The Anxiety Monster, Pregnancy Edition

Those of you who know me in real life may have noticed that I’ve been a bit more anxious the past few weeks.  Between getting a bad cold in early August & then developing intermittent allergies that refuse to go away ever since then, some rough shifts at work (including violent patients & multiple deaths), the anniversary of my grandfather’s death last year, & just the general stress of pregnancy, my mind has been more than a little over-stimulated the past few weeks.  I guess my body has been over-stimulated too because I’m sick once again, this time with a viral throat infection that has left me feeling like I have knives in my throat (which is extra fun with acid reflux on top of it), congested, & having intermittent coughing spells if I try to talk for more than about 30 seconds at a time.  Oh yeah, my body hurts all over & I’ve had a mild fever too.  And my normal pregnancy fatigue has been multiplied times ten.  AND of course I can’t help but worry that me being sick isn’t good for the baby!  Arghhhh!!


I struggle with anxiety, but I’ve found that this blog is a great way to tame the “anxiety monster.”

On top of all that, I find myself feeling incredibly guilty for complaining about being sick & stressed about my pregnancy & impending motherhood.  I know there are so many women out there who would give anything just to be pregnant right now, so every time I complain about how much my sacrum hurts (it’s never my lumbar area, always my sacrum) or how much it sucks to be sick while pregnant, part of me feels like this wretched spoiled brat who ought to just shut up & realize how lucky she really is.  But that doesn’t change the way I’m feeling of course.  It just leads to a cycle of negativity that never ends.anxiety charlie brown

Up until the past few weeks I’ve been so proud of myself for how I’ve handled this pregnancy & not letting my underlying anxiety issues overwhelm me.  But here lately I feel like I’ve lost traction & I’m just barely keeping my head above water.  Thankfully I found out today that my glucose tolerance test & my hemoglobin are normal.  Those are at least two things that can no longer be a source of anxiety for me.  My husband & I have also managed to select & purchase a car-seat & stroller recently which, trust me, is a massive endeavor these days.  (Can we say too damn many options?!)  So that’s two major baby purchases out of the way.  Now if Buy Buy Baby can just deliver the stroller instead of some kind of jumper thing that they accidentally sent me instead . . . Seriously, whoever packed that order must have been drunk.  I could understand sending me a similar but different stroller but this wasn’t even close to the right item.  At least they have free shipping, including returns!  And in a week or two I’ll probably find this whole scenario hilarious.pregnancy cartoon

I’m sure this hasn’t been my most coherent or eloquent blog post.  Honestly I’m not sure what I’m trying to accomplish other than to just vent & let the world know that I’m struggling right now.  Overall pregnancy really hasn’t been as difficult as I thought it might be, at least in some ways.  But here lately my anxiety has definitely been getting the better of me, whether it’s obvious to others or not.  Maybe it’s just my hormones going haywire which is entirely possible of course.  Having obsessive compulsive personality traits & a higher than normal level of anxiety really isn’t the best combination for a pregnant woman.  But this is me, & I know that some of these “negative” traits have served me well in life thus far & I can only hope they will serve me well as a mother too in the not so distant future.  In the meantime, I’ll be listening to music, reading P.D. James & Bill Bryson, cuddling our corgi, & reminding myself that the anxiety monster has reared its ugly head plenty of times before.  Yet I’ve survived every battle thus far, which means there’s no (logical) reason to doubt my ability to win the battle this time.  


Ok, I’m not quite this big yet, but bending over to pick up dropped items is definitely harder than it used to be.  Also, this cartoon made me laugh way more than it probably should.  But those of you who know how clumsy I am will understand why.

My Anxiety Triggers

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, much less about anything other than music, but today I feel compelled to write about my anxiety triggers.  It’s a subject I’ve considered writing about many times before, but I wasn’t sure at first how useful it would be to anyone else.  I knew it would be therapeutic for me but I always like to write things that have the potential to benefit others as well.  However, the more I thought about it the more I realized that there are many other people out there who struggle with anxiety & some of them may not yet have the insight to realize what their own anxiety triggers are.  It’s possible that if such a person came across this post they might be inspired to try to figure out some of their own anxiety triggers which of course is one of the first steps in learning how to better manage the “anxiety monster.” anxiety charlie brown

Identifying my own anxiety triggers is certainly one of the most useful things I’ve obtained from working with my therapist about once a month.  And just to be clear it’s not like we ever sat down & tried to make a list or anything like that.  We just slowly gleaned things over time from the natural course of my conversations with her.  So there’s my plug for finding a good therapist!  Trust me, it really can make a huge positive difference in your life.  My personal opinion is that everyone should see a therapist at least a few times a year, regardless of whether you have a diagnosable mental illness or not.  I just think it’s something we can all benefit from so immensely.


Anyway, without further ado, here are some of my biggest anxiety triggers along with some ways I’ve learned to avoid or work around them:

  • Crowds: Ahh, crowds. Some people love them, some people hate them. I am definitely without a doubt in the latter group.  I’m not sure exactly what it is about crowds that makes me so anxious but I imagine it’s a combination of the noise & the general sense of disorganization that naturally follows any crowd.  The only time I can really stomach crowds is when I’m at concerts because the music is such an antidote for my anxiety that it allows me to (more or less) forget the fact that I’m in a crowded place. That being said, I still strongly prefer to stand at or near the back of the audience or at least on the side of it so that I feel like I can “escape” if I need to do so.  One way I’ve learned to avoid crowds is to go to restaurants at “off” times.  Instead of going to lunch at noon or 1:00 pm or to dinner at 6:00 pm, I’ll go to lunch at 10:30 or 11:00 am or do an early dinner at 4:00 pm.  I also NEVER go to the mall (Can you tell I grew up in the country? I still say “the” mall, as if there’s only one) on weekends.  Instead I’ll go at 10:00 am on a Tuesday or something like that.  It’s MUCH more tolerable that way.

  • Parties/clubs: This follows right along from the above point. It doesn’t matter if it’s a gathering of my own family; if there are more than about 10-12 people at a party/meal, I begin to feel overwhelmed, especially if it’s a party at which I don’t really know very many people (or don’t know them very well).  As far as clubs go, forget about it; I’m not interested.  I think part of the reason I dislike large groups at parties or get-togethers is because these types of situations do not lend themselves well to having actual meaningful conversations.  If you think about it, when was the last time you had a true heart to heart conversation about anything when you were in a large group?  Probably never.  I know I haven’t.  Because I am a solid introvert, interacting with others is exhausting for me (which is not to say I hate talking to be people, not at all) & thus I wish to use my limited energy on meaningful conversations & interactions, not just mindless anxiety party
  • Small talk: We already touched on this in the previous point, but small talk can definitely make me anxious. It’s all about context though.  I have no problem making small talk with my patients & their families because I know that helps me build a rapport with them & hopefully provide them with better care.  On the other hand, I really don’t want to make small talk with my server at a restaurant or the cashier at the grocery store.  I know this makes me sound like a grouch but anything more than “Hi, how are you?  Find everything you need?” or whatever else is necessary to accomplish the task at hand just seems excessive to me.  Again, this comes back to being an introvert & not wanting to waste my energy on mindless conversations that are of no import to anyone.


    No, I can’t keep calm! I hate sales!

  • Sales-people: This one is a two-way street. I HATE selling anything which is why it’s a damn good thing that sales isn’t part of my job.  On the other hand I also hate when people try to sell me stuff.  The fastest way to make me walk out of a store is to hover over me & ask a million questions or offer a million different sales pitches.  I’ll just leave to escape the situation.  I always strongly prefer when I enter a store & the sales-person just smiles & says hello, maybe “Can I help you find anything?”, & then proceeds to leave me alone unless I approach them with a question.  This is probably not how they’re taught to treat customers but it is certainly more effective with
  • Feeling out of control: I’ve never understood why so many people love the feeling of being drunk. To me anything that makes me feel like I’m not in control of myself is much more of a stressor than a stress reliever, & that’s exactly what being drunk is: not being in control of yourself.  Trust me, I’m not a teetotaler: a glass of wine or a beer every once in a while is great.  But I always need to know that I’m still in control of myself.  Besides one of the best things about having a low tolerance is that you can have only one or two drinks, feel a little giggly & tipsy but not anywhere near drunk, & never have a hangover the next morning because it’s basically impossible to be hungover from only one or two drinks . . . On another note, one of the greatest ways I’ve learned to feel more in control & manage my anxiety at work (as a nurse) is to make a list of tasks I need to perform for each patient (medications, dressing changes, IV starts, etc) at the beginning of the shift so that I can plan out my shift as much as possible.  This has made a HUGE difference in lessening my anxiety as a nurse, & being able to cross out a task always gives me a great sense of accomplishment too.  Regardless of your career field, I think you can apply this tactic to help yourself feel more in control of the situation at hand.Basic RGB
  • Being late: Being late or thinking I might be late gives me a great deal of anxiety. This is why I always leave early for everything.  Plus I was just raised that being on time is important & shows respect to others, & I certainly intend to raise my own kids that way someday.

    Lines of cars are pictured during a rush hour traffic jam on Guo

    REUTERS/Jason Lee (CHINA)

  • Traffic: Having grown up in a county with four stop-lights (yes, four in the whole county!) basically I had no idea what traffic was for the first 18 years of my life. In any case, as an adult I quickly learned that it is something I do not enjoy.  Thankfully even now that we live in an area where traffic can be pretty problematic I’ve learned ways to avoid it such as just not going out during rush hour if at all possible.  Thankfully my work schedule allows me to avoid the worst parts of rush hour.  And I’ve also learned that sometimes it’s better to take a route that is longer in mileage but involves less stand-still traffic.  I’d always rather drive a longer distance than be stuck in traffic. anxiety

I’m sure I could think of a few more anxiety triggers but these are the biggest ones I face on a daily basis.  As I’ve explained, over the years I’ve found ways to avoid or work around them as much as possible.  If you’re reading this & you too struggle with anxiety, I hope this list has helped you to identify some of your own anxiety triggers because that is a HUGE first step in learning to tame the anxiety monster.  It may never go away forever, but it CAN get better, I promise.

The Return of the Anxiety Monster

Recently it has come to my attention that being truly open, honest, & sincere is far more appreciated by the world as a whole than being some kind of continually positive peppy cheerleader type.  The latter becomes more of an annoyance than anything because inevitably there are times when life sucks, & at those times I think all of us desperately long for someone to validate our fears, our anxieties, & general woes about the difficulties we’re facing, whatever they may be.


In an effort to be completely honest, I must preface this post by saying I am currently a bit of an emotional train wreck.  My hormones are all over the map (I recently came off birth control since my husband & I are trying to have a baby), work has been increasingly demanding, & there have just been a number of other stressful situations in my life lately, all of which have contributed to me struggling with my anxiety far more than I have for a long time.  And because I’m trying to get pregnant, I’m now taking a 50% lower dose of Prozac (which means I’m now on the lowest dose available), so as you can imagine that has been an additional stressor.


In any case, this past week I was placed in a situation that brought up a lot of negative memories.  I was criticized in a way that I felt was at least 90% completely unjustified, & as usual my response was to cry.  I only shed a few tears during the actual conversation, & I did manage to stand up for myself FAR more than I would have years ago, but it took everything in me not to just break down & sob right then & there.  Trust me, when I was in the safety of my car I cried harder than I have in a long time. tears

The end result of this situation is that suddenly I felt just as small as I did so many years ago when I was in elementary & middle school & many of the other kids teased me & used my “weaknesses” to make themselves feel stronger.  Memories of being teased about everything from not knowing what an erection was to wearing the wrong style of clothes to forgetting to shave my legs to being “too smart” to being out of touch with popular music & TV shows to sucking at sports all came flooding back in a deluge of torment.  Many of these memories had not crossed my mind in well over a decade.  But suddenly the pain of those moments was just as real as if they had happened yesterday.  Suddenly I was the last kid picked in gym class all over again.  It was as if all the self-confidence I’ve built up over the past decade since leaving high school had evaporated like the morning dew on a sunny day.  teasing

And here I am two days later still struggling . . . Am I over-reacting?  Of course.  But I’m an intelligent, sensitive person who cannot help but take criticism to heart.  I do this because I truly care.  I want to be the best I can be at everything I do.  I’m not saying I need to win some kind of award for everything I attempt in life.  Hell no!  I’m just saying I have very high standards for myself, probably too high sometimes, & it’s difficult to take criticism, especially that which feels unfair & poorly presented, as anything other than evidence of a glaring failure.anxiety

I know I should just “shake it off,” forget it, & move on with my life. But that’s not in my nature.  Trust me, at times like these I would give almost anything to be so light-hearted as to be able to do that.  I’m trying very hard to remember that one person’s perception of me is simply that: one person’s perception of me & nothing more.  I hate to sound like a whiny first-world bitch, but sometimes being smart is not all it’s cracked up to be.  I’ve spent my whole life being largely identified & singled out for my intelligence.  All things considered, I realize this isn’t a bad lot in life.  There are definitely a lot worse characteristics for which one can be known. But the down side to it is that any “evidence” of failure makes you feel like you’re losing your whole identity, not to mention the inevitable phenomenon that everyone just expects you to deal with anything that comes your way because “she’s smart, she can handle it.”  Then there are also the people who think that just because you’re smart means everything you excel at must come easily to you, that you haven’t really worked for your successes, which of course could not be further from the truth.  And then there are the inevitable people who are jealous of your success & are probably just waiting for you to screw up so they can feel better about their own failures . . .intelligence

Anyway, it has also come to my attention lately that it is possible that I may be intimidating to some people.  Because I have a tendency to still think of myself as the nerdy weird girl, a bit of an ugly duckling for lack of a better term, it’s really quite incredible to me that this could possibly be true.  However, when I think about it objectively, I suppose a twenty-something woman who’s in good shape, reasonably attractive, successful in her career, happily married, & generally seen to be “on top of it all” could be a bit intimidating.  And I am all of those things.  I’ll never forget a situation in college where a friend of a friend told me that when he first met me he was really intimidated by my intelligence, but he then went on to say that he quickly discovered that I was also incredibly kind & any feelings of inadequacy on his part melted away.  When he told me that (probably 8 years ago now!!), I remember being totally flabbergasted because the idea that I could be intimidating to anyone, much less a guy, just seemed utterly unthinkable.  But I doubt he’d have admitted to such a thing if it weren’t true.  As much as I cannot help but admit that being known as intelligent & “successful” is indeed flattering, I sincerely want to be known at least as much for being kind & generous & helpful.  I guess the reason the criticism I faced earlier this week got under my skin so much is because I felt like it implied that I’m none of those things.You-are-nice-quotes-kindness-quotes-politeness-quotes

I really don’t know why I’m writing all of this other than to try to maintain my own sanity.  I suppose the message I’m trying to convey is that even those of us who may seem to “have it all together” are extremely vulnerable & just as hard on ourselves, if not more so, than anyone else.  The truth is none of us has it all together.  We’re all facing our own unique battles.  Perhaps it’s to my own detriment that I am so adept at seeming like I’ve got it all together because it masks the battles I’m facing with my own anxiety.  I’ve said it before & I’m sure I’ll say it again, but I truly believe the world would be a far better place if more of us were honest about the battles we’re fighting on a daily basis.  Anxiety is my battle, the anxiety monster is very real, & right now I’m fighting it harder than I have in a very long time.  So in an effort to live up to my own beliefs, this post is me being truly candid & letting you know that at this point in time I’m really struggling . . . But struggling though I may be, I won’t be defeated . . .  times are hard

Before I end, I feel like I must include this quick side-note: to the people who say those of us with anxiety, depression, or other mental illnesses should just pray more or read the Bible more, I may as well tell you to pray away your diabetes or your cancer or your heart disease.  Now do you realize how ridiculous you sound?  If you’re going to take the view that disease is a product of sin & can be cured by pure faith, then at least be consistent about it.  If you’re going to criticize me or anyone else for taking medication for a mental illness, then I better not catch you taking an antibiotic, a pain medication, a blood pressure pill, or anything of the kind.  Just saying . . .

I’ll conclude this post with one of my favorite “pick me up” songs by the talented guys from Redlight King.

My favorite lyrics from the song are below:

Risk it all, I’m gonna risk it all
I’m gonna break my back and risk it all
I’m gonna pick my spot, take my shot,
Swallow my pride and risk it all
I’m gonna risk it all
And I won’t look back
I’m gonna pick my spot,
Take my shot, swallow my pride
And risk it all

The light’s on, the last round
The dark horse keeps on fightin’

I’m gonna make a comeback
I’m gonna dig six feet up tonight
I’m gonna get it all back
I’m gonna make a comeback this time

Anxiety, you will not win.  I know I’ll never bury you completely, but you will not take away all the progress I’ve made.  You may have won a few battles here lately, but trust me, you are not going to win the war.

Slaying the Anxiety Monster

Yesterday I did something I’ve been pondering for years . . . literally years.  I got a prescription for anti-anxiety medication & started taking it.  I’ve considered doing this for YEARS now but every time prior to yesterday I’ve backed out due to fear: fear of what others might think, fear of how my opinion of myself might change, fear of side effects, fear of “giving up,” & just basic fear of the unknown.  Growing up in a society that quite literally tells people with anxiety, depression, & other mental health issues that they “just aren’t thankful enough for God’s blessings” & other such nonsense coupled with my own perfectionist personality makes admitting that I might need medication for my anxiety incredibly hard to accept.  But yesterday I finally said “Screw you!” to the fear & admitted that, for right now anyway, I need more help than I’ve been able to give myself.

anxiety meds

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while or if you know me in real life, then you probably know that I’ve been struggling with anxiety issues practically since birth.  I can be pretty good at hiding it because outwardly I am so “put-together.”  In reality my life really IS quite together.  It’s just that my brain is always on “overdrive” which makes it very difficult for me to truly relax because my mind is always thinking, thinking, thinking about a million things.  It’s a blessing & a curse as I’ve detailed on this blog in various posts from time to time (see: & &  But lately due to a variety of external factors in my life, it’s been more of a curse than a blessing, & my usual coping mechanisms have not been enough to keep my head fully above water.  I’ve been drowning myself in music & essential oils & all the other things that normally help me . . . and they just haven’t been enough.  It’s not that these things haven’t been helpful at all . . . but the anxiety has not receded significantly like it normally does in response to these coping mechanisms.  If anything my anxiety has continued to grow steadily over the past month or so.

I really can’t describe to you how hard it is to admit this.  I’ve been seeing a therapist for just over a year now & this is honestly the first time in that year that I’ve felt like my anxiety has truly taken a turn for the worse.  I’ve had a few bad weeks here & there but nothing like this.  Until the past month I’ve felt like I’ve been steadily climbing upwards, steadily improving.  But somewhere around the end of June I feel like I hit a brick wall, tripped over a boulder, & slid all the way down the mountain.  After all the progress I’ve made over the past year, having my anxiety overwhelm me again is incredibly devastating.  I really felt like for a while I’d slayed the beast that is my anxiety.  But I guess the reality is that I had just put it to rest for a while.  And the truth of the matter is I should be rejoicing over how well I did for so long.  Instead of berating myself for struggling with this issue, I need to remember that like most chronic health conditions, either mental or physical, unfortunately anxiety rarely goes away forever, despite preventative measures & the best treatment.  The sad reality is that no matter how many times you fight the anxiety monster, every new battle is still frightening &  sometimes overwhelming.  


I know there are some people who will say I’m “giving up & taking the easy way out” by taking medication for my anxiety.  But the truth of the matter is I’ve tried everything in my power to control this on my own for YEARS now . . . basically my whole life.  I also REALLY don’t want people to think that I’m saying therapy isn’t helpful because I literally cannot express to you how incredibly helpful it has been for me.  Finding my current therapist was one of the greatest decisions of my life.  And the essential oils I’ve been using are also amazingly useful & have helped me tremendously as well.  And music has been my lifeline for most of my life; there is no question about that.  There is no doubt in my mind that for many people these kinds of coping mechanisms are more than enough to manage their anxiety or other mental health concerns.  But unfortunately I’ve just reached a point where these things aren’t enough for me anymore.  I sincerely hope to get back to the point at which these normal coping mechanisms are sufficient for me.  But the fact of the matter is I’m not there right now, & I shouldn’t feel the need to apologize or explain myself for that.  If I had any other type of health condition, almost no one would question my need to take medication for it.  But if you have mental health concerns, far too many people, even well-meaning people, expect you to just “get over it.”  Would that it were that easy!  Trust me, if I could just will myself out of my anxiety, I’d have done it a long, long time ago!!

katy perry

I’m going to end today’s post with the incredibly eloquent words of a very dear friend of mine who has provided so much encouragement to me over the past few years.  In fact she is the person who encouraged me to find my therapist last year.  I have so much to thank her for.  This message she sent me yesterday describes her own experiences with mental health over the past few years & was a courageous (& very effective) effort to assuage the guilt & fear I had regarding “giving up & taking medication” for my anxiety.

What I have learnt over the last six years of this bullshit is that it matters less & less what people think or what box you fit into: bipolar, depression, anxiety . . . We are all damaged in one way or another.  We just have to survive.  And maybe that sounds cynical, but to me it makes me want to find balance even more, because I’m determined to find the joy that remains somewhere & live it.  And all this is just part of getting there.

My anxiety might make my life a bit harder at times, but it also means that I appreciate the good times all the more because I know how it feels to be really down.  I may never truly slay the anxiety monster, but I CAN find ways to keep it in hibernation for as long as possible.  And as my friend expressed in her message yesterday, fighting the anxiety monster makes me all the more determined to enjoy every second of this precious life, “to find the joy that remains somewhere & live it.”    And if taking a medication is part of getting there, so be it . . . Hopefully it won’t be forever, but for right now it’s worth a try.