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?”

  • twyclark

    H, I just want you to know I think your awesome. I’m not trying to kiss your ass or blow your head up any larger than it is :). I just love the raw truth you tell, the reality that I and every other Mom goes through. Thanks, really.

  • kmortensen

    Anxiety has been a part of my life for many years. After 33 years of waiting for the next panic attack, I started taking BuSpar. It has changed my life–I no longer worry about a thought sending me into the state of panic that I have dreaded for so long. I know their are many people who think that taking drugs is just a way of covering up problems, but I’ve done my work in therapy and I COULD NOT fix it on my own. So. Rather than let the panic attacks take over your life and affect your family, maybe it would be worth a try. Of course, BuSpar might not be effective for you, and perhaps therapy would be enough alone. I think a combination of therapy and medication has a good chance to give us Anxietacs (new word!) the relief we need to live the best life we can, for ourselves and our families.

  • coffeemomma

    First? Panic attacks are so terrifyingly awful…I get them related to hormones as well….they were particularly bad post-partum…I guess the only good thing about yours is you weren’t dealing with the post-partum hormones at the same time.

    Second? Did Dooce just rip on breastfeeding? So hilarious. Can’t wait to see the comments you get on that one. 🙂

  • Mizrakins

    Everyone said how much fun it would be to have a break from your period while you’re pregnant and breastfeeding……what they don’t tell you is that everything starts leaking so you’re walking around uncomfortable anyway! Then AFTER the baby, oh Lord. The stuff you have to deal with in the hoo-haa department! My husband’s most frequent phrase after our daughter was born: “Could you talk about that less? Or not at all?”

    To top it off my period came back at 12 weeks. Twelve weeks! Forget the fact that I was breastfeeding 20,000 times a day. She came back, and back with a vengeance. I wanted to choke a puppy. (And that’s not slang for anything. I actually wanted to choke a puppy.)

    The most insane part of it all is that none of it really bothers me because our seven-month old little girl is nothing short of THE BEST. All snuggles and cheeks and delightfulness. Almost makes PMS worth it…….GOOD LUCK!

  • lizvelrene

    This is a recording of the author I recommended talking about anxiety. I find her very soothing.

    http://www.controllinganxiety.com/downloads/weekes1DSL.mp3

    note: whoops, link is broken, trying to find a new one.

  • junecarter

    I read the headline and thought, “Heather & Jon had a lovely roll in the hay to bring in the New Year”. Very disappointed to find that that was not what this post was about AT ALL.

  • Greta Koenigin

    The pilgrimage along Hormone Avenue is a true Trail of Tears: periods in 8th grade (no more white jeans), pregancy (Pizza, Pizza!), breastfeeding (cry, cry, cry), quitting (cry, cry), menopause (dry, dry, cry, cry). Oh to be a woman! Sorry about the anxiety. Thankfully, you are in good hands (last line of your post shows expert-level husbandry).

  • Star

    Oh god, don’t tell me this. I’m exactly a month behind you and we just started solids today.

    They can pry my paxil out of my cold, dead hands.

  • The Dalai Mama

    I haven’t dealt with depression. I do know what it is like to feel like the world crashing down around me when Aunt Flo visits–I felt like that very often as we failed month after month to get pregnant.

    Your honesty is refreshing and helps so many not feel alone. Your lucky to have a man that learns quickly how to help and stand by you.

    Thanks for sharing your life and infusing it with laughter. It helps me find the laughter in mine.

  • hopelds

    When my first baby was just six weeks old, I started bleeding. I panicked – assumed I was hemorrhaging – called my OB/GYN – “Oh, it’s probably just your period!” WHAT THE HELL DO YOU MEAN MY PERIOD – I JUST gave birth, I am nursing TWO babies (a friend of mine was having to do her student teaching, our babies were almost exactly the same age, and she wanted to keep her on breast milk, so…) – this is NOT POSSIBLE.

    Having my uterus removed three years ago was one of the best things that every happened to me.

    But depression still haunts me (no pun intended) – thank God I have never experienced a ‘true’ panic attack.

    Hang in there! We are all rooting for you because so many of us have BEEN there!

  • sybann

    Oh dear my heart! I understand. Coming from a long line of women who are hormonal wackadoodles I can say how much more I enjoy life (and my mother) now that we both have “‘Paused.”

  • kristanhoffman

    It feels mildly wrong to get to laugh at all the difficulties in your life…

    {hug}

  • kristennporter

    I always refer to by saying… “The communists are in the funhouse.”

    Let’s everyone know, not to mess with me. Hang in there. Things will improve.

  • hollyanna

    My son is 18 months old. I have been on an antidepressant for 70 days now. My husband doesn’t even know. I feel like he will think I am crazy. But I just needed something to help pull me out of the deep dark hole of anxiety and nothingness. It helps so much to know that there are other mommies who are going through these things somewhere at the same time I am. You are my hero.

  • jbruntlett

    Ahh, yes. I’m making my BF read this post. I was crying uncontrollably before my last “visit from aunt flow” and this is the conversation we had:

    What’s wrong?

    Nothing.

    It can’t be nothing, you don’t just cry for no reason.

    Go away now please.

  • KnitterChick

    Ten months after I had my first baby, I thought I had a Urinary Tract Infection. What are these little pains? Oh, right. THAT.

  • little drama pants

    In Alabama, if you say “Game Day for the Crimson Tide” people will automatically assume you are talking about a football game.

  • smallory78

    I suffer from anxiety disorder as well – unfortunately it is the panic disorder type too – so I am fully aware of how excruiciating those panic attacks can be. I’m so glad you were able to figure out a way to deal that works – its tough! You are a continuous inspiration for me.

    I also must commend you for raising two kids (and doing what seems to be an incredible job at it) while dealing with this disorder. I don’t have any children, but I had to giggle at the “what is this”? reaction – I swear, every month, I am suprised when I start to feel completely off, weepy, panicky, and achy…and tired… oh and kind of craving chocolate..and then eventually it dawns on me..oh riiiight, that. I guess we get so used to evaluating our psychological state that the “normal” can take us by surprise!

  • iLost9Minutes

    Thank you for always being so open about this in your life. I often think it’s a big part of what has given me the strength to finally go in and get some help of my own, that I’m not alone and don’t need to be ashamed. Thank you.

  • Meranath

    Goddamn Communists.

  • Sara Carling

    I suffer from anxiety & depression. A lot. And I wish I had someone like Jon who really got it. Who really understood that I wasn’t crazy, or I wasn’t a bad person. That I wasn’t really making it up. And that I’m not really in control of it. I try to be, but sometimes my attempts to be in control just make it worse.

    Thanks for sharing your story, and making me feel less alone, and less crazy.

  • Jen in AZ

    GET YOUR THYROID CHECKED!!! I had the same thing and they prescribed all kinds of anti- this and that and all along it was a thyroid condition. It’s very unchecked in women and it needs to be done especially after we have babies. Thyroid problems mimick depression, anxiety, etc. Get’er checked lady!!!

  • TheDuder

    Jon,

    Totally with you on that one. My wife is also not big on sharing of the feelings. I get it. If I suffered from depression, I can’t imagine I’d be big on the sharing either.

    Still as the husband, you can’t help but want to help somehow. A big moment for me was realizing leaving her alone and politely asking as Jon commented is the best way to help ever.

    Think both of you are great. Once our first arrives in May, I’ll probably be reading more than I already do. Thanks for all of everything.

  • sheameister

    Indeed. My youngest is 13 months and I weaned over 4 months ago, but I am still a wackadoodle despite being on the pill again and everything. I swore off meds when I got pg with my first child and thought I was doing OK (5 years!)… but maybe it’s time to reconsider. I relate to your post and the comments here all too well.

    My first panic attack was in 1999 while watching Letterman. What odd, random little things they are, no?

  • kariberi

    I really do hope you feel better. Why do us gals have to get our asses kicked when it comes to our bodies? Its just not fair! Im in my 2nd trimester of my 2nd pregnancy and the anxiety is in full force. I think chasing after a “Spirited” 2 year old is to blame.

  • Stacy Wellington

    Assvise Alert from a two year sufferer of panic attacks related to hormones. including racing heart, shaking, stomach cramping, dizziness, sweating and trembling! B6/B12/Folic Acid tabs. I know I know, they don’t STOP them completely and they dont treat the underlying issue, but I feel like they make them less severe which helps. I read somewhere that a lot of women going through horomanal changes have B vitamin deficiencies. The most common sign of a B vitamin deficiency? ANXIETY! Trader Joe’s sells em – you put the little red tablet under your tongue and they dissolve. If anything, its like a placebo. I’m panicking – I will knock this out with my little vitamin tablet! I’m not saying it will work for you, I am saying it works to some extent for me. It at least makes me feel like I have some control over the situation, and B6B12/folic acid are good for you anyways.

  • Lesismor

    My daughter is only a few weeks younger than Marlo…she was 6 months on January 1st…I’m still breastfeeding too and been off my meds for just over a year now…when I read your post I got goosebumps feeling that stuff all over again. I feel for you and am sending you positive vibes and strength 🙂 I keep giving myself goals of how long I will stay off the meds and keep bf’ing…anxiety has been worse than the depression…luckily, I had an iud put in, so I’m hoping that since I don’t get the physical aspects of the Crimson Tide (as you so eloquently put it!), I wonder if that will keep all that yucky emotional bull away too?? Any idea??

  • kristin k

    My personal favorite is “paying my monthly bill”

  • texas law chick

    I hope this puts a smile on your face, especially since you are the owner of an awesome longhorn necklace that I covet. Here in Austin, Texas we are getting ready for a big football game against Alabama on Thursday and a local restuarant has a billboard out front reading:

    “The only Crimson Tide we fear comes once a month.”

    This seemed appropos for the post today.

    I was first diagnosed with chronic depression 13 years ago and I think the most frustrating part is when friends say they understand or “get it” but you just know that they cannot comprehend the craziness that is going on inside your head. Craziness that you don’t dare express in words to friends lest they stage some kind of intervention and commit you to an institution. I love your blog in part because I know you “get it” and you are brave enough to put the craziness all in words. And yes, brain chemical and monthly hormones all conpsire against us!

  • JennfromCanada

    I found out about dooce from TheGirlWho… I love both blogs.

    I can’t say I’ve ever had an anxiety attack. If I did, I didn’t know it. But on occasion I just want to run away from my life. Things get overwhelming sometimes and I don’t have the capability at that particular time to deal with it. So I go in my bathroom, turn the light off, lock the door and cry. My 10-yr-old daughter is starting to catch onto when I need a “time out”. Last night she asked if she could bring me a cup of tea and that alone made me feel better. Not the tea, the fact that she asked.

    I don’t think I had PPD when Jess was born. But I was depressed a few years ago after I got hurt at work. The stress of the injury combined with the pain and subsequent loss of my job was sometimes too much for me. It’s been almost three years since that happened and surprisingly I’m better for it. I went back to school, got an education that I probably would never have been able to do while working, got a great job and am scheduled for surgery on my shoulder in February. The surgery should fix whatever is wrong with me and after all the recovery is done, I should have no pain. Yay me!

    So I just wanted to say that since reading TheGirlWho.com and this blog, I feel quite a bit better knowing that there are other women (and men) who know how I feel. And that each of you is here to support the writers and each other.

  • nina

    Jon,
    I had a boyfriend who used to ask me the same kinds of questions you asked Heather.
    It’s really very sweet, but for some reason, not being able to explain it, especially while it was happening, made me feel worse. And that led to fights.
    Eventually we figured out that as soon as one started coming, he just held my hand and took me for a walk without saying anything. We lived by the beach, so being out in nature made everything better.
    Good luck to both of you.

  • Annie

    “Rebooting the Ovarian Operating System” LOL!! Hilarious! I’m so stealing this =P

  • My Baby Sweetness

    Yeah, my body did its post baby reboot last month. The day we had two parties to go to and no time and – oh hey, yeah, that baby to take care of!

    But I do have to admit I also had that rush of relief of – oh thank goodness, I am not totally crazy / manic. My depression for no reason actually had a hormonal reason. I’d actually said to my husband a few days before – I wonder if it’s coming back as I’m all hormonally depressed. His response – so you haven’t had one in what, like 19 months, right? Wow… that’s going to be a gusher.

  • melchina

    There is a wonderful show airing on PBS tonight discussing depression, anxiety and fears. The series is called “This Emotional Life”. (You can go to pbs.org for more info.) It’s just fantastic and may shed some light or understanding for those who suffer from these illnesses and/or for those who live with or love someone who suffers. Check it out.

  • simpliSAHM

    Oh yeah, isn’t that lovely? My “Ovarian Operating System” rebooted itself while I was still strictly breastfeeding just 8 short weeks postpartum! I could not beleieve it and in fact had to call the Dr. So, at 38 years old, having had two babies, I’m having this conversation:

    Me: I started bleeding again, I don’t know what’s wrong.

    Nurse: Umm, you’re probably having your period.

    Me: No, no, I just had my baby 8 weeks ago and I’m exclusively breastfeeding!

    Nurse: Sorry honey, it’s rare but it happens.

    Me: Crap.

  • ohyouandi

    Listen to this: I was 44 years old, with a newborn that consumed nothing but breastmilk. My son was only 5 months old when my darn period came back….with a vengence!!! I cannot tell you how gyped I felt, especially considering that I was infertile, and had to use donor eggs in order to even GET pregnant. I was counting on not having another period until AFTER I totally quit b’feeding. Alas, Mother Nature had other plans and she was obviously still fucking with me, BIG TIME.

  • needybynature

    6 weeks. I started “Shark Week” as someone said after 6 weeks. While breastfeeding. I hated my body. Or it hated me. I couldn’t decide. My poor poor poor husband and my crazy hormones.

  • chrissymacceo

    Thanks for your honesty in this post. Thisis something that I,too, have dealt with so for long. It’s so refreshing is a strange way to read and know that I am not alone, not that I want anyone to feel the way they do when an anxiety attack strikes. It’s the pits! But it wasn’t until last month when I realized just how much of my monthly hormones are to blame. It’s a little easier to deal with now that I know they play a huge roll in it. Once I get that twitch in my right boob followed by the trobbing feeling that accompanies for the 10-14 days before “it” comes, I lighten my load–take on less, do less, relax more. I try to eliminate my to-do list the very first day I feel that twitch. You are right–its the little things that trigger us anxious people. Be well!!

  • JustLinda

    Are you going to answer that email I sent you?

    OK, I didn’t send you one, but that was fun, huh? Seeing if I could add to your anxiety? No? Didn’t work?

    Well.

    I’m not sure what else to say. I mean, “Welcome back to menstruation station.” doesn’t seem quite right. Maybe “Condolences.”??? Yeah, let’s go with that.

  • aliceone

    Hormonal changes may mean time to adjust your medications. All these things work together and it can be easy to forget that your body isn’t the same now that it was just after your baby was born or before you lost the extra weight, etc.

    Alice

  • jekka888

    Your honesty is so refreshing! I almost cannot get over it. Thank you!

  • LuLu

    Detailed story made short: Two times in my life I have fallen completely apart. Total break-down of all systems. First, when I was anorexic and stopped menstruating at age 22. Second, at menopause (and menses stopped). Fortunately, I have both documented in my journals so I could prove to myself that it wasn’t a nightmare. TOTAL collapse. I’m better now.

  • belletoes

    Oh Sistah, how lucky you are to have Jon! I (your neurotic, much heavier and shorter twin in MO.) have my big hairy Joe. Aren’t we lucky? You’ll be ok, I promise. Take care.

    Belletoes

  • HDC

    What’s the address we need to write to in order to nominate Jon for some sort of award or medal of some kind? That man deserves something for being there for you so solidly after all that you all go through. Atta boys just don’t seem enough.

  • AS

    I would highly recommend the Mirena IUD. my periods resumed by 7 weeks after both of my kids. After the second one, i got the IUD and now Shark Week is on permanent (well, semi-permanent) hiatus.

  • solaana

    What’s the opposite of a euphemism? Because “dropping salsa” would be that.

    Sorry. But I had to share the horror.

  • sabina

    Was that “udder” comment about the mastitis a spelling mistake or an incredibly clever pun? My period came back when I got mastistis and (mistakenly) stopped breast feeding for fear of the antiobiotics.

    May I just say THANKS and LOVE to all the women posting on this site for making me feel so much less crazy, so many times. And to Heather for her candor. You’re all like the sisters I never had.

  • OhBlahDah

    Just when you least expect it! Those dang hormones — such a balancing act.

    I have noticed over the years by watching my mother (and my own moods) that what goes up, must come down. The holidays do that to us.

    Your description of being swung around and flung into a dumpster was PERFECT. I used to get upset that I was weepy or depressed. Then, I would get more upset . . . and so on.

    Now, I go WITH IT rather than against it. There will be a day of crying at some point after the holidays (or after an extended period of effort for a big event).

    You can’t stay up high all the time. Like the tides or the moon phases or the hormone phases, they ebb and flow.

    Thanks for all the good posts and photos!

  • alabamamama

    “Game Day for the Crimson Tide” is Thursday. Roll Tide!

  • bwsf

    Not that this helps you, but my periods after having my son have been INSANE. I used to just bleed, no big whoop. Now, I cry, I turn into a huge bitch, I get headaches, I get super tired, I gag a lot, and my cramps make me feel like my uterus is clawing its way out. And my gyno has yet to find a solution for me. I guess we can get through it together 🙂