My Anxious Life

** NOTE:  The cover reveal and pre-order have been pushed back to tomorrow due to some issues getting the book up on certain websites. Sorry, but I promise it tomorrow!!! In the meantime, it’s been a long time since I did an emotional dumping on you so prepare yourselves. ;)

hello-my-name-is-anxiety (1)

Earlier this week I sat in my doctor’s office complaining of a host of ailments. As I fidgeted on the table atop the crinkly paper sheet I ran through all the things that COULD be wrong, but deep down something reminded me that most likely whats wrong is what’s always wrong ever single time I feel like I’m dying-

My anxiety.

My people are an anxious tribe.  There is certainly something genetic and chemical about my long struggle with an anxiety, as proven by the prescriptions held and nervy nature those I love and that are genetically linked to me.  I have been on and off medication for my anxiety my entire adult life, and just now am I coming to grips with it’s true affect on my health and life. Late is better than never I suppose.

I honestly don’t know what it’s like to not be anxious or full of worry.  I envy those, like my husband,  who do not operate with a daily current of dread running through their system. That relentless tug in my gut that says “what if what if what if what if”.  EVERY. DAMN. DAY. I worry about being on time. If my dogs are being walked/have run away/ eaten something poisonous.  Did I turn the oven/ curling iron/ iron off? What if someone I love gets hurt? What if a client hates something we ordered and I have to pay for it? What if my house explodes? What if my husband gets sick or gets in an accident? What if we don’t have enough money?  What if my book fails? WHAT IF.  I have convinced myself that this kind of behavior prepares me for the worst, so when it happens I’m ready, and when it doesn’t I’m relieved.   But Andrew sees this is suffering twice instead of once or not at all.  Why freak out about something that may not happen? Somehow my DNA can’t compute that kind of thinking.

But most often and dramatically my anxiety likes to manifest itself as hypochondria.  It’s kind of a family joke that I am always dying of something. Like that time I thought I had a neurological disease and after a MRI it turned out to be my new handbag rubbing a nerve in my elbow and cutting off circulation.  Or the time I had to go to the emergency room because I was having a panic attack that my hair was all falling out after a bad dye job.  Or the year long back pain that turns out, was caused by muscle tension from stress.  Or my sometimes severe TMJ (temporarily cured by the best thing ever, “Jawtox”, by the way). Or my horrible bout with insomnia after getting married. I would gladly take a full body scan over a Birkin bag any day of the week.  But it’s always something that turns out to be “nothing”.  Except anxiety isn’t nothing. It’s a whole lotta something and it’s hell to live with and oh-so-real for those of us who struggle with it.

But back to my doctor’s appointment- while I had come in pretty sure I had a brain tumor, the doctor did not seem so worried. In my book, dizziness + sinus pain +  full ears +  vision weirdness = BRAIN TUMOR. But she knows something you don’t. That about three weeks ago I went through something incredibly shitty and painful and anxiety provoking and that’s oddly when these symptoms started.   And I have a feeling it’s all related. Farther back and wider spread than I had imagined.

As you know, we have been trying to get pregnant for a few years with no success and no explanation.  We decided it was time for intervention and planned to have our first IUI in the end of January. All was looking positive- I had two great eggs, a “impressive” sample from my husband (he’ll be super psyched I put that in writing) and timing working in our favor.  We got the green light to come in for the procedure and what happened? I freaked out. Big time. In the garage elevator at the hospital.  Were we really ready? Could we really do this? I mean, REALLY? A baby? I was so used to not getting pregnant the the concept of it actually happening hit me like a ton of bricks. I was practically hyperventilating and Andrew was about ready to kill me.  After all, this was what we had talked about wanting so badly how could I be second guessing it now after all the drugs, shots and horrible invasive 7 am ultrasounds?! I was shaking while waiting to be called in and could almost fell the adrenaline pumping through my blood when finally I was laying on the table.  I thought how negative an effect all this anxiety probably had on this expensive procedure and honestly, after it was all over (a shocking 2 minutes later), I thought to myself ” it probably didn’t work anyway, I was way too anxious”.

Except it did work.

About two and a half weeks later I took a test. The two minutes clicked by like hours and when I ran to look at the test I was defeated to see one stupid blue line. I chucked it in the garbage and got ready to take a shower, and then as I stepped into the shower I looked down in the trash quickly and there it was.

The test facing up with TWO blue lines clearly visible.

My stomach lept into my throat. I had to blink and look a couple times before I walked out of the bathroom and called for Andrew. I was shaking like a leaf as I told him and the joy in his face was indescribable. My reaction however, was horrific.  I started crying, and fell to the floor, a bundle of nerves bleating things through my sobs like “but the baby will be due the month my book comes out” and “I’m gonna get so fat” and “I can’t drink wine on vacation!” All stupid, stupid concerns but all very visceral in the moment. Andrew really wished we had been recording it because it was an oddly entertaining mixture of pathetic and incredibly hilarious.  I finally gathered myself together and we laughed about it for hours later as we settled in with the thought that I was, indeed, pregnant.

With this knowledge I made the decision to taper off my anxiety medication.  I had consulted with many doctors who said the risk was very minimal to the fetus to remain on it but I believed I was totally fine without it, as I had been in the past.  We were in a good place, I had a lot of good stuff going on and I thought it would be best.  I didn’t want to spend my whole pregnancy worrying about what my meds were doing to the baby.  But I didn’t think deeply about what my anxiety could do.

We excitedly went to get a blood test to doubly confirm our news, as we were leaving for a family trip to the Dominican Republic a few days later.  That night I sat with a sparking water instead of wine as I searched maternity sites planning for my future wardrobe.  The next day I got a call from the fertility doctor’s office and the brusque and em pathetically-challenged nurse told me that yes, the test was positive, but it was a “low positive”- which mean one of three things, this  it was very early, that this was an ectopic pregnancy or it wasn’t going to be viable and fail.  She followed that up with “and you aren’t going on vacation- we need to monitor this”. I didn’t quite know what to do with that information.  We chose to be hopeful (not normally in my nature) and went back in 24 hours later for another test.  My hormone count had risen but not as much as they liked to see. This happened once more two days later when they said they needed to do an ultrasound to see if they could find the location of the pregnancy.

As I laid there in the dark I watched the nurse’s face for any sign of a smile.  Instead I got a lot of prodding and squinting eyes in front of the monitor after which she finally said “I don’t see anything”.  I walked out of the room and my heart broke and a sobbed into Andrew’s chest.  The doctor said I had to watch my symptoms carefully as ectopic pregnancies “could be fatal”.  To a normal person this would sound like a casual warning, something that rarely happens. To me it was like yelling in my face “YOU MIGHT DIE!”  I spent the next few days tortured by the unknown, my baffling rising hormone levels and the sheer panic I felt from every slight cramp in my belly.  Even through the worry though,  I still held out a teeny bit of hope that it would work out somehow.

And then one day, it was over.  And I wasn’t in danger, I wasn’t in pain and it all went as it should naturally.  And I felt like a huge failure.  I felt (and still feel sometimes) like my level of stress and anxiety caused me to lose the pregnancy.   And perhaps it’s been my issue all along in our quest to be parents since medically we appear to be the perfect candidates to get pregnant.  I know it’s good news that I was physically capable of it, but the whole ordeal has left me a bit of a shell of myself right now.  The emotional roller-coaster I went on and the health scare that accompanied it set me back ten steps in my life-long quest to quell this horrible affliction called anxiety.   Previous to this I had been feeling relatively happy and almost never checked to see if a headache was anything but on WebMD. So I went back on my medication.  I have to accept that I need it and that there isn’t an evilness about it.  There shouldn’t be a stigma attached to psychiatric drugs- for some people diet, exercise and meditation may work fine, but for me and many others, it’s just not enough.  And it’s about time I also accept that I need to find a shrink I want to hang out with on a weekly basis so I can make cognitive changes too.  I am working hard to regain my health, my peace of mind and hope that as I do, our second try at this whole parenting thing goes as planned.

I know I’m not alone in this struggle. I know there are so many people who live day in and out with worry and paralyzing fear (of different things and with different manifestations).  I know that parenthood is way more stressful than most things I’ve experienced and I need to be in top form to conquer it.  I also know that we are all a little broken in parts.  We all have our bullshit and our weaknesses.  But I also know that talking about them makes it SO much easier to heal, deal and cope.  Keeping quiet does no one any good.  Writing is my catharsis and a form of therapy, and while this may be the most unflattering portrait I can paint of myself, it’s my truth.  And I think we all need to be a little more truthful and open so we can judge each other less and empathize more. No one is perfect.

221 comments

  1. Erin,
    I just wanted to say first off that i’ve been following your blog for at least 3 years now….totally love love love it. Not only do i love simply your sense of style, i just love the way you write…i feel like you are one of my girlfriends chatting over a daily coffee:)
    I too, like so many others stuggle with anxiety and have been off and on the meds for years as well. Us ladies who run our own businesses have stress/pressure to be pretty darn perfect at all time and if you are also a “people pleaser” (which you sound like you are..me too) the anxiety just amplifies:)
    I just wanted to write to say that i too had a hard time becoming pregnant ……but 2 years ago (after 2 years of trying and 2 miscarriages) finally, at 35 years old i gave birth to the cutest little girl around:) It wasn’t easy but it did happen. It’s hard, but just try to stay positive (and take the meds..lol) and i feel like something great is going to happen to you just around the corner:)
    Tanya List

  2. Erin,

    You are an amazing women. I think there are so
    many people who suffer from anxiety … You are brave
    enough to tell your story and I am sure it will help
    many people. Let’s face it who among us has not had stress,
    anxiety and emotional. At one time or another I dare say
    we all have it in one form or another.

    I, applaud for speaking and addressing your issues.
    I can sure it will free so many people to be open about
    having a fears or anxiety.

    You are a wonder and a brave woman to come forward
    to talk about your pain & anxiety. I am by writing about
    That is itself is the best medicine … Called hope!

  3. So, I just spent two hours writing a long heart-felt message to you, and when I hit “submit” my internet went down and the message disappeared into the ether. Oh well, it was probably ‘the powers that be’ telling me, “Girl, ain’t nobody got time for that!” So here are the “Cliff notes”:

    -You are awesome, and more so for sharing
    -I think if more women shared as you did, people will realize that miscarriages are much more common than currently realized, and while it will still be sad and disappointing, I think the collective realization will help alleviate the feeling of failure and isolation so many feel. I think you are helping with a paradigm shift.
    -I commend you for being responsible and proactive in acknowledging your needs and nurturing yourself. Trust your instincts; you know what is best for you.
    -You are so lucky to have a great, supportive (impressive!;-) partner, and you both have huge waves of goodwill and good wishes coming from us out here.
    -For those times when your mind goes into overdrive, here’s something I saw on a blog somewhere:

    “Kiss your life. Accept it just as it is. Today. Now. So that those moments of happiness you’re waiting for don’t pass you by.”

    I know you probably already know all that intellectually, but the trick is to remember to bring your mind to that thought at those key moments when it is running in the direction of panic. It takes a lot of practice, gradually over time, so maybe put a little visual reminder somewhere? It helped me. Just another tool for your toolbox: fill toolbox as needed.

    You’re awesome. We’re rootin’ for ya!
    -Donna

  4. Erin,
    just wanted to write and say that i’m thinking about you – I’m so so sorry that you had to go through that. Know that we all love and support you and are thinking about you and Andrew. You’re not alone.

  5. Erin,
    Thank God for people like you, willing to share, willing to show up, willing to be authentic. Your right no one is perfect and no one but no one gets a pass on life’s pain. You ARE doing beautifully! Be well.

  6. I *love* your blog, can’t wait to read your book and just generally think you are amazing. Reading this post made me love you even more which probably sounds crazy since I don’t know you. I just really admire your raw honesty. I am so sorry that you had this challenge. I am sending virtual hugs your way and know that when you do become pregnant you are giong to teach us all so much more than just about styling a nursery and a baby! After all, this blog is so much more than just style. xxxx

  7. I’m very sorry you went through that. I had a miscarriage in 2012 and it was so hard on me emotionally. I hope the best for you and your family in the future!

  8. Erin,
    First of all, I too have an obsession with all that is leopard.I don’t know what it is.I gravitate toward it wherever I go.zit’s a neutral in home and fashion.I also suffer from anxiety,although I’m not sure I realized it.Doesn’t everyone worry needlessly over eevrything that hasn’t happened yet?:)
    I love your blog and am on the list for your book.You give me and many others alot of pleasure.
    I am so sorry for your loss.Allow yourself to be sad.It’s part of the grieving….and that’s ok too.

  9. Thank you so much for your honesty. Your courage is inspiring and such an act of kindness to all of us – your loyal readers. :)

    I have been experienced anxiety “attacks” and I am finding that some combination of easy exercise (walking outdoors), being in the moment (what’s actually happening right now? Im just typing an email.. ) and prayer – the honest, sometimes tear-filled, heart to heart with God kind – keeps me centered and alleviates that “the sky is falling” feeling.

    Take good care and know that where you are now is exactly where you are supposed to be.

    xo

  10. Erin,

    You have an amazing attitude for what genuine pain you are experiencing. I’ve experienced two miscarriages and acknowledging each is comforting. But, in the end, I had a full term pg with identical twins (still figuring out this happened) so keep on good thoughts and inspiring your blog fans.

    You’re a gem!
    Kate

  11. I too have suffered with anxiety, hypochondria, and in my case insomnia in my adult life. I feel your pain. Hopefully you know you are not alone. Mine worsened after my first son was born, but through a combo of medication and counseling (and a very supportive husband and family) I’ve learned many coping mechanisms to deal with my anxiety. In fact, I’ve not been on medication since before becoming pregnant with my second son (almost three years ago). Not trying to say people should not take medication; just saying that I’ve built other strategies that work for me. I haven’t “cured” the anxiety, I’m still very anxious over aches and pains and dr visits but I’ve learned to recognize the warning signs before it balloons and cut it off/deal with it. I know that if I’ve improved, you can too! Good luck.

  12. One last thought. I too suffered from a miscarriage and have had healthy pregnancies. I was at the peak of an anxiety episode when I was early in the pregnancy with my second son. I didn’t sleep for two weeks straight! However, the pregnancy was healthy and did not harm my son. Don’t best yourself up!

  13. Erin,

    All will be well, and all will be well, and all that matters will be well.

    Take good care of yourself

    xx

  14. Paaaaaaaaaaleze read The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. As a former constant worrier, the book was life-altering for me. Persistent anxiety and constant worrying, is an indication that you are not living in the moment. Thoughts of the past and future worrying is debilitating. I believe some of Tolle’s methods will help you tremendously, if you are truly ready to live a conscious and enlightened life. Actually, the book wasn’t just life altering, it saved my life!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. It’s taken me a very long time to finally read through all your comments and I am floored by your support, sensitivity, understanding and love. Thank you SO much. And while I am so sad that so many of you have shared the same struggles, it makes me feel stronger to know that so many of you have come out the other side happy moms!!!!
    Lots of Love,
    Erin

  16. Hi Erin,
    I love your knack to write about your emotions, so raw and true, thank you for being vulnerable. That in itself takes courage and strength. Everyone has offered some really good advice but wanted to share mine with you too. There is a Dr in Australia (I’m australian) by the name of Dr Nat kringoudis who specialise in womans bodies and natural fertility. If you have a spare moment please look her up, http://www.thepagodatree.com.au/our-team/natalie-kringoudis wishing you the best of luck on your journey. X

  17. I feel for you. Thank your for an insightful and interesting piece that most of us can relate to somehow. I’m a mother of three, and I would say that the anxiety could go down with being a mother in many ways. Go for it and figure it all out later! As for the hypocondriac, this too will go down, since you just don’t have the time to think about it that much! It’s as simple as that and I’ve read every book on the subject! It really helped me a lot wit that and also insomnia, since you’re going to be so tired naturally that you only feel grateful for every minute you get to to sleep. This might sound weird, but honestly it did help me a lot, I’m a much more balanced person nowadays and I credit it a lot to many sleepless nights with beloved babies and no time for yourself. I honestly could’nt have gotten a better and more natural cure! Never give up! xo Caroline

  18. Hi Erin,

    I enjoyed your questions at the Boston Design Center with Tilton Fenwick, you rocked it! Thanks for bravely sharing your battles. Anxiety is real and affects so many people. One of my kids has to take medication for it and I see firsthand the agony it can produce. I too have suffered from it at times in my life and know what you mean. I recommend yoga and meditation as well as therapy for this.
    I am very sorry for your loss. Hang in there. Here’s to a successful book and a little baby very soon!

  19. Thank you, Erin, for being real and for being vulnerable. Last week I got a “congratulations!” postcard from a major retailer of baby items. Lucky me, I forgot the projected due date. But those a-holes didn’t and they decided snail mail was a great way to remind me I didn’t have a baby earlier this month. It was a cruel.
    And then I read your blog and I don’t feel alone. I know that another very awesome, talented, capable woman is going through this too. While I’m mature enough to know that life isn’t fair, that doesn’t keep me from wishing it at least attempted some parity on a semi-regular basis. (Especially when I saw the high schooler in for her sonogram at my doctor’s office during my week of being a vial by vial blood donor. It was really hard for me to recognize she was facing some extreme challenges too.) It just isn’t f-ing fair.
    But if this is the worst that is going to happen, awesome. Because we got through it. We are tougher than we think. And the next time life throws us a “where the hell is karma when you need it” curveball, we’ll get through that too. Because we are awesome, talented, and capable woman and that’s what we do.

  20. Hello Erin. I just came across your blog today for the first time after reading a VERY old issue of Better Homes and Gardens. And as I do every time I find a new blog, I look through old posts. I found this post and felt compelled to say “thank you” for being so open and honest about your struggles with anxiety. Just knowing that someone else out there is walking in the same shoes that I do everyday is a comfort. Thank you for sharing and I look forward to continuing to read your blog.

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