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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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.

The sound of silence.

So DadingWITHOUTanxiety made it home, albeit 5+ hours late thanks to flight delays. He’s home and life is attempting to go back to normal. I ended up having to get a prescription for my stomach issues last week, and she thought they were caused from stress, not a virus. My stomach hasn’t hurt since he got home, and I think my insides are back to normal. It’s crazy, the physical reaction my body had from the stress and break in our normal family routine, but that is how my body works so I guess I just have to accept it and move on. Sounds good on paper, doesn’t it?

I was also taking my backup anxiety medicine this past week again. I haven’t had to touch those in months. Cliff notes version: he’s never allowed to leave again. It isn’t good for my health, I have documentation. ๐Ÿ™‚

Tonight I went and got an hour foot massage. Just me, my thoughts, and soothing zen music. In that silence I thought about this blog post I was going to go home and write, how Biggie needs more attention away from his brother, and how my anxiety had reared its ugly head again. I was thinking about the extreme stress I found myself under last week and how my body responded to it. The answer- not well. Of course Shark Week decided to come Friday also, which has always been a huge anxiety trigger for me. (I heard someone call it Shark Week once and I am never going back. Get on board, people. Feel free to steal it like I did.)

I realize too how far I have come in being able to recognize when I am struggling. I know now, after the therapy and medication, that this isn’t just “normal me.” It’s insane to me that I used to just live like that every day. That doesn’t mean I don’t still get down on myself, but now I can step outside myself and say “hey bitch, you aren’t doing so hot today, huh?” and recognize that things are not the way they should be.

So many of you have texted me the nicest things in response to my last blog and I appreciate it so much. You told me how you struggle also, and I was being too hard on myself. It meant a lot to me, and I was yet again reminded how therapeutic this blog continues to be.

I’m trying to untangle myself from the stress, which has taken most of the weekend. It’s just a huge reminder also that we have to take care of ourselves. I ended up taking last Friday off of work, and my mom took the kids Thursday night. She was my lifeline, because I was running on empty. Reach out for help, even thought I know it sucks to have to ask. And if someone offers it, accept it! And if you need someone to get a foot massage with you, you know where to find me ๐Ÿ™‚

Anxiety: DON’T pass it on.

I have been told by my kick ass therapist (from now on referred to as KAT) that anxiety is hereditary. Not that genes are entirely to blame- sorry people- but there is a genetic component to it. As I have been working on myself and being aware of my anxiety, I have noticed that my mother is an anxious person. Her anxiety manifests itself in the “OMG YOU’RE GOING TO CHOKE, OMG YOU’RE GOING TO FALL” panic variety. I notice it now that my anxiety is mostly in check. I’m pretty positive she isn’t even aware of it herself. It’s interesting how much you notice about others when you start to get your own shit together. Something else KAT and I talk about is stopping the cycle. One session I had a moment of “I do not want my kids to be anxious. I don’t want them picking that up from me.”

This was a really REAL moment. Like if you can’t do it for yourself, do it for your babies. The thought that Biggie was hearing every anxious thing I said to DadingWITHOUTanxiety, every comment I made about my weight, every time he saw me cry when the stress overwhelmed me was a hard pill to swallow.

I do NOT want my boys to be anxious, to self doubt and self hate, to struggle with insecurity and not know who they are. I want them to be able to find themselves through a natural progression of growing up, not trying to overcome a struggle that I projected onto them.

I am not ashamed of having Anxiety Disorder- come on I started a blog about it! I am so proud of finally admitting that I had a problem and doing something about it. By asking for help when it was hard. By going on medication when it made me feel like I was pill shopping, then realizing sometimes that wasn’t enough and having to ask for something in addition. Learning that I can’t take care of my family if I am struggling to take care of myself. And this is an ongoing journey- I have good days and bad days. Some days I’m at a zero, some days I’m at a ten.

So for you moms and dads that are struggling, that might feel like you could benefit from talking to someone, that you need help but are afraid to ask for it- remember that our kids are impressionable little sponges who hear everything. Especially the things we don’t want them to. (And like 10% of the things we actually tell them. If you don’t repeat yourself at least three times are you even a parent?) What kind of things are we teaching them when we aren’t paying attention? I am always going to have Anxiety. I hope to get to a place where I can keep it at bay almost all the time. But I do know that of all the things I want to pass on to Biggie and Smalls, anxiety will NOT be one of them.

Anxiety triggers and soothers

What sets off your anxiety? I think knowing that is half the battle to getting a handle on it. For me, being around other high strung people is a big one. I totally feed off that energy and find myself agitated by it. Money stress is a big one- I have 2 kids in preschool, so you know we aren’t living the Kardashian lifestyle. I try to tell myself that we will never be as broke as we are now, but it’s still hard sometimes to see the forest for the trees. And then when I am amped up, or tired (those of you with anxiety know that tired=anxious) the noise of Biggie and Smalls running around being crazy sets me over the edge. I find that I am totally derailed by the volume that is to be expected in a house with little heathens in it.

So then- how do you soothe the anxiety? I take 2 different prescriptions which were recommended to me by my therapist, which have made me a functioning anxious person ๐Ÿ™‚ and I talk to someone who helps put everything in perspective. For those of you thinking about therapy, I can’t recommend it enough. 45 minutes of a safe quiet space and an outside perspective have made all the difference for me. I always feel like I have someone in my corner to talk me through the bad times and help me sort through it all.

I think it’s easy to lose yourself in the all consuming job that is parenting. I’m talking to you dads, too- DadingWITHOUTanxiety (aka my husband) and I both give 100% and despise the Dads=secondary parents moniker. Dads rock! I do find that he has an easier time of taking time for himself. And I don’t just mean hiding in the bathroom (back me up Moms we know they all do it). He has his photography and PS4 and YouTube. Honestly in trying to deal with my anxiety, I found my hobbies- Cricut, gardening/yard work, and now this blog. I think it’s important we support each other in doing things that are just for us. Finding those quiet times to clear our minds and do things for ourselves. Sanity, kids, we have to find it in the chaos of being a parent!

For me, putting on my noise-cancelling headphones and listening to Audible or music and blocking out the background noise is a big one. And when she isn’t playing Baby Shark (do do do do), Alexa is playing soothing music at night, like rain sounds or spa music, etc.

What do you guys do to de-stress? What are your triggers? I have a feeling we share a lot more of both than we think. Looking forward to reading your thoughts.

-Mandy