Anxiety and Doubt

One of the most prominent thought patterns during times of anxiety is self-doubt. I second guess almost everything I do, and most things other people do where it concerns me.

Should I ask her if she wants to hang out with me? She probably doesn’t. Has she been avoiding me? I probably shouldn’t call her.

What should I get him for his birthday? He’ll hate that. That’s a terrible idea. Why can’t I think of anything good?

That was so not the right decision. This will mess everything up. I should have waited. I should have asked someone else what they thought. What if this makes  a mess out of everything?

Usually figuring out what I should get people for Christmas is an awful ordeal full of going back and forth and thinking that everyone will hate their presents. This year, since I was more depressed than anxious, I had no problem. I never once questioned my decision on a gift. It was awesome. Now my anxiety is back and I’m planning my wedding. It’s going well but my internal dialogue is constant questioning of the wording in every single email I send, and each decision I make, each pin I put on my Pinterest board.

How I tackle self-doubt:

  • I talk a lot to my support people about what’s going through my head. They’re good at letting me know when my decisions were perfectly fine, and what I can do to manage the other ones that I should change or whatever.
  • For long-term decisions, I remind myself that I made that choice by going through all the options, and using the information available to me. I remind myself of the other 80% of the time when I think that decision was a good choice. Doubting a decision for a couple moments shouldn’t negate hours of reasoning.
  • I remind myself that I’m not my anxiety. These thoughts are not rational, and I don’t have to listen to them. I acknowledge them, tell them I don’t need them and try to move on.

Do you ever have to deal with nagging self-doubt? How do you manage it?

Wedding Anxiety

Aaaaand it’s back.

I was almost starting to miss it. The high heart rate, the feelings of inadequacy and doom. Life just wasn’t the same without my anxiety. But it’s back. Those familiar feelings have come back to snuggle into my chest. Nice and comfy.

Planning a wedding is stressful. Everyone tells you that. Stress comes from expectations that don’t get met. Stress comes from unknowns. Stress comes from assumptions that are never investigated. I go really up and down with it. EVERYTHING IS FANTASTIC! this is a disaster. I’M AMAZING. what the hell am I doing. THIS WILL BE SO MUCH FUN. everyone will hate it and hate me.

So. When I’m feeling my heart rate go up, I try to remember this:

  1. Breathe. Get more oxygen in your brain, it’s starving.
  2. Chill. Be realistic. What will actually happen? Not what’s the worst case, but what’s the realistic case?
  3. Priorities. Think about the experience and not the money (as long as we’re still on budget).
  4. Remember. It’s anxiety speaking, not real life.

I’m thankful I’m back into being able to do some exercise. I walk my 10 minute walk to work and back. I’ve gone climbing a couple times, and feel the burn. I’m going to sign up for the gym at my work so I can do some drop-in classes once a day. So I’ll get fit and reduce my anxiety all at once. My foot feels ok. It’s kind of stiff, and definitely weak, but holy crap – I can walk and I can drive so I don’t care if it’s not perfect. I need to start taking my vitamins again. I’m so bad at taking them, but it should help my craziness.

Engaged!

I got engaged on December 8, 2013! I’m even happier than I thought I would be, and I’ve had a long time to think about it. I’ve been expecting it to happen for the last 13 months since that’s how long he has had the ring!

Shortly before our 5th anniversary, I went to my parents house and chose my engagement ring from the two family heirlooms I was offered. I picked the big, pretty one which also fit perfectly. It was meant to be. The ring belonged to my great-great aunt who got married sometime in the 1930s. It’s very unique and I feel so lucky to have it. Auntie Stella was the second wife of my maternal (x2) great-grandmother’s brother. From what I hear, she was the life of the party and always a lot of fun. These are definitely qualities I want to cultivate in myself, and I feel like I get that energy from the ring.

All year long, I kept expecting him to propose in romantic places. Our 5th anniversary, on our trip to the cabin by ourselves, ski trips in the mountains, another trip to the cabin, hiking in the mountains, our 6th anniversary. I worked like mad on being patient. I’m the opposite of patient. It was hard. I wanted him to do it on his own. I didn’t want to plan the wedding first, or get pregnant, or do anything that made me feel like he proposed because he had to, but he was on a completely different time line than I was. He didn’t feel like there was any rush and I was sitting there pulling my hair out with impatience.

This weekend my cousin was visiting us. We had a great weekend. Full of fun activities. On Sunday, I went to church and it was a heavy sermon about how advent is a time for waiting and anticipation of the great joy that comes after waiting. I was a mess after that and needed a distraction. When I got home, we all wanted to get outside so I suggest that we go to a provincial park near the mountains for a walk. I got my cast off 3 days before so I didn’t want to go on anything too huge. The park is beautiful and we had a lovely drive up, then a fun tromp through the forest. We were throwing snowballs, and dumping snow on each other from the overhead branches. It was just what we needed. Towards the end of our walk, he ran off ahead. When we came around the corner he was waiting for me in the middle of the trail. When I got closer he said, “Emily, would you… wait while I tie my shoe?” Then he got down on one knee and got the ring out and said, “Just kidding, will you marry me?” And I said yes and it was amazing! He put the ring on my finger and I refused to put my mittens on even though it was really cold, because I couldn’t bear to cover it up. 

I’ve been waiting for that for so long, and I’m even happier than I thought I would be. He’s also really excited for the wedding. So the sermon was on the right track 🙂

Self-Care

Self-care refers to the activities that we do for ourselves to calm down and restore our energy. These activities can be very different depending on if you’re an introvert or extrovert. Introverts restore their energy by being alone, and extroverts restore their energy by being with lots of people in high energy situations. Self-care is important all the time, but especially when we are under greater stress than usual. I find that it’s easy to forget when I’m stressed out and I have a lot going on, but as soon as I make some time for myself to restore my energy, I’m much better prepared to return to the craziness.

When I did doula training, we talked about self-care and I know my brother had a section in his EMT training that discussed self-care. Often when we’re looking after others, we forget that our own needs are important too. We cannot help others once we are burnt out so we have to make sure we don’t get there. There are lots of tips online for how to take care of yourself when you are caring for others.

For myself, self-care starts with saying no. I have to make sure I don’t have too much going on. I have a tendency to add fun activities to my schedule until I have too many activities and none of them are fun anymore. I do much better when I remember to schedule days off for myself. I find it hard to say no, but it’s necessary for my mental well-being.

Other self-care activities are be baking, painting my nails, coffee or a long walk with a close friend, reading a book, or doing some kind of craft. Lately I’ve been doing a lot of reading, and painting my nails, since it’s been hard to stand to bake, and impossible to go for a walk with my broken foot. Sometimes if I have the time, I will take a nap. I’m one of those middle-of-the-day nappers and when I’m on holiday, I’ll have a nap every single afternoon.

 

Self-care Activities

  • Coffee with a friend
  • Cooking
  • Walk
  • Exercise
  • Reading
  • Watching TV
  • Nap
  • Draw a picture
  • Paint your nails
  • Listen to a guided relaxation
  • Go out for dinner with friends
  • Order pizza
  • Take a break from electronics

What do you do for self-care? Leave your tips in the comments and I’ll add them to this list!

Poverty, Public Transportation, and Priorities

(Trigger warning for abuse. Trigger paragraph in italics)

I think that public transportation should be free to anyone who doesn’t pay income tax because they’re too poor. Public transportation doesn’t exist for the sole purpose of reducing our carbon emissions. It is a way for people to get to work if they can’t afford a car. It’s a way for teenagers to have independence. It’s a mode of transportation for the public.

Poverty exists where I live. I live in one of the wealthiest provinces in Canada, and there are people living right next to me in awful, horrifying, unacceptable poverty. But I don’t see them. I don’t know them. I wouldn’t even know about them in any kind of real way if it were not for Mark Cherrington. Mark is a youth worker in Edmonton who tweets about his work with kids and teenagers.

One situation that I’ve seen him tweet about countless times goes like this. Jane (15) has no money. Her mom uses anything she can get her hands on to support her addiction. There’s no money for food. Jane needs to get to school, so she walks to the train and gets on without a fare. It’s one of those rare days there’s transit cops, and she gets a ticket. There’s no way she can pay it. The deadline to pay the fine passes and now there’s a warrant for her arrest. (This seriously has happened to me, but I had the cash to pay the fine.) Her mom’s boyfriend beats her up so much that she calls the cops. They show up and arrest her because she has a warrant. She spends the night in jail, with no medical attention because she didn’t buy a $3 transit fare. Many kids turn to prostitution to pay for their transit tickets. How messed up is that?

This happens. I can’t believe it, but it happens.

I understand that it costs money to build the infrastructure of any transit system, but it’s costing tax payers a lot of money to deal with all of the consequences of tickets issued to people who are so poor they can’t afford to buy fare in the first place. It’s not like we would be missing out on all of the millions of dollars that they are paying into the system.

Currently in Edmonton, there is only a low-income transit pass available for seniors who have an annual income of less than $16,000. So if you’re not a senior, a monthly youth pass is $69 and an adult one is $89. In Calgary, there’s a low-income pass for $44/month, but you have to have a valid address and an income of less than $20,000 if you live on your own.

This doesn’t make any sense. People in poverty can’t afford to feed themselves. They shouldn’t be penalized for using public transportation when that’s their only option.

Depression

Over the last month I have come to understand what depression is.  I always thought that since I had an intimate relationship with anxiety, that would be it and I’d always be anxious when I was stressed, and never depressed. Not the case.

Though I must say that so far, being depressed is much better than being anxious. Anxiety is caring too much, and depression is not caring at all. It’s so much easier to not care. My moods have been really up and down, so I haven’t hit the huge depression spiral yet, which is good. I’m getting some help this week from my naturopath and a counselor to make sure that I don’t get there, or that I have some tips and tricks to deal with it if I do.

The first thing that I noticed was my memory. I sent an email to a coworker thanking her for something she did, but it turned out it was actually something I did. Losing my phone more than usual (which is impressive, just ask my boyfriend). Losing my agenda for a whole month, only to find it in a grocery bag on the floor of my pantry.

My attention has also been bad. I feel like my brain just doesn’t work anymore. I can’t concentrate for very long, and I can’t hold a number of complex ideas in my head at the same time like I used to. It sucks.

During my times of being depressed, I’m extremely sensitive to auditory stimulation. The children being loud, or anything other than angelic drives me nuts. But when they do things that would have before given me anxiety, I just sit there and ignore it. I don’t care. Any group of people around me is pretty excruciating. Talking with more than one person is too much.

Then there’s the sadness. Crying at work. Sobbing at other inappropriate times. A bit of hopelessness. Feeling blah.

I know that one of my coping tactics is exercising outside. Since I have a broken foot, that’s just not an option. I’ve been trying upper body workouts at home but it’s really not fun. That’s not my style of exercise, but I have to force myself to do it or it’ll be bad news.

I know that another one of my coping tactics is self-care, and I’ve been kind of bad with this one, but I have realized it and I’m trying harder. This is painting my nails, reading books, saying no to social situations that I know will make me feel worse.

It’s been interesting experiencing a different kind of mental illness. It’s weird how I feel that it’s not me in control, the same as I feel when I’m really anxious. I’m glad I can recognize what is me and what is not me. The rationalization really helps. I can’t imagine what it’s like for someone who never heard about depression, and the symptoms, and how to find help. I feel lucky that I have support in place – people who can keep an eye on me and know what to do if I can’t help myself.

Strategies for D-MER while Tandem Breastfeeding

TouchstoneZ

English: Ágnes Geréb, Hungarian midwife and do...

One of my favorite things about birthing at home is being able to snuggle in bed with my new baby(ies), my older children and my partner. My midwives take care of us physically, spiritually, and emotionally. I am treated like a birthing goddess while they are respectful of our family bonding space. The midwives make sure there’s food for us and they clean up everything from the birth so I can concentrate on falling in love all over again with this new version my family.

My midwives also check in with breastfeeding, since that is my desire. With my first son, they helped me understanding good positioning and latch. And since we had a rough start, recommended an excellent IBCLC that I credit with saving my breastfeeding relationship. For the rest of my singletons, they were there in case I had any issues and supported me as I tandemed and…

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Christmas!

Yes, it’s only the beginning of November and I’m talking about Christmas. I’m one of THOSE people 🙂 Up here in Canada, winter is 6 months long. Seriously. The snow shows up around Halloween and doesn’t leave until the end of April. In order to survive, we need things to look forward to, and Christmas is the first one! Once Halloween is done, Christmas is fair game. Our Thanksgiving is in FALL and so we get that out of the way in early October (still doesn’t mean there won’t be snow).

I love Christmas. I love having a winter festival where everyone comes together and has FUN. I need to have fun. I need to decorate. I need to think about how special everything in the world is. I love having a special time of year that is different from the rest of the 6 months of cold, snow, and ice. A couple years ago I dressed up our fridge like a snowman. It was the cutest thing ever, and kind of stayed like that for a couple years. I love putting up Christmas lights EVERYWHERE. They’re just so perfect. I’d light the whole house with exclusively Christmas lights for all of December if I could. Maybe one day I will.

One of my favourite Christmases was when I had just started working. I was still living at home and I had a huge disposable income. I had so much fun shopping for fantastic presents for my family. I know Christmas isn’t about money, but it was still really fun to just go crazy.

This year, our Christmas will be different. It will be my first Christmas morning not at my parents house. The last couple years, J and I have Christmas dinner on Christmas eve with my parents, then sleep over and do stockings in the morning with presents, before going to his parents’ house. This year we will do Christmas Eve dinner and presents at my parents, then go home to our own house and do stockings in the morning just the two of us. I’m looking forward to it. Stockings are one of my favourite parts of Christmas, and it will be so special to have just the two of us.

I don’t know how much I will decorate this year, since our house is in the middle of renovations. I might just do our office and bedroom since those are the only unaffected areas. Or maybe I’ll make decorations for upstairs 🙂 Either way, I can’t wait. I already have half of my presents ordered, and I know what I’m getting for everyone else. I’m on top of it.

How do you feel about Christmas? Do you have any Christmas traditions that you just couldn’t do without?

Dreams

[trigger warning for non-explicit violence]

 

Dreams are really interesting to me. I’ve found they are linked to my real life in weird ways.

When I was young, I had many dreams that my house was on fire and I had to escape. Those dreams ended after we had an actual house fire. Don’t worry, everyone was safe, though maybe a little traumatized. (Possibly a story for another day.)

After that, I would have dreams all the time where someone would break into our house and I’d have to hide and call 911. Those dreams ended after our house was broken into. Don’t worry, no one was home. (Definitely a story for another day, it’s rather hilarious.)

In Grade 12, my last year of high school, I had so many dreams about people dying. Almost never people I knew. Never myself. Always in violent, terrible ways that freaked me out. In the dream I would just be there watching, unable to do anything. It started to really bother me, so I started looking up dreams about death online. I also asked my aunt who is an astrologer, and knows about that sort of thing.

It turns out that my dreams of death just mean that I’m going through a big transition in my life. Grade 12, starting university, moving out, finishing university, starting a new job. These are all times when I get to expect nightmares. They don’t bother me as much anymore, now that I know that they just signal change and my mind is just a little morbid when dealing with it.

To end on a happy note: The night Violet had her kittens, I had a dream that she had five of them: one that looked like her, an orange one, a bright green one, a bright blue one, and a purple one. When I awoke to see the baby kittens I named them Olive Fern, Periwinkle, Indigo, and Dandelion (the orange one). Perhaps the one that looked like her was her!

I think dreams are fascinating and I try to pay as much attention to them as possible.

Alcohol

I recently started consuming alcohol on a regular basis after four or five years of drinking rarely and very moderately. It’s interesting to think about my motivations for drinking and how it affects my social interactions and my emotional state in general.

I started drinking in my late teens, but very responsibly and rarely had more than 2 drinks in a night and rarely on any week night. It was definitely a social thing, and a way to make things work a little smother in my interactions. In my family, alcohol was no big deal. There weren’t huge rules around it, and it was just kind of understood that you are responsible about it. Although there was a history of some not-so-ideal behaviours in my family tree, alcohol never affected my life in a negative way.

During my last semester of first-year university, I found out that studying is a lot easier if you drink a glass of wine. I thought that was a habit I did not want to get into, and so I stopped drinking for all of finals. It was weird. Everyone asked me if I was pregnant. Everyone asked me if I was sure that I didn’t want a drink, just a little one. Everyone was scared that I was going to judge them for their drinking. At first it was hard to hang out with friends or get together with family and not drink with everyone else, but eventually I got used to it and so did everyone else. When my month was up, I just kept on not drinking. It was pretty easy because I saved a TON of money (and calories). I’d drink on special occasions, but only like twice a year. 

Later, one of the reasons for not drinking was that I was paranoid about my birth control not working and I didn’t want to drink before I knew I was pregnant. I have since come to better understand my body, as well as the effects of alcohol during pregnancy. 

So recently, like this summer, I’ve started drinking wine and beer. Before I only ever drank rum (mixed with anything) or coolers (Pomtinis were my favourite). Now it’s so much easier to drink what everyone else is drinking, and my consumption has picked up. I’ve given up freaking out about drinking during the two weeks I wouldn’t know if I was pregnant or not. Sometimes I drink on week nights, but only one glass of wine. I never, ever drive if I’ve had any alcohol during the day. 

I know my increased consumption has a fair amount to do with my emotional state. It’s easier to relax in tense social situations. It’s easier to relax after a long day at work. It’s tasty and it makes life a little better. And though I would have considered this a problem, my priorities are different right now. 

All that said, it’s really good to know that I know how to quit if I feel like it’s getting out of hand (like I’m getting dependent, or I’m gaining weight). I know what to drink instead (tonic water! organic pop! water with lime!). I know what to tell people. I know my family won’t be phased because I’ve done it before and they know I won’t judge them about their consumption. Until then, I have a case of Apothic Red in my kitchen, like a grown-up.