Anxiety Girl

12.10.11

This is part three of a three part series about my experiences with the aftermath of pregnancy. Here are part one and part two if you'd like to go back to the beginning.  If you find stuff like this unsettling, come back some other time when I'm talking about something else, OK? OK!
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"Insane people are always sure that they are fine. It is only the sane people who are willing to admit that they are crazy" - Nora Ephron

I'm sitting in my basement, with my headphones on, blasting some tunes and drinking some red wine.  All that's missing is the bong and the lava lamp.  Lenny is sleep training. Again. She slept through the night at 3 months old.  In her own crib.  10 months later, something has gone wrong.  We've backslid.  Partly because of teething, partly because she's so damn cuddly and partly because it was easier just to let her fall asleep on the couch.  The Robeau is upstairs with her right now, letting her cry it out.  I assume.  Seriously, I can't hear a thing. The fact is, when she is in the kind of distress she's in right now, just listening to her cry the way she does throws me into, well, a bit of a state.  I have a visceral reaction to it.  It's physical.  Just knowing that I can solve all her problems by picking her up?  Well, just try to stop me.  My heart won't listen to my head telling me this is for the best and for everyone's own good, especially Lenny's.  

Mommy wants to fix it.  And when she can't?  Cue the panic attack.

The panic attacks started when she was a newborn.  I felt so at ease, so happy with my life that I had no clue I was even having panic attacks.  Denial, party of one.  My inner monologue went something like this:

"That's weird, I wonder why my face is numb?  Maybe I had too much coffee..."

or

"Huh, my throat's closing over and I'm having trouble breathing.  I hope I haven't developed an allergy to eggs."

and

"Everyone has nightmares like that when they're sleep deprived.  No biggie."

and my personal favourite

"HOLY SHIT, WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!!!!"

If you Google Image "anxiety" you'd think that all women who experience anxiety (postpartum or otherwise) spend a lot of time furrowing their perfectly maintained brows, or biting their perfectly manicured fingers.  The internet wants you to think that this is what anxiety looks like:







That's not what my anxiety looked like.  Mine was a little more like this:






When I was feeling more cheerful it was a little more along these lines:


Festive, huh?

Eventually, after a couple of months of sleepless nights, crying fits at the same time every night, numb face (seriously, what is that about?) and thinking that every time The Robeau went out for a loaf of bread or some milk I'd never see him again (I'd be like one of those women before the credits on Law & Order, left only to rock my crying baby and tell the sympathetic cops that I didn't know anything), after all this I admitted that something was indeed up and maybe, just maybe I wasn't allergic to eggs.

I got myself a shrink, who was, by the way, disturbingly attractive.  Seriously, the woman was like a cross between Natalie Portman and Giada De Laurentiis.  It's hard telling your problems to Giada Portman and her giant diamond ring and tiny cashmere sweater, especially when you don't really know what your problems are. But I guess I'm pretty typical after all and after a few sessions and a little Ativan to help with the numb face we started to realize what was going on with me. A nice case of postpartum anxiety / post traumatic stress disorder (on account of what went on when Lenny was born) and an existing case of PMDD. What's PMDD, you ask?  Basically, PMS on steroids.  It's real, kids.  It's real and I've got it. Some girls have all the luck (3 - 8% of us, to be exact).

I had a bit of an epiphany about PTSD one day listening to the John Legend / Roots cover of the Bill Withers tune I Can't Write Left Handed.  This guy gets shot in the shoulder in Vietnam, and he thinks he's going to die. I had a C-section, a procedure they perform so often it's like getting a teeth cleaning and I think I'm going to die...and my whole family is going to die.  Did I mention, "HOLY SHIT, WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!!"?  

Once we figured out what the problems were and started working towards managing all of these crazy hormone imbalances I started feeling a lot better. I feel a LOT better.  I feel better.

But every once in a while a simple task like sleep training the baby sends me pretty close to the edge again. So I have to take my numb face down to the basement with a bottle of Shiraz and my headphones.  I still can't write left handed.  But I'm working on it.

4 comments :

  1. Yeah. Been there. Heck, I'm there. Not so much with number one, you know. But number two. Himself. Anxiety metre at the max. The no sleep. The pre-diagnosis years. The post-diagnosis years. The no sleep. The no help. The experts. The no sleep. You know me, the cock-eyed optimist. Thought I had to be. Incredibly hard to maintain cock-eyed optimist status when anxiety metre at the max. Thought I had to. Think I have to. To the end of my days I will never be convinced I ever did anything right. And maybe it doesn't matter.

    Pass the bottle, sister. We both need a hug. Watch tonight's episode of "The Middle". We're not alone. We're parents.

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  2. You don't have to. There's a bottle here with your name on it if you ever want it, seester.

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  3. Wow. Thanks for writing about the anxiety attacks. Our causes may be different, but it's always nice to know that someone else is beating them over the head with a bottle of wine!

    By the way? PMDD=Holy Christ on a Horse! I'm really glad you're feeling better!!

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  4. Thanks for sharing that ladydude. Hard stuff. I really, really, really want one of those Don't Die signs. Maybe a couple. Where can they be had??

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