(Photo Credit: Kelsey Rubi Photography kelseyrubiphoto.blogspot.com )
We all love to read about the struggles of others. Not in a sadistic evil way, but in a way that lets us know that we are not alone. A way that helps us glimpse into the reality of others that we may not know otherwise. The struggles I have had recently I do not necessarily keep hidden, but I try not to advertise them. I still feel fragile and vulnerable and not wanting to attract pity. If you ask, I will tell you. Sometimes with an air of sarcasm and humor to make it seem a little more light-hearted, but those who have been around me know that it really is not that amusing at times.
Most of you are lucky enough to know my incredible husband, Reggie. He is strong, loving, dedicated, and pretty much the most incredible man to ever exist in the history of ever. I count myself unbelievably blessed to have him with me. He began graduate school in the summer of 2017, a goal that he has worked nonstop towards since before we were together (we have been married almost 5 years). He was accepted to Midwestern University and we moved to North Phoenix last year while I was 7 months pregnant with our second baby.
The demands of grad school were difficult, but much more than we originally bargained for. Reggie would spend 60+ hours a week in classes and studying away from home so that when he was home, he could spend that time with his family. However, with only one vehicle that he needed to get to and from school, I was often stuck at home for days at a time with my 2-year-old daughter to keep me company. I didn’t complain, because I was also massively pregnant, and it was hot as hell outside. After the stressful arrival of our handsome little boy, I thought not being able to get out during the week would be fine because I was adjusting to a new addition to our family.
Slowly, the anxiety began to creep up. I found myself becoming easily overwhelmed by the smallest inconvenience. My patience at times would be so short that I would yell and scream at my innocent and unknowing children for no reason at all. I felt guilty, I feel terrified, I felt like a terrible mom. There would be days that I would be so physically uncomfortable with the hot ball of anxiety in my chest that it was all I could do to sit in the living room while my daughter played or to feed my baby.
‘I am just adjusting to be a mom of two.’ I would tell myself. ‘I am tired. Being a mom is hard. I miss my husband.’ But no matter what I told myself or what words of comfort and solace my husband would offer, I could not feel better about my mental state.
Towards the end of the first year of Reggie’s program, he was given his schedule for his clinical rotations. The first 4 rotations making up about 6 months would keep him in Tucson or Flagstaff. We tried to work out ways to stay together as much as possible but realistically, I would only be able to stay home, and he would have to come visit as much as his schedule would permit.
A month before he left on his first rotation, the panic attacks and phobia set in. I will not go into much detail about my phobia because talking (or typing) to much about it has been known to send me into panic attacks. Essentially at the height of my anxiety, my daughter was in danger with a scorpion in her bed. I was the one who was stung, thankfully she was not hurt. But because it happened at such a vulnerable time for me, it became a severe mental obstacle for me.
Cue my first real panic attack. After ensuring my daughters safety, I was in physical pain but also mentally unstable. I was unable to move, except for the severe tremors that kept me shaking nonstop. Even calling for help was difficult because words were difficult to form. I could not get off the couch, I could not stop shaking. My beautiful 3-year-old daughter was terrified and doing all she could to calm her irrational mother.
After this instance is when I began to seek professional help. I did not like who I had become mentally. I knew I was capable of handing stresses and I knew I was more patient than I had been acting in the recent months. Everything about who I was at that time was unfamiliar and unwelcome. It wasn’t until I had 3 more encounters with (previously stated phobia) that I was officially diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and phobia.
I am not sure what it is about now that made me feel like I needed to write this all out. The increase in anxiety recently has inspired me to write, which helps relax me at times. Some of you have been witness to these issues and have offered incredible help. Multiple people have rushed to me in moments of panic and anxiety and at times had to literally lift me off the floor, hold me until I could breathe normally, or care for my children when I was physically unable to stop the violent tremors. To those people, I will never be able to fully express how much those sacrifices of their time have made me feel loved and comforted.
After way too many embarrassing and irrational panic attacks and anxiety meltdowns, I began to see a therapist and a psychiatrist. I reached the point that I knew I was not okay, and I needed help. Even with all the misconceptions about therapy and psychiatry, I know that these things together can help remedy mental obstacles that we can not overcome alone. The psychiatrist has helped me find some medication to help me stabilize mentally while I work with the therapist to get to the root of my problems. I could not make it without both treatment options.
Through therapy, I have been able to come to some very helpful understandings about my anxiety. One of my biggest triggers seems to be loneliness (or as I like to joke, I am diagnosed to be extremely needy. Woo hoo). When I have had most encounters with my phobia I have been alone and felt that I was left without help. This helps to trigger the panic attacks and send me to a dark place. I find this very interesting.
Looking back now, I see that loneliness played a big part throughout my growing up in different ways. They were some of my darkest times. The biggest that I can remember is a semester that I spent in Russia. I loved St. Petersburg and would go back in a heartbeat, but there were certain instances that happened there that sent me into a dangerous depression. I had no one to talk to, no one to reach out to, and I was stuck in a foreign country. My days would consist of waking up to teach my classes, and then sleeping. Reaching out to others was incredibly rare. On days I did not have to teach till the evening, I would sleep until 2 or 3 in the afternoon. At the time I did not realize it was depression, I just thought I was lonely.
With some emotional digging and professional help, we have concluded that the phobia of scorpions most likely stems from my insecurities and fear of being alone. With my first scorpion encounter happening at the height of these negative feelings, it is likely that the connection was made in my mind between the depression and hopelessness and that disgusting creature. There are much larger issues lying behind what I thought were just fears.
I feel like one of the biggest reasons I am getting all of this out there is to help me process it on my own. By no way am I using this to seek attention or pity. It is more to show that I am not ashamed of where I am at. I may be embarrassed at times or feel like I should be able to do better, but at this point in my life I feel confident at least that I am making the right steps to get back to a mentally stable place. It will take time, but it is worth it to me. I want to go back to my happy and confident self and be able to offer understanding and help to those who struggle like I have.
Moral of the story, it is ok to not be ok. We will be ok eventually.
Also, if anyone wants to hang out, I love company! 😉