Mental Health

On Anxiety

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Anxiety. We all have it to varying degrees. Depending on the time of the month, mine can be crippling--panic attacks and all. The last six weeks or so have been particularly bad and I’d like to share more about it because I think that having a conversation about it can be helpful, both for myself and for those of you who may be experiencing something similar.

I run two businesses:  

  1. As the mother of two little boys, both of whom are considered “quirky” (if you know, you know), I’m the CEO of the Ranere Household. I’m thankful to have an assistant helping me run this operation and, no, this assistant isn’t my hubby--he’s more like a client. That being said, his job is as a partner at a law firm, and I acknowledge just how lucky we are to have him.

  2. Founder and operator of Community Yoga at the Barn, where I teach yoga and meditation, and where I also offer reiki treatments.  

I love my work. All of it. But it is challenging. Physically and emotionally.    

About six weeks ago, I hit a rough spot. It started with my eldest son’s second neuropsych evaluation. For those of you who have gone through such an ordeal, you can understand how this could trigger a period of intense mental and emotional strife.   

The Holidays

The holidays arrived and I felt responsible for creating the Christmas magic. I’m going to be real for a moment: for me, there is nothing magical about Christmas when you’re solely responsible for creating the magic. I felt like a tornado, whipping around to buy the gifts, wrap them, turn on the Christmas music, make a batch of cookies, settle arguments, entertain, and brew hot chocolate. I was moving too fast and satisfying too many requests to enjoy a single moment.

I was exhausted from the holidays but with also filled with worry for my little guy. If you’re a parent to a kiddo with special needs, you know how hard these evaluations are and how challenging it is to constantly be advocating for their best interests.

Struggling with Pain

On top of that, I wound up in the ER with problems related to my lady parts. I won’t go into details, but the short story is that my hormones were causing me extreme physical and mental pain. Lately, the anxiety I was experiencing lasted for the better part of the month, and I was also suffering from ovarian pain, headaches, exhaustion, and abdominal pain.

“This is simply what happens to women as they age,” one doctor told me.

I called bullshit and got myself a second opinion, and this time I found that I was advocating for myself.  

Getting a Diagnosis

Women often have a hard time finding doctors who will take seriously their concerns about pain. Luckily, my second doctor listened to my list of symptoms, my family background, and my medical history, which includes the four miscarriages that I experienced before having my first son. After an MRI, I was diagnosed with adenomyosis.

There are just a few options for dealing with adenomyosis: the pill, an IUD (like Mirena) or a full or partial hysterectomy. The first two weren’t options for me, since the synthetic hormones had put me in a near manic state about a year earlier.

In considering a hysterectomy, I came upon this examination of the origins of this oddly named operation:

“Let's start with etymology. Hysterical. It's a word with a very female-baiting history, coming from the Latin hystericus ("of the womb"). This was a condition thought to be exclusive to women – sending them uncontrollably and neurotically insane owing to a dysfunction of the uterus (the removal of which is still called a hysterectomy). Here's another: loony. Coming from lunacy – a monthly periodic insanity, believed to be triggered by the moon's cycle (remind you of anything?). These etymologies have cemented a polarisation of the female and male mental states: men being historically associated with rationality, straightforwardness and logic; women with unpredictable emotions, outbursts and madness.” -  Gary Nunn, The Guardian, The Feminization of Madness is Crazy

So, my uterus has made me both a loony and hysterical (which, as a feminist, I repudiate, but as a woman with adenomyosis I totally get).  All that being said, my surgery is scheduled for the end of March. I’m dreading it but also hopeful that I’ll have a bit of relief soon. I am also anxious about how I’ll keep my two businesses going while I recover.

Coping Mechanisms

To wrap this post up in a pretty pink box with a red bow (pun intended): life throws curveballs at us all the time. Some we  easily knock out of the park; others result in a strikeout.

I’m human. Sometimes, I strike out and I send myself into a tizzy. But more and more, I reach into my toolbox and use some strategies I’ve learned to manage all of the thoughts whirling around in my brain and my physical pain.

Here are a few of my tools, in case you’re interested:

  1. Exercise. Every day I move my body in a physical way. I get my heart rate up and I create sensation in my muscles, which burns (in a good way) while also allowing for a bit of relief from my anxiety.  

  2. Meditation. I meditate every day with a goal of finding 20 minutes to be with myself as I am. Non-judging and non-striving.

  3. Therapy. I have a wonderful therapist with whom I have been working with for years. Talk therapy helps, but only if you are committed to it.  

  4. Medication. Yes, I take meds. I have a prescribing psychiatrist who works with my therapist. They are my brain team and I thankful for them.

  5. Limited alcohol consumption. This can be a tricky one, as I do have social anxiety (shocker, I know but alot of introverted extroverts deal social anxiety). But alcohol messes with my chemistry and makes the anxiety worse, so I avoid it.

  6. Acupuncture and cupping.  I posted about my experience with these modalities to my Facebook page a few weeks ago.  Fortunately my acupuncturist is about 5 minutes away from my home in Sudbury.  

If you have taken the time to read this very long post, thank you. I hope in some way if you experience anxiety you can relate. I plan to write a series of posts on this topic, as I clearly have a lot to say.

If you suffer from anxiety, do not do so alone. There are plenty of people out there who can help. Find the right tools for your toolbox. Don’t judge your feelings or emotions. Learn to manage them.   

If you have questions please reach out. If you think finding a community of supportive women might help, come take a class at The Barn. If you are interested in reiki as a way to calm your nerves, you know where to find me.

Namaste,

Kristen