I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder when I was 22. The diagnosis came after a months worth of painful physical symptoms led me to believe I was dying. I was hospitalized, given the once over and released with a prescription for a sedative and a referral to see my family doc to discuss next steps.
I was then medicated with Cipralex – an anti-obsessional and anti-depressant that really helped ease my painful physical symptoms and helped calm my over active brain. The next 10 years or so I went un-medicated party because I now knew what was wrong with me (I don’t suffer from depression, I suffer from anxiety) and I could coax myself ever so gently out of my “episodes” because I knew that physical pain was often the result of my anxiety and over active imagination. Meditation was also extremely helpful when it got really bad.
By my early 30s Mer and I were actively trying to have a baby. I haven’t discussed it much here (yet) but our first pregnancy was a surprise and ended in the stillbirth of our twin daughters. After our loss, I found myself in therapy because my anxiety was horrible and I was grieving a pain that I never thought imaginable. I suppose my grief manifested itself physically (my anxiety has a huge physical presence) and through weekly sessions with a grief counselor I was able to get a handle on it. We were also undergoing fertility testing and seeing specialists so my focus was really on getting answers and coming up with a plan to bring a baby home so there wasn’t much time to focus on myself.
The next 3.5 years sucked. I had loss after loss and surgery after surgery to make my body healthy and safe to carry a baby. Again, my anxiety was controlled because the focus on bringing home a baby was so intense I had no time to worry about myself.
Did I mention that my anxiety is focused entirely on me? That would help clarify things wouldn’t it? My anxiety is 100% health anxiety. I do believe that I suffer from hypochondria but my doctor would prefer to label me with GAD. I worry about health related things almost exclusively. The majority of the time my anxiety is selfish because I worry about myself but from time to time I share the love and become obsessed with other people’s (namely my mother and Mer’s) issues.
In June 2016, I found a new doctor. My anxiety was so awful that I was a nightmare to live with. I didn’t feel well (I get physical symptoms like I told you), I had a baby to look after and all I could do was worry about myself. I was angry. I knew that it was anxiety but the pain was just so awful that I couldn’t focus on anything else. Then, when the pain didn’t go away I’d get more anxious and then the downward spiral would just continue.
Back to my new doctor. She was amazing. She took my history and gave me that horrified look that most people do when I explained how hard it was to bring Margs home safely – she then proceeded to tell me that despite my history, my anxiety is most likely genetic (both mama and papa suffered in silence) and that I likely started to exhibit symptoms when I was 8 years old. A light bulb went off and I realized just how long I’d been living with this problem. As a kid, I’d loose sleep over things that most kids would shrug off. I worried about adult problems despite coming from a fairly stable home. As I got older my anxieties changed (they’re always sort of changing I guess) but the anxiety was always there. It was a pretty regular part of my daily life and I’d become so accustomed to it I just assumed it was normal.
So, I’m medicated again at my doctors suggestion. I’m back on the cipralex in addition to clonozapam if/when it gets really bad. Anxiety is a monster and parenting a young kid when you’re so wrapped up in your own out of control thoughts is so incredibly hard.
The thing about anxiety is that you’re not living in the moment. Sure, you’re there physically to live the moment but you’re brain is so busy conjuring up scary thoughts and ideas that you can’t just live the moment and actually enjoy it. Anxiety makes enjoying the little things in life hard. It makes slowing down and being present nearly impossible. It makes enjoying your kid difficult because you’re so focused on yourself that the best you can do is get through the day without actually stopping for a moment and be grateful that you were given that day to enjoy.
Some days are better than others which is to be expected. I doubt I’ll ever truly be anxiety free but today I’m far more aware of what’s going on around me and able to slow down enough to stop and enjoy it.
Parenting through (with) anxiety is tough. Harder than I thought really. It’s an uphill battle and I make a conscious effort to live more in the now and enjoy the simple pleasures in life even when my brain is racing a million miles a minute.
Anxious Mamas, how do you cope?