I can't say when my anxiety and panic began because I don't remember a life without them. In the past, I had panic attacks so bad that my legs would give out. I simply could not move my legs. My knees would buckle, my legs would turn to jello and I'd collapse onto the ground. I was on the ground at a train station in Italy once for several hours, watching train after train go by, but unable to stand up and board a train myself. I once crawled home from Hollywood Blvd, crawled, because my legs wouldn't work. I couldn't bear weight on them. I've been carried out of theatres and parties, I've fallen to the floor in church, all because of severe panic. Over the years, I've been diagnosed an array of different mental illnesses... Bipolar Disorder, Clinical Depression, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Attention Deficit Disorder... I don't like labels and the older I get, the more I think all my issues stem from PTSD, but the bottom line is that I fight with my own brain... a lot. I've been on way too many psychiatric drugs to list on this blog, but I managed to ween off ALL of them a couple years before I got pregnant. This felt like the greatest accomplishment of my life, no exaggeration. I was so proud to get off those drugs, to "overcome" mental illness. Through a daily earnest yoga practice and regular meditation, I truly felt like I had a new lease on life.
I fared pretty well the first two trimesters of my pregnancy. I was honestly surprised I was doing so well. Even though my husband found black mold in our house and we had to move in with my parents while he renovated. Even though I was gaining twice the weight you're "supposed" to gain during pregnancy. Even though I had constant excruciating back pain and sciatic pain. And even though we were flat broke, I was feeling surprisingly stable emotionally. I felt a peace and a calm, and I felt so boundlessly grateful for this precious new life, this miracle baby growing inside of me.
Then came my third trimester and, with it, an anxiety that hit so hard and so sudden, it was like being bashed in the head with an iron skillet. The anxiety was morbid and dark. A black hole washed over my very being. The anxious thoughts always boil down to a very specific fear for me:
What if I legitimately go crazy? What if I go completely insane and I have to be institutionalized?
Terror struck my thoughts.
I developed an obsession with the stairs. But not just the basement stairs. All stairs. I didn't want to go near them. And I was living in a 3-story house. My bedroom was on the top floor. The laundry was underneath those dreaded basement stairs. These stairs, ALL of these STAIRS were taunting me and occupying at least 75% of my thoughts each day. I kept replaying it again and again and again in my head... What if I throw my baby down the stairs?! What if I go crazy and she's so tiny and I just pick her up and throw her down the stairs!!?
I started having acupuncture done once a week to help alleviate my anxiety. I saw a psychiatrist 16 days before my due date. I talked openly with my husband and my parents and my sisterhood of women about my panic. Everybody, including the psychiatrist assured me I'd be fine.
And then my miracle baby girl came. Three days late, she came. And I wanted to protect her with every fiber of my being. I had zero thoughts of harming her. When she cried and cried, I didn't even have one dark thought. I just wanted to hold her, to kiss her, to comfort her and make her feel safe. She was my tiny lady and all that mattered to me was taking care of her, protecting her.
But then, new fears began to manifest... New obsessions. It all centered around a fear of her somehow dying. I became obsessed with SIDS. She was (and still is!) a terrible sleeper but even when she did finally sleep, I couldn't. Because I had to stare at her and make sure she was still breathing. I had to be very close to her and watch her chest rise and fall. I had to do this. I had to. I was petrified of losing her. I still am. Whenever I drove with her in the car, I had crippling thoughts that I'd get in an accident, she'd fly out the window, I'd lose her. I walked her every day in our Ergo baby carrier and whenever we'd cross streets, I felt terrified we'd get hit by a car, that I'd survive but she would be too tiny. I'd lose her, I'd lose her. I'd lose her!! In one way or another, I was living in constant fear of losing her. Every day felt like a fight. A really epic and extremely over-dramatic fight.
It's all been intensified by the fact that although she's ultimately a very healthy baby, she has some special needs. When she was just 9 days old, we were already at a children's hospital for her thyroid disease. Only one in four thousand infants have this condition. And I'm 100% sure my anxiety is majorly exacerbated by the sleep deprivation. She's almost 6 months now and she still wakes on average 3 times a night. She only sleeps about 8 hours total at night and it's always interrupted. She never sleeps more than 4 hours straight. And she only cat-naps during the day. 20 minutes here, a half hour there. We haven't seen any of those glorious two hour naps I keep reading about on parenting websites.
So, I'm struggling...
I am trying to let go of pride and ego and just be the healthiest version of myself, the best mom and wife I can possibly be. After 5 months of agony and crazed panic, I went back on an anti-anxiety medication. I hated to do it but my sister assured me it wasn't a failure. She said it was a new kind of success and I have been so grateful for that insight. Something in my heart still kept telling me to diligently try the all-natural route first though. So, I'm off the psychiatric medicine now, but I'm seeing my naturopathic doctor and taking tons of organic whole-food supplements to combat anxiety.
I try to remind myself that all of this is temporary. That a sure constant in life is change. Someday, Sofia will sleep. Someday, I'll have the time and energy to do at least an hour yoga practice every day again. Someday, I'll get 7 or 8 hours of sleep again. Nothing is permanent. Life always shifts and twists and turns. We just have to hold on tightly and keep bravely edging forward. It's all progress, whether I take an anti-anxiety pill or not. It's all growth. Someday Sofia won't need me so much anymore and I'll miss when my lady was so tiny and when being in my arms was the only thing that made her whole world okay. So, I'm just taking it one day at a time. And, at my core, I am learning to trust that I'll be okay too.