Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Part 3: Fuck it...There are just too many parts

There is no grand finale.  I left off with us moving back, right?  Well, it has been a roller coaster. It has been hard. Each day we move forward, but many days it feels like we move back. But we don't stop.

It took me a while to get back here. I endured two really rough bouts with anxiety over the last week and finally got in to see my therapist today. That almost seems sugar coated.
Let me scrape off the sprinkles for you.
And that is just from my angle.
I don't want to try and view it from my husband's perspective.
Please do not make me think of my babies.
Everyone is safe. I am ok. I have a plan and I am on trajectory to keep moving forward.
No one has thrown in the towel yet.
Me included.
But it was bad.
Really, really bad.

So what happens when it gets bad? Typically I hole away, close off, play pretend in public, cry in private. Life doesn't stop, even though I wish it would give me a damn break. No dice. We keep spinning. I immediately sought help. From my mother, from my husband (he tries so very hard), from my therapist. I went to yoga and found my breath. And then found it again in therapy.

Yes. My breath.

Did you know that breathing is one of the first things people claim changes during massive bouts of anxiety? For my therapist I will refrain from labeling these as "attacks" from this point forward. Anxiety is not an entity.  It does not exist in its own right.
Breathing, then heart rate.
Now, did you know they are linked?
Of course, you smart cookie. But did you know you could control BOTH?
Yup. You can control them.
Don't believe me?
Grab a pulse oximeter, plop it on your finger.
Now breathe in and slowly breathe out. Do this a few times.
Notice anything? It works better if the damned thing beeps...loudly.
Did your beeps change?
Awesome, huh?
I thought so.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Best therapy session ever. Movement also gave me that. Funny how something so simple can have such big effects. As simple as finding your breath.

I don't breathe enough, particularly slow exhales. It only takes a few to reset our systems.

Try it.

Go breathe.

***Need a method, try the 4-7-8 method...not mine, but an EXCELLENT method for calming and resetting the parasympathetic nervous system and your diaphragm. You know, that organ you are supposed to be using to breathe? You chest-breather you. So, breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds, and breathe out slowly through your mouth for 8 seconds. Repeat 4 times, at least 4 times a day. You got this.***

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Part 2: Mountains should be climbed, not carried

I told you I was not ashamed.
And then 200+ people clicked on my blog. Maybe they actually read it, maybe they didn't.
Either way...there it was.
My anxiety peaked. The guilt and shame edged in.


I didn't know if or when I would return to writing, but here I am...

I have to finish what I started.
Because it is building up in me. Threatening detonation levels.
Leaking out my mouth in anger and frustration, my eyes in tears of sadness and fear.
I feel removed and yet suffocated.

I left you with my desire to be with my baby. My need to be with him. And how I could not.
Damn student loans. Damn pride and promises.
So I went back after 12ish weeks to a hellish schedule and very little lab assistance to run my dissertation experiments. I had to pump every couple of hours, and I would only get 15-20ish minutes between animals to do so.
I was a sleep deprived, anxious wreck. I constantly rushed and drove home every chance I could to nurse. He wasn't much for a bottle so that was just great.

I have no idea how we survived that period of time. It was bad. Really bad. Just ask my husband.

Fast forward and now I am on the job hunt.  But in between I managed to join a mothers group and find a phenomenal therapist. We worked me back into my running regime, and we talked.  We worked through my husband not really 'getting' mental illness. We worked through the kindhearted people who thought I should stop nursing and take meds that had never worked for me before.
We worked.
Thanks to her, my husband, some amazing friends and colleagues, a very patient advisor, my family...and my beautiful little boy...I graduated with my final degree in 2014. I had survived.

So off I went to the one and only job I received an offer for out of the 30+ applications I submitted. Yes, 30+. I think I only heard from 10 or 12. I interviewed over the phone for 4, in person for 2, and received ONE offer. In remote central Kentucky. BUT it was the coveted tenure track position I was supposed to want. I was excited for everything but the location. I mean RURAL.  Middle of no where. But the college was pristine. The faculty and staff just lovely. We could do this for a few years. It would be FINE.

Except it wasn't.

My husband could not find a job locally. And the commuting jobs barely paid enough to cover the commute and childcare for our one child. Forget about affording full time care for our soon to arrive second child.  Wait, did yo miss that part? Oh, I guess I forgot to mention I was expecting my second munchkin. Not only did I complete my comprehensive exams during 1st trimester of kiddo one, I defended my dissertation during my 1st trimester with kiddo two. I like to really challenge myself. So here he was still staying at home, which is lovely but not where he wanted to stay permanently and I definitely was not making enough to fully support a family of four. What next?

I wouldn't worry long. As the impending arrival of my daughter approached I began having some major anxiety about leaving her...,even before she was born. My husband was frustrated with the job prospects and began exploring graduate school options. All of which turned out to not have space or not have funding for the upcoming year. Then it became a search to find any job. We were striking out on all accounts still when my daughter arrived. And oh did she arrive.
So strong, so fast.

She was an amazing sleeper, unlike my first. She settled me into such deep sleep.
She was just simply amazing.
But my hormones just wouldn't settle so fast.
I spiraled.
My husband says it wasn't as bad as the first time.  I felt like it was worse.  #postpardum
I love my children and that never suffered.
It was always my disgust at myself. My sense of failing everyone.
The overwhelmingness of everything. This time I didn't have a magic therapist handy, though I did end up reaching out to my former one via video chat later. Instead the mommy brigade came to the rescue. These amazing women I had met through a book club. These women saved me. With chocolate and snow shoveling, lunch and play dates, unwavering love and kindness. They did not hesitate. They may not even know how shattered I really was, or maybe they did. All I know is that I will spend a lifetime attempting to repay that kindness, passing it onward. There strength and love gave me what I needed.  When the snow melted I started walking. Then running. Then writing. And this time I have not stopped.
Then one day, out of the blue, my husband received a job offer back in Athens. I knew it was time to face myself. I needed to take a step back. Allow him to lead and take care of myself. I needed to be mommy and he needed to work for a bit. I ignored the pleas for me to again stop nursing and get on meds, the suggestions that this was all hormones and I would regret leaving academia.

I focused on the quieter voices applauding my courage to be true to myself.
The hugs and encouragement to do what was best for me and my family.
I listened to myself. My instincts never fail me.

So we moved home...


**I hate disclaimers. I like to think people are smarter than they sometimes act. But just in case please remember that this is MY story. I do not offer professional guidance and my solutions are not meant to replace the advice from a professional. If you need help, please seek help. You are amazing. You are loved. Find yourself and what works for you...and damn anyone that has anything to say about it.**