I remember my first group therapy session quite well. It was more of a social gathering at a local community centre with other families who lost an immediate family member. They split us into two groups; all the adults went to a separate room while the ‘kids’ stayed behind. I say ‘kids’ because there was no specific age range, I was roughly twelve years old at the time, yet there were both older and younger people surrounding me.
We all gathered in a circle, and each took turns speaking about our loved ones. The thought of me talking in front of strangers was making me anxious. Still, as we went through the different stories, my anxiety lessened. Knowing that others went through something similar seemed to make my grief manageable. When it came time for me to speak, I wasn’t as ‘squeaky’ as I usually was in situations – I still cried as I reminisced about my mother, but it was a lot softer than usual.

I made a friend that day, who turned out to be so much more. Her name was Jennifer, and she lost her father. We were able to talk openly, and it was welcomed. I was still unable to open up to my adoptive father fully. Little to our surprise, both of our parents hit it off and started dating. When that relationship failed, we lost contact almost immediately. It was a hard blow, especially since I was beginning to consider her like a sister and I never fully understood what happened. Of course, thanks to social media, we recently reconnected, and it was if we never stopped talking. I can’t wait for her to meet my little one once we’re out of this pandemic.

When I look back on the group therapy sessions, she’s the first thing that comes to mind. Of course, the therapy aspect was helpful, but finding someone else who was going through the same thing was priceless.

I’m honoured to say that over the last few weeks, I’ve partnered with Pay What You Can Group Therapy.
Their mission is almost identical to mine, to support others seeking mental health care. The concept is simple – it’s free group therapy that is monitored by licensed professionals. If you enjoyed and/or found value in any of the sessions, they ask you pay what you can!
It’s been a pleasure working with the team, and I hope that you all can take advantage of FREE group therapy starting tonight, July 21st.

 

Have you ever whispered to yourself, “I never thought I would be that parent” when facing certain situations? In the last couple of weeks, I’ve caught myself saying this, especially when my husband set up the play tent we acquired for our ten-month-old. Our ‘never spoil’ mission being thrown out the window almost immediately.

What caught me off guard was going back to work. For months I’ve been battling the notion that I will not be my daughters sole caretaker anymore, and it’s been daunting. I’ve weighed the pros and cons numerous times, going back to work ticked off boxes in all categories, so why do I feel guilty?

Due to COVID-19, my entire team is working from home with no real date as to when we will be physically back in the office. Since I am home, I have taken over the dual office I share with my husband and am revamping my station to support my workload’s technical aspects.
My husband, who’s been off work for months now, has taken full reign over our Daughters schedule with her grandmother taking her twice a week.

My first day back, my daughter wasn’t here, and I wasn’t able to login to anything, it almost felt like a ‘day off’ from everything. I didn’t feel bad or guilty; I thought I had it under control. It was only the second day when both my husband and daughter were downstairs, and I heard her giggle that the waterworks showed up. I am glad I didn’t have a virtual meeting for others to see how much I missed my daughter.

She’s right downstairs though, how can you miss her?!

There is so much that I miss.
I miss being the first person that she sees whenever she wakes up.
I miss talking to her about our day and what I had planned.
I miss our daily walks.
I miss teaching her how to climb stairs, cruise and/or walk.
I miss being the one making her giggle like an idiot.

I went from undivided attention to a working mom, thinking my daughter would have an issue with it, but it’s only me. I never thought that I would miss every aspect of being a stay-at-home parent, but I do (ok, not ALL aspects, I can do without the constant cleaning!)

My anxiety has been flaring up on top of this new adjustment, and I am overthinking the moments and milestones that I will miss. I’ve already missed her initial crawling, and it seems like any day now she’ll start cruising between our furniture without our help. I know that it’s impossible to be there for everything, and it seems silly to get upset over things that haven’t happened yet. What can I say? Having anxiety is a full-time gig, and I am the CEO.

Now that we’re adjusting to our new normal, I know that I can do a better job of managing my anxiety. First and foremost, I need to maintain a balanced lifestyle. We’re all currently working on this as a family, but I know I need a better diet & exercise. With the 1 pound I lost this week, it’s motivation to continue with the crap I’ve cut out while figuring out how to get moving.

It might take some time to adjust to not being with my daughter constantly, but I know she is in good hands with her Dad/Grandmother, and I’m thankful for that.

Before I end the year with my personal reflections, I thought it might be helpful for my readers to know what I usually do to keep my anxiety at bay

The best thing that anyone can do is make their own type of routine, or what I call, a “toolkit” of habits. This is just a general guideline, and some of my habits might not work for everyone, but it’s better to start somewhere than nowhere at all.

(1) Get a good nights sleep 

Easier said than done, I know – but I invested in blackout curtains, and it has been a complete game-changer to ensure that I get a good quality sleep. Others can invest in earplugs, white noise machines, or ASMR videos. Whatever it is to help you get the best sleep, DO IT. Get into a good routine and stick to it.

(2) Make yourself a morning person

I used to enjoy nights and staying up late, but I noticed that all of the overthinking that I would inevitably do happened around this time. I can’t stop it for the most part, but I saw that going to bed early did make me a better person and more cheerful in the morning. I try to practice some meditation each morning, through the app “Calm” to get my day started

(3) Make sure you get exercise

Not saying to go overboard here, but if you can get at least 3 days of working out into your schedule, you’ll notice that you won’t be that walking zombie. It’s been hard for me to get back into the groove of things since having a baby, and I feel lethargic. I downloaded the app “7M Workout” to help me get back, even this small step is helpful to focus on something other than your anxiety.

(4) Write

You don’t have to be as public as I am with my blog, but if you start journaling, you’ll see that it can help process your thoughts. Even if it’s just a couple of words of how you feel or a sentence of what happened – it’ll help.

(5) Limit Social Media 

A lot of people have FOMO, but I’ve noticed that the more time I spend on social media, the more anxious I am over news and expectations. Since having a kid, it’s been easier to not log on regularly, and I’m so much happier not knowing everything all the time.

This can be hard for some people, but a significant first step for this is to not login several hours before you go to bed. It makes it so much simpler to fall asleep

(6) Watch Horror Movies

This probably sounds weird, but if you allow yourself to release all your anxiety in a safe space, then you’ll find that you can get less anxious throughout the day. My release is horror movies in the comfort of my own home during the daylight because I’m a wuss.

Don’t forget

If you find yourself in a panic attack the best thing you can do is practice grounding and breathing exercises

grounding tech

Coming to terms with my low milk supply due to my G.A.D

Nothing really ever goes according to plan, I’ve realized over the last couple of months. I had every intention to breastfeed my daughter until she turned one, but everything changed when I gave birth to her.

We had issues with her latching onto me, and I sought out help within the hospital. After nurses forcefully handled my baby onto me, I asked for formula. They were baffled I would even ask for such a thing – I disregarded their glares, she needed to be fed.

I’m lucky that I bought a pump and started exclusively using it to bottle feed her through her cluster phase. I would still try to bring her to my chest regularly, but her screeching cries would deafen our household. She preferred the bottle, and I had to accept it. I lived by that pump for weeks, waking up almost every 2 hours with little to no sleep, squeezing as much liquid gold as I could for her. My body didn’t react well, and my G.A.D flustered. Even though I was topping up with formula for what I couldn’t provide, my supply started to lower drastically.

After researching and talking to doctors, I figured out that my low milk supply was due to my G.A.D. I felt like a failure for a minute. Seriously, I only felt guilty for maybe a day or two; it didn’t last long. The thing is, I know that I can’t change my G.A.D now matter how many times people tell me to “Just Relax!” “Drink some Beer!” or “Take Supplements!” – Trust me when I say I tried EVERYTHING. This is just how I’m wired. Accepting this doesn’t mean that I LIKE it – I’m acknowledging that this is valid.

Since she was getting bigger and on a better schedule, I made a decision to pump every 4 hours, except for a 3am one so I could try to sleep. ‘Try’ is the keyword here; my mind races almost nightly with things associated with her, the house, my relationship with my husband… nothing has been easy on my anxiety. What I did notice is that after some sleep, my first-morning pump would be almost a full dose of what she needed. After documenting her intake for a week, I decided to change up my pumping schedule to give her more. It worked for a little while but started dwindling again.

My husband and I were formula-fed, and we turned out (somewhat) normal. I wasn’t that worried over making an executive decision to stop breastfeeding once it dwindled down more. As I type this out now, she’s almost at 10 weeks, and I pump 3 times a day, extracting 60 ml each time. It can be infuriating at times, but she is still being fed, and that’s all that I care about.

I’ve had some backlash over wanting to stop, and one commenter in a support group said that I wasn’t bonding with my baby properly. I wish I knew this person so I could slap them. I don’t need that bond to be defined by breastfeeding, it’s more than milk – it’s when she smiles at me when she hears my voice, it’s when she grabs hold of my pinky finger when I’m feeding her close to my heart – just because she rejects a body part of mine doesn’t mean she rejects ME.

Even though my breastfeeding plan didn’t work the way that I hoped for, I’m making the best choice for my daughter to ensure she gets the nutrition she needs. This is my commitment to my child, and that shouldn’t be based on how much milk I was able to produce for her. Am I successful breastfeeding mother? Absolutely. Success is different for everyone, there is no right or wrong way, and it should not be measured in millilitres.

This has been one hell of a week for me, and even though I mentioned this would not be a mom-centred blog, I am breaking my rule this one time to go over how my anxiety shaped my experience of labour and bringing home my baby.

On Wednesday early morning (12:40 am to be exact), my water broke. I wasn’t sure at the time and I called my husband from downstairs to make sure that I wasn’t just peeing myself again (oh yes, the lovely late stages of pregnancy were terrific on my bladder) It wasn’t until I moved around slightly that my curious trickle turned into a full-on gush and the panic started to come full force. THIS IS HAPPENING. Immediately I felt my first contraction and went upstairs to lie down to time it out: 1 hour apart, lasting 1 minute. I wasn’t in active labour just yet, but my anxiety was flaring up with the usual physical symptoms: overheating, rapid heartbeat & dizziness. I did not feel safe at home and thought it would be best to go to the hospital. We packed up the car and went straight there, where I was closely monitored before being admitted.

I told my husband to go home and sleep, so one of us could at least be coherent when it came closer to being admitted – he was relieved. I spent the next four hours lying in bed, trying to get some sleep but the contractions were getting debilitating. Trying to walk around to ease the pain and move things along were not an option for me, and I already felt as if I were a failure. I cried in the darkened room, waiting for a nurse to come so I could ask for some pain medication. The O.B. on call came to see me about it and mentioned I could get some morphine, but I had to wait until my contractions were 5 minutes apart. It was roughly 6 am at this point, and I knew I was getting close to that time frame. I called my husband to let him know I was scared and I needed him, he told me everything would be OK and to try to calm myself down; he would be there as soon as possible. He arrived, and I instantly felt better, I always do. The pain was getting worse, and several hours went by – I was getting impatient. Around 9 am, I was finally admitted to the hospital; however, I was not dilated. Due to specific procedures that I had back in 2008, I was running into complications that would need to be addressed. The plan that we set at 6 am had now changed; however, I was able to receive an epidural early to help ease the pain. After 7 hours of my anxious mind racing through this pain, I welcomed it. I’m happy that my husband was coherent because it knocked me out, and he was able to fill out all the necessary paperwork.

As I crept in and out of sleep, so did my husband. The nurses came in to check on me as often as they could, but our little one was still taking her precious time getting ready to make her grand entrance. My heart was pounding, remembering what doctors told me years previous that if I were to have a child, I might run into issues. The medication that they administered around noon to speed things up was taking its time, and we spent the next 8 hours waiting impatiently. Nurses needed to come in more often to help out; when I was awake, my mind would race with worry over the length of time that it was taking and I was starting to get more nervous and scared as the time approached for me to push out a tiny human. When I was stuck at 8 cm for several hours, I started to cry out of frustration; I just wanted her to be out of me! That’s when one of the nurses suggested I put this peanut looking ball between my legs, which essentially helps dilate you to where you need to be.

When the moment finally arrived at 8:40 pm, my heart sank, I was unsure how I would feel at this moment, and every emotion possible seemed to course through my body. All lights went on, and I noticed I was placed perfectly under a reflection of what was going on. If I kept looking up, I would be able to see it ALL. The nurse started to explain to me how to push, and I immediately thought I would somehow screw this up. I did my first push and couldn’t hold my breath long enough. I started to cry, again, thinking that this would take longer than usual and already felt like a failure. My husband and I already made a plan beforehand to play music during this process, so he put on my favourite album “Dark Side of the Moon” by Pink Floyd. When the music started to play, I got emotional once again thinking to myself – Holy shit I’m about to be a mom. I’ve been preparing myself for this moment for MONTHS, but honestly, nothing can prepare you for that overwhelming sensation.

The song ‘Us & Them’ holds a lot of meaning for both my husband and me.

* It was the song that we listened to on our first visit to B.C., staying up late on our hotel room balcony basking in a moderate snowfall that was gorgeous.

* It was the song that we found an instrumental version of so I could walk down the aisle to marry him.

* It was the song that unintentionally played during our Gender Reveal party when I sliced our cake open sharing that we would be welcoming a girl

so, when it started to loom in the background after 30+ minutes of pushing, I told myself this is going to be the last couple of pushes, she WILL be born to this song. I put so much effort into these pushes that my husband needed to put ice chips on my forehead, which quickly trickled down the side of my face from the immense heat. The nurses cheering me on in the background as the last push brought her out into this world, 42 minutes later. Yes, I saw everything in that reflection. EVERYTHING.

The song ended, and I heard her cry, up to this moment I was so worried that I wouldn’t love her or want to hold her but as soon as I listened to that cry all I wanted to was calm her down. My body rushed with so much love for this little human being that I was overcome with joy and relief. I held her without interaction from anyone else and knew at this moment that I would never want to go through pregnancy again. Her though, she was worth it. We named her Eve Lilly, a name we picked out months prior but wanted to ensure she ‘looked’ like the name.

It wasn’t long before I was wheeled into my semi-private room with her in an adjoining bassinet. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her and kept saying, “I made this.” My husband asked if I wanted him to stay the night and even though a part of me did, I said he could go home. I wanted to spend my first moments with Eve together and try to bond over breastfeeding. The nurses tried to help, but it was extremely difficult for both of us, instead of being anxious over this, I told myself that plans never go the way we want them to. I asked the nurses for supplements, and they made me feel incredibly guilty for doing so, I didn’t care. All I did care about was that she was fed and happy.

My anxiety was levelling out, and I just wanted to be home, I was tired, sore and swollen that I couldn’t even put my shoes on! Being pregnant and giving birth has given me a new perspective on what matters and what doesn’t. I made some big decisions during this time, one of them being that I don’t think I can go through this process again for my mental health. After going through months of depression on top of my anxiety was trying. I don’t think that’s selfish of me in the slightest, regardless of what others think. I grew up as an only child and i’m somewhat normal 😉

I want to apologize to my readers for being so distant these last few weeks; I’ve been working tirelessly on getting my first novel out before my daughter makes her grand entrance.

Keeping busy has distracted me from my depression, and I’m thankful for that small amount of effort.

I still anxiously debate if making my story public is the right thing to do, my trauma has and always will make me feel like I’m not worthy of a voice. Luckily, I’ve never been one to go with the flow, and it’s with great pleasure that I can announce that I am now a published author

For those of you who have anxiously waited, you can find my book on Amazon here:

U.S.:
eBook
Paperback

Canada:
eBook
Paperback

 

Music has surrounded me in every aspect of life ever since I was a baby. To my mother’s singing, to our car radio tuned into trans-am Radio, to my music players over the years plugged into my ears. I could go on, but you get the point. I always listened for fun, but when my dark days came around, I started to use it to help with the various emotions I would feel: rage, loneliness, love, etc. I love the power that music has to aid my stress and anxiety, but it’s also a great portal to relieve any other loud or angry feelings that can come to us. Personally, it makes me feel less alone when I connect to the lyrics that the band was trying to convey.

When I get too anxious/stressed, there are a couple of things that I like to listen to,

  • The App “Calm” has helped with guided meditations and deep breathing exercises, but what I love most about this app is the background noises that you can choose from in the main screen: Serene Lakes (two) and Rainforest. I love being surrounded by nature sounds.
  • Matching my symptoms to the rhythm/tempo of songs almost validates what I feel, for example:

    Feeling anxious because no one understands me:
    Alice Merton – No Roots

    Feeling angry over things that happen in our society/culture
    Marilyn Manson – Beautiful People

    Feeling lost when someone leaves your life
    Fleetwood Mac – The Chain

  • Classical Movie Scores/Soundtracks when I find the time for a relaxation bath. Sometimes I need something without lyrics to melt all the nonsense that’s floating through my brain.

    Check out “Epic Film Scores” through Google Play

Music is magical to me; not only is it universal, and it helps us cope when we need it the most – it activates our entire brain, creating the potential to improve our feelings.

I love listening to music as a stress reliever, and I always recommend to do it when you’re doing things in the background, like driving (especially when you’re alone and can BELT out the lyrics!) and cleaning house. Dancing around my kitchen is the only exercise I can do nowadays! Whether you decide to listen or create, make sure that music is a part of your life so you can start seeing the benefits it has towards your physical and emotional health.

Ever since I’ve been a kid, I’ve always tried to solve my medical issues holistically. Even though I grew up in a household where medication wasn’t taboo, we still relied on natural remedies to take care of colds and other ailments that could easily be treated without drugs.

When I started to discuss strategies to cope with my anxiety with my doctor, he first brought up pills, and I was so hesitant. I reluctantly agreed, hoping that I could get some fast relief from my symptoms. Although I do have to admit, a nagging in the back of mind kept surfacing saying “you don’t need medication” which seemed to echo throughout society.

I remember how sluggish I felt for the first two weeks trying to adapt to my new body. I did not feel myself and couldn’t grasp the necessary information that was being thrown at me. I got frustrated that the pills weren’t helping me immediately and went back to my doctor a month later telling him this was not the right plan for me. I was then given some Ativan for the time being and was told to take it when needed. Not having a daily pill to pop made me feel a little better and I started to slowly to feel like myself again as the other medication left my body.

Since Ativan was only a go-between, I started to research other remedies and came across several articles outlining the gains of CBD. This avenue seemed to be more realistic for me but there was still some stigma on medical marijuana in Canada, so it took me a while to bring this up with my Doctor. Luckily, my Doctor was very understanding and agreed with CBD usage for my anxiety – He wrote me a recommendation, and within the week I was in another Doctor’s office going over Paranoia and Anxiety.  I was worried that I wouldn’t be eligible to get that prescription, but those worries were short-lived as I walked away with a monthly dosage and membership to a local medical shop.

My new medication stopped a lot of things for me that I didn’t want. The busy maze that was my mind seemed to dissipate, my anger and frustrations mellowed out, and the thought that I was worthless seemed non-existent. I couldn’t believe that a little plant that had such a stigma around it was HELPING me. My immediate impressions of shame and weakness slowly were thrown out the window, and I felt as if I was my true self once again. It was a great feeling, and those who would try to put me down for going this route didn’t last too long in my life.

I am a firm believer in CBD, but that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone – just like a pill. If you tell me that you would never take medication or medical marijuana, then I’m happy that you feel that way. If you tell me that snake oil had worked wonders for you, then kudos!
What you do need to realize is that my brain does not function the same way as yours and I do need medication, so kindly be okay with just knowing that and don’t tell me that you’re offended with my choices.

 

For more information on CBD, Anxiety and Paranoia check out Sunday Scaries

If I’ve ever apologized to you over a message, text, or email, you should know that it most likely took me longer than most people to write out exactly what’s been going on through my head. I tend to write, delete and re-word everything so I don’t sound as ridiculous as my thoughts.

The funny thing is, even though I KNOW these things are ridiculous, they still consume me. Thoughts keep me up constantly, and I tend to over-think even the simplest things. My husband laughs this off, and I wish I could, too. Trying to make logical sense out of my anxiety is time-consuming

I’ve had some friends who get angry at me for apologizing, especially if it’s something that didn’t cross their mind or just for the pure frequency of my self-doubt. There are times when I can control it, but on my bad days, you can find me apologizing for talking too much, for not talking enough, for being reclusive or apologizing for apologizing – my signature.

What people don’t know is that the reason my apologies come out so frequently is that I feel guilty for being myself. I grew up in a toxic environment that made me think I would never be good enough and that no one would ever care for me, so I tend to believe it. Even though I’ve gone through therapy and know that this isn’t true, there is always that little sliver of guilt that likes to bombard itself to the front when my anxiety flares up.  I can drown in self-critical thought, what if scenarios and genuinely believe that everyone will take me the wrong way.

Internal battles are so hard to overcome, especially when you desperately want to control it. I hate that these thoughts are intrusive, keep me up at night and continually makes me worry. I despise worrying what people think of me when I’m honestly trying my best not to care. Years of therapy have brought me a long way, but, I don’t believe that my apologizing will ever truly go away.

I’ll be sorry for the things that happen and for things that don’t.
I’ll be sorry for not being there for you when I’m struggling with my problems
I’ll be sorry for constantly apologizing, thinking that I’m annoying you to the point where you do not want to be my friend anymore.

I’m trying my best to not struggle with this, but please know that these apologies come from a place of love. A weird anxious love that I’m still trying to understand

I’ve lived with anxiety for the majority of my life, yet, I still get surprised when it hits me unexpectedly in my daily routine.

A lot of time it feels as if my anxiety is in control of everything until it just isn’t. I wish I could explain that sentence a little better, but those who are blessed with this ‘curse’ can understand. If we aren’t mindful of how it manifests it’s easier for it to consume our whole being and live in the spotlight.

I’m lucky enough to know what my red-flags are and I try to catch these things early on as I can – when I was talking to a friend the other day about this, I realized that these red-flags, although accustomed to some, can be quite challenging.

I’ve compiled a short list of 5 red flags that anxiety might be controlling your life:

  1. Avoidance

Avoiding too many things that you know you shouldn’t is the number one indication that anxiety is front and center. It’s one of the many coping mechanisms that I use to welcome; “freezing” causes us to run from a situation that could potentially cause something worse for that individual.  You start to avoid that coffee shop that you and your ex frequented, you avoid calling back a family member in fear of judgement over a situation, or you avoid checking your e-mail, so you don’t have to subject yourself to whatever is happening at work. Once you realize that you’re avoiding a lot of things you can tell that your anxiety is taking control over what you can and cannot do. I’m still navigating this one, but I always tend to push myself no matter how uncomfortable it may seem.

2. Worrying

Worrying comes hand in hand with anxiety, but it’s important to know that worrying needs to be within a controlled limit. Anxiety has a mind of its own and once your worrying run wilds, it will become out of control. The proper thing to do here is focus – know when the worrying shifts from something normal to something out of reach, the best thing to do is block your thoughts. Easier said than done, but here’s an example: You start to doubt yourself if you’re capable of something or whether you deserve love – stop. These thoughts are not you, they are your anxiety, and they’re trying to control the way you worry. Daily affirmations have been key sometimes for me in this situation – know that everyone is capable; everyone deserves love.

3. Stuck in the Future

The worst part about our anxious thoughts is that it takes us out of our present situation and sets up shop in our future what-ifs. When you cannot enjoy and be present in what’s happening at the moment, consider this a red flag. This is exhausting and will continue, making us more anxious about focusing what WILL happen instead of what is currently happening. It’s hard to get back into the present moment, but I have found that breathing exercises, along with yoga or mindful meditation can bring you back at peace and start living in the present again

4. You stop chasing your wants

This marries with the previous flag of being stuck in the future when your mind throws you a bunch of “what ifs” and you get so consumed by them that you stop chasing what you want in life. Let’s use this example: You want to quit your job and become a full-time freelance writer…
What if you can’t make enough to pay your rent? What if this means you can never take a vacation again? What if something health-wise were to happen, you now have no benefits! What if you can’t handle all of this and become a shell of a person that you once were?
Do you see where I’m going with this?
You’re self-sabotaging and preventing yourself from the life that you want deep down inside of you. I’m not saying to go and quit your job tomorrow, but you need to start recognizing these intrusive thoughts as a part of your anxiety.

5. You’re no longer you

This is probably the most important one because your anxiety is starting to make you feel like “less” than you are. Once your self-esteem takes a hit, you start to doubt everything and accept that you’re not capable of handling anything that comes your way. You start to feel inadequate with those surrounding you, making their everyday struggles seem so easy to yours. Its normal for self-doubt to come out once in a blue moon, but when it starts to appear and happen more frequently, this is a major sign that anxiety has not only taken over your life but your perception of it as well.

When we start to feel that anxiety defines us as a person – that’s when you know it’s too dominant in your life.

Do you have any other flags that you would like to add to this list? Feel free to comment below!