New name, same me

Hi all- the reason I started this blog four years ago was to have a place to openly, anonymously be able to write about my life, my childhood, my feelings, etc.  Recently, someone I am very close to “found out” the name and has access to it, which makes me feel like I have to censure everything I write.  The only option I could think of was to change the name and URL, which I hope keeps my privacy moving forward.

I sometimes forget how important this blog has become to me until it is threatened and then I remember how much it has truly helped me throughout the years…

The doctor will see you now…

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I am a high school teacher and adjunct college professor and have worked over the summer for my entire 17 year career.  This is the first summer that I have had entirely off.  It wasn’t my choice…coincidentally all the classes I normally teach did not run.  I was nervous at first, not so much about the money anymore, but more about all the idle time. The saving grace is that my sister and my newborn niece live 2 miles away and I have been with them- and my mother- almost every day.  This is also one of the rare summers where I don’t have any trips planned.  I assumed that my anxiety level would be on the lower side because of not having to travel.  I guess that isn’t how anxiety works, because I feel like I have regressed a little over the summer.  When I first started having anxiety in my early 20s, it was really linked to my health.  I was very much a hypochondriac.  In fact, it was my gynecologist who strongly recommended me seeing a psychologist.  Over the years, that type of anxiety subsided and was replaced with the travel anxiety and agoraphobia tendencies.  This summer, though, I have gone to a doctor a half dozen times.  I joke that I am like a retired 85 year old woman…like my grandmother who went to the doctor at least once a week (*I am not even 40 yet).  To be fair, one of those visits was due to having really bad poison ivy, so that one shouldn’t really count 😉

I can tell my anxiety is bad because some of the physical symptoms that bother me have been exacerbated in the past few weeks.  My boyfriend has been really overwhelmed at work and he doesn’t have the best stress management skills.  He tends to bring his work home with him and when he is stressed at work he also drinks way too much.  His behavior- and drinking- has been affecting me more than I have acknowledged- to him or to myself.  My cat has been sick, which has also been stressing me out…I know that sounds kind of silly, but I do not have children and my cats and dog are extremely important to me.

I think that when I go back to school in September and get back into a routine, the anxiety will subside (I hope!)  It is just sad that I was really looking forward to this time off and I feel like I have kind of squandered it by focusing so much on negative things and feeling unwell.  I still have four weeks off, so I really am going to try to relax and enjoy them.  When I go back to school and all my colleagues ask me what I did over the summer, I don’t want my only answer to be that I went to the doctor 15 times!!

#aunt

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My sister had her baby in the middle of May and I. am. in. love!  My niece is only 6 weeks old and I think I have taken like 800 pictures and videos of her.  I am clearly biased, but she is the sweetest, most beautiful baby ever.  Luckily, my sister only lives 2 miles from me, so I have seen her almost every day since she was born.

My boyfriend has been very stressed out lately with work and has also been struggling with bad depression.  I am so happy that he is very taken with the baby too and is a great uncle to her.  Last week, after a particularly crazy work day for him, he saw the baby at night and was holding her and made a comment that he felt so much less stressed out just watching her sleep in his arms.  It was such a sweet thing to say, but it made me think about the effect that having her around has had on all of us.  I look at this little baby and I just want her to have the best life possible.  I teach The Great Gatsby to my 11th graders and in one scene Daisy says about her young daughter, “I hope she’ll be a fool- that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.”  I always thought this was a cruel wish for a mother to make, but now I sort of understand more what Daisy meant.  I certainly want my niece to be very smart and very well-educated, but what Daisy really meant is that she wanted her daughter’s life to be EASY.  I know things will not always be “easy” for my niece, that is unrealistic, but I want things to be better for her than they were for my sister and me growing up.  We suffered through so much trauma and I want my niece to have a wonderful, happy childhood.

A super embarrassing thing about me is that I still suck my thumb.  I am 38 years old.  It is my one true vice and I have done it all my life.  I saw my baby niece put her thumb in her mouth the other day and I was like, “noooooo!”  I know babies do that when they are hungry or for self-soothing, but I don’t want her to have that- or any- bad habit.

It will be amazing to watch her grow and learn and see the person she becomes and I hope to be a very positive influence in her life.  I don’t want her to be afraid of things the way I am.  I want her to be confident and strong…and maybe someday be a teacher (lol!).

Small victories

With my anxiety in high gear, it is easy to let my agoraphobia get out of control, too. Almost all of my anxiety is related to travel and lately my comfort area has been shrinking. I started getting really down on myself and then had to remember that I’ve been here through this before and with determination (and therapy and medication and hypnosis and support and TRYING) things did get better.  My boyfriend’s parents are staying with us while they are in town and I am happy to spend time with them because I enjoy their company. However, them being here means doing more things and going more places. One of those things was a party for my boyfriend’s grandfather’s 90th birthday, which was being held about an hour from my house. I immediately didn’t want to go because I felt like it was too far to drive. I even went as far as to get myself an “out”. But this morning I decided that by using that out, I was allowing myself to go down a slippery slope. If I don’t go to one thing, it becomes easier to not go to the next and so on and so on and my comfort area continues to get smaller. So, even though it probably wasn’t a big deal to anyone else, it felt like a teeny tiny victory to me. Any day I work through it and do something, that’s a day that anxiety didn’t win. And I really, really needed a win.

Much Obliged

When I started this, I made a deal with myself that I would write at least one blog entry a month.  Here it is, 9 pm on the 31st and the only reason I am doing this is because I feel obligated due solely to my desire to not miss a month (which I have never done).  I notice when I am feeling more anxious, which I am right now, I do not feel like writing, I do not want to talk to my mom on the phone, I reluctantly go to therapy.  A couple of weeks ago, I decided to go back on an antidepressant/anxiety medication after years of being off it. It was not an easy decision, but I could feel my anxiety spiraling out of control.  So far, it does not really seem to be helping much.  I know I have to be patient and give it some time and then adjust the dose, etc., but I am anxious about being anxious and feel depressed about being depressed and then I get upset about being upset. It is frustrating because I do not really know what exacerbated it, but I suppose it doesn’t really matter because I need to focus on ways to move forward.  I just really feel like no one understands and it is hard not to feel isolated and alone, which makes me feel even worse.

Oh Baby!

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My sister is pregnant and is due in about a month.  It is really exciting, but also sort of hard to believe that in a few weeks, there will be a little baby girl in our family.  I am so happy to become an aunt and I can’t wait to meet my niece, but it has been a difficult pregnancy for her.  She has been very sick throughout almost all of it and it has been hard to see her suffer so much.  She has had a few complications that could result in the baby arriving earlier than expected and I think it is really hitting her- and me- how much things are going to change.

Even though this isn’t happening to me, I am very close with my sister, so it is having a big effect on my life.  We live a couple of miles apart and talk several times a day.  My anxiety has been peaked for a few different reasons lately, but I think her having the baby is part of it, because it is such a big change…and I am not a fan of change!  For most of our lives, it has always been the two of us.  Yes, we have had our individual friends and our boyfriends and we are both super close to our mother, but we have a uniquely special relationship.  I think because we really had to stick together when we grew up and lived with our dad, that we survived by having each other.  I cannot imagine going through the experiences of my dysfunctional family as an only child.  She is three and a half years younger than me and I was always very protective of her.  I guess it still a little hard to wrap my head around the fact that my little sister is about to become a mother!!

 

 

The anticipation is killing me…

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My problem with anxiety has always been the lead up to the event, not the actual event itself.  My therapist has always referred to it as “anticipatory anxiety”.  The weeks and days before an event cause me such distress and the majority of the time all of my worry and stress is for nothing.  But, I cannot seem to control it.

For example, every year my mother, sister and I go to the Philadelphia Flower Show.  It is a beautiful and amazing display of fresh flowers, all centered around a common theme.  I really enjoy going…however, I live about an hour and 45 min away from Philly.  I have driven there many times over the years, for both the flower show and other reasons.  Yet, every year, I get myself all worked up over the distance and the drive.  My anxiety has been especially bad lately with my father being in and out of the hospital and my sister expecting a baby (which is SUPER exciting, just a very big change).  So for the week before the show, I was a nervous wreck and the night before I all but decided I could not go.  I took a Xanax before going to sleep (I take them very sparingly) and from 4 am on, I tossed and turned, having anxious thoughts.  The approach that works the best for me is to try to be logical- I tell myself that I have done the drive so many times before, that I am in control and in my own car, that I will be with my family, that if something bad happens I can go to a hospital, etc. etc.  It helps a bit, but it is hard to stop the actual physical reaction of having those panicky feelings.  Once we finally got in the car, I was pretty ok.  Once we got to the convention center, I was fine.  That is what always happens.  I build something up in my head and magnify it so much, it becomes incredibly overwhelming and debilitating.  Yet, when I work through it, I almost always feel like afterwards it wasn’t nearly as horrible as I expected and I get mad at myself for getting SO worked up.  Yet, like clockwork, when it comes time to go somewhere again, the same thing happens.  As much as I have worked through having the problems I have had with agoraphobia and anxiety and I know I have come a long way, it is still extremely frustrating and exhausting and upsetting and always feels like a setback.

I am very glad I went to the flower show.  It was as spectacular as ever and was most likely the last memorable and special thing my mom and sister and I will do just the three of us before my niece arrives in May.  So, I am happy I didn’t let anxiety win…this time.