Anxiety

I can’t pinpoint when my anxiety started but I can tell you when I realized something was not right. It was a day in early August when my husband and his employees moved their offices out of our house.

Now you would think that I would be thrilled about that. I mean, we had dreamed of having our house and privacy back for so long. But when I was faced with that reality, something fragile, a tiny thread that was my last connection to logic and rationale, snapped.

The day of the move, we loaded boxes into his pickup. As he backed out of the garage, I felt irrationally frightened. It was as if I was watching the one person who could save me, had been saving me, abandon me. I felt crushed.

When the external garage door closed, my smile faded and my waving hand fell to my side. My face crumpled. My breath caught in my throat and I felt the tears prick and burn my eyes. I took a huge gulp of air and started sobbing. In an effort to find comfort and to try to run away from the problem, I, in the style of my childhood, raced into our bedroom shutting the door on the fly. I threw myself on to our bed, curled up in the fetal position and cried. I was thinking that I should be happy but I clearly was not.

A few months prior to this, I was confronted with a situation that undid months and months of my emotional progress. My husband and I were having an alcohol fueled (tsk, tsk! I know better!) heated discussion about it and I remember saying, “This is too hard. Why does this have to be so fucking hard?! Oh my God! I wish I was dead.”

I want to be crystal clear, dear readers, I was not thinking of suicide as I do not believe in it for spiritual reasons. I also knew I needed to be here and stay healthy for my little girl. The truth is, I just didn’t want to be here anymore, on Earth. If I, say, happened to be in an auto accident, I wouldn’t fight to stay here. The thing is, at that moment, I was in such intense, deep emotional pain and I couldn’t see my way out of it. I just wanted the pain to stop.

Looking back, my outburst was a verbal cry for help. I’m still not sure exactly who the cry was meant to be heard by; me or him. But, in the blink of an eye, the external and internal conversations moved on. Sadly, even that admission wasn’t enough for me to understand how far I had fallen from my true self.

I told one of my besties about my admission and she, professionally trained to look for these signs, questioned me intently about it. I told her what I believed and that was I would NEVER commit suicide. I didn’t believe in it as I knew that I would have to relive every craptastic thing I had gone through in this lifetime again. No. No thank you. Not for all the high-end coffee in Costa Rica. What I didn’t know is that over the next few months my chemical imbalance and emotional health would continue to deteriorate until I barely recognized my emotional self.

1403676644_0988b697a9_m40 million adults in the United States have anxiety[i]. One-third get help. That leaves two-thirds, TWO-THIRDS, that don’t.

What I also ignored or attributed to something else was the physical symptoms. My hands would uncontrollably shake, my mouth would be dry, my heart would race. I even went to the doctor thinking I had high blood pressure. My insomnia worsened, I cried alot and I had the most illogical, neurotic thoughts. I found myself being overly impatient and quick to anger, especially with our daughter. I chalked this up to just being stressed or needing a night or two off from being a momma.

One night in late August my husband came home late, very late. It’s nothing new, in fact, it’s quite normal and it shouldn’t have affected me like it did, but that night I was a train wreck. I was neurotic and imagined all sorts of heinous activities on his part. I was convinced he was doing something nefarious or was dead. I called his phone and had my irrational suspicions confirmed when he didn’t answer. I sent a text to him saying that I was frightened. My heart was beating a million miles a minute. I thought it was going to jump out of my chest. A few minutes later he walked through the door.

I raced into his arms, viscerally sobbing in relief. I hugged him like he was my breath. I shook uncontrollably and babbled incoherently through a deluge of tears. He hugged me and said, “Honey. Honey! What is going on? This is not like you. Honey. What is going on?!”  I pulled back and relief-sobbed that I had been imagining all sorts of horrible things happening to him and because of him.  I told him I was so frightened. He continued to hug me and said this wasn’t like me.

I clung to him in our bed that night like I was his second skin. I needed to talk with him about what I was feeling but when…when?  The next morning, after only a few hours (or minutes) of sleep, I completely lost my shit in the shower. I felt completely overwhelmed and paralyzed.  My best friend, the one I confided in whole-heartedly, my forever husband, was someone I was now struggling to speak with.

I exited the shower, robotically dried myself off and burst into tears again. I was miserable. I wrapped the towel loosely around myself and walked, zombie-like, into our bedroom. My husband, just clearing the sleep from his eyes, took one look at me and said, “Oh my God. Honey! What’s wrong!?”

My tears broke free and I sobbed while saying, “I don’t know. I think I’m broken. I need help. Something’s wrong with me. I thought I was doing ok, but after last night and this morning, I know I’m not. I’m having horrible thoughts and my neuroticism is not fair to you. I think I’m suffering from PTSD or anxiety. I need help. I’m going to call my midwife about anxiety medicine and try to find a counselor today. I’m a fucking mess.”

Then I cleared the tears from my eyes, wiped the snot from face with the back of my arm and locked my swollen, blood shot, tired eyes on his. The energy surrounding us became palpable. I took a deep breath and said, “I don’t know what I’m capable of. I don’t think I would ever hurt myself but I’m NOT myself right now. I’m just….broken. Can you either hide the guns or the ammunition immediately, please?” He didn’t question me, he just did as I requested.

I scheduled an appointment with my midwife and found a counselor that morning. My midwife started me on an anti-anxiety/anti-depressant. The counselor saw me that week.

I’m a good mix of believing in Eastern and Western medicine. I believe they both have their places in my life. What I was doing with Eastern medicine wasn’t helping so I immediately sought out Western medicine. I also believe that pills are just a band aide and that I have to address the problem, hence the trained counselor.  I previously wrote a blog called “Crazy” that spoke of how powerful the mind was and how it can control your body. My physical anxiety symptoms proved that, yet again, to me.

The medication and counseling have had a vastly positive effect on me. I feel “normal” again,  like the old chemically balanced me. All thoughts of not wanting to be here have vanished. Everything isn’t oppressive and I’ve even caught myself genuinely belly laughing. The first time that happened I thought, “What was THAT?! How long has it been since I’ve laughed this way?”

Like a broken record, I consider myself one of the lucky ones.  Not only did I recognize something had changed in my brain, but I asked for and received help. Have you?


[i] https://www.adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics

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Holidays

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Years ago, in 1999 to be exact, celebrating the Holidays lost its luster (yes, pun intended) for me. In September of that year, my mom died. When the holiday season rolled around just two months later, I was mired in grief so palpable it felt like my heart was being squished. I would burst into tears at the smallest of things. Then it started; the seasonal well-wishers who didn’t have any idea of what was going on inside of me or that I was mourning the loss of not only my mother, but a way of life.  

1999 was a big year for me. When my mom unexpectedly died, I realized how deeply unhappy I was in my (starter) marriage.  I realized how quickly things can change and I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in a marriage that was harmful and hurtful. I also realized that my excitement for the Holidays was irrevocably tarnished. It felt like I was seeing everything in monochromatic colors instead of the bright, festive colors that once were. It felt like, if you’ll forgive my indulgence, I had just discovered after years and years of believing in Santa, that it was all a cruel lie.

Now, I was never one to go overboard on Christmas both in the gift giving and decorating aspect. In fact, in all the years I was single, I never put up a Christmas tree. Not once. Why bother? I wasn’t here for Christmas; I was with my family at their home(s). I would tire of people saying, “Did you put up your tree?” and having to justify why I hadn’t and wouldn’t. You wouldn’t believe the comments or the incredulous looks I received for this simple act of not conforming.  You would have thought I told people I worshiped the devil. I’m not kidding. This still happens today, but I no longer feel the need to justify my actions.

The question, “Do you have all your Christmas presents bought?” is asked by well-meaning individuals and I get the reasoning behind it as it’s top bragging rights if you have. But for me, I feel like it’s no one else’s business, even though I know they are just making small talk. When I reply, “I don’t buy gifts” I’m given the look.  You know the one; wider, slightly disbelieving eyes, mouth agape and head cocked to the side. You can almost hear people wondering if they’ve heard me correctly. You’d think not buying gifts was a sacrilege!

It was around the time of my divorce that I started to feel empowered enough to stop the rat race of gift giving, too. Those changes were occurring because of my girl Charmaine telling me her thoughts on how she was trying to live her life (see my Networking blog) and me trying to apply those thoughts to my life. Well, it was that and the fact I was once again in mourning (loss of my marriage) and I physically didn’t have the finances to buy gifts.

It was incredibly liberating (although scary to go against the norm) to let my relatives/friends know I wouldn’t be giving gifts. In reality, some even took a page from my book and pared down their lists. You see, I subscribe to the theory of giving gifts all year long. Those gifts, whether they are random acts of kindnesses, a large gratuity or a physical gift, mean more to me and feel real versus the banal, stress-filled experience of buying/wrapping/giving Christmas gifts.

Oh yes. Long ago, through my own experiences (aren’t those the best ways to learn?), I realized not everyone is festive and excited for the Holiday season. I realized there were others who were grieving a loss of a job, a death or the demise of a relationship. I understood then that there were others, still, who were struggling with anxiety, depression or even abuse.

Prior to 1999, I was one of those who would end a conversation with, “Merry Christmas!” or “Have a happy Thanksgiving.”  Now you’ll not hear me utter those words unless you have said them to me.  As a side note, you also will not hear me wish you a happy Valentine’s Day as I was lonely for far too many of them, some even while I was married.

I’m deeply aware, both through personal experience and my Work, that others are in emotional pain during a season where merriment rules.  So for me, if I don’t wish you a season’s greeting, it’s not because I’m being unpleasant or have lost my ability to make polite small talk. It’s because I’m trying to honor those who own their grief during a season where grief is not acknowledged.  

But before you think I’m all Ebenezer Scrooge, I’ve noticed that since having a baby, my monochromatic vision now has a hint of color. Maybe it’s because I anticipate the excitement and wonderment she’s going to experience. Maybe it’s because I get to experience them with her. Either way, it’s no longer black and white for me but I still won’t be asking if you’ve got your shopping done or put up a tree.

Fabric Softeners

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I’m going off on a rant again and this time it’s about fabric softeners; most specifically the overpowering and overwhelming smell of some of them. Sheesh! I HATE the smell!! I am repulsed by these and other strong scents (perfumes, hairsprays, air fresheners, candles, etc.). Turns out, it might be my bodies way of warning me of the physical dangers these products contain.

I grew up with (unscented) fabric softeners and until I did research for this blog, I was still using them (although I’d switched to an eco-friendly, organic brand). I’d never once questioned why I should or shouldn’t use a softener or even WHY I was using them. If you wanted your laundry soft, you used a fabric softener. Right?

According to Natural News.com, fabric softeners are made up of a laundry list (pun intended!!!) of horrible toxins. Those toxins have been proven to cause cancer, Parkinson’s, yeast infections, fertility problems, asthma, headaches, and skin conditions (think rash or itching, etc.). These chemicals include (but are not limited to): Formaldehyde, Chloroform, A-Terpineo and Camphor.

Fetuses, babies and young children are incredibly sensitive to these highly toxic ingredients. These ingredients can cause brain damage, SIDs, ADD and depression.

Fabric softeners are designed to soften synthetic fabrics and to reduce static cling. Synthetic fabrics hold on to their odors so a softener was designed to cover up said odors. When synthetic fabrics are heated (think your workout tops), they become even more smelly.  But oddly, the laundry directions for most moisture wicking synthetic workout clothes specifically state to omit fabric softeners.

Fabric softeners are designed to last and to release slowly over a period of time. These toxic chemicals are coating your (and your children’s!) towels, sheets and clothing. We physically absorb these toxins through our skin and we also inhale them. Even if you don’t use a fabric softener, you can still be exposed to these chemicals by working with someone who does. That’s lovely, huh?

Something I didn’t know is cotton (think towels and sheets) is designed to naturally soften the more washings/dryings it receives. Well, leDUH (head slap)! Yes! That makes perfect sense. Think of the sheets you’ve had for years; soft as a baby’s bum, aren’t they? Or your favorite old blue jeans?  Yep. Good old cotton. It’s designed to be soft and yet we add fabric softener (made for synthetics!) to our rinse water. Egads!  What a genius marketing ploy!!

There are safer, non-fabric softener options which include:

·         Dry natural fabrics separately from synthetics. Natural fibers don’t develop static.  (Huh. I didn’t know this). Also, don’t allow clothes to dry completely in the dryer. Remove them while they are still slightly damp and hang them up to finish drying. The longer they remain in the dryer, the more static.

·         Green America suggests pre-soaking clothes in 1/2 cup of baking soda for 10 minutes if you have hard water. Baking soda acts as a natural fabric softener. (What?! Really??!)

·         Use natural laundry soaps with soy-based fabric softeners. (Soy fabric softeners?! Now I’ve heard everything!)

·         Chose products that are scent free (PLEASE! Ugh! The smell…THE SMELL!!) and don’t contain dyes.

·         You can make your own dryer sheets by soaking a small cloth in 1 tsp. of hair conditioner and letting it dry. Then, toss it in the dryer to remove static.

·         You can also add 1/2 cup of the old workhorse white vinegar to the rinse cycle.

·         Lastly, use chemical-free dryer balls to fluff fibers and remove static cling.

You want ways to be proactive with your health? Eliminating unnecessary toxins in the form of fabric softeners is a good way to start.