A former supervisor of mine always said, “Fake it ’till you make it”. She was referring to my job situation at the time, but that saying can be applied to any situation – even your marriage. My husband and I hit a rough patch, a really rough one, around the holidays last year. We spent seven weeks apart sharing custody of our daughter. It was brutal at times, but it was necessary and we powered through. As we come up on our first wedding anniversary, I can tell you that anxiety can ruin your life, if you let it. It was driving us apart, and neither of us realized it.
I’ve been anxious since puberty. I can remember it in junior high, trying to fit in after moving to a new school and a new neighborhood in a different city. Then I can remember it in high school when I started dating; it especially showed up when my hormones fluctuated. In college, I had ups and downs among different groups of friends and changing majors a few times. During my twenties, it continued to show when I was dating, and at times with jobs, but it really got bad after I had my daughter.
Everyone told us we wouldn’t sleep once she was born. We didn’t think anyone was serious – at least, not literally, that we’d never sleep. That’s how it began. Never mind that she slept a full night at two months old. I was up worrying about SIDS, and breastfeeding, and whatever else new parents worry about. On average, I was sleeping five hours a night. Yes, that’s normal for some people even without kids, but not me. I need eight or nine to feel good and think straight, and there was no way that was happening. My OBGYN put me on Celexa at one of the postpartum checkups. We talked about the possibility of PPD, but I didn’t really fit the description. I didn’t want to hurt my baby, and I was very upset that breastfeeding wasn’t working how I hoped it would.
The Celexa didn’t help, and I spent my first Mother’s Day in the ER awaiting a psych evaluation. I wasn’t suicidal; I just wanted the anxiety to stop. Just FYI – there’s no doctor sitting in a little room for people who want to have their prescription changed. You get transferred to a mental hospital with truly unstable people – murderers, people with schizophrenia, people who have tried to commit suicide, etc. Some of them hear voices, and some had violent tendencies. It really put things into perspective and scared the shit out of me. The psychiatrist there put me on Lexapro and I could feel a difference right away. He said the main issue for me was that I wasn’t able to sleep. Unfortunately, my assigned roommate snored, so the first night I was exhausted. The next night, one of the nurses found me earplugs and they gave me Vistaril to help me sleep. If you’ve ever seen “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, that’s exactly what standing in line to get your meds was like. Everyone had a strict schedule and worst of all, I couldn’t see my baby girl at all during the three days I was there. My husband and parents came to visit every day, but children under 12 are not allowed in facilities like that. Really and truly, after the fact, I’m glad she wasn’t.
I started outpatient counseling on a regular basis to keep up with my meds and to do talk therapy. After sleeping much better shortly thereafter, I was able to sleep on my own most nights without taking medicine. It is still necessary for me to take an anti-depressant, though, which helps keep my anxiety under control. The Lexapro stopped working after a few months, so now I take Zoloft. If I ever feel anxious anymore, it’s rare, and I’ve learned to talk myself down and chill. I still do talk counseling once a month, and my husband and I have just completed couples counseling. We got back together around Mardi Gras this year, and have been doing really well as a couple and as a family.
Anxiety was never something I really talked about with anyone. It was something I figured I had and tried to control as best I knew how, but after the huge hormone changes my body went through after childbirth, it was no longer managable on my own. I’m glad I got help, and I’m fortunate I had a great support system through all of the really dark times. Everything’s not perfect, but everything sure is better because I can think straight and I know that most things are not things I can control. Now I’m not ashamed to talk about anxiety, and I can spot it easier in other people, too, so I’m less likely to take things personally. Being more open about it has greatly helped my marriage, my friendships, and any other interpersonal relationships I have. When others have a better understanding of what an anxious mind is like, they’re more patient. It’s not a fun thing to deal with, especially when you hope and pray it doesn’t get passed onto your offspring. So far, it looks like our daughter is laid back like her dad, and how her mom is learning to be.