Tag Archives: Anxiety

An Anxious Life

I have learned a lot about living with anxiety since Hope came into my life.

I have always been a bit high-strung. I am incredibly self-motivated and will run myself ragged in the quest for achievement. I set goals. I achieve them. I have problems. I solve them. And while I have experienced depression and eating issues, I didn’t really think I had a problem with anxiety. That is, I didn’t until I started my doctoral program. During the first course, I started experiencing some physical symptoms of anxiety (chronic insomnia, IBS, etc) that I just did not understand. My doctor had to explain that I was really anxious about school.

Oh. Ok.

Now what?

He prescribed me something for my anxiety that reminded me of how my grandmother used to carry valium in foil in her purse. I used the medication judiciously, stepped up my exercise and clean eating and tried to get more sleep. I coped and got on top of it.

And then Hope came along and everything I understood about anxiety was completely blown up. I had no real frame of reference for a life with generalized anxiety dominated by somatic symptoms. While I could relate to her insomnia, I was mystified by the constant stomach aches, headaches, chest pains, constipation, diarrhea, the lack of hunger, the ravenous moods, the fear, the drama. We are regulars at the local Patient First clinic since I made a personal commitment to just take her in and let her have the attention she needs. It’s worth the co-pay.

Sometimes I’ll offer her some Tylenol or Advil. Sometimes I’ll make Hope tea or cocoa and we’ll sit together. Sometimes I sit and do some breathing exercises with Hope. I’ve even bought placebo pills to just give her something.

And still, she struggles. And when Hope struggles, I struggle. We all struggle.

During the last few weeks Hope’s anxiety has escalated to levels I saw when she first transitioned to our home. She complains about being ill daily. She swore she had food poisoning a couple of nights ago. She didn’t. She works herself into a frenzy resulting in no sleep, save an hour or so when her body just shuts down in the wee hours of the morning.

I look at her grades; I can practically map the days her anxiety is heightened. It tracks so closely with her performance.

I’ve alerted the team of professionals. We’re trying some strategies; I’m hoping we can help her find better ways of coping and letting some things just go. It’s easier said than done.

And like trauma, anxiety is contagious. There are times when I can’t sleep either, when my worry consumes me; when I can’t figure out my next power move designed to save Hope from herself.

I find myself daily trying to remember to release the stress in my shoulders and let them just hang. I have to remind myself to do some breathing exercises. Throughout the day I use timers to remind myself to do short 5-minute bursts of exercise (youtube videos!) to relieve stress. I try to stick to relaxing an hour before bed to help me wind down. And yet, my shoulders creep up, and my mind races trying to figure the way out of this trauma induced maze that we are stuck in, and I’m often consumed with all the things that need to be done to try to set Hope up for her version of success.

The truth is, that I’m almost always exhausted as a result. Her anxiety is our anxiety. I know that how I feel is only a glimpse of what she feels. I’m certain she’s exhausted too.

Each year for the last 7 years my doctor has re-upped my prescription for my anxiety meds. I usually fill it one time during the course of the year. I save the small white pills. I rarely take them, choosing instead to find other ways of practicing self-care to cope with my anxiety.

This week, I reached into the back of my side table drawer and retrieved the bottle of meds. I took two before bed. And the next day I took two more. I may take them a little more regularly for a while.

Hope left for her 4-day band trip two days ago. I’ve been looking forward to it. I’m so tired. The idea that I’m only available to Yappy for a few days is a weight off of my shoulders. Not that I won’t miss Hope. I know I’ll be eager to see her on Sunday, but not having to remember to make sure she’s up and functional is a nice thing. I hope that her time away will also be meaningful and relaxing.

As for me, I’m focusing on self-care: yummy food, the love of my couch, time at the dog park and maybe, just maybe, I’ll stay awake long enough to get a manicure.

Maybe.


Anxiety and Extroversion

I am an extrovert. I get lots of energy from being around people and stuff. I have some sensory issues that seem to be getting a bit worse as I get older, but I still love being in lively environments that give me the energy I need to remain vibrant myself.

I fretted last year that perhaps I was losing some bit of extroversion because I was increasingly desirous of just being alone. I had a new Meyers-Briggs assessment and found that I was even more extroverted than I used to be. I’m just really tired and that’s why I want to be alone…so I can go to sleep.

My darling Hope seems to be an introvert. She likes to be around people, but really seems to get more energy in super small groups, or alone with her own selected stimuli.

Here’s the thing though: because she struggles with anxiety, she presents as an extrovert.

It’s taken me a long time to figure this out, but I get it now.

Between the anxiety and her ADHD, she can chatter on for hours and hours. She bounces around. She can be boisterous and her voice really carries. Her conversations wind themselves like backwoods roads that have lots of little roads off of them: one left turn and she’s tripped down a long road to nowhere for a 15 minute drive.

Now these behaviors aren’t really associated with extroversion, but if you don’t know much about intro/extroversion, you might easily run up on Hope and think that she’s a little lively ball of people loving fun. Um, no. She’s just spastic and riddled with anxiety.

So, I’ve really, really, I mean really been on my “time-in,” attachment parenting tip these last couple of weeks. Movies, board games, cooking, rice krispy treats, dance parties. I’ve limited our screen time on devices unless we were watching something together. I’ve done her hair. I’ve cleaned her room and not freaked out about all the food wrappers. I have listened with interest as she talks through her social issues, her crush issues, her skin issues, her hair issues, her body issues, her issues’ issues. She has been delighted to just have all this time with me.

And I. Am. Exhausted.

The only time Hope is not chattering on or bouncing around is if we go somewhere. Her brain is so busy and so tired that it literally shuts down and she falls immediately asleep. Sometimes we can’t even get out of the parking lot of our condo property before she is asleep.

It makes me feel like those infant parents who take the kid on a drive in hopes that the kid will stop crying and fall asleep.

My brain and body have quite a bit more stamina and resilience than Hope’s so I’m able to hold it together until night fall, but the constant stimuli is just too damn much for me. I’m exhausted.

Sometimes while she’s talking I am literally wishing she would just be quiet. She never does though.

I take Yappy to the dog park nearly every day just to get a little quiet time, but then I low key chat with the other dog owners.

It just never ends and even extroverts need a break to recharge that small bit of ourselves that is introverted. I don’t even remember going to bed most nights, just mildly cursing when the alarm goes off in the morning because I know the interactions will start again within an hour.

How do introverts even kind of manage this level of interaction and engagement????

I’m hitting it hard right now because school is out and most of our evenings are free. I have an opportunity to make some headway on our relationship before the school year starts again.  I see the fruits of these labors, I do, but OMG this is just crazy.

How do folks manage the need to just go into your quiet closet to recharge a bit each day?


Negative Energy

Can I just say that I cannot wait until school starts? I might do cartwheels to the bus stop. This month has emotionally exhausted me. We need routine, and we need it bad.

The last month has been filled with a lot of bickering. Admittedly my patience in the midst of loss has been absurdly short. I was already tender and ouchie. Add to that Hope’s anxiety about returning to a school she says she hated and all sorts of adolescent drama and you’ve got a powder keg house. We can go from 0 to 60 faster than a sports car. It’s not been pretty. We really should be calling the fire house regularly because we can burn this joint down.

I hate admitting it because it makes me feel like a bad parent and certainly not a therapeutic parent. I’m kinda filled with shame at how just downright furious I feel 80% of the time.

During this period, I’ve noticed Hope absorbing and reflecting lots of negative energy.

evil-queen-mirror-o

Her self-esteem is already low, so whenever there are moments of angst, conflict, correction or whatever she sucks all that up and spits it out either with venom at me or with self-loathing. There is never a moment of bright, airy light. It’s always so negative. And whether it’s venom directed at me or her own self-loathing it sucks for both of us. It’s. Just. Awful.

I do a lot of affirmations with her. I work hard to shine some light and positivity on her—“Hope you’re smart, you’re funny, you’re lovely, you can do this….” It’s almost always deflected.

There are moments when she swings to the other end of the continuum. It’s during these moments that she can’t take correction because she is absolutely, unequivocally correct in all things. The need to be the “right” one is so strong that her very identity is wrapped in that rightness. When presented with evidence to the contrary there’s just rage. She rages a lot. The world isn’t really as she knows it; it’s dynamic and what was right yesterday may not be right tomorrow. That upsets her greatly.

I don’t deal with that well. Oh, I get the underlying need to be right; I have issues with wanting/needing to be right. But my identity isn’t defined by it. I see how this negatively impacts her ability to learn; she’s right and you are wrong so you couldn’t possibly teach her anything.

I am really worried about how she will do school this year. During the last couple of weeks I’ve been giving her worksheets for her weaker subjects so that she can get some practice. I’m heartbroken to find how far behind she is on foundational concepts she should’ve learned in 3rd or 4th grade. She missed so much school over the years, moved around so much that she was never even exposed to the material, much less learned it. And yet those few academic compliments she’s received from caring teachers on her journey are clung to with vice grips.

Trying to help her wrestle with academic shortcomings is hard. At the end of the day, Dr. ABM is just another dumb parent who has no effing idea what she’s talking about, according to Hope. The ego check isn’t the thing for me; the fact that she shuts herself off for growth and learning is the thing. Being smart is her shining beacon in an otherwise dark, dank self-worth. Anything that she might interpret as questioning her all-knowingness is to be crushed.

I worry about school this year. And I’m not sure what to do.

phoebe-sad-o

And everything else is out of whack too. It’s hard being 13, man! It’s hard being the mom of a 13 year old, man! It’s just hard around these parts.

This week we’ve navigated revealing more abuse that wasn’t in any of the disclosure documents, dumb adolescent ish, shopping for a birthday card for her bio-grandmother when all the granny cards are all lovely dovey and well, it ain’t that kinda party around here. Schedule changes, foot dragging, temper tantrums (mine and hers) and just dark, icky messiness that has made the house feel so negative that once a day I have to step out on the balcony just to step into the light.

I feel like I’m shadow boxing some kind of fighter that is straight kicking my ass. I’m almost on the defensive as soon as I get up in the morning. I try not to raise my voice. I try to just be quiet sometimes to just avoid escalating things. How we practice civility during the day would be very upsetting to the Nobel Committee because there are no peace prizes in the making around these parts.

I feel like I’m suffocating from the negative energy. It’s just negative energy in negative space.

I’m ready for school to start next week.

This post has been added to the Adoption Social’s #WASO link up.


Holiday Anxiety

Ok, first off, I wish I wasn’t anxious and I wish I wasn’t feeling whiny.  But I am and I do feel anxious and whiny.  My shoulders hurt from stress and anxiety.  I feel prickly and irritable.  I would really prefer to withdraw and just hide in my house for a few more days.  But it’s Christmas and that would be sad and somehow just wrong.

In an hour or two I’ll head a hundred miles south to visit my parents for the holiday.  Grammy and I are tender with each other; we love each other very much, but I know we both are still hurt from our drama from the last few months.  My new/refurbished cell phone doesn’t give off its own wifi signal so I can’t just hide in my old room and work on my dissertation.  Going all the way there just to retreat to the Panera to practice overt avoidance doesn’t feel right.   Maybe I’ll go visit a few friends.

Oy vey, I just realized that I didn’t get my godson a Christmas gift.  Sigh…

Christmas afternoon I’ll head west to go visit Hope for all of one day (Thursday).  I’ve spent the last week and a half trying to manage Christmas expectations.  Interestingly, Hope asked for two sets of books and an Ipod Touch.  Originally she asked for Beats by Dre headphones; I quickly explained that new mama didn’t believe in spending more than $10 on headphones, so $50-$200 were wholly out of the question.  The Touch is really a no go at this point; although Hope will have internet access here I’ve found her not ready for it quite at the tip of her fingertips, especially if its portable.   I’ve decided to bring her a pair of sneakers, the Bieber perfume and some gift cards that we can use when we go shopping that day.

She’s excited that I’m coming to visit.   I’m anxious about her reaction when I get there; she’s been fickle since she’s returned.   It’s probably good news; she goes monosyllabic on me like any other kid her age.  She’s being normal in a most abnormal situation.  Her behavior has been stellar since I took her home; no detentions, no suspensions; no visits to the principal’s office or notes home from teachers.   I’m so proud of her.  Of course, she’s highly motivated because of a deal I made about her getting a cellphone this spring if she could stay out of trouble.  This brings me to my anxiety about this trip.  I don’t want to do too much too soon, so I’ve kept the gifting light (especially since I have to carry this stuff).  My family gifts but we tend to do just one or two gifts and that’s it.  Of course we’ve not had a kid in the family for many years, so all of this is new.  I also know that I need leverage and motivational points with Hope; this works with her in helping her be less impulsive.

I have to realize that I can’t control how Hope will react to the gifts I bring.  I just need to spend time with my girl and try to have the best time I can with her for this expensive but short visit.   I’ve got a house full of stuff for her, but I just want to mete it out over time on my terms rather than this huge explosion of gifts just because it’s Christmas.

I’m hopeful and prayerful that she will be home for good soon.

For now, I just want to get there, see her and give her a hug.  That’s all I want for Christmas.


Adapting to Change

The last few days have been a bit of a whirlwind.  After being told to “take your time” putting together my photo book, I get a message at the end of last week asking it where it was and that my phone calls with Hope won’t start until after she has the book.   I ask many questions each week about the sequence of events, expectations, deliverables, etc.  No one pointed this out and I dropped everything and got the book done and ordered.  I hope it will be delivered later today, and I can make arrangements to have it sent out tomorrow so we can keep things moving.

I’ve also been anxious about scheduling visitation with Hope.  I’m desperate to see her and talk to her and spend time with her.  I gave some dates in the second half of October since I’m traveling for work soon and those dates had been locked in for a while.  Ha?! I get a late night email asking if I can come in about 15 days.  Yep, in about 2 weeks!

I got this email right before bed and had a complete and utter meltdown all night long.  I finally had to get up and take something for my anxiety around 1am.  It barely dulled the edge but it least it allowed me to go to sleep.

I’m dropping everything to go see Hope.  It’s what I want to do.  What I’m supposed to do.  What I’m entitled to do.  She is the most important thing in my life. I can’t wait to see my girl!

My late night anxiety stems from a couple of things:

First, there’s the awful realization that I really have been too entangled with my job; I’ve allowed it to define too much of me.  I naturally have a ‘fixer’ personality.  I like problems; I fix problems.  Work has a lot of problems and my job allows me to do a lot of research-based problem solving.  I love my job.  I am very accomplished in my work and within my sector, I am nationally recognized for my work.  I like that.   Admittedly, I like that lot.  What I do for a living has had a huge role in shaping my identity for the last decade.

I knew that my new identity as a mom would change some of that.  I’ll still do the things I do, but my focus and passions are split now.  My job doesn’t have full ownership of my identity.  Having to rearrange my schedule is technically easy; I didn’t anticipate having some kind of emotional response to it other than, “Dueces, folks—Mommyhood beckons!!”  This is the first time literally and symbolically that I see this identity crossroads I often hear about.  Yikes.  Achieving balance—a real tangible, livable version of it, not the stuff of magazines—is going to make me stretch again.  I anticipated the stretch, but I didn’t anticipate feeling it so strongly so quickly.

Second, I have probably fretted for more than an hour last night about how my boss will react to the news.  I finally announced the adoption to my staff yesterday.  I work in a small office,e and it was a hard secret to keep for so long.  Everyone was incredibly supportive, including my boss.  But that was before I planned to cancel a trip that we just confirmed I was making less than 24 hours ago.

My boss is incredibly supportive of my work and was very supportive of this new development in my life.  But here I am wondering what will be his real reaction to my canceling a trip because of Hope? All the questions about work, motherhood and having “it all” that I’ve managed to side step for 20 years all pervaded my thoughts in the middle of the night—which is an awful time for me to try to mull things over.   I am tired!

Finally, there’s the heavy anxiety associated with finally meeting my daughter in the flesh.  Now that dates have been proposed, it feels even more real than it did the day before.  Our mediated communications are very positive, and I’m finally chatting with her foster mom about day to day things.  What will our week in September really be like?  I know what it will be like:  It will likely mimic Chris Rock’s skit about dating someone’s representative.   We will both be on our best behavior, navigating one another’s newness, trying to build something.  It’s awesome and overwhelming too.  I can’t wait.  But it’s also contrived and hard to pull back layers of anything in a week.  But I can’t wait to make the trip and see my girl.

It’s probably all normal, but I don’t see much about these huge emotional lifts in the books, and with me deep in my dissertation research and writing, I haven’t much time to read too many other blogs these days.  But, I’ll adapt.  Plenty of women make it work.  I’ll figure it out.  In a few weeks to months, I’ll reflect on last night and kick around my mind around why I fretted so much about setting the visitation schedule and then being so anxious about it.

For now, I need to go put on a pot of coffee.


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