Living Anxiously: My Story

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Ugh. Anxiety. Am I right?

It seems to be the topic popping up everywhere and so many of those near and dear to me experience it regularly–myself included.

I have been away from this blog for nearly a year and a half, my entire pregnancy and life of my new little boy. With my first baby, postpartum depression hounded me for nearly three years. I still struggle with it. I was so nervous about getting it again that I went to weekly therapy sessions and practiced mindfulness and meditation as often as I thought of it. It helped tremendously. Depression is dark and terrifying. It kept me chained to my bed most of the time and when not my bed, my house, because I was too lethargic to do anything else. I thank God every day that the same lonely darkness did not come back after the birth of this new joy in my life.

One thing that did come, however, was severe anxiety. I don’t often write so personally online. I try to avoid it, but as I’ve struggled and learned new skills, I have felt this tug to share and maybe help someone else or, at the very least, experience some kind of catharsis through writing about it.

Beginning a few months after my baby’s birth, I developed crippling anxiety for no reason that I could understand. My chest would fill with painful flutters with usually no triggers. It was like I was surrounded by fire, but everything around me was happy and bright and normal. I went from depression to anxiety, from darkness to fire. Neither pleasant, neither something I wanted to have in my life, and I found myself retreating again. It’s what I do when things get too hard, I find my sanctuary, my bed. The same one I’ve had since I was fifteen. And I disappear. I disappear into television shows and don’t come back until I am forced to.

The funny thing about coming out of a depression (I’m not totally out yet, but have made so many strides) is that I find myself wanting to take care of myself more. It’s not funny, really. Just really, really amazing. I am discovering what I value and it’s real and genuine and worthwhile. Because I wanted to take care of myself, I decided to take an anti-depressant which would also help with my anxiety. I started it in January. After three weeks, I was starting to feel pretty good. Until I wasn’t.

The fire around me turned into fierce, blue flames and attacked constantly. Even a funny show that had me laughing out loud would quickly turn my laughter into a full-blown hyperventilating panic attack. I lived on the edge of life-halting anxiety for another month before finally deciding to wean off, which was a difficult process too. I have had difficulties with three other anti-depressants in my life, and my therapist and I have concluded that maybe my chemical makeup does not handle SSRIs well. Maybe. That is not the point of this blog post, especially because so many people do so well on them, and I am so happy for anyone who has found peace, medicated or not.

After spending so much of the last four years crippled with depression, I was determined not to go back, not to let this be an excuse to crawl back into my bed again and not live. During this time, I upped my therapy sessions and started reading. Reading like crazy. I want to share some of the things I’ve learned here and include some of my favorite, most helpful books with reviews eventually. I am going to sum it up in four categories, making this a five-part series.

  1. Storms will come, but they will pass too. 

  2. Define my values. 

  3. Mindfulness and practice. 

  4. Living Slowly

There is so much more to learn. So much more to discover. And so much life left to live. I will release each post every other day for the next four days. If anyone does read this, please comment with what has helped you in your own struggles and let’s learn from each other.

I also hope if anyone reading this needs help, is struggling, and can’t find hope, that they will look for it, really look for it, because no matter the weather, hope is there. If you are really struggling and don’t know how to go on, please seek help. Go to your doctor, call a close friend, call the national suicide hotline (1-800-273-8255), do something. You are worth it. Life is beautiful on the other side, I promise. Even a very small, very simple life can be a very satisfying, romantic one. You are not alone. I promise that too.

Two of My Favorite Parenting Books

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 9.39.44 PM When I first found out I was pregnant and for the entire nine months afterward, I spent hours a day pouring over every pregnancy, baby, and parenting book I could get my hands on (does every first-time parent do this?). Instead of tossing and turning with my big belly and sciatica (okay, I did a lot of this too), I was mesmerized by my bright iPod screen and the Kindle app reading books like Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and The Baby Book.

Those books were great for preparing for my baby’s physical needs, but didn’t do much for preparing me for raising him, especially for dealing with “the terrible twos”–which I actually didn’t believe existed. It does. The books also didn’t help much with dealing with postpartum depression. After studying and reading a variety of books, blogs, and exploring different parenting paradigms, I’ve discovered a truth that my father-in-law, who taught family psychology at BYU-Idaho for 30 years and holds a PhD in Educational Psychology, had already tried to teach me:

Parenting books should be about the parent, not the child.

A majority of parenting issues arise not because a child misbehaves, but because the parent holds negative energy from his or her own childhood that prevents real connection, connection with the self and by that same token, connection with the child. And while I am certainly no expert on this subject, the lessons I’ve learned from these two books have helped me immensely to learn how to protect and honor my child’s spirit while discovering my own. It’s an amazing and difficult journey to recognize that your child has a soul. He (or she) does not belong to you. He is his own being, his own person, that you have the privilege of teaching and your child will teach you.

If you are interested in exploring these ideas further, check out Dr. Shefali Tsabury’s website and her Ted Talk. I’ve posted a clip from her interview with Oprah before. Watch it if you haven’t already. I believe the things she teaches are key to discovering your own self and by doing so, to helping your child discover his.

Here are two books that have helped me on my journey of self-discovery and in turn have helped me become more aware as I discipline and teach my own son.

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Compassionate Childrearing by Robert W. Firestone “It is vital for us to remember that children are not our possessions; they are not ours in the proprietary sense of the word; rather they belong to themselves and have the right to an independent existence” (17).

Perhaps the most painful book I’ve ever read, Compassionate Childrearing continues to be my teacher. My father-in-law recommends it as the one and only parenting book you ever need.

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The Conscious Parent by Dr. Shefali Tsabury

“It’s no surprise we fail to tune into our children’s essence. How can we listen to them, when so many of us barely listen to ourselves? How can we feel their spirit and hear the beat of their heart if we can’t do this in our own life?” (read more quotes here)

I plan to write an in-depth book review of this eye-opening book, but until I do, let me just say that Tsabury’s ideas are transformative. They focus on bringing awareness to not only the parent-child relationship, but also the relationship you have with yourself.

As a mother of a two-year-old and an expert at research, I am certainly no expert at parenting, but the above books have given me tools that I had been completely unaware even existed. If you are a struggling parent–or just want to learn more about yourself–I recommend them because they’ve helped me delve into myself in ways that continue to change me daily.

That said, I am always looking for more books to read. Comment below and recommend some for me.

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