Pregnancy and Anxiety: First Trimester

It’s been roughly a week since my husband, and I made out news public: we’re expecting!

When I initially found out that I was pregnant, all I wanted to do was scream it from the top of my lungs to anyone who would want to hear, but I knew better and tried to keep it hush as long as I could. We told our family members as soon as it was confirmed at five weeks but keeping it from so many other people has been a challenge! I’m happy that it’s finally public and that I can write about what’s been going on in my mind for the last little while

I have been off my medication for quite some time, and just that in itself has been an adjustment. Between weeks 5-12 I was drowning in several symptoms from pregnancy which seemed to have amplified my anxiety. The most severe one was morning sickness, which crept up on me every morning at least once or twice. Even though I was shoving food down my throat, I wasn’t gaining any weight and even lost two pounds. The over-thinking ensued at this point, and I already convinced myself that this was not normal. I also was struck with severe exhaustion and couldn’t even do my side business, let alone a sink full of dishes.
Luckily I have an excellent doctor who reassured me that gaining no weight in this time is completely natural and exhaustion is just one of the normal symptoms of pregnancy. Hearing this was great but if you knew me personally, you’d know that I hate being unproductive.

Since I was growing a tiny human, I knew that I had to change a lot of things both mentally and physically if I were to keep my anxiety at bay. The sleeplessness that I usually encounter seems to have disappeared – a blessing in disguise mostly – my husband has encouraged me to start napping. I scoffed at the idea since I haven’t been able to take a nap since I was a child (my mind is always racing!), but to my surprise, at the end of a long workday, both my mind and body were elated for me to plunge into a nap.
Due to my exhaustion, I have been unable to do my normal routines and have been slacking in working out. I convinced myself that the full pregnancy will not be this way and to do what I can: I started doing some stretches throughout the day, and even some basic yoga poses. Every inch of me is cracking when I do this, instead of being angry at myself I am trying to be happy with what I CAN do. Not an easy feat but changing my perspective has been helpful.

Aside from this, my mind has been racing from day one on everything associated with this little one. I am already in full mom-mode, worrying and over-thinking of every aspect from a baby, toddler and teenager. I have poured over all resources & books and lucky to have close friends who have gone through this already, so I feel as if I am prepared even though nothing can prepare you for something like this. My BIGGEST concern at the moment?
“What if my child is an extrovert”
Yes, I am seriously contemplating what my life will be like as a Highly-Sensitive-Introverted-Mother to a Popular-Extroverted-Do-All-The-Things-Kid.
Hopefully, all of my naps will cumulate and pour into this overstimulation if it happens (Yeah, right!)

*To those wondering, I will not be doing a mom-blog, there are many out there already that even cover the topic of Anxiety so I will not bother. Instead, I will be updating semi-regularly (by trimester most likely) and will continue with other topics as planned.

World Cancer Day

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, one in two Canadians will get some form of cancer in their lifetime – whether we like it or not.

Hearing that statistic makes me think of all the family members/friends that have survived their battle plus the others that we have lost. My mother battled different forms of cancer between 1989 and 1998, with a short ray of hope in between, thinking that she beat it. Even though she tried to keep me busy during these years, I saw first hand how cancer could change every aspect of your life. She had a lot of friends who would come over and try to discuss what was going on with her, but she was drained.   A lot of people in these situations don’t know what to do, so I’ve compiled a short list for those who are curious:

What do you say when someone tells you they have cancer?

You don’t. You listen.

Avoid saying things like “Don’t worry!” “You’ll be fine!” “Snake Oil will help!” – Blind encouragement and/or advice will make that person close up on their real fears and not divulge what’s going on in their mind.
Try active listening and comment in a way that will affirm that their voice is being heard

“That must be scary for you – would you like to talk more?”
If they don’t want to talk more, that’s OK. Make it apparent that you will be there for them if they need. There’s no shame in joining a support group, either, if you feel the need to understand the disease or how to cope

Who do I tell if a friend or a family member has cancer?

No one.

Cancer will take away many aspects of this person’s life, and their privacy shouldn’t be one of them. If they want it to be made public, they’ll do so on their terms and in their way.

How do I refer to their condition?

Every cancer is individualistic to the person, so there’s no one answer to this question. However, I’ve noticed that mirroring their language to be beneficial. Don’t be afraid to ask! Letting them define the terms give them more power and you can avoid any issues with bringing up words that they despise like “Victim,” “The Big C” or “Journey.”

Today, on World Cancer Day, we remember those that are fighting, those that we’ve lost and those that have survived.

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What not to say

Ever since I’ve come out publicly about my anxiety, I’ve had several people come up to me with their comments on the issue. While I’ve gotten continuous support from those that share these experiences, I still have to explain myself to those that don’t understand. That’s fine with me, but it’s not a secret that people with anxiety are more sensitive than others, but that trait seems to get lost whenever these conversations seem to happen. I know that a lot of these people have the best intentions, but some of the things they say can come across as harmful without even realizing.

It may be hard to distinguish what and what not to say, and to be fair, a lot of these things can be situational. Below is a general list of what I have encountered within the last several years:

“Are you SURE you have Anxiety?”

Let me check… Between 2008-2018: I have seen several counsellors, three therapists, one psychologist, tried a plethora of medications before I found one that stuck… so, yeah. I’m pretty sure I have anxiety. Thank you for doubting my diagnosis though!

Alternatively: Why not try saying “I’m sorry that you’re going through that, would you like to talk about it more?”

“But you look fine!”

Of course, I do. I hide behind my fake smile and makeup. If you’re not close to me, I will never divulge the full-on chaos that’s going on in my mind. Anxiety isn’t always being in a panic, crying your eyes out & hurdling in the fetal position. It’s a silent, festering, illness that puts my body in a fight or flight mode CONSTANTLY.

Alternatively: There’s no reason to diminish their symptoms with their physical appearance, others may look fine while others don’t, and there is no standard for anxiety.

“Other people have it worse than you”

I don’t understand the need to compare oneself to another. I also believe that it’s unfair to do so. Just because I am going through something that might come easily to others doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t feel emotionless. My feelings and anxiety are valid.

Alternatively: Why not try saying “What type of symptoms do you experience?” if they want to discuss it further, they’ll happily discuss their emotions and struggles, which will open your eyes to how different each person can go through anxiety.

“You don’t put effort into things”

I hate when people say that. Whenever I struggle with something that comes so natural to most, I am left with the chatter and judgment of others that I cannot complete something ‘so simple’ in their eyes.

Even when I try to explain my anxiety, they automatically assume it’s just worrying – something that they too get from time to time. It’s not the same, but my opinion is lost on their already made up mind. I’m glad that it was easy for you to get up and start your day – for me, it took me half an hour to get out of bed since my mind was racing.

Alternatively: Why not try to give positive reinforcements? If it did take another person half an hour to get out of bed, I would say “I’m so proud that you were able to get up today!

“We never invite you out anymore because you’re flaky”

That’s fair – but please keep in mind that’s not my intention. I will have good days, and I will have bad days. Unfortunately, I cannot schedule my anxiety weeks in advance. If I suddenly leave early or don’t show up at all, it means that I don’t want to ruin an event with my symptoms. I’m really looking out for all involved, but people take it quite personally and don’t invite me out anymore. That’s ok if you can’t handle my anxiety – you’re not responsible for my emotions.

Alternatively: I would continue to invite those that struggle out, even if we don’t come out just the fact that we were asked makes us feel wanted and welcome.

“Just calm down” / “stop freaking out” / “again?”

The last thing that I need to hear when I’m going through some of my symptoms are these jabs right here. Believe me, if I could “calm down” or “stop,” I would do so. The fact of the matter is, I can’t at this moment, and if you can’t understand that, that’s OK.

Alternatively: Don’t tell anyone these jabs. Come in for a hug, or leave the room if it’s better for YOUR mental health.

I could go on with more, but I think you get the idea. All I want is for others to be more understanding before saying hurtful comments to those that do not need it.

Ghosting

Confrontation has never been my strong suit. Even as a kid, if I had to confront someone my speech would become staggered, my face a bright red and my body would go limp. I would try to avoid confrontation at all costs to prevent these symptoms. However, as I got older they seemed to dissipate and it got easier. When I look around at today’s youth, I see that a lot of people are having the same issue but are dealing with it in a very unhealthy way.

When I first heard the term “ghosting” I giggled – I didn’t know that there was a term for ending a relationship by suddenly ceasing all forms of communication. After being on the receiving end of it though, it became less funny. The person who ends up ghosting people take the easy way out, and won’t be around for the aftermath of hurt, pain and confusion. It seems easy in their eyes to forget about how the other person will feel, but, we’re all human and we all have emotions. It’s already bad enough that people with anxiety are their worst critics, imagine adding this unexpected event on top of that.

I do think that ghosting can be selfish, and I do believe that there are ways to go about it differently than just removing them from your life completely. I think the problem lies in our forms of communication – we’re bombarded with different ways to communicate, yet, we severely lack that emotional connection with others.

Here are several things that you can say to make things amicable:

“Hey, last night was great, but I don’t see this moving forward.”
“I just don’t think we’re compatible in that way; I hope you understand.”
“Sorry, I don’t think I can see you again – it’s nothing personal!”

I can continue with this list, but I think you get the idea. What makes us so scared to send a message just like this to someone? In all honesty, I would rather have something like this than being entirely in the dark. It also shows a sign of maturity, too, which a lot of people respect. Just because a relationship ended doesn’t mean it wasn’t all that bad, I tend to think of them as learning experiences and try to find the positive in each of them. You can even thank a ‘ghoster’ at the end of all of this for showing you their true colours, and it may also align with a better picture of what it is that you need in your life.

Let’s rise from being uncomfortable and give others the respect that they deserve

It’s completely fine to cut out family members from your life

Ever since my last therapy session, I took a lot of things into consideration when it came to my relationships with those surrounding me. I had a hard time struggling with the fact that I had to distance myself from certain people because it wasn’t benefiting my health. I already deal with a bout of loneliness, so whenever I know that I need to cut ties, something inside of me twists and turns into this form of guilt that I wish could go away. When I tried to lean on certain friendships and family members with my struggles, I was met with so much resentment that it honestly made my anxiety worse. I would try to communicate with them the best way that I could, but when there’s nothing that you can do to change a mind, you are left with defeat.

I stopped apologizing for cutting ties a long time ago. When I left Montreal to come here to Toronto, a lot of people tried to make me feel guilty for cutting out a significant family member in my life – my adoptive father. Even when I would explain the whole situation to them, especially the fact that he was causing harm, they could not see past him being my father. Those people did not last long in my life, and I wasn’t even apologetic for it. Why should I be? This man created such a toxic atmosphere that I needed to leave for my mental health. It took me YEARS of therapy to get over, yet, “he’s still your father.”
We are brought up to think that family bonds are eternal and these family members are always supposed to be there for us – you never expect them to hurt you; I never expected to be tossed aside.

Unfortunately, he wasn’t the only person to make that list. I honestly thought, as a naïve little girl, that everyone else that I would bring into my life would be trustworthy, loyal & overall understanding. I don’t mean to sound negative here, but there are a lot of “friends” out there who feed off of others, suck a lot of energy out of you – yet, you still tend to keep them around because no one is perfect, and there are things that you can overlook. I refused this theory a couple of years ago and quite honestly, am in a much better place than I’ve ever been. Any toxic relationship can drain you emotionally and impact your overall mental health.

I’m a big believer in tribes, and everyone who you bring into your circle should give you a feeling of empowerment, trust and happiness. We’re growing at an alarming rate, and soon enough, with the blink of an eye, we’ll be older. I don’t have time to deal with all of this “high school bullshit” (as I put it) and neither should you, especially if you are dealing with depression or anxiety. We already beat up ourselves quite well; we don’t need another person to do the same. Whether it’s a family member, an older friend or just someone you met the other week – don’t let that guilt consume you. Free yourselves so you can get to a better and healthier you in 2019

Symptom: Sleeplessness

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had some trouble with my sleeping. It started when I was in elementary school; I would excuse myself from morning class and go straight to the administration office and ask if I could take a nap in the nurse’s room. They always obliged, but when it became more frequent, they called up my mother and started asking questions about my schedule at home. Even though I followed the same routine nightly, I never could get the full amount of sleep that my body was craving (At the age of 32 I can still attest to this statement!)

I remember trying to doze off to the radio that I was permitted to listen to for a little while before my mother came in to shut it off. Once those tunes stopped, my brain would start to race. Even at a young age, I was still spinning with ideas and thoughts – not knowing how to turn it all off. Sometimes I would try to ignore it, pinch my eyes tightly and wait for them to subside. Other nights it wasn’t so simple, and I would lie awake in my bed trying to “count sheep” as my mother asked me to do so often.

Once my mother passed away, I was stricken with insomnia. I was barely a teenager at this point, and the anxiety was starting to grow more within. My usual method to try and combat this was to stay up and read, however, most of the books I got my hands on were too good to put down, and I wouldn’t end up sleeping. I never confided in my adoptive father about these issues; it was hard enough to talk to him about everything that was happening inside of me since he saw me as a weak person. He would sometimes see me up at the wee hours of the morning and demand that I go to bed, never asking what I was still doing up or if I needed anything. I would turn off my light and pretend that I would, but I would always lie awake staring at my ceiling fan while my thoughts took over.

When I started college, I mentioned how bad my insomnia was to my then doctor, after I was up for 72 hours straight. He decided to prescribe me sleeping pills instead of asking me any other questions, and I thought that would be my solution to it all. After several months, I noticed that I would take my pills every night even when it wasn’t warranted. I was scared that I was getting addicted to them, so instead of discussing it with my doctor, I went off of them entirely. It was tough to adjust back to a full night’s sleep at first, but after several weeks I was starting to sleep better. Months went by, and my insomnia seemed to be at bay – but, I would still only pull 4-5 hours a night at best, no matter how early I went to bed.

During this time my anxiety was developing tenfold. I was still unaware of what was happening to me since I was consumed by my toxic atmosphere. I would lie awake, pleading with my body to go to bed, but instead, my mind was on full blast:

I forgot to put that one dish in the sink tonight; they’re going to be so mad at me for that. Do I need to remember tomorrow to write them a note so they don’t think that I’m mad at them for no reason, which reminds me, maybe I can offer to take them out for dinner? I know I barely make any money as it is, but they’re just always so mad at me, maybe I can show them that I can be responsible and they’ll change their mind? Who am I kidding myself, no one likes me and no one ever will. They’re entirely right when they say that I’m a loner and have no friends. I’m just going to die alone; I might be dying right now and not even know. Would they even be sad? Yeah, right, Andrea.

Even though I got out of that toxic environment late, I still battle with some form of these thoughts some nights. Recently, I couldn’t even tell you what’s been going on in my mind; I feel as if I’m being pushed in so many directions that it doesn’t even make sense to me at this point. Last night, I was in bed worrying about paint colours. PAINT. COLOURS.

The thing is, I know that these thoughts are contributing to me not sleeping and no matter how many hot baths, essential oils, teas, etc. I try – nothing can calm my anxious mind. But as you can see, since I was a little girl I’ve just been adapting to my sleeplessness. I have better nights than I used to, and I can honestly say I haven’t been hit with insomnia in several years (yay!), but my sleeplessness will always be around the corner since I’m stuck with my ever gracious anxiety. Luckily I have fur babies to cuddle to make me feel better about it

If you suffer from the same symptom, know that you’re not alone – and there are SO many options that you can try to help combat it. Just because it didn’t work for me doesn’t mean it won’t work for you!

2018 Personal Reflection: Happy New Year

I won’t lie, this year has been a little bit of a struggle for me.

I started the year with a determination that every week I would post on my blog with new and exciting topics that we all encounter. Unfortunately, I forgot how life likes to take control of your plans and got pushed into many directions. I honestly tried my best to keep up with my writing, but there were days that I just needed a break from my thoughts. I took seven full mental health days this year from my blog, and I am not even apologetic.

In May, I took a stay-cation of 5 days to spend with my family who came from B.C. It wasn’t a typical vacation by any means; we spent the majority of our time renovating our basement. Even though we did have several day trips in our schedule, I was utterly exhausted.
I went back to work with the worst mentality, and everything suffered: my workload, my interpersonal relationships, and my overall anxiety. I was heating up over the smallest things, and I had several outbursts that caused my boss to sit me down to relay that co-workers said I was difficult. I burst into tears right then and there – I wasn’t aware of how terrible things had gotten even though I was currently living through it. I felt lost and unsure in my position.

I knew things had to change drastically, so I put on my fake smile and went on with my work day. However, that still brought all of my anxieties and worries back home. I always try my best to leave work-related issues at bay, but I was at a bottleneck point and didn’t know what else to do. Bringing this all home caused a strain on my relationship with my husband, even though he was trying to be the best support system that he could while going through his issues.

Things took a turn when I got into my first car accident, in July, a minute away from my house. This accident was technically my fault, and even though I wanted to seethe through my teeth, I took full accountability for my actions. I still remember the panic that coursed through my body and recognizing how mangled my mentality was becoming. July was my turning point when I took my first mental health day and wrote the following week: Signs When You Need to Take a Break

I was hoping for things to turn around, but both my husband and I got hit with a lot of unexpected changes. A close personal friend of mine was laid-off, and I was so devastated that I excused myself from work for the remainder of the day. Drastic change has never been a positive outcome for me, and I started to worry that I had taken so many days off already. Suddenly, my husband’s mentor passed away, and it was gut-wrenching. I had to remove myself out of my self-consuming issues and be my husband’s rock which was not an easy feat.

I tried my hardest, I honestly did, but when I got into my second car accident in September, I lost it. Not a lot of people know about this accident because I started to become my introverted self again. I was on the highway, slowing down to a full stop (as the car in front of me) when BAM! A car going 120km/h reared into me, which caused me to hit the car in front. I was shell-shocked and in a daze. When the officer came around to check on me, all I could reiterate was “I have anxiety.” From my glazed over eyes, he could tell and kept repeating his name, badge and next steps over and over again. Repetition might seem mundane to most people, but it’s critical when someone is experiencing any form of anxiety. After giving all of the information to our local station, I started to feel a pain in my neck. I called my mother-in-law to come to pick me up, and I went directly to the walk-in to confirm that I had no signs of whiplash. Through insurance, I was given an allocated amount of money towards physio and spent the last week of September and all of October trying to get in a better physical state. Those who cared checked up on me, while others showed their true colours. I lost two significant friendships in this month, one whom I’ve known since Grade 6. I considered him family, and my hurt was beyond that of friendship; I felt as if I lost a brother. My husband couldn’t understand this, and kept reiterating that friendships do fall apart sometimes – I do agree with him, but this was far worse than I could have imagined.

Luckily for both of us, we had booked a MUCH needed vacation to Mexico to spend my Husbands 35th Birthday on Day of the Dead. We spent the next eight days away from our reality. I couldn’t have asked for a better trip with my husband, we got so incredibly close to one another during this trip and our communication excelled when we discussed our plans for 2019. I felt recalibrated and was ready to go back home and face everything that 2018 threw at me. Unfortunately, the last two days of our trip I was sick due to heat exhaustion, but, I’ll take the bad with the good on this one!

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Day of the Dead at Silversands Resort

When I got back, I ditched my old doctor and found a new one closer to my area whom also services my husband and mother-in-law. We spent weeks going in depth with everything that was happening to me, and I was elated to see that he did care for my well-being. I went through many tests to make sure that I was back on track physically and emotionally.
I even stepped out of my comfort zone and did a photo shoot with a friend of mine who brought my spirits up tenfold!

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@175ish Miss November

I finally felt as if my life was back on track after seven months of “whatever-the-hell-that-was.” I know things can’t always be sunshine and rainbows, and I don’t expect them to be either, but when you get into those states of anxiety or depression, it can seem as if there is no end in sight. However, everyone should know that once you hit rock bottom, the only place to go is up (Corny, I know). Anxiety has been rough to live with, but I am happy that I’m making it a part of my life now and owning it. Here I am, at the end of December, stronger than I was at the beginning of the year. I appreciate all of the learning experiences that I’ve had this year and plan on tackling them head-on in 2019.

I wish you all a Happy New Year and for you all to know it’s OK to not have a great year – just know that things eventually do turn out better.

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