Reflections of a New Mother


Six weeks ago today baby Rachel entered this world!  So much has happened in those six weeks, so in a way it seems like a long time, yet in another way it seems like no time at all.  I know all new parents say this but it really is hard to imagine my life without Rachel now that she is here.

The last two days have been pretty rough (although the past two nights have been great), so I thought it would be therapeutic to share some of my reflections on motherhood thus far.me-and-rachel-penguin

  1. Being a mom is incredibly hard.  I always knew it would be; I was never naive enough to think this would be a walk in the park or all fun & joy.  Of course not.  But you just can’t understand how truly difficult it is until you do it.
  2. Motherhood is full of extreme emotions.  On any given day I cycle between extreme love, joy, devotion, fear, anxiety, frustration, & a whole gamut of other emotions.  This is all totally normal of course but it is exhausting at times to feel like an emotional yo-yo.
  3. That being said, the extreme joy & love truly do make up for all the more “negative” emotions.  I always worried that moms said that just because they felt they had to but it really is true.  Trust me, I’ve had moments when I’ve wondered if I made a mistake in becoming a mom.  And I’m sure I’ll have more of those moments for the rest of my life.  But the point is those are just moments.  They don’t last forever.  me-and-rachel-fire
  4. Taking care of yourself is absolutely imperative to surviving motherhood.  This is just one of many reasons that being a single mom (or dad) is clearly not how parenthood was designed.  I’ve quickly learned that it’s essential that I eat a reasonably healthy diet, drink plenty of water, spend some time outside, listen to music, take a shower, read a little here & there, & generally do all the things that help keep me sane.  My mantra these days is “You cannot pour from an empty cup.”  In other words, Rachel needs a healthy, sane mommy & that means I need to take care of myself every bit as much as I’m taking care of her.  Which feeds right into my next point.
  5. Being able to take care of myself is largely dependent on my husband’s support.  I know every mom says this but once again it is so true: I’ve never loved my husband more than when I see him with our daughter.  When he changes her diapers, pushes her stroller, wears her in the baby carrier on his chest, & cuddles & kisses her my heart truly melts.  Furthermore, when he does the dishes or the laundry or cooks me dinner I want to kiss his feet.  Parenthood is definitely meant to be a two person job.  I never doubted that but now that I’m living it I can attest that it is 100% true.daughter quote
  6. Moms are the most giving people in the world.  I can’t say thank you enough to all the wonderful ladies who have reached out to me for encouragement & support over the past six weeks.  Y’all know who you are & you’re all amazing.  I hope someday I can encourage other new moms the way so many of you have done for me.  Seriously, THANK YOU!
  7. Breastfeeding is hard.  Like woahhhh.  To be honest, it’s actually not been physically painful the way I feared it would be.  However, it is still very demanding, both mentally & physically.  While I was pregnant I set two breastfeeding goals.  My ultimate goal was/is to make it a full year, but I will be perfectly satisfied if I make it to six months.  My minimum goal was to make it to six weeks, & I’m happy to say that as of today I’ve fulfilled that goal.  Woohoo!  I haven’t made it this far without a TON of support & encouragement though.  It’s truly been a team effort in so many ways!  There have been so many days when I’ve wanted to throw in the towel & I’m sure there will be more of them, but knowing I’ve already made it this far will hopefully continue to encourage me on the difficult days.breastfeeding-cartoon
  8. Being a mom with anxiety & OCD tendencies is hard.  Thank goodness for a fantastic husband, a great mom, some dear friends, a wonderful therapist, & Zoloft.  And music.  (I switched from Prozac to Zoloft about 3 weeks ago at the suggestion of Rachel’s pediatrician because Zoloft is considered better for breastfeeding.)  Even if you don’t have a history of anxiety or depression or any other mental health issue, don’t be afraid to seek help as a new mom.  I think EVERYONE could benefit from a few sessions with a good therapist & no one more so than us frazzled, sleep-deprived new mommies.
  9. As much as I love Rachel now & am enjoying many things about the newborn/baby stage, I still very much look forward to her being a little older.  I know most moms say they miss the baby stage & often yearn for those days, but I seriously doubt that will ever be me (at least not often).  I’ve always said I prefer older kids & teens, & I still think that is true for me.  Trust me, I am not rushing anything.  I am enjoying (most) of where we are right now.  But there is a part of me that still can’t wait for the day when I can have real conversations with her, even about the hard stuff like death, sex, war, etc.  Yes, I’m crazy, I know, but I really do look forward to that day.  I also can’t wait to take her on hikes & to concerts & share the joy of all of those things with her.  It might make me weird, but I don’t think it makes me a bad mom to say that I will probably love being a mom even more as she gets older.motherhood-quote
  10. There is absolutely no room for comparison in motherhood.  I’ve said it before & I’ll say it again: motherhood is not a competition.  Some moms breastfeed, some use formula, some do both.  Some moms make beautiful baby books, some don’t.  Some moms decorate a perfect nursery, some don’t.  Some moms co-sleep, some don’t.  Some moms wear their babies, some don’t.  And some babies will sleep through the night or learn to walk/talk faster than others.  The point is none of these things makes one mom better than another.  We are not competing against anyone.  Some moms seem like they have it all together while others of us are just happy we took a shower & did a load of laundry today.  As for me, I’m never going to be the mom who pretends she has it all figured out.  I think the world could benefit from more candidness.  The truth is my house is frequently a little messy (& it was like that long before I became a mom; I just have a better excuse now), I’ve shaved my legs a grand total of twice since I gave birth, & sometimes I hate breastfeeding.  I’m not “perfect” but I’m doing the best I can, & that’s all any of us can do.  At the end of the day if mom & baby are healthy & happy that’s all that matters.  Everything else is just details.
  11. Being a mom really is the best thing I’ve ever done.  End of story.  🙂

I’m not sure this song totally fits with the post but I discovered it last week & I’m in love with everything about it so I’m going to share it anyway.  (Yes, I’m still listening to “heavy” music.  Thankfully Rachel seems to like it!)  Check out the lyrics below:

I’ve always been a fan of the night life
‘Cause it’s the only life I had
Expressing my mind with paper & a pen playing my guitar
‘Till my fingers bled on the carpet
Maybe I wasn’t like all the normal kids
I was born just a little bit different
I tried to fit in, I got sick of it
I tried to fit in, I got sick of it
You say I’m just a loser in the background
I can never seem to get it right
But I’m learning my worth is more than your word
You told me I would back out, I would break down
I’m not even putting up a fight
But I’m learning my worth is more than your word
It wasn’t easy being rejected by the thing I wanted so bad
To be accepted, to be wanted
To wake up & say this is gonna be a good day
Maybe I wasn’t like all the normal kids
I was born just a little bit different
I tried to fit in, I got sick of it
I tried to fit in, I got sick of it
You say I’m just a loser in the background
I can never seem to get it right
But I’m learning my worth is more than your word
You told me I would back out, I would break down
I’m not even putting up a fight
But I’m learning my worth is more than your word
More than your word
I was born a little bit different
I was born a little bit different
I was born just a little bit different
I was born a little bit different
I was born a little bit different
You say I’m just a loser in the background
I can never seem to get it right
But I’m learning my worth is more than your word
You say I’m just a loser in the background
I can never seem to get it right
But I’m learning my worth is more than your word
You told me I would back out, I would break down
I’m not even putting up a fight
But I’m learning my worth is more than your word
I got sick of it
I got sick of it
I tried to fit in, I got sick of it
I tried to fit in, I got sick of it

Pregnancy Update: Am I Normal or Losing My Mind?


I have no idea how to eloquently begin this blog post, so I’m just going to dive in & hope for the best . . . One question I’ve been asked a lot since becoming pregnant is “How are you decorating the nursery?”  Each time my answer is “I’m not.”  Seriously, y’all, it took me MONTHS of living in our house to even begin to decorate our house & even now, three and a half years later, there is no cohesive theme to our decorations, unless you count various scattered stuffed animals as a theme.  I know it probably makes me boring but decorating has just never interested me.  If anything I find it stressful.  I enjoy seeing other people’s decorated houses or nurseries but I have no interest in doing the same for my own.  And let’s be honest here: for whom do parents really decorate the nursery, the baby or themselves?  The answer has to be themselves because there is no rational reason to believe that a baby is going to notice or care whether his or her nursery is decorated or not.  By the time they’re old enough to notice it or form an opinion about it, they’ll probably want it redone to match their own particular taste.  And all of that sounds like entirely too much work to me!  baby-cartoon

On another note, is it normal that instead of being really excited about picking out baby gear I just find most of it stressful & annoying?  I’ve never been an indecisive person, but staring at literally dozens or even hundreds of different options for every baby thing known to man can be more than a little overwhelming.  Thank goodness for my college roommate, dear friend that she is, who helped me create our baby registries or else they’d probably still not be done.  Creating the registries with her guidance was fun but otherwise I really don’t know how it would have gotten done.  Seriously. baby-cartoon-2

I hear/read all the time about women who struggle not to buy every baby item they see but that has not been a problem for me.  I’ve only bought a handful of things myself, most of which were from a neighbor who was selling baby girl clothes for $1 each which was entirely too good of a deal to pass up, as well as a changing table/pad with attached chest of drawers which I found on Craigslist.  Part me of wonders if this means that I’m not as attached to my baby as I should be.  Or maybe I’m just being practical as always & realizing that having a bunch of STUFF won’t make me any more prepared to be a mom, no matter how much it might be nice to think it would.papparazzi-cartoon-baby

I’m sure I’ll start buying more baby gear once we have our shower in a few weeks & I can say more definitively what we actually need to buy.  I’m excited of course for our shower but at the same time I’m nervous about it.  I know that must sound ridiculous but I do not enjoy being the center of attention.  I felt the same way about my bridal shower five years ago.  Am I crazy or are there other moms to be who feel this way?

"Dear, when was the last time you just winged it?"

I think I’ll be doing a lot of “winging it.”

People have also asked me if I’ve read various parenting books & magazines.  The answer is no.  Considering my OCD personality traits (& my husband’s as well), maybe it is odd that I/we haven’t jumped into reading all kinds of parenting books but we haven’t.  There are plenty of things about parenthood that scare me & that I know will not be easy, but at the same time I feel like a lot of things will come to us intuitively.  If they don’t, we can start researching things, but in the meantime I really don’t feel like filling my head with other people’s opinions on how to raise our child.  Is that being selfish or proud or too self-assured?  Or even lazy?  I have no idea.  blankie baby

I’m trying to remind myself that when we got married I was equally ambivalent about creating a wedding registry & plenty of other aspects of wedding planning (the only things I really cared about were my dress, the color of the bridesmaid dresses, the reception location, & most importantly THE GROOM).  Yet our wedding turned out beautifully & more importantly we’ve been happily married for five years now.  People told me many times that I was the most relaxed bride they’d ever met, & while I’m sure I’m NOT the most relaxed mom-to-be, maybe not being too caught up in some of the “pregnancy hype” isn’t such a bad thing either?ambivalence-quote

I didn’t know how to begin this post, & I’m equally unsure how to end it.  I guess I’d just like some reassurance from other moms (or dads!!) out there that I’m not losing my mind & that at least some of the things I’m feeling are normal (or at least okay) on some end of the spectrum.

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!!

hello-my-name-is-anxiety

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.  

pregnancy-cartoon-2

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.

I Am Not Superwoman


I’m not sure how to begin this post, but it’s something I’ve been wanting to write for months now, so I guess I’ll just dive right into it.  Ever since I shared my pregnancy news, people have (naturally) been asking me if I plan to return to work full time once the baby is born.  It surprises me how many people, both men & women, seem truly shocked when I tell them I’m only coming back to work part time, hopefully one night a week.  (For those who don’t know, I’m a night shift nurse.)superwoman

There are a multitude of reasons why I’ve chosen not to return to work full time, but they all basically boil down to this one simple fact: I am not superwoman.  I realize it is the norm nowadays for women to work full time while raising young children, but I have never thought this made a lot of sense, either biologically or psychologically.  It just doesn’t seem logical to me that I would spend nine months growing & nurturing a baby only to wind up allowing a daycare (or anyone other than me & my husband) to essentially raise her.

stay at home mom daycare

Hey, there is a lot of truth in this . . .

To be fair, I am fully cognizant of the fact that I am extremely lucky to have a career & finances that allow me to work part time, but I also think our society has forgotten that so many things we think of as necessities nowadays are really options.  Part of the reason my husband & I will be financially able to live off of only one full time salary once the baby is born is because we have always been so frugal & responsible with our money.  Maybe that makes us boring, but I couldn’t possibly care less at this point in our lives.

frugality

Amen.  Being frugal has allowed us to have options which means freedom!

Trust me, over the years we have learned that some things are worth spending a little extra money to get a true quality product, especially if it’s something that could affect your health (like good shoes for the gym/hiking or work).  But at the same time we’ve found ways to cut monthly expenses by skipping out on cable TV & expensive restaurants/bars, etc.  I’m also not the type of woman who gets monthly pedicures, haircuts, or other such things.  The most I’ve ever spent on a purse is $40, & aside from gym/work shoes, I’ve never spent more than about $30 on a pair of shoes.  Nor have I ever spent more than $30 on a pair of jeans.  I buy used books & the Kroger brand of almost everything at the grocery store.  I suppose I can thank my mom for teaching me to be so frugal.  I’ve been called cheap before, but it doesn’t bother me one bit because the people who say that almost certainly have a lot less money to their name than I do.  So who’s really the cheap one?piggy bank

Anyway, I’ve wandered from the point, so let me return to explaining what I mean when I say I am not superwoman.  I work with & know plenty of women who do work full time while also raising young children, & I am continually amazed at how they manage to “do it all.”  At the same time I’m fully aware that most, if not all of them, are constantly under a great deal of stress & suffer from a fair amount of guilt over the time they are missing with their children due to work.  If nothing else, I know they suffer from a massive sleep debt & lack of any “me time,” neither of which is physically or psychologically healthy.  I’m not saying being a stay at home mom is a walk in the park.  But I’ve certainly never met a stay at home mom who regretted her choice to spend those first few years of her children’s lives at home with them.  On the other hand I meet working moms all the time who say they wish they could/had been able to be stay at home moms or to work part time while their children are/were young.  The point is maybe other women are ok living with that level of stress but I’m not.  Life is way too short to be stretched that thin.

When I was in nursing school I was confident I would be the first (or one of the first) among my class to go back to school.  I was certain I wouldn’t work more than five years as a bedside nurse before I’d be in NP school because being an NP was always my ultimate goal.  As it turns out I’ve now been a bedside nurse for just over five years, & I’m now far less certain that being an NP is my long term goal, or in any case, I’m in no hurry to reach that goal.  I used to think I’d be so jealous if I saw friends or classmates of mine returning to school before I did, but the truth is I’m not jealous at all.  I’m sure there will come a time in my life when I do wish to become an NP or to further my education in some way, but I can tell you with 100% certainty that time is not now.  If for no other reason, there is no biological timeline for higher education, but there most certainly is a biological timeline for having children, no matter how much we modern women do not like to admit it.biological clock

Just to be clear, this post is not meant to disparage women who do work full time while raising young children.  Once again, I am fully aware of how blessed I am to be in a position to even have the choice of working part time once our baby is born.  And if there is anything I’ve learned in life it is that there is not one right path for everyone.  We are obviously all different people so it is only logical that what works for one person or family won’t work for another.  anxiety

I just know that for me, especially with my anxiety issues & OCD tendencies, to try to work full time while also raising young children would be a nightmare.  As much as I do enjoy nursing, at the end of my life, whether that be at 35, 55, or 85, I know that my career will not be most important to me.  Is it hard for me to think about possibly losing traction in my career?  Sure. But not nearly as hard as thinking about missing out on those early formative years with my children.  (I say children because I do hope to have one more after this one.)  My mom always said if you got the first few years right, the rest would be easy, & I truly think she was correct about that.  To be honest, it isn’t the teenage years that scare me, it’s the toddler years.  I know most moms are sad as their kids grow up & aren’t “little” anymore, but I don’t anticipate that being a serious problem for me.  I’ve always enjoyed older kids & teenagers more, but even so, I can’t stand the thought of a daycare (or anyone else) spending more time with my children than me in the first few years of their lives.  The way I see it is both nursing & motherhood are far, far too important to do halfway, & at least for me, to try to do both full time would be to allow both to suffer.  And that is not acceptable to me.

We-Can-Do-It

Modern women have certainly proven that we can do it all, but at what cost?

So, in conclusion, yes, I have chosen to only work part time once the baby is born.  I used to think that would be a hard decision to make, but it’s actually been surprisingly easy.  I know modern society teaches women that we can “do & have it all,” & while I have no desire to return to the 1940s or 50s when women were expected to be stay at home moms (hell, even stay at home wives), I am fully aware of my own limitations.  That is why I’ll be the first to admit that I am not superwoman, & I have never been so at peace with the knowledge that I cannot do or have it all.

Life Updates


Well, the past month has been a bit of a whirlwind.  I was planning on posting the second half of my most influential albums post . . . oh, about 3-4 weeks ago!  Well, as it happened, life intervened.  I got busy with work & then I came down with a terrible GI bug that landed me in the ER getting IV fluids & a small dose of Phenergan.  Took a few days to fully recover from that ordeal, but then a wonderful thing happened called the second trimester!  (I promise I will eventually share the next part of the influential albums post.)

second trimester

Ok, the first trimester wasn’t “so awful,” but it definitely wasn’t a piece of cake either.

So many people had told me that I would magically feel better once I hit week 14, but honestly I didn’t want to get my hopes up only to be disappointed, so as week 14 approached it was only with cautious optimism that I hoped to start feeling better.  As it turned out, within a matter of two or three days I could tell a HUGE difference in my appetite & energy level.  By the end of week 14 I was feeling better than I had in at least six weeks.  I’ll be 16 weeks tomorrow & I’m still feeling great.  In fact I just got back from visiting one of my dearest friends in Boston.  She has an adorable 6 month old baby who made my weekend visit even more fun than last year’s trip.  And I managed to NOT pass out on the street in downtown Boston (from dehydration) like I did last year so that was a major bonus too!  Ha!  The only downside to the trip was that the airline oversold both of my flights so I had to sit around waiting in nervous trepidation both times to find out if I’d actually make my flight.  This morning’s return flight was overbooked by 16 seats!  How obnoxious is that?!  I’m just really thankful for the 16 people who were willing to try for another flight (they were compensated of course) so I could make it home today.  I didn’t have an assigned seat on my ticket so I’m quite sure I would have been booted if not for those volunteers.P1120657

Anyway, I had a great time in Boston & I’m so thankful for all the advice my friend gave me about pregnancy, birth, & babies in general.  I changed a very poopy diaper which was a new experience for me (yes, I’m 27 & had never changed a poopy diaper ON A BABY until this weekend).  I must say it is definitely an art, but it is MUCH easier on babies than it is on adults.  I’m used to cleaning up all kinds of messes at the hospital so dirty diapers definitely aren’t the scary part of motherhood for me.  Indeed, I was very relieved to find that spending the weekend with a baby didn’t actually increase my fears or anxiety related to my impending motherhood.  In fact, much to my pleasant surprise I found myself thinking over & over again “I know this is going to be hard, but I can really DO this!  I can!”  It was such a great feeling to experience because I’ve always doubted myself so much when it comes to motherhood.

'Hey, half my chromosomes are YOURS, you know.'

Considering my husband is a genetics researcher, I can totally see our kid(s) saying this to me (or him) someday. Ha!

Other events of the past month include getting a flat tire from a bad pothole & having to replace all four tires on my car.  They were old & needed to be replaced anyway; I just wasn’t planning on doing it right after buying new furniture (two recliners for the living room, plus an additional one for the future nursery).  I got the flat tire on a Monday afternoon & of course I had to work that night so I had to rely on the graciousness of several different coworkers to transport me to & from work that night & the next two nights (because of course I was working three in a row!).  But it all worked out in the end.

Lady about flat tire: 'It's not too bad - it's only flat on the bottom.'

On a more positive note, I had an appointment with my midwifery group last week, & I got to hear the baby’s heartbeat on the Doppler machine.  It’s basically the same device we use in the hospital to find distal pulses on cardiac cath patients, but it’s such a neat experience to hear that little heartbeat, coming from inside of me, pumping so fast!pregnancy hormones cartoon

I’ve written this post mainly to clear my own head because even though I had a great time this weekend, I came home this morning & collapsed on the recliner in a fit of sobbing.  Don’t ask me why because I’m as clueless as anyone else.  The only answer is pregnancy hormones screwing with my head.  Trust me, as someone who prides herself on being logical & rational,  I hate feeling like an out of control emotional disaster.  But now that I’ve had a good cry (& some pizza because, face it, pizza solves everything), & cuddled with my husband & my corgi, I’m feeling much better.

P1120566

Here’s a picture of Chaucer from our hike last weekend at Doughton Park off of the Blue Ridge Parkway

I’ll end this post with the link to an awesome song I discovered last week: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PMLsF8ajI6U.  I’ve known about Apocalyptica since college & have always enjoyed a few of their pieces, but it’s only recently that I’ve really delved into their work.  And I’m truly loving it.  As I posted on my Facebook last week, I’m sure this isn’t what the average pregnant woman (or any woman) listens to, but since when has normal every been interesting?

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.

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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 chit-chat.social 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.

    keep-calm-and-do-more-sales-2

    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 me.wine
  • 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.

Just Another Manic Monday


So it appears that I came down with the flu (or some other similar respiratory virus) over the weekend.  I went to work Friday night feeling like I might have had the beginnings of a cold but I wasn’t worried because I figured it was just allergies since the pollen has been off the charts here lately.  However, by the time I left work the next morning I had a bad feeling there was a bit more wrong than just simple springtime allergies.  This was largely because after walking up the three flights of stairs in the parking deck I found myself out of breath which is NOT normal for me.  By that evening it was obvious I had a fever, & I barely slept that night due to the fever coupled with severe congestion, coughing, & horrible body aches.

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Yep, this is a pretty accurate depiction of me right now.

I’m still intermittently febrile which is apparently causing me to be a bit delirious.  Ok, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but I seriously just drove to the grocery store to return a Red Box DVD only to realize once I was there that what I had picked up was actually a CD, NOT the Red Box movie.  Oops.

I’ll be the first to admit I’m a total baby when I’m sick, but I must also confess that there is an upside to being sick, namely that it gives me an excuse to lie around on the couch reading, listening to music, & watching movies/YouTube videos without the least amount of guilt.  In so doing I have discovered two new (to me) bands this weekend which have made this flu significantly more bearable.bvb

On Saturday night while perusing YouTube I finally decided to give Black Veil Brides a listen.  I’ve heard their name tossed about a lot over the past year or two, but for some reason I always assumed they were just a bunch of overgrown teenagers full of way too much angst.  However, I quickly realized that that initial assessment was entirely incorrect.  These guys are actually extremely talented & wise beyond their years.  They are indeed young; in fact the lead singer, Andy Biersack, is only 25 but if you read up on his life & listen to his interviews you will quickly realize he is a very educated, industrious, & eloquent young man (he seriously  has a great vocabulary which only serves to increase my respect for him of course).  Despite the fact that I’ve never been all that enamored with 1980s acts like Kiss & Motley Crue, I can’t help but admire the fact that someone who’s my age (actually a few years younger) was so inspired by those types of bands that he created his band largely in their image, yet with a sound that’s all his own.  Right now I’m eagerly awaiting the arrival of both the third & fourth BVB albums which I ordered on Amazon this weekend.  If you’re not familiar with the band, please do yourself a serious favor & check out my favorite song of theirs (thus far). andy bvb

Through my internet browsing, I also quickly discovered that Andy Biersack, alternately known as Andy Black, has a solo album coming out in early May.  When I watched this interview this morning & heard Andy describe how the first single from the album is about his social anxiety, I couldn’t help but feel a kindred spirit talking to me.  It’s like he was reading my mind when he wrote the song.  Perfection!social anxiety party

The other band I “discovered” this weekend is Asking Alexandria.  Again, this was another band I’ve heard & read a lot about over the past few years but given their reputation for being a bunch of wild party animals I was just never very interested in actually listening to their music.  However, after hearing Andy Biersack reference their (former) lead singer Danny Worsnop in an interview, I figured the band might be worth at least a cursory listen.  As it turns out, Danny left the band early last year & was replaced by Denis Stoff, a 23 year old from Ukraine.  It became apparent to me very quickly that Danny wasn’t a great loss to the band & that Denis is actually a far better fit with, in my opinion, a much more interesting voice.  I’m very impressed with the first single from their brand new album The Black which just debuted this past Friday.  This haunting track called The Lost Souls has also caught my attention.  It’s very rare that a band can lose their lead singer & find a replacement who’s even better but Asking Alexandria has done exactly that.AA band

So yeah, this flu or whatever it is sucks.  But I can’t complain about the subsequent discovery of some great new (to me) music thanks to having such an inordinate amount of time to be blissfully lazy & not have to feel guilty for it.MLK love

In conclusion, I’d like to end this post with a link to a picture of Andy Biersack with his grandmother.  I found it on his Instagram this weekend, & the picture just warmed my heart so much that I feel compelled to share it with my readers.  Here is a young man who is a heavily tattooed rock star who frequently wears black eyeliner & other makeup, has multiple earrings & a nose ring (& sometimes a lip ring), & is often dressed in black leather or other typical rock star gear.  And yet here is smiling & holding hands with his adorable grandmother who, for the record, doesn’t look the least bit terrified of her not so traditional grandson.  This picture is just proof to me that love can conquer all boundaries of age, race, religion, & any of the other superficial labels we so often use to categorize ourselves, & furthermore that those who choose to judge by appearances are indeed missing out on a whole world of opportunities.  You can view the adorable picture here.