Adrian Curtis’ Med-Free Birth Story

I actually dreamed of getting to give a blog post this title, and the day has come.

(This is a long post. You’ve been warned.)

Our son was born last week after a tiring cycle of ups and downs. I’ve hardly caught up on my sleep with having a newborn and a toddler under the same roof now, and my memories of his delivery have been swirling back up in chunks, but here’s the story:

The first question most people ask when you explain your labor is, “How long did it take?” It’s hard for me to answer that because my labor with Adrian was spread out over several weeks. At week 37, I was dilated to 4cm, 60% effaced. My OB didn’t expect to see me again after this appointment, but I still kept my schedule with him. At 39 weeks, he checked me again and found me to be dilated to 5cm with 70% effacement. He scraped my membranes at this appointment, and I left feeling a bit nauseous. On the way out, I stopped off at my acupuncturist’s office. We made an appointment for the following morning at 10:30am, assuming I didn’t have a new baby before then.

I went home feeling some irregular contractions, and decided to do some walking and bouncing on the exercise ball to see if that’d bring on anything significant. My contractions got stronger with physical activity, and came as close together one minute. However, they weren’t consistent, ever. I’d experience contractions every two minutes for about 10 minutes, but then I’d have one spaced out to three or four minutes apart from the one before it. It was frustrating, because I’d been trained to understand that true labor is exact; if your contractions don’t stay exactly the same interval apart for at least an hour, you’re not in labor. So, by popular definition, I wasn’t in labor.

I left a message for my OB’s nurse, and she called back and told my husband that though my contractions were not consistent, they were all indeed less than five minutes apart, and that my doctor would like to see me. I’d settled in to take a bath and do some meditation when my husband relayed the news, and I had fears about going back to the hospital. If this wasn’t actually labor, I’d be faced with another stalled situation like I faced when I went in for Kennedy’s birth. I didn’t want to place myself in a situation where doctors and nurses were pushing things on me. I didn’t stick to my birth plan before, but I was adamant about doing it right this time. If I never give birth to any other children, I don’t want regret to loom over me because I never had the wherewithal to stand up for myself in labor and delivery. I sat in the tub and prayed, I asked for a sign of something and got nothing, but ultimately figured I’d go back to the OB just to see if I was dilating anymore.

About 40 minutes later, I was back with the OB, and he confirmed I was dilated to 6cm. I’d dilated one more centimeter between seeing him late that morning, and at about 4:30 in the afternoon. I was clearly progressing through something, so my husband and I agreed to go down to labor and delivery.

Once in L&D, I began moving and staying in motion to bring back and keep my contractions coming. Maybe now they’d get consistent, my water would break, and I’d be pushing out a baby a couple hours later.

They didn’t.

Five hours after my admission, my contractions stopped. I’d dilated a little past 6cm, but overall, nothing was happening. I requested a discharge, and the attending physician advised me that going home wasn’t a good idea. For starters, this was my second child, and labor with second, third, fourth babies tends to go faster than the first. Given that I was so far dilated, if my water indeed broke en route to the house, we could be faced with an emergency situation where baby is born in the car on the side of the road, or possibly at home. I didn’t want a home birth (or a car birth…). She also had a feeling that something might happen during the course of the night, and perhaps my baby would be born in the morning. We went back and forth for a while, but ultimately, I decided to stay the night. I still refused Pitocin as well as an artificial breaking of my water. I also declined all medicines offered to help me sleep except for Benadryl, only because I’d taken it prior in the pregnancy for the same purpose.

Morning came, and still nothing. I looked over at my exhausted husband, told him we’d need to go home, and asked the nurse for discharge papers. Thankfully, they let me go without a fight. I was already defeated, so I’m glad they didn’t come at me with swords raised. I felt embarrassed. I felt like a failure. I felt like I had let my husband down, though he insists that I didn’t:

We grabbed some breakfast at IHOP, went to my parents’ house to check in on Kennedy, and killed a little time before my acupuncture appointment. Acupuncture helped release some tension, and I felt a few more contractions while lying on the table during treatment. I thanked my doctor for his help and left for home. I needed a nap and a shower. I wanted to relish in the environment of my own house. I wanted to give my body a chance to do what it needed to do without pressure, though I’d stayed relatively calm through everything thus far. And I needed to find a safe space to just pray and be still. I took a nap and woke to my husband walking in with a fresh Cobb salad he’d crafted me (Cobb salads were my main craving during those last few weeks of pregnancy). We ate together, snuggled up to watch some TV, and then he asked if I’d like to take a walk with him. We took the dogs and decided to walk around the block a few times. My contractions returned, and once again they were close together. We agreed that if they came closer than three minutes together, we’d go to the hospital and continue walking around the pond there. We knew we were close, and we didn’t want to chance having our baby at home. I also told my husband that if labor stalled again, I’d take the Pitocin. He asked if I was sure, and truthfully, I wasn’t. But after two days of back and forth, my body was tired. I was tired. I couldn’t keep putting him through this. I just wanted it to be over.

It’s 5pm, we’re back in Labor & Delivery, and I’m even back in the same room as before. My mother showed up, much to our surprise, and decided to ride it out with us. I chat with the nurses about what had happened the night before, and I ask if I should just go onto Pitocin right away. The nurse admitting me advises that if I want to indeed stay natural for this process, perhaps breaking the water is a better way to go. Given how far dilated I was (which was 7cm at this point) that’d be sure to kick start things for real, and help me avoid the drugs. I refused at first – and this wasn’t because I had a logical reason for doing so – I was afraid. I used the excuse that having my water broken ruined my labor with Kennedy before, but that wasn’t an informed deduction of my process with her. When my water was broken with Kennedy, I had already been on Pitocin for about three hours. Pitocin is known to make contractions much more intense, so the pain I felt after having my water broken was indeed painful, but beyond what it probably would’ve been had I just had my water broken on its own. Another more glaring reality that I didn’t want to face: The water would have to break at some point, regardless. Delaying having my water broken was like delaying the inevitable end that I claimed to want so bad. Labor hurts, Antoinette, and you said you wanted to do this, so just do it. Thank you, internal voice. Once again, you knew exactly what to say.

I had to wait two hours to have the doctor come break my water. A host of other pregnant women came in around the same time as I did, but they were all progressing through their labors and required immediate care. I sat and waited, and waited, and waited. I got frustrated with myself again, snapped at the nurse whose fault it wasn’t, and finally got the doctor to “crochet hook“ my amniotic sack. “This is when shit gets real,” I whispered to my husband. My mother nodded…

Hour One of Dry Labor:

The first few contractions weren’t so bad, but by the fourth one, I was feeling it. They were about five minutes apart, so I had some time to rest and crack jokes in between them, but they were rough when they hit. I coped by squeezing my husband’s hands and practicing slow breathing. “This isn’t so bad,” I thought, but I was nowhere near the peak of what was coming.

Hour Two of Dry Labor:

At this point, I’m sitting on my exercise ball exclusively. Somehow, the ball helped alleviate some of the pressure in my back. Not by much. Pain was at level 10 at this point during contractions, and I was feeling extremely nauseous. The contractions were also lasting longer, making them harder to endure. I squeezed my husband’s hands, and my mom did things like apply lip balm to my lips and pass me drinks when I asked.

About an hour and a half after my water was broken, the nausea became so bad that…I vomited. Everything hurt so bad, and I’d been pounding clear juices and water to stay hydrated. The breathing I had to do to cope with each contraction left me with dry mouth, and my once freezing hospital room suddenly felt like a sauna. I had to pee at one point, and the walk from the exercise ball to the bathroom felt like miles. Despite what others had said, laboring on the toilet wasn’t any more comfortable. Get me back to my ball I thought. Walking hurt; gravity turned my level 10 pain into 11, and I just couldn’t do it. I shuffled back to the ball as quickly as I could after peeing. The mesh panties and pad they’d given me to wear were soaked in amniotic fluid. I asked for a change, but ultimately decided that I’d just stay commando. They’d only be in the way later.

I remember speaking to the nurse between contractions and not finishing my sentence before the next one hit. Nothing had really been textbook up to this point, but I do remember reading very clearly that labor is progressing when the woman is unable to speak through contractions. I definitely couldn’t talk through these. It was all I could do to intentionally breathe. Around the end of this second hour was when I asked to be checked for progression. I felt more pressure in my pelvis, and was hopeful that perhaps I’d be there.

I was dilated to 8cm with 100% effacement. Only 8?! F—!!!!! The nurse told me not to be discouraged. I was progressing, these contractions weren’t for nothing, and my baby’s position had descended significantly since her last check. She told me to be calm and trust in this process. Fatigue was setting in at this point, but I nodded with her. I wanted to cry, but I didn’t. I looked at my mom, and my face must’ve explained it all, because without my speaking she just said to me, “You are almost there, and I’m so proud.” I couldn’t respond. I didn’t know how to feel. I just whispered ever so softly to myself, “I can do this…I can do this…” That’s when my husband whispered to me, “You ARE doing this, my queen…” My cracking heart healed over.

Hour Three of Dry Labor:

At this point, the physical and mental fatigue was taking its toll. I told my husband and mother repeatedly that I wasn’t sure how much more of this I could take. About 10 minutes after I’d been told I was at 8cm, I asked for another check. The nurse found me to be at 9cm, and I heard her call the doctor…”Doctor, she’s dilated from 8 to 9cm in 10 minutes. I think you should stay nearby.”

Is that a good sign? Will I breeze through this last centimeter quickly? Jesus, please, if there was EVER a time for you to step in and save me, it is now. Please…

They left me in the bed at this point (all these “checks” you’re reading about are happening in the hospital bed – not on the ball). It’s not the most comfortable place to be, but nothing really is anymore. From this vantage point, I can see my mom’s face clearly, and my husband is on the other side of the bed, still holding my hand. The nurse quietly encourages me, and I keep hoping that the immense pressure I feel with each contraction is helping me dilate that much faster to 10. The contractions seem to be lasting longer at this point, but it’s hard to tell if they’re just longer, or if they’re doubling up. The nurse is talking me through each one by saying things like, “That was the peak…” “You should start to feel some relief…” “That one’s over…” Yes, I could feel these things myself, but having someone to “coach” me through these painful periods gave me something else to concentrate on. However, as I’m barely holding on to get through the peaks of these contractions, I catch a glimpse of my mom’s face as she’s glancing at the monitor and back at me. I see a look of panic cross her face as she views the monitor, and she looks away from me quickly. I thought, “Oh no. This is gonna be a double…yep, this is a double.” The contraction strengthens to its peak, lessens in intensity a bit, but then strengthens to peak again. This all lasts for about 90 seconds. I’m still breathing slowly with longer exhalations, but that measure is really just for keeping me calm. The pain is what it is and will not go away until this is over.

I gasp and whisper the word “pressure” to the nurse, and she decides to check me again. “You’re about 9.5cm,” she says. I wince. She calls the doctor again and says, “Doctor, she’s at anterior lip. Are you close?” quick pause “All right, thank you.”

“My wife pushes fast,” my husband advised, “so make sure the doctor is ready, please.” (Refer to Kennedy Faye’s birth story to understand why he said this)

Then she turns to me and advises that only a small piece of my cervix is lying in the way. Baby is in perfect position, effacement is complete. She advises that with the next contraction, I give a gentle push – she will attempt to pull the cervix up so that it’s out of the way. I pull my knees to my chest as she instructs, and give the best push I can. It was weak. I was out of energy. Oh, and if I didn’t mention it, I was in the worst pain of my life.

But her strategy worked.

The next part is a little blurry, but a lot of folks started showing up. A doctor, another nurse, a respiratory therapist, a pediatric nurse, and at least two other people associated with baby’s care upon birth. The end of the bed detaches, and my waist is suddenly at the edge. The doctor instructs me to pull my knees back, wait for the next contraction, take in a deep breath, and push with everything I have. It’s go-time, finally. THIS is what I came here for. C’mon, Antoinette, let’s get this done.

In come my knees, here comes the tightening of the next contraction, I take a deep breath, and start pushing. Up until this point, my noise level hadn’t reached much above a whisper, but upon starting the push, I screamed. I let out a feral, raw, maternal scream. I was that voice you hear behind closed doors when a woman is in labor. My entire bottom half seemed to be coming apart. My mom’s face was sympathetic, as well as impressed. She did this twice, and now I was finally getting to see what it was all about.

Another deep breath in, and another push. I gave this one more of me because I wanted to this part to just be over. Suddenly, it was as if the Earth was opening up. I saw the moon and stars, heard a symphony playing, saw a dolphin swim past, felt an earthquake, and oh my gosh, ring of fire, ring of fire, RING OF FIRE. RING OF FIRE.

I couldn’t tell how far I’d gotten, but I kept taking in deep breaths and concentrating on the push. Everyone seemed to be cheering. My entire body was trembling. I was covered in a cold sweat. I’d ditched the gown and was completely nude. I didn’t care who saw or what anyone thought; I just wanted my baby.

Somewhere amidst the chaos, I found my doctor’s voice. She calmly advised that I look down at my baby, whose face was looking up at me with two arms free. “Reach down and pull up your baby, she said.” I paused and looked to my husband’s face. “Pull him out,” he said. I reached down and pulled a slippery, slightly grayish blue, extremely warm newborn out of my own birth canal and up to my chest, and the post-birth euphoria I’d met last time pounded me in the face, heart, and lungs with unbridled, unmedicated intensity. This was the greatest moment of my life.

And just like that, it was over. Placenta came out, breastfeeding went off without a hitch, I got moved to a recovery room, and my family and I got to celebrate our new blessing. I’m still piecing together my observations after this experience, but having done this with an epidural before, and without any drugs this time, I’d have to say that I will choose the med-free route again if we decide to welcome a third child.

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8lbs, 5oz, 21 inches of perfect

I’ll be back to write more about second-time momhood later.

What I Once Was…

Ran across some old photos and videos. I sure am anxious to get back to being active. I’ve had to learn to take it down a few notches in the last 9 months, which has been humbling, challenging, frustrating, and also refreshing. All in all it’s made me a stronger woman, and I’m grateful for how much I’ve had to transform through learning my own limits. Yet, I can’t help but anticipate the possibilities when I see these:

Love this photo. Definitely my inspiration.

Mommy, AF.

I love the fall season. It’s the coziest season of all where temps are low, but not uncomfortable, trees are changing colors, fun smells come back out of hiding, and there’s a slew of fun things to do with family. Similarly, I love the nesting/maternal feel that kicks in during pregnancy. Truth be told, it’s always there, but pregnancy hormones put me on a whole other level of mommy. This second pregnancy has elevated me to a new level of mommy that I love.

For starters, I’m taking better care of our home. I’ve never been a poor housekeeper, but I’ve also never really had much of a knack for decorating, sprucing up, or building environments. In my first home, I was just so focused on having a place to drink and play video games that I owned that I didn’t put much thought into choosing accent furniture or wall art. The rugs and few wall pieces we had were out of necessity. They were cute, but nothing was deliberately put together to create a full ambiance. I was too much of a rookie to do that.

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Comfy selfie in my cozy living room. I would’ve posted a room pic, but I blogged this at night and the room photographs better in the daytime.

I also only had a child for the last year that I lived in that house, and regardless of what any home stylist might say, having a family that includes small children adds to your sense of urgency for making your home comfortable. Growing up, my mom always dressed the walls in family portraits. Yes, some were cringe-worthy photos of the Olan Mills variety, but regardless of whether they were from Sears, a cheap Polaroid, or done at a professional studio, they were our faces and faces of people close to us, related to us, whom we loved. I grew up with a strong sense of family identity because of that. As I got older, my mom took to adding family achievements to her walls, such as copies of my diplomas, her diplomas, my dad’s diplomas, and my grandfather’s flag, folded into a triangle as it was presented at his funeral. It’s important to me that Kennedy and her baby brother grow up with the same sense of feeling like they’re loved and part of a family that cares.

I used to always think that well decorated environments required lots of money – not true! In fact, you can improve the look of a room with a few simple changes, I’ve learned (thanks, Pinterest, and overall general Internet). I am not Mrs. Moneybucks. I’m in frugal, stash money in the savings account mode right now, so I’m definitely not picking furniture off the showroom floor for delivery. But for just a little over $100, I gave my couches a facelift, decorated my walls, and added pops of color to my living room with accent pillows. A living room that my family used to hate to sit in has been transformed into our favorite place to hang out on Sundays.

Similarly, Kennedy’s room has been an anomaly since we moved in. She’ll go to sleep there, but won’t always stay in there. She hardly went in there to play on her own. I wanted her room to become her sanctuary, but I knew I’d have to create a cozy environment for such. She’s a girly girl, so dialing up the pinks and frillies was a must, but with a toddler, that’s easy to do with inexpensive florals, fun wall decals, and more affirming wall art. My plan is to add a few family photos to her walls too, after I find frames. With the new facelift, Kennedy loves her room again. I’m over the moon to do the same for our son before he arrives.

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The dragonflies were in our living room at the old house. Now they fly among flowers on Kennedy’s wall.

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Not the best photo, but you get the idea. Thank heaven for little girls.

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Grey, white, and pink with toys about.

Aside from decorating, I’ve also been taking to the kitchen more, cooking up family favorites and trying new recipes. Having a bun in the oven makes me happy to stand by the stove, I guess. I’ve also been playing with essential oils to create allergy-fighting blends for Kennedy and Fabian to stop all the sneezies and sniffles around my house. I’m not a medicine woman. I’m not even an essential oil expert (I just read). But keeping our home as close to chem free is a priority for me and has been since I entered motherhood. Together we’ve chosen cleaning solutions, shampoos, shower gels, detergents, and everyday health remedies that are paraben, hormone, and animal cruelty free. Note: This isn’t a smug nose upturn to folks who choose to clean or bathe with commercial products. Like everything else in life, it’s a choice. But in my own house, I like to stay as natural as possible because it makes me feel better, and my family agrees.

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Seventh Generation, Trader Joe’s laundry detergent, Method all purpose, and The Honest Company bathroom cleaner. All are our favorites.

Decorating, cooking, keeping the family well, and of course, baking this baby bean are all making me feel like mommy to the max. I used to fear that being this into motherhood meant sacrificing who I am as a professional and as an individual. I’ve had over three years to learn that this isn’t true. I’ll clock in tomorrow and contribute to building new curriculum for the university I’m employed with, and then clock out and be Antoinette out of the office again. I must say, the more 2016 wears on, the more I love who I am.

Why I Chose Acupuncture

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Dancing and stretching is fun, but it can also take a toll over time if you’re not careful.

I’ve had tension issues in my neck and shoulders for at least five years that I’ve known of (it’s probably more like 10 years). It was brought to my attention five years ago, though, when a friend who is a massage therapist noticed I had knots throughout my neck, shoulders, and upper back. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but as life has progressed, and I’ve had to do more lifting since then (baby, toys and other various items off the floor, moving addresses three times, and exercise) the tension became chronic pain. I’d wake up in the morning with throbbing shoulders and a stiff neck and would have a hard time sitting at the computer for work. By the end of the day, all I wanted was my heating pad to help relieve some of the pain.

I mentioned my pain issues to my mom who, on a hunch, took it upon herself to speak to an acupuncturist she knows through her job. He passed his phone number along, and we set up an appointment to meet.

I was nervous, but also hopeful going in. My father had acupuncture done in the early 2000s due to a chronic low back pain issue he’d been having since at least 1994 that I can recall. There was a time when I was a kid when he couldn’t lift too much weight or turn funny because it’d cause his back to get out of whack and then suddenly he wouldn’t be able to walk. He tried going to a chiropractor for the issue, but that only severely exacerbated the problem (aaaand now you know why I always run when people mention chiropractors). Acupuncture solved the problem and he hasn’t had low back pain since. He dances, runs, lifts weights, does T25…no issues. If he could see such great results, surely I could experience some relief.

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A close up of what it looks like. I’m not a fan of how hunched my back looks in this photo!

My doctor is amazing; accomplished, skilled, personable – all of the things you’d want someone to be if they were shoving needles into you. He told me that the process would involve him finding spots of tension, sticking those knots with the acupuncture needles, then shining a heat lamp on the spot to help the muscles relax even more. He’d let me have a 15 minute “rest” period under the lamps, then come back to see how my body responded. I didn’t like the word needles, but I was desperate to feel better. He also showed them to me beforehand, and that put my mind at ease a bit. Think: Thinnest sewing needle. They’re definitely not as big as the syringe type doctors use.

At the first session, I was nervous and could feel every stick for a split second. The pain didn’t last after that. I even fell asleep on the table under the heat lamp at my first appointment. Upon sitting up at the end of the session, I could immediately feel that the circulation had gotten better in my shoulders. They felt more “sensitive.” The lasting effect, though, was the immense relaxation I felt. Acupuncture forces one to be still – a virtue that I’ve been working on more and more since I retired the machine. Because he’s acquainted with my mother, my doctor knew some of my background and all that’s happened for me in 2016 alone. He told me that it’s great to be an Alpha because you accomplish so much; people can rely on you, you tend to finish what you start with excellence, and you’re marketable as someone who manages time and other resources well. He then also said that Alphas break down more under the weight they carry, most of which being responsibilities, the rest sometimes being the weight of others. Then he told me to slow down. No adult has told me to slow down since I was a teen.

Indeed, I have been moving fast lately, so fast that I’ve missed out on precious time with which to cherish my present. Kennedy will not be my baby girl forever, nor will I be 31 forever. There’s a time to work hard and hustle, and there’s also a time to step back, catch your breath, and reflect. If anyone has earned the right to slow down and reflect, it’s me.

Acupuncture has multiple forms, all taught under Oriental Medicine. Much of the eastern way of life values minimalism, simplicity, and stillness – all attributes I’m working hard to incorporate into my life at this time. Therefore, acupuncture helps me heal an injury while also reinforcing the foundation of my overall objective now, which is to find balance between the extreme and dormant places my life has been in over the last 365 days, and come out the woman I want to be.

Full Disclosure

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There. I said it. Can I go hide now?

First of all, I want to advise that if you’re someone who views mental wellness as a waste of time and energy, you should click the X on the tab for this window and walk away from my blog. If you think that depression, anxiety, and/or posttraumatic stress are made up disorders, you should click the X on the tab for this window and walk away from my blog. If you’re looking at your computer or mobile phone screen with the idea that this is a cry for attention, again, get the hell off my blog page because what I’m writing about here isn’t for you.

Now that I’ve hopefully filtered out trolls, skeptics, and jerks, here’s the unedited truth:

I’ve never sat in a therapist’s office and been told that this is my diagnosis. However, I’ve kept my former therapist’s number on speed dial for the last decade since connecting with her just as I was finishing college at CSUSM. No other professional in the field of mental health has ever been able to reach me quite like she has, and given that we’ve been in touch for so many years (through my marriage, entry into motherhood, and moving), she knows a lot about me. I asked her if symptoms like mine sounded like anxiety, and she told me it wouldn’t be right for her to give me a diagnosis over the phone after not seeing each other for a couple of years. She then went on to state that based on the pattern of behaviors I’ve exhibited during periods when I was under her care, anxiety symptoms like self-consciousness, excessive worry, and sleep issues are common with anxiety disorder and that if those symptoms are becoming worse for me, I should seek care with someone local to my area to address it.

Aha.

This has likely been a building issue; it definitely didn’t spring up overnight. The first time I felt something noticeable was on June 20, 2008. Some of the beautiful friends and coworkers my mom and I had gained while working for the same hospital decided to throw a grand send off party for my parents, as they would be departing for Florida six days later.

I can remember very clearly being told what time the party began and where it was located (not far from where I was living at the time) and one of my close friends at the time offered to come with me. Keep in mind that I was planning my wedding at this point, so this friend was also serving as a bridesmaid and knew the magnitude of what was about to happen for me the minute my parents flew away on a one-way flight leaving me behind in sunny San Diego. As I got ready for the party, I had to force myself through the motions of getting up, getting showered, drying my hair, picking out clothes, getting into the car, driving to pick up said friend, and then showing up at the party. It was torture. We arrived almost an hour and a half late. I had no excuse other than that I wanted my body to move, but I couldn’t do it. It was like being trapped in a tornado. I smiled and faked my way through that party, but all I kept thinking about was how my life would probably end six days later and if it didn’t, I would have no clue where to begin picking up and moving on.

The next time I can recall feeling different was two and a half years later, at the end of my masters program at National University. I struggled to get my thesis written, and I struggled to find work doing what I wanted after graduating. I hadn’t had much luck finding fulfilling work when I got my BA, so I had set myself up in my mind to have difficulty doing it again with my MA. I can remember staying up late at night scouring the internet in search of a job to get me to the next phase of my life, and my husband walking into the living room of our apartment in boxer shorts begging me to please just come back to bed. Even in bed I couldn’t relax or sleep or get comfortable.

Then, the most damning evidence that there might be a more recurrent issue worth addressing happened in 2014 leading up to my own departure for Florida. I think I’ve droned on ad nauseam about the pain I felt in that transition and fear of the unknown, but I don’t think I’ve disclosed to many the series of panic attacks I felt in those last few weeks. Scary, unchangeable (so I thought) phenomena of tension, shaking, inability to speak, inability to control tears, inability to be any of the things expected of me at the time which included a good wife and mother. I was secretly hoping someone would just have me committed because in my eyes, the future was scary and these attacks would sneak up on me unsuspectingly so I was all around sucking at life during this time.

 

Obviously, my life has taken a positive turn since that period, but that nuisance still lingers with me. I try to fight it off, and most days I succeed. Some days, I don’t.

anxiety gremlin

One of my former students is an artist. She’s working on an official graphic for me, but this represents what anxiety is like for me. A gremlin on my shoulder. This one’s kind of cute, but I promise the feeling isn’t.

Despite this, I still engage in very outwardly, uncharacteristic activities for people who routinely feel anxious or nervous. As a professor, I can’t shrink and hide behind the lectern or computer screen and expect my students to excel. If I’m asking them to step out of a comfort zone, I have to do that as well. I do so willingly, too, because teaching is a passion of mine. I also meet students in the health and fitness classroom through the Cize classes I teach. Most folks hate to dance when they’re by themselves, let alone when they’re in a group of people who can see them missing steps – me included. But I’m grateful to get the chance to teach people how to dance. As a fitness coach through Beachbody, 90% of my sales happen when I present what I have to other people. People don’t come to me – I have to put myself out there and go to them, and 90% of the time, I hear rejections from people. That’s okay. I will still always search for people to help with the products and support I offer.

Most people would call me an extrovert, but I will valiantly fight that description until the day I die. I am absolutely NOT an extrovert. I would rather sit at home with one or two friends than have to socialize with a bunch of people at a party.

On days when anxiety is weighing me down, I’ll often get asked the question, “What’s wrong?” It’s hard for me to even begin to answer because I have trouble describing it, it isn’t just one “thing,” and most people don’t have the patience to accept that someone else may be shouldering the runoff of an invisible disease that’s turned their world upside down. And when you’ve become good at being there for people, picking up the slack for others when they fall, and consistently showing up come rain or shine, people don’t often let you off the hook so you can go deal with your disease they can’t see. Having anxiety doesn’t stop Kennedy from reciting her ABC’s over and over and over and over and over and over while I load her into the car, figure out my grocery budget for that trip, fight through traffic to get to the grocery store (because Newberry Rd. is no joke), try to remember what we need at home because I forgot to make a list, shop, load the car, and drive home, all with a splitting headache. My anxiety doesn’t stop my boss from emailing me her critique – however harsh or glowing – of my classroom management for that term. It doesn’t stop my students from calling my phone 842 times a day wondering when their assignments are going to be graded despite the fact that what they submitted is technically late and I’m not obligated to grade or assign credit for it two weeks after the fact. There is no cane to carry or brace to wear. It’s just there. And no, people with anxiety, depression, schizoaffective disorder, or any of those other mental afflictions that take them out of normal don’t go around announcing their disorders to others. At least most of them don’t. Why should they? Why should WE? Our culture indicates that if you can’t stand on your own, you’re a failure, and I’m not running to get in line and be called a failure.

It’s part of the human experience to categorize others based on traits and characteristics we can see – short, tall, skinny, overweight, young, mature, male, female, stylish, plain, etc. But I challenge you to not let the absence of physical characteristics influence the judgments you make of others. People like me can smile, shout, get people moving, get people learning, and hold it together okay outwardly, but you have no idea what storm may be brewing internally. And, if someone’s kind enough to let you know that they’re dealing with a lot, back off for a bit. Offer your help, but don’t do so in expectation of return. The nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me during my bout with anxiety was:

“You do what you need to do, and I will support you because I love you.”

Quinoa Oatmeal Recipe

Quinoa oatmeal is one of my favorite dishes to eat for breakfast. it’s simple and nutritious and when made in large quantities can serve as a prepped breakfast item for the week.

quinoa oatmeal

Waking up in the morning just got a LOT more exciting!

Here’s my recipe:

Ingredients:

1/2 cup quinoa

1/2 cup steel cut oats (5 minute oats are good too!)

11/2 almond milk (I like vanilla flavor). You can simmer your quinoa in water too if you want, but it won’t be as flavorful. I

1 tbsp agave nectar

OPTIONAL 1 cup of fruit (I like to add chopped strawberries, blueberries, and/or raspberries)

Method:

1. Thoroughly wash your quinoa in a fine mesh strainer. Unless your quinoa package states that the contents has been washed, it should be cleaned! Your oatmeal should already be packaged clean.

2. Simmer your cup of oats and quinoa in the almond milk for approximately 20 minutes. If you decide to increase your quinoa amount, be sure to adjust your ratios of quinoa to liquid, and you’ll need to factor in more cooking time)

3. Your oatmeal is fully cooked when you notice the curled, bloated centers of each kernel of quinoa. Allow to slightly cool before topping with agave nectar and fresh fruit. Enjoy!