For the last week I’ve been convincing myself that I have an ovarian cyst and that somehow, some way, I will die from it. We won’t get to build the house that we are saving for. We won’t get to enjoy retirement together. And I won’t get to see the people my children will grow in to. I even googled it, which I haven’t done in forever (per the advice of the therapist I used to see). Did you know, if ovarian cysts are left and don’t rupture, they can turn into cancer? YIKES.
Anyways, guess what? It was just my period starting a week early. Eye roll. The breakouts, cramps, bloating, and constipation didn’t even tip me off; I just went straight to my imminent death.
This usually doesn’t happen to me much anymore. I’m on two anxiety/depression meds, have a huge support system, I’m open about my strengths AND my weaknesses, live a much healthier lifestyle, and am much more educated on the topic. But every once in a while, this form of anxiety will sneak in, steal my joy, and make me think like a crazy person again.
This is one of the worst parts of anxiety for me. Health anxiety. I’ve struggled with all the other stuff as well. I quit Camp Fire in first grade because it was too much. I had stomach aches every day before school. I didn’t do sports. I used to lay in bed when I was little, worrying I was going to die of mole cancer. I’m pretty sure I had some form of anxiety induced IBS. I turned down a free trip to England with my mom and brother because I was too scared to get behind on my school work. I panicked if I gained five pounds even when I weighed 100 pounds, not because I thought I was overweight, but because I felt like I didn’t have control over something. I died a slow death recounting everything I did and said after a social gathering (still working on this), I was just all around afraid of life. I felt like it was for everyone else and I didn’t know where to be. The list is endless.
I didn’t even know this was called anxiety. I didn’t even know I suffered from something. I just thought that’s how I was. I was miserable a lot, but didn’t know to do anything about it.
The shit really hit the fan for me after I had my third baby. I had post-partum issues after each prior pregnancy but had always just summed it up to having really bad “baby blues.” I lied on all of my postpartum assessments you fill out at your 6 week checkup. Things were much different after Rowen. I plugged along the first few months post-partum with terrible anxiety. I didn’t think of it as being postpartum anxiety because everything I had read would say mothers who have these issues are constantly worrying about the baby, and can’t sleep because they are worried the baby will stop breathing, the baby, the baby, the baby, etc. I didn’t worry about that excessively. I honed in on my own issues.
I just felt so panicky. It was Winter and my first born had just started Kindergarten and we just weren’t used to the germs, never having done preschool. I was constantly sick. My body was so run down. Ear infections, sinus infections, you name it. I was so panicked that something was seriously wrong with my immune system. I just kept telling the urgent care place that I felt off. (My OB office, wouldn’t see me because they said I was beyond the postpartum depression window… so wrong). The urgent care did blood work that came back normal. I was so stressed about it I would get these terrible debilitating tension headaches that would last for days, go away for a couple days, and come back. In 2010 my mom survived a ruptured brain aneurysm. I was 100% convinced that I had a brain aneurysm that hadn’t ruptured yet and was just giving me these horrible headaches. I went to the doctor hinting around at wanting a scan but they didn’t seem overly concerned. One lady I saw was so mean to me, acting like I was a huge hypochondriac, and I left crying, too scared to go back. My headaches got worse and worse and I was just absolutely positive that I was going to fall to the floor any day, just like my mom had. I just knew it was going to happen while Matt was at work and I was home with my babies. So, we got a land line so I could train Brendan how to call 911. I’m in tears now remembering how I said to him that if mom was ever laying on the floor and wasn’t moving to call 911 and tell them that. It makes me feel so embarrassed now, but sadly, it was a reality for me then. I would make sure all the laundry was done every night so that my kids would have clean clothes if I wasn’t alive the next day. I couldn’t enjoy any time with my kids. I couldn’t enjoy any time with my husband.
I was never present in the moment. Always in a constant daze worrying about dying. Matt and I took a trip to the Davenport for a romantic getaway…no kids, fancy hotel, yummy food, and it was still all I could think about.
In May 2014, things just got worse and worse. I had some random blood vessel rupture in my finger. Apparently, it just happens sometimes. I was convinced something was wrong with my blood. I checked my veins all the time…they seemed darker, or bigger, or not as big, or lighter. I started having panic attacks that I didn’t know were panic attacks. I started just feeling panicky all the time. Constant chest pains, and pressure, and racing heart. I would google and google and read message boards (freaking bad idea btw) about women who weren’t the typical candidates for heart attacks, having them. One day it was just so bad and I couldn’t take it anymore. I was sure I was having a heart attack. I was crying and panicking and scared I was going to die and leave Matt and my kids. I drove myself to the hospital emergency room. I was having a panic attack in the car and it got so bad I remember thinking, this is it. I felt like I was going to pass out. I had an EKG that was totally normal. My BP was high, but only because of my panic attack. Everything was normal. I remember feeling so guilty. I needed to get home to breastfeed Rowen. I left with some relaxy pills and a paper that said I had Generalized Anxiety Disorder and possibly a panic disorder and that I needed to follow up with my primary care physician ASAP.
I was in a daze. What?
When I got home, the chest pressure was still there. It took so long to go away. I was so embarrassed to go home. I called my best friend on the way, bawling. My mother in law and husband were there with my kids. I didn’t even know what to say to them. I just felt so overwhelmed and alone and confused.
I started therapy and got on medication. I cried to my doctor telling him I felt like a crazy person. He told me he used to work in the real psychiatric ward and assured me that I wasn’t crazy. GOD BLESS HIM. After I had calmed down a little bit and began therapy, I started sobbing one day. Just pure relief sobbing.
Something really had been wrong with me. I had an anxiety and depression disorder. I’ve had it my entire life. I KNEW something was wrong. I was looking for it in all the wrong places, but I knew something was so very wrong with me.
This is a journey that isn’t over for me, but so much better under my control. I lost myself for a little bit. I lost my gut instinct and my intuition. Things I desperately needed to be a good mother. A well mother. I felt they had both failed me so badly. I’ve worked so hard over the last five years (and a fourth baby) to figure out how to deal with this new me. I’ve found it’s just really just the old me, with more knowledge and more help and more years under my belt. And I’ll never be ashamed of that.
Self love. Self worth. Self care.
Know it. Live it. Share it.