Yesterday’s tragic news shook me to my core. Since I have been a mother, I’ve learned what triggers my anxieties and have learned to avoid them at all costs. The news is one of my triggers, and I somehow manage to successfully avoid it–even with a husband who is addicted to MSNBC.

Having the day off from work, I spent yesterday morning packing up donations to give to a family who experienced their own tragedy recently, and I weeded through Jackson’s baby clothes to make up a box for my pregnant cousin. Talk about emotional! I may have even snuggled an empty newborn outfit–the one I brought my baby home in. I had on music, not the television, and I had been working too furiously to check in to social media. I was in my own sheltered, small world, without even realizing or appreciating how good that felt until much later.

Once I finished packing up boxes, I left to go visit my uncle, who is a doctor and who agreed to give me my belated flu shot. It was around 2:45 pm when I walked into his office and sat down in the waiting room, where some news channel was on the tv, like it always is when I go there. I thought, “I need to talk to him about that. Maybe something lighter would be better for a doctor’s office waiting room!”

And then I started to piece together what I was seeing. I opened up Twitter and asked someone to fill me in, thinking it would be gentler to hear the news from a friend than from CNN.

And reading through the first of many replies to my tweet, I started to cry.

The receptionist asked me if I was ok. Through tears, I told her I hadn’t seen the news all day and was learning what was going on. I explained that I have anxiety and a 3-year-old son before I started crying again.

We talked for a few minutes, and I calmed down a little bit before she led me into the individual room where my uncle would see me. While I was alone, I texted my husband and my mother to try to fill in some of the gaps for me and simply to tell someone I was struggling very much.

Then I got that dreaded needle, which added a physical dimension of pain.

My uncle and I talked for a few minutes about my anxiety, about our family, about parenthood, about the shooting. I left there feeling calmer, but shaken still, of course. I drove to my next errand, the entire time fighting with myself whether to skip the errand and rush to daycare to pick up Jax versus resuming my life as usual and completing the errand right down the street from the office. It made sense to run the errand. It felt like taking control, it felt like maybe it would stop the anxiety spiral. So I ran the errand. On my drive to the daycare immediately afterward, some jerk cut me off in traffic and then I lost it completely. I wailed on the steering wheel as words screamed out of my mouth that I didn’t even know I was thinking. I was angry and scared.

The tragedy evoked a feeling in me that I haven’t had since I suffered from postpartum anxiety (PPA). During my PPA, I worried–is there a stronger word for worry?–that something tragic was going to happen to my son. I worried he would become ill, or that someone would hurt him in some way. I worried I couldn’t protect him from any of it. I called my dad one day during the early part of my maternity leave, sobbing into the phone about how hard it is to be a parent and how impossible it felt to keep a child safe. ‘ll never forget that frantic feeling, the anxiety of being a new mother and trying to figure out how to shield my baby from everything, then realizing I can’t. That feeling returned like a tsunami yesterday.

At a red light, I reached into my purse and fumbled for my pill bottle. It had become suddenly apparent I wouldn’t be able to mother Jax the way he needed without some help calming myself down before I saw him. I didn’t want to be like this in front of him. I didn’t want my fear to become his fear.

I swallowed a pill and decided then I would take Jax out for ice cream after dinner. Life, for us, would continue as normal today. I say that with some guilt, of course. But more so with gratitude.

I think that ice cream sundae was the most delicious one I’ve had in my entire life.

With hesitation, I checked Twitter and Facebook this morning after having avoided them nearly the entire day yesterday (to avoid triggering myself any further). I was glad I did because of this tweet I saw right away:

https://twitter.com/the_lame_sauce/status/279800893220745217

I read the article Gregg tweeted, and it reminded me of what my uncle said yesterday: There are more good people in this world than there are people who would murder children. We can only try our best to keep our children safe without sheltering them too much from the world, but we cannot let our fears become their fears.

That’s how I experienced this event. I hope those of you reading are healing and hugging and counting your blessings.

 

 

Even when you know your triggers and how to avoid them, sometimes they still getcha.

I got an email the other day presenting an opportunity to submit a piece of writing about my PPD experience to a parenting magazine with a vast circulation. Naturally, I am very excited by this chance to use my voice in a far-reaching arena. So I spent the weekend thinking about what I wanted to say about my personal experience. I re-read every blog post tagged with PPD, some of them multiple times. Early this morning, I finally drafted my story and then emailed it to a few trusted individuals with superb writing and/or editing skills. And then it hit me.

Reliving that time period was kind of brutal. I’ve relived it many times before, but I must not have had PMS on those days. It must not have been a gray, drizzly weekend. I must not have re-read those blog posts on days when my toddler was sobbing as I dropped him off at daycare and my car was giving me a hard time.There probably wasn’t a thousand other things on my mind at the time.

Today has been a challenge. I had to spend my lunchbreak shopping, focusing on Christmas gifts, just to get out of my own head for an hour after all that heavy stuff. I called a friend, also a PPD blogger selected for this same opportunity, and warned her not to embark on her draft unless she was in a certain mindset already. And we shared a few laughs until I felt lighter. Something about sequined headphones…

I hope I am one of the few bloggers whose story is ultimately selected to appear in print. I’ll keep you posted about that. But I am friends with some of the other bloggers selected, and let me just say this: I’ll be reading the issue with so much pride in what my friends are sharing about their experiences. I’m grateful for the chance to write mine down again, even though it was a little painful. It’s all part of growing, and like another friend texted me earlier today, “Don’t be sad. Look how far you’ve come.”

 

This is a page from my “positivity notebook” (for lack of a more creative, less hokey name).

I’ve been paying attention to:

What Jax eats. Fiercely. I’m trying to find food he will actually enjoy, not just tolerate, besides chicken nuggets and mac and cheese. At least I buy the healthy versions of these things (although he prefers processed nuggets shaped like dinosaurs or cars over the ones I like to buy). But this constant attention to what he’s eating–or, more realistically, what he isn’t eating–is getting to me.

TEDx talks. Today, I’m listening to this one as I enter author corrections at work: Shannon Paige – Mindfulness and Healing Try the exercise around the 12:30 mark and the 7-day challenge around 15:50.

Elephant Journal, which my friend Jen introduced me to today. In particular, I’m scouring the articles in the Wellness tab.

Marc & Angel Hack Life. Always a favorite site of mine for reminding me what’s important in life.

Hype Machine blogs on Spotify. I love them! Here’s one I’ve subscribed to. This is sometimes how I discover new bands! I can’t get enough of Spotify when I’m at work. Here’s my Starred songs, if you’re on Spotify and want to check out what I love.

My Google Reader. I can’t bear to let my unread posts get past 100. I feel like I’ve been a bad blog reader lately, and my Google Reader typically reflects this. So I’ve been trying to do better, reading a few posts each day instead of waiting until there are 300+ unread posts in there, which I skim and then feel bad about marking as read.

Twitter lists. When you follow over a thousand people, creating lists is necessary. That way, I can be sure to not miss tweets by my besties (who are on one list). I even created a list called “Feel good,” where I’ve lumped together all the accounts I follow that are positive & uplifting.

I’ve been ignoring (or trying to ignore):

Facebook. Too many graphic images in my news feed lately. Too much negativity. Too much passive aggression. It’s just all too much sometimes and I need to take a break from it. Except from my groups. I love the groups to which I belong, so my Facebook activity, for now, is limited to checking posts within those groups and updating my blog’s page.

Candy & coffee. But I need to try harder! I’ve always had really great willpower–until lately. As for the constant need to pick at the candy leftover from Halloween, I suspect it’s simply stress eating, although I’ve never been a stress eater before. I think tonight I will dump what remains of the candy. Nobody needs all that sugar! It isn’t even tasty. I’d much rather have a second helping of dinner than a candy bar! (But hopefully I forego that, too.)

My positivity notebook. Not by choice, but because I haven’t had time for it. And I’ve noticed a negative effect on my moods as a result. So I need to do better at making the time to doodle in it and jot down uplifting lyrics, quotes, and messages to myself using all my pretty pens. Writing things down, even other people’s words, always makes me feel better.

Television. I just don’t really care about it at all right now. I’ve been playing with Jax & reading more to fill the (very minimal) time I used to watch tv.

Well, this concludes this totally random post I banged out in about 5 minutes while on a work break. I’d love to hear what you’re currently into or not into! Leave a comment & share!

 

My parents could tell you I’ve had anxiety my whole life when it comes to bad weather. There is a favorite memory in my family that will probably never fade away: Me as a teen, freaking out over some hurricane–in Florida or another place very far from New Jersey (where, back then, we rarely to never got hurricanes). My parents often had to reassure me that I was safe from whatever force of nature was raging elsewhere in the country.

I blame this hypervigilance about weather on my paternal grandfather, who bought me a stuffed animal–a fox–that had a weather radio embedded in its belly. As a child of probably about age 7 or 8, I would use the stuffed fox as my pillow some nights, falling asleep to weather forecasts. Strange, right? Well, whaddya expect–I was a strange child (and grew into a strange adult, I’m sure some would argue).

I’m careful to not share my anxiety about bad weather with Jax, who at age 3 is very perceptive now–and always listening. But this past weekend, it was difficult, at times, for me to hide my fear, despite my best efforts to stay calm using some of the advice on my Anxiety Tips page.

As everyone around him made preparations for Hurricane Sandy, Jax remained in his usual happy mood, content to watch Jake and the Neverland Pirates a gazillion times or play with cars while I fretted. But at one point, he came up to me, sat on my lap, and said “I don’t like storms, mommy.” I thought about whether I’d even talked to him about hurricanes before and realized he’d probably heard the word repeatedly over the weekend. So I explained to him that a hurricane was just a lot of rain and wind and that I’d protect him like I always do.

Later, I overheard him tell our dog, Rooney, not to be afraid of the storm and that mommy would protect him. Adorable, right?

When the hurricane sped up and gained strength prior to making landfall in Atlantic City, NJ, which is about 45 minutes from where I live, I began to notice my anxiety increase. The closer it got to 5:00–the predicted time of landfall–the worse I felt. My husband, who until this point mocked the presumed overreaction of the media–became glued to the local news, which freaked me the hell out. Not only did that mean he was worried, but the constant chatter of the reporters terrified me!

It felt impossible, then, to hide my worry from Jax. So I did what calms me best: I grabbed a half glass of red wine and my book and I headed into a hot bath. I felt guilty at first, like I should be glued to the television, too, or making last-minute hurricane preparations. But everything had been done already, and if I had stayed in the living room, I think I’d have started to cry in front of Jax. I didn’t want to worry him, so I focused on putting on my own oxygen mask, figuratively speaking. And it kind of worked, at least temporarily.

Texting with my friend A’Driane helped a lot, too. I can’t stress enough the importance of support and self-care when you’re feeling anxious.

The part of New Jersey where I live was very fortunate to not experience more damage. When the hurricane made landfall close to us, and the eye passed directly over us, things seemed to actually calm down, oddly enough. The wind quieted and the rain stopped. We never lost power, although it did flicker quite a few times. I even got a full night of sleep, which still surprises me.

The next day, I woke up and was afraid to peek out the window to assess any damage. But there really wasn’t any, other than a ton of wet leaves, a few fallen branches, and some puddles in my basement.

Hurricane Sandy was one nasty bitch. She scared the hell out of me, destroyed some of my favorite beaches and New York City, and is currently still wreaking havoc by postponing Halloween in New Jersey. But I had 2 days off from work to hang around the house and play with Jax. And that’s a whole future post…

 

photo by: The Birkes

Here are two things I know to be true:

I’m not saying I’m sad, exactly, but boy are the lyrics speaking to me ALL THE TIME.

It’s getting kind of loud up in my headspace.

This happens all the time, though. Music moves me to a place that is euphoric and painful at the same exact time. Yes, that is possible.

Every song has meaning. Even the ones I haven’t heard before. All the words apply to my life in one way or another. Everything reminds me of something.

Some days, I drive to work in tears because of what comes on the radio or the next track on the CD. Many days, the music I listen to in the morning sets the mood for the entire day.

Guess I’d better choose carefully, huh?

Then again, my mood determines which songs I put on and how I respond to those songs.

It’s kind of a chicken-or-egg scenario.

This doesn’t seem exactly normal, does it? I mean, I can’t imagine my mother, for example, being hit in the gut with song lyrics on her morning commute.

How does music affect you?