Playful, elegant, and not above the judicious use of the word “shit."

Beginning the year with a bang

I’m certain I’m not the only one who feels this way, but the holidays seemed to have picked me up by my feet, swung me around its head, and flung me into a dumpster. The one behind Sizzler.

It all came to a crashing halt yesterday when I woke up and couldn’t breathe or straighten out my fingers on either hand, my limbs paralyzed with anxiety. I don’t know if it has to do with Marlo’s age and the fatigue of getting her to this point, because it was when Leta was this old that I really didn’t understand how life could go on.

Now, I’m not there this time. I’m not even close to there, but I do see signs that if I were not actively treating my anxiety disorder that I would be a total basket case. Sometimes it pokes through everything that I’m doing to squash it, and the room starts to spin and I feel like my heart is going to explode or crawl up and out of my throat. Those times are usually set off by little things that I have let build up over time, and suddenly I’m in the kitchen thinking about Marlo’s next nap, whether or not we have what we need for Leta’s lunch the next day, the email I have not answered, and the mountain of boots blocking the front door. And I’m suddenly overcome with the urge to puke.

There is no reason at all whatsoever to freak out about those things, but when you let sleep deprivation creep up on you, or certain other parts of your life start to spin out of control, those little things can seem like a giant concrete wall holing you up inside a bottomless pit.

A few months ago I had a panic attack, the first real live one I’ve ever had in my life. One where my chest started to contract and I thought I might suffocate. I didn’t know why, I had everything under control, but there it was and I could not stop it. We’ll call it A Learning Moment, because I had no idea what to do, Jon had no idea what to do, and Leta just stood there watching the both of us not knowing what to do. Later she explained to my mother that we had had an emergency, but it wasn’t like the emergencies they talk about in school when you call 911. It was an emergency where Mom couldn’t breathe, and Dad waved his arms around his head a lot.

The solution was to lie in bed and breathe, but we didn’t get to that point until we’d screamed at each other for about an hour. Well, not really screaming, because Leta was there and we didn’t want to scare her too much. So it was heated, slightly-elevated-in-pitch questions and suggestions to each other:

WHAT’S WRONG?

NOTHING.

SIT DOWN.

I CAN’T.

WHY CAN YOU NOT SIT DOWN?

I CAN’T MOVE MY LEGS.

WELL THAT IS JUST DUMB.

CALLING ME DUMB IS NOT HELPING.

And on and on until I’m in bed breathing in and out to the count of ten. And then it was over. And I was fine.

Yesterday morning it happened again, so I got in bed for a couple of hours and everything was fine. Jon knew not to suggest that my feelings were dumb, and instead stroked my head and let me cry. Something was telling me, though, that it was more than just stress, that maybe my hormones were involved because my emotions were exactly like the ones I used to feel when I was sixteen and waiting around for a boy to call AND HE WASN’T CALLING.

And by yesterday afternoon everything made sense: Marlo is now eating solids and taking one or two bottles a day. Which means I am breastfeeding far less than I used to. Which means my body is making its way back to the way it was before pregnancy, which means YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME.

Yes. That. That. Do I have to say it? What are the euphemisms again, it’s been so long:

“Miss Scarlett’s Come Home to Tara”

“Taking Carrie to the Prom”

“Game Day for the Crimson Tide”

“Falling to the Communists”

“Rebooting the Ovarian Operating System”

That. And I was like, really? I’m still breastfeeding! What’s the point now? Yeah, we snuggle and it is the most amazing and magical bonding experience, and I’m going to cry for days when I stop completely, but other than that? At least give me a partial refund!

So. Hormones. Just ask Jon, he who every hour check in and says, “Is now a good time to tell you that everything is going to be okay? Or should I just be quiet?”

  • Mommamel09

    I can completely relate. I took myself off my anti-depressent I was prescribed for “the baby blues” after having my son last December at the request of my doctor. I wasn’t supposed to be on them for more than 3 months but I stretched it out to 10. The overwhelming feeling of dread and dispair has taken over my life. I can’t even cry anymore. I’ve just become emotionally dead…

  • tokenblogger

    I wish I could say I’ve only had two full on panic attacks. Envy is here with me now.

    I have a big problem when the depression and everything else breaks through no matter what I do. With each episode it gets more and more difficult to hang on because I know another one will occur. And one after that.

    I totally get “it,” but I wish I didn’t. I know you know what I mean.

    And I wanted you to know that I love your smile in that last picture of you and Marlo. I wish you (and I) could smile like that every other minute…

  • aliplus3

    Oh, I SO remember that shock. I was still breastfeeding my twins and I thought: Really? Only seven months? That’s all i get before I have to endure PMS, three-day migraines AND two infants? Doesn’t seem fair.
    But then it got better because you get used to it again and, more importantly, because I went back on the Pill and don’t go off it except for once or twice a year out of some strange guilty feeling that I’m supposed to suffer as all women do once in a while. Makes my OB-GYN shake her head and sigh.
    And now my twins are approaching puberty, with another daughter four years behind. Oh, my poor, poor husband. he has no idea what’s coming.
    Good luck. Don’t forget to breathe. You *can* talk yourself down from those episides. And if not, then medicate. Without guilt.

  • mizjuney

    Heather….Day 18. That was always the day I would have an episode. Keep a calendar…mark Day 1, the first day Aunt Mennie (as in menstrual) comes to see you and get ready for Day 18. If you know it’s just hormones, it’s way easier to ride the wave.

    And keep your mouth closed and breathe through your nose. You can not hyperventilate that way.

    Oh, I know all the tricks. Crazy visited me almost as often as Aunt Mennie.

    Frightening, nevertheless.

  • G.G.R

    I was going to write a story about how I used to have real, actual panic attacks 5-6 times a day and how I went insane from it but then your ending went and made me laugh and ruined the entire mood.

  • saturdayjane

    Oh, good gravy. I’m sorry to hear about your panic attack…I used to have those in high school, back in the days before I cussed, and I would just stand there with my knees locked while a stream of pseudo-profanity echoed through my head.

    “GOOD GRACIOUS GEE GOLLY DANG DANG DANG DANG OH DEAR OH DEAR FIDDLESTICKS GOLLY GRACIOUS.”

    Sorry to hear that Red Ryder is back in town. I don’t envy you.

  • marshamarshamarsha

    Do you think this is Mother Natures idea of a sick late Christmas present?? I am sooo glad I am past that part of my life. Good luck Heather, sounds like you are handling it as well as you can.

  • Agent Scully

    Everything is going to be okay.

  • rbiggs

    Why, I do declare, I hate that Miss Scarlett! I also don’t love my panic attacks. Peace be with you, but not in an I’m in a Lutheran church way.

  • tsjs25

    Ok. My youngest is 4 and in school until 11:30am. My other 3 (11, 8 and 6) are in school all day. I feel the walls closing in on me. I have 1000 things to do and no desire to do them, including lose 30 pounds. I lost it all this am just getting my kids out the door, then came home and cried because I am such a terrible Mom and ruining my perfectly good kids. Why and I such a mess? Crazy holidays, need to do EVERYTHING and PMS. Thanks for what you write, because hearing you say it makes me realize what is happening with me. You have some things easier (supportive husband and financial security) and some things harder (worse anxiety than me!) We’re all in this together and we are all trying to raise good people. Thanks for your help and perspective!

  • missusclark

    Oh, man! Do I (sorta) remember those days! First, you have the period for 6 weeks after the C-section, whereby you were gutted like a fish. Your hormones are all over the place. Then, the soul-crushing sleep deprivation that causes psychosis. And you have to act reasonably normal, ’cause folks is comin’ to see the baby (Babies in my case. Twins!) and you don’t want them to call Child Protective Services. I mean, you can get a way with a messy house, but Mama’s got to have her act somewhat together. Perpetrating was *hard*!

    So glad that’s over and will *never* happen again!

  • tracy

    having a husband who knows when to shut the fuck up can make all the difference in the world.

    p.s.? hormones can suck it.

    hugs ~

  • medwards

    Just when you think you’ve got things figured out they go and change! I chant “just breathe” and find my “happy place” which is a beach on Maui that I was at 12 years ago. I can still see it, a perfect day with just me, no kids, husband or phone, and a book.

    Medication does help and so does getting out by yourself once in a while. I don’t see by your postings that you are out much alone. Katie is even taking out your recycling. I know it’s freezing cold and really miserable outside but it may be a good idea to just be able to walk away from it all and go recycyling, shopping or having a cocktail or two with a girlfriend. Sometimes it helps me.

  • becky

    We call it Shark Week.

  • QueenSarah

    Yes. Ugh. All of it.

    But everything is ALREADY alright, even if you can’t believe it.

  • rosieblankenship

    Boy, can I relate. I wasn’t even diagnosed with the postpartum depression that was totally ruining my life until I stopped breastfeeding entirely – which was when she was 18 months old – and my hormones readjusted. I plummeted fast. Thankfully, you know what you are dealing with this time around and can stay on top of it so it never gets as bad as it did before.

    I just want a pill they can give me to keep my hormones in the exact right place they need to be every single day!!

  • jon

    For the record I don’t name call. That’s what she hears, so I try to use words like,

    “why don’t you talk about what you are feeling?”

    “Is now a good time for you to talk to me?”

    “I’m going to leave you alone, is there anything you need?”

    Also: med reminders are allowed, but have to be handled nicely as well.

    and yes, THIS COMMENT IS JUST DUMB.

  • pxlchk1

    OH. MY. GOD.

    I am *exactly* there. Same exact spot. I SO needed to read this today.

    Made even funnier (funny=strange) because I got mastitis at the same dang time, too. Literally sat in bed, feeling like total (udder) crap and read the description of my symptoms. If this is the trend, could you win the lottery and go on a fabulous trip to Italy soon? I think we both could use it.

    -Alana

  • keithandjamie

    I know the feelings.

    For what it’s worth, vitex (chasteberry root) really helped level out my hormones when I was dealing with PPD six months ago or so. You might check into it. Everything gets worse for a week and then much, MUCH better.

  • William

    Uhhmmm…I think maybe Jon should call 911. Not for you but for his sake.

  • LifesBeenGood

    Hang in there kiddo. You’re uber strong even if you forget it sometimes.

    And by the way… the last picture of each of the girls are simply amazing. Their eyes. The greens and blues are breathtaking.

  • MissCaron

    God bless you and your family. I know it’s gotta be soooo difficult and as a person who suffers from anxiety and have had anxiety attacks … IT SUCKS. So, you too will get through this and will come out victoriously on the other side! 🙂

  • Le Musings of Moi

    Oh my word woman!

    In order to leave a comment, I had to sign up and I think promise to give you my left ovary, all in order to say….

    Anxiety sucks.

    Nothing worse. Period.

    I could give you all the ways and things and books (The Anxiety Cure, by Dr. Archibald Hart) that have helped me…

    But really, when I’ve been in my sucky place…I just want someone to agree with me.

    It sucks.

    Agreed.

  • BexBrown

    Heather, You are so awesome. The End.

  • Daddy Scratches

    Tis the season to have a mental breakdown. I’m in the midst of a *spectacular* one. Weaning myself off an anti-depressant that I’ve been taking for a number of years while simultaneously crashing headlong into 40 later this month. The breadth and depth of the midlife crisis I’m working up to is awe-inspiring. Glad I have a blog to puke it all into.

    The nice thing is, I posted about my current state of mental instability/meds cessation/general fucked-up-ness, and got a slew of “Oh, me too, girlfriend!” replies. Nice to know I’m not the only basket case out there.

    Hang in there, my little Doocester. At least you can blame hormones; my only excuse is that I’m a freakazoid mess.

  • SOLO dot MOM

    Having had my share of anxiety attacks and dealing with the recent crisis where my brother was having them daily.. no make that hourly; I can soooo relate!

    Great post… and yes learning what they are… letting them run their course and knowing you will live through them is part of the battle!

    And interesting synopsis there… that yours are related to uhum, hormones kicking back in.

    Loved this and Jon’s reaction is priceless!

  • sillywhitney

    Between “Falling to the Communists” and “Shark Week” (snagged from #14 above), I’ve got a much funnier arsenal of euphemisms now for this bit of inner workings.

    For that (and so much other entertainment over the years), thanks! Happy 2010!

  • PLMsMama

    Dooce:

    I can’t tell you how much I love your RAW look at this stuff. I have anxiety (I like to say suffer . . . but I think people think I am gonna jump off a bridge when I say that)! All started after I had my daughter. It was HORRIBLE for about 8 weeks . . . and somedays I feel it creeping in. Especially when it is time for arts and crafts at panty camp! I am medicated – struggled with it for a long time – because of guilt and also my MOM! Anyway – I want another baby so badly – my daughter is 7 – but am TERRIFIED of going back in that deep . . . . I love reading that you have bad days and good days and you are still moving along.

    You make me feel NORMAL (well, normal is relative, right?). Seriously anxiety sucks and seriously hormones SUCK! Why do we as women get to have all the fun? LOL

    Keep breathing . . . you got this sistah!

  • mommica

    My mom used to call it George. That doesn’t even make sense…

  • Becca

    OK, go get a mirena…you’ll never have a period again, its awesome. as for the panic attacks, all I can say is Jon is a quick learner! hug

  • gingerale

    I once thought I had a panic attack. I was completely certain it was a panic attack. I had just gotten home after spending 4 months in the hospital, had a nephrectomy, back on dialysis after a failed transplant AND my boyfriend had just taken a job across the country. Why wouldn’t I be having a panic attack? But nope. It was just a seizure! Good times.

  • Lauren – louisianagrown

    I have never heard a single one of those euphemisms – hilarious. Thanks for never being scared to share any strange/embarassing/private part of your life with us. It’s what makes this a good blog, and it’s inspiring to the tenth degree.

  • TurdFerguson

    Been there, done that. An unwelcome visitor that drops in uninvited, even when it seems that all is right in my world. After a few trips to the ER I saw a pattern. Now menopause is my unwelcome visitor. My anxiety has turned to anger & aggitation, someone even suggested a book they read about managing anger. I’m not angry, really. So please don’t suggest such a book or I’ll throw it at you. I’m sending good thoughts your way, Heather.

  • Leball

    O, that fuckin sucks. I remember that happening to me. I get REALLY hormonal. Hormones suck ass! I become very mean too.

    I was not fond of breastfeeding then having a period! Unfair!

    I hope you feel better. Crying helps. Hugs.

  • agablack

    I’m reading this and tearing up a little, cuz about 2 months ago I also had my very first panic ATTACK! It was the most bizarre experience, as it hit me while watching Michael Jackson’s “This Is It” in a theater. I felt like the building was about to collapse and an earthquake would hit any second now. I couldn’t breathe, I cried and sobbed and cried, and couldn’t calm down for 2 hours. It was terrifying! So I’m reading Heather’s words and tearing up just remembering the fear that overcame me.
    You’ll be alright, Heather. And it’s really GROOVY you have your Jon there with you.

  • JosieC

    I agree with the commenter that said hormones can suck it. I had full blown panic attacks daily, several times a day, for months before I had an epiphany and stopped taking my birth control shot (hormones! I was on Depoprovera at the time). All the doctors told me emphatically that hormones would not cause panic attacks but at that point I didn’t care what they said. I stopped the shot, let my body get back to its normal state, and I haven’t had a panic attack in about 13 years.

    Realizing your situation is half the battle. It sucks, but just breathe, let your body find its equilibrium, and you’ll feel normal before you know it.

    Commenter #14 – Shark Week! Bwaahahaaa! I love it!

  • lisafashionista

    Dooce, you can do this. Just like you do everything. One step at a time, one breath at a time. Your sanity belongs to you.

    Ok, enough for the cheesiness. But seriously, one of my most effective panic attack stoppers is a mantra.

    I suffered through YEARS of panic attacks as a child and a teenager back before they were trendy, so no one knew what was happening. As an adult I have been able to get treatment and that combined with medication makes me a lot less afraid. I had a setback a couple of years ago that nearly derailed my progress, but one of the main ways I fought back was the mantra. Something you can say to yourself right when you start to feel the first itches that something is not quite right, before you get to the point where your legs don’t move. It’s about taking control, which is, I know, almost impossible to do, but you can do it. You’ve lived through more.

    Seriously, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, following your blog is one of the main reasons I am confident that I will be able to have children with my anxiety problem. I believe in you, so you just need to believe in yourself too.

  • Kate at Savour Fare

    In addition to the hormones associated with Aunt Flo (and don’t even talk to me about that — I’m still breastfeeding my two year old (on a very limited basis) and I got my period back at NINE WEEKS POST PARTUM) weaning is a bitch. Seriously — the fluctuating hormones associated with dropping breastfeeding sessions turn everyone I know into a psycho, including myself (which is one of the reasons I’m loathe to drop that last session). You can find an equilibrium, but as long as it’s in flux (ie, from the time your kid is 6 months old until about a year, when she’s slowly ramping down on the milk and up on what my husband calls “people food” (although I pointed out that as human milk is the only food that is exclusively produced by and eaten by humans, it’s pretty much as peopley as people food can get), the hormones are rough.

  • lafriddle

    I had my first–recorded, that is–panic attack five months in to my first pregnancy. It began in my sleep, so consequently I would not allow myself to go to sleep out of fear of whatever was after me (my hormones, I guess) would get me when I wasn’t watching. It took a great deal of effort to get me back to sleep, mostly on my husband’s part. He, at the suggestion of my therapist, took on the role of watcher, and after a period of time I was able to go back to sleep. That was nineteen years ago and unfortunately I still have panic attacks, usually at night–probably aggravated now by menopause–but holding my husband’s hand, even as he sleeps, takes the edge off.

    They say that practicing deep breathing will stimulate the body’s relaxation response, but you probably already heard that.

    Laura
    (Oh and on another topic…did you see that they have developed a kudzu-killing fungus? Maybe the South will be freed in the near future.)

  • EOMama

    I. Hate. Hormones. Yeah yeah yeah, I know we need them to live and everything, but all those hormones we need to reproduce and nurse and stuff totally suck. Also, I got my “monthly visitor” back while I was still nursing, and it pissed me off beyond belief. WTF?!?!? So just sayin’, Heather, I feel your pain. Oh, and also, the Pill (Yaz, to be specific) helped me tremendously when my body was trying to normalize after my babies. So talk to your doc, because the post-baby PMS can be a doozy, as it seems you are discovering. Good luck! xo

  • kelseywithak

    Heather, I hope the days to come are easier. I too suffer from depression and am dealing with similar issues, minus the children. I’ll be 100% functional and happy and for seemingly no reason (or a really stupid one), depression takes over for a week, a day, sometimes even a hour. Regardless, it seems like the worst hour of my entire life. And then it’s over and I feel like it will never happen again… until it does. Hang in there – it’s hard but it’s worth it for the beautiful family you have.

  • alissametzger

    Even growing up in Tuscaloosa, I’ve never heard “Gameday for the Crimson Tide.” I absolutely love it.

    You’re the best. I hope that writing about things makes you feel a teensy bit better, cause you’ve inspired me to start a blog and it sure helps me.

    Thanks for providing hilarious and meaningful study breaks!

  • amie

    I think a started having a hormone shift when my daughter was about six months but rather than the return of “the bloods” as I prefer to call it, I got huge boulder zits. Lovely. And some anxiety too. Now, my daughter is 15 months and still nursing at night so no Aunt Flo yet. Which is weird if I think about the fact that I haven’t had my period since December 2007.

  • sandi

    So….. My timing was perfect? I am so sorry for the added stress. When Aunt Flo’s visit ends and your legs are working….. Well, I just hope you feel better and I didn’t make it any worse.

  • Sarah Aubrey

    Remind me why my husband and I are feverishly attempting to GET pregnant every month?

    Oh, yeah. Marlo’s smile. That’s why.

  • Celestia

    What?!! You mean you didn’t get a period the whole time you were breastfeeding? Okay I really got ripped off in that deal because I got my period 6 weeks after giving birth and I breastfed exclusively with both my kids. Life is just so not fair!

    And just to let you know when you hit the 40’s your body will start to go through puberty again just backwards. It’s pleasure to have pimples and migraines again. Oh and those massive hormone shifts that make you insane are back again just like when you were a teenager. Fun, fun, fun!

  • DoulaKaren

    jon is a prince among men, honestly. and heather, i am right there with you. don’t go chalking it up just to pms though. stay vigilant please 🙂

  • thejenson

    You are such a good story teller.

    Thanks for sharing. I love reading your posts every day. I’m not a mommy yet, but I hope to be and you are HONEST so it really let’s people know what to expect.

    PS– periods suck 😉

  • Amy.Melby

    Heather…I think we’re living in parrell universes. Reading this post was like putting narration to my world.
    My daughter is Leta’s age and my son just turned one the day after Christmas. I have been dealing with my anxiety disorder all my life but was not diagnosed until 2000.
    I still have anxiety attacks and I have had to work VERY hard to stay aware of my inner monologue. When the boots by the door piss me off to no end and I want to throw them one-by-one at my husband’s head…I know it’s time to step back and put myself in a timeout.
    I want you to know that you are extremely fortunate to have a wonderful husband like Jon that ‘tries’ to understand and ‘tries’ to make things better.

  • lizvelrene

    I had my first panic attacks this year also.

    This was the most helpful thing ever:
    http://www.amazon.com/Hope-Help-Your-Nerves-Signet/dp/0451167228/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262717994&sr=8-1

    I recommend this book to everybody wholeheartedly. It helped me so much.