Thanks

I pass this sign (in front of a Christian school) nearly every day, and nearly every day it makes me angry.

I have anxiety. I also pray, and attend church, and I am thankful for my life. As I wrote on Instagram, “Telling me not to be anxious is like telling a person with depression to cheer up or look on the bright side. Mental illness isn’t dispelled with platitude or prayer.” (And thanks to all the people who left comments and support on that IG post. It helps, it truly does.)

I suppose it’s a touchy subject for me. I thought my anxiety peaked last year, and I also thought the stuff I was doing to battle it this year was working. I seem to have been wrong on both counts.

It’s bad again, so bad that I am impatiently awaiting my annual physical to talk with my doctor about medication again.

I have trouble sleeping. I have trouble eating (my appetite has fled — I think I mentioned this elsewhere). I have panic attacks; I am short-tempered.

I am exhausted.

I thought I would get some rest and recovery time this Thanksgiving break, but we are traveling instead.

But, I do still have things to be thankful for, hence this post on this day.

  • I have never cooked a turkey, and I am thankful that I can go another year without having to take over this tradition.
  • Because we are traveling, I don’t have to cook a thing (although I do wish I had remembered this recipe earlier, because I would have volunteered to make and bring it).
  • I am bringing pumpkin roll (made for us by someone else — and, no, Mom, not yours; that one’s already gone), a cherry pie (from a fundraiser that my children did), a bottle of bourbon, and a bottle of prosecco. I procured all of these things prior to Wednesday, so no grocery or liquor store runs for me, yay!
Seasonal Image Here

I hope you find yourself in a good place on this holiday, and can find things to be thankful for. I know sometimes it’s a struggle, and I know I have it pretty good.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Poop

Look, I am about to blog about something stupid. It’s supposed to be funny and make you laugh, and I hope it does.

Because I have nothing to say about the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting that hasn’t been said. I am horrified. I am filled with despair and anger. Flora and I were driving to Philadelphia when Dan called and told me about it. I nearly burst into tears on the spot. This is my city. The neighborhood where it took place is where my brother and SIL and their family live. It’s a wonderful, diverse part of Pittsburgh. And having tragedy touch down there is beyond me. Beyond my ability to talk about it.

So: Instead, I am going to tell you a story. A story about me and… port-a-potties.

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Outhouses. Port-o-johns. Port-a-potties.

Whatever you call them, I think we can all agree: They are awful to use.

And yet, use them we must.

When I was in my first trimester of pregnancy with Michael, Kate was still in the throes of potty training. We had gotten her most of the way there, but the second she heard there was a baby on the way, I swear she took it personally. She regressed pretty hard on the potty front.

Also at this time, we were exploring organized sports with Flora. We signed her up for U5 soccer, which I refer to as herd ball.

Also at this time: It was hot that spring.

Picture me, stumbling with pregnancy-related exhaustion and sickness, following a 3-year-old around an outdoor soccer field where the only bathroom option was a port-a-potty. I already had a natural aversion to them. I’d rather wander into some trees in the woods and squat to pee than use a port-a-potty, but this is not an option with a 3-year-old in a public place.

And Kate loved the port-a-potty. She was fascinated. And when a potty-training three-year-old says she has to go potty… you don’t tell her she has to wait until you get home.

I would escort Kate to the door of the port-a-potty, and get her as ready as I could to enter and *gag* sit. I would wipe the seat if necessary, and I would stand in the doorway, with the door propped open, basically trying not to breathe.

It was a disgusting three months (April, May, June).

We all (obviously) survived. But the experience left me with a visceral and negative reaction to even the idea of using a port-a-potty.

Of course, in a bitterly ironic twist of fate, I have had the awful experience of not having indoor toilet options over several of the past weekends. Two weekends ago was our annual trek to Linn Run State Park, where none of the cabins have running water, and there are two outhouses and one bathroom. My best advice to my daughters if they needed to use the outhouse near our cabin was: breathe through your mouth and don’t look down.

Flora’s day-long row events (of which there have been two, and another is upcoming this weekend) do not take place in areas where wandering into a gas station and using the toilet is easy.

At the Head of the Ohio race, I used a port-a-potty around 9 a.m. Toilet paper was already gone, and I made the mistake of not holding my breath immediately. I almost vomited. Near the end of the day, I walked up to the outdoor bar at the restaurant on Washington’s Landing, and bought a beer so I could go inside and use the bathroom.

My experience at the Head of the Schuylkill wasn’t much better, but I did remember to bring napkins with me at least. I only made one port-a-potty stop over the entire day; Flora made exactly zero; and we stopped at the first rest area on the turnpike on the way home.

And now, this weekend, to add insult to injury, I am menstruating AND we are headed to a race in Fairfax.

via GIPHY

Life is poopy. No pun intended.

I get literal anxiety about this stuff. Like “wakes me up at night:” what am I going to do dealing with period stuff and port-a-potties.

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Kate and I talked about what we would do if we won the Mega Millions the weekend we were in Linn Run. We decided we would donate to the park so they could put running water in each cabin (just a sink), and replace both outhouses with real bathrooms.

I hope the Head of the Occoquam is within walking distance to a coffee shop, a gas station, anything. They will get my money if I can have a seat without holding my breath.

One more weekend until we vote, America. Let’s get it over the finish line this time, and start the end of our national nightmare.

And may all your bathrooms be of the indoor type, clean, and sweet-smelling.

What do you have ridiculous anxiety about?

Placebo

As the daughter of pharmacists, I fully embrace the adage: Better living through chemistry, especially as it applies to medication. I will take the Advil for aches and pains; gimme the antibiotics for infections (not for viruses!); and my children are fully vaccinated.

However, my experience with antianxiety meds have not been the best. Xanax is great for derailing an anxiety attack, but it’s contraindicated with alcohol, and we all know I like my nightly beverages. I tried Lexapro, and it was bad news.

Last November, I started taking passion flower supplements, two a day. My husband recommended I try it at the recommendation of one of his patients who takes it for anxiety.

My anxiety and insomnia were at an all-time high, and I was starting to feel like prescribed medication was not a good option. I would’ve tried just about anything.

When we traveled to see my sister at Thanksgiving, she suggested a supplement called L-Methlypro. It’s the metastasized form of vitamin B (basically, I think). I believe, if I have this right, that some chiropractic research has turned up evidence that certain ethnicities don’t metabolize vitamin B well (think Irish). So I started taking one of those a day.

My anxiety has mostly been under control since I started these supplements. Are they working because of the chemical reactions inside of my body? Are they working because I believe they work?

Do I care? (Spoiler alert: I do not care.)

As I documented recently, sleep has been a problem. I picked up melatonin over the weekend to try that. I took it Sunday night, and slept fairly well — one wake up to go to the bathroom. However, Dan fell asleep on the couch that night, so I didn’t have him breaking into my sleep. I took melatonin again last night, and Dan and I were in bed together. Two wake ups, although the second one was at 5:30 a.m. I wanted to go back to sleep, but Dan was snoring, which made it challenging.

At the same time, of course, I must have finally dozed off again because I hit snooze until 6:40, and thus ran late all morning.

Tonight, I am going to try to sleep without melatonin to see if there’s a difference.

Do these supplements work because we think they work? Or are they “medicine” in a non-traditional sense, natural drugs that are kinder and gentler to our bodies because they are less-synthesized than prescription medications?

Either way, I am willing to give them a try. If the anxiety or the insomnia get out of hand again, I am willing to turn to a prescription. I am okay with trial and error. But I am also okay with going with what is working for me, regardless of WHY it works.

How about you? Do you take supplements to help with health issues, or rely on a prescription medication? Or both?

When Anxiety Attacks, Part II

I have intrusive thoughts. Aside from my insomnia, it’s probably the biggest symptom of my anxiety.

Last night, after going to therapy again, I had a panic attack in the parking lot. Then around 2 a.m. this morning, I awoke from a dream — a nightmare, essentially. I was on a walk around the neighborhood with my children. Michael was way ahead of us. He came across what looked like construction equipment, and climbed up on it. It looked like someone was cutting branches off trees.

Well, he climbed up on a platform full of bark and woods. I called to him to get down from there, and even as I was shouting, he got dumped into a nearby dumpster full of branches and leaves and bark. Fortunately, he was able to climb out. I woke from the dream with a start, and my VERY FIRST THOUGHT WAS: “What if that were a wood shredder instead of just a dumpster?”

THANKS, STUPID ANXIETY BRAIN. Next, it wanted me to catalog all the ways my children could die, with getting hit by a car at the top of the list. While I watch helplessly, naturally.

I don’t remember what I did to shut it down, but it worked. I think I just said, “No. No I am not doing this. Everyone is fine, and sleeping, and go away, anxiety brain.”

Dan has given me a couple of tricks to try, as has #LadyTwitter. One woman on Twitter had me focus on my immediate surroundings. “Are you standing or sitting down?” she tweeted at me. “What is the room temperature like? Have you eaten anything recently?”

One of Dan’s tactics is similar. “Tell me five things you can see, and what color they are. Now, tell me four things you can hear…”, three you can smell, two you can feel/touch, one you can taste. There’s an alphabet one, as well: one syllable word that starts with A, B, C, etc.; then two syllable words, three syllable words, etc.

Plus, the things I know to do myself, of course: deep breaths. Yoga, guided meditation. Progressive muscle relaxation.

Maybe I’m just a hormonal, cliche of a Gen X woman, and this is my mid-life crisis. While the possibility is a little depressing, it also doesn’t help me to know that I’m not alone.

Anyway, here I am, anxiety attacks after therapy, intrusive thoughts, and insomnia.

How YOU doing?