parent work-isn’t-my-primary-focus guilt. I know I’m not the only one.

And money- it really is the root of all evil. We aren’t anywhere near moving back in with our parents, but money is tight. DadingWITHOUTanxiety’s professional camera died and we are saving for a new one. For those playing the home game, that shit ain’t cheap. So he’s working overtime to help pay off credit cards (the Devil’s plastic) so we can get a new one. Which makes me feel guilty about the money I spend. For someone who is not religious, I have an abundance of Catholic guilt.

Not dieting and gaining back the 20 pounds I lost last year is always on my mind. I don’t feel like dieting. I am trying to get back into the gym routine to offset it and also get strong again. Again, having a hard time following my own wisdom that I am not the number on the scale.

All these things together led to tears, wine, and back up anxiety meds tonight. And me sitting here with my half empty glass blogging about it. I am not sure why I am having a rough go of it lately. Leftover from the week he was gone? Lack of sleep? All the above? I don’t have panic attacks, but my anxiety will just come on strong all of a sudden and I feel nervous and overwhelmed when it does. I know my therapist told me that anxiety is going to walk parallel to me my whole life, and sometimes it’s going to get in the way. It’s just really hard for an overachiever perfectionist to accept it when it does.

I’m not sure how I’m going to tackle it this weekend, but I’m going to put in a solid effort.