This here bringer of the pooper to the fun party

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?”

  • WarsawMommy

    I had truly awful postpartum depression after my first son was born, just over 3 years ago. I went through it all alone, since I truly had no idea what it even was. I just thought it was sleep-deprivation, and being overwhelmed by the new baby (who seems to have MUCH in common with Leta, personality-wise, BTW!).

    When I got pregnant with our 2nd son, I swore up and down that I was not going to go through that again. After Alex was born 9 months ago, I took my ass straight to a psychologist. She put me on very mild (actually, kind of ‘herbal’) anti-depressants. 9 months later, I take 1 a day and feel great – EXCEPT the day before my period. Something happens that day, and I am weepy and moody and overcome. Knowing what it is helps, but it does not change the fact that it feels like shit.

    Hormones, body chemistry and stress: a lethal combination. But hang in there… seeing it coming is more than half the battle. Take care of yourself.

  • starrynight

    Hang in there. I know that at the time it feels like you’re running through mud and you’ll never get through to the other side, but you will. Bravo to you for realizing the hormone link. I still struggle with being able to pinpoint when hormones are affecting my mood and I’m a therapist. Hang in and you’ll get through this.

    Jon, you are a wise man. The story made me think of “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” If you don’t know what to do in that scary moment (and let’s face it, who does?), the only thing you can do is to learn from it and support your wife to the best of your ability in the future. Heather, I also thought your description of Leta’s reaction was so interesting – you have a very smart cookie on your hands!

    I read through It Sucked during my pregnancy (I had a baby in August) and loved it! I could so relate to many of your experiences and love how you handle things with a sense of humor, even if it’s only in retrospect.

    Finally, thanks for talking about stuff like this. Your openness helps other people talk about mental health. You’re amazing!

  • starrynight

    Hang in there. I know that at the time it feels like you’re running through mud and you’ll never get through to the other side, but you will. Bravo to you for realizing the hormone link. I still struggle with being able to pinpoint when hormones are affecting my mood and I’m a therapist. Hang in and you’ll get through this.

    Jon, you are a wise man. The story made me think of “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” If you don’t know what to do in that scary moment (and let’s face it, who does?), the only thing you can do is to learn from it and support your wife to the best of your ability in the future. Heather, I also thought your description of Leta’s reaction was so interesting – you have a very smart cookie on your hands!

    I read through It Sucked during my pregnancy (I had a baby in August) and loved it! I could so relate to many of your experiences and love how you handle things with a sense of humor, even if it’s only in retrospect.

    Finally, thanks for talking about stuff like this. Your openness helps other people talk about mental health. You’re amazing!

  • pineapple princess
  • Bree

    I think every husband needs to take sensitivity lessons from Jon. You guys are sweet.
    This’ll pass!! 🙂 We love you Heather!

  • Rosebud5675

    I am so glad to have read your post. I thought it was just me and I was going crazy! Whew! Its a relief to know I’m not. Thank you Heather for your honesty. Your new baby is beautiful and Leta is growing up soooooo fast!

  • Laura Jones

    I’m glad you share. It makes me feel less alone when things like that happen to me.

  • QueenLily

    I can definitely relate. I have struggled with anxiety since I was very young. Being a parent definitely compounds it by a million. Although i wasn’t able to breastfeed for long, it took my body quite awhile to get back to “normal” and I remember realizing…”oh shit, IT’S ALL COMING BACK”.

    Thanks for sharing, as always.

  • infor10to20

    I am so relieved to read this today. Just pulled an all nighter with my 8 month old and dealing with the hormonal ebb and flow. Seems like the swings are stronger since I had my second baby and I am really hoping things level out soon.

    It seems like every few weeks I start to feel more overwhelmed and less secure in my day to day. It takes me about 2 days to realize the cause and then I try not to be annoyed 🙂

    I am glad that you have found something to help you. Even more, I am inspired. Your post has encouraged me to call my doctor today and see what I can be doing to support myself in the meantime.

    I just began reading your blog this past month (seems I have been living under a rock) and I look forward to checking in every morning. I have two daughters as well, my oldest is 7 (well, she says she is 7, but she isn’t fooling anyone) and one that is 8 months yesterday.

    Thanks for sharing so openly.

  • lori.ann.mcvay

    My anxiety always peaks right before my period. Shitty, shitty, shitty. Klonopin is our friend. Of course, I’m not breast feeding anymore, either. But really…Klonopin!

  • kellyfaboo

    I sail with Commander Zoloft of the Aurgon Fleet. Still get panic attacks occasionally, but they are well deserved. Sorta.

    And I can step outside myself and go, “Woh, that’s one heck of a panic attack.” Except with more profanity.

    And don’t look forward to menopause. I started pre-menopause (or peri, or whatever they call it) symptoms when I was 30. It took me forever to figure out that I was having hot flashes.

    BECAUSE I WAS 30!!!!

  • elizabethpashley

    I’m beginning to think I should get pregnant so I don’t flip out every two weeks. Just kidding. I think PMS should stand for Pre-Menstrual and Post-Menstrual Syndrome. Or just have one term for the two weeks a month that I’m NOT crazy. Like NCT: Not Crazy Time.

  • jmcclark

    I have panic disorder and sucks but I love laughing about it. Thanks for the chuckle!

  • rockalita

    We always call it “becoming a woman” – as in, “Honey, I became a woman today!” It’s funny when you’re 40.

  • Squeetthang

    Shit son! Panic attacks. Wow. I just had my first one last year. I am only 28, so I was unsure of why in the world I was having a panic attack as there are only a few things in this world that I panic about: do we have beer, where is the nearest Mexican restaurant and do we have beer. No, really, where is the beer?!?

    Unlike you, I called an ambulance because I was very certain that I was having a heart attack. It was painful to spend $500 for that special ride just to find out that it was a panic attack. Stupid hormones.

    I am glad you were able to make it through yours and I wish you all the best as those hormones start ganging back up on you!

  • emmajames

    Welcome back to the monthly roller coaster. Just wait til it’s the girls’ turn. Duck and cover!

    Happy New Year!

  • j-momma

    I made it only until my son was 4 months old before aunt flo arrived in full force, and that was WITH breastfeeding! Good luck to you and hang in there. I am beginning to experience panic attacks since my husband is very “hands-off” with the kids. Last night he was angry and yelling at me that he was doing my job. I said “What? cutting up chicken?” and he said “No, parenting”! Ummmm….? I am still speechless. Three cheers for Jon! You are a lucky (or just super smart)woman!

  • jive turkey

    Well, this is timely, as my 9-month-old daughter finally up and quit the boob on Dec. 22, and GUESS WHAT HAPPENED YESTERDAY?! And oh yes, there was plenty of sobbing and bitchery and tense arguments between Dec. 22 and now. I thought I was just turning into a horrific bitch; turns out I was just re-living the summer before 7th grade all over again. Dammit.

  • meme0908

    panic attacks are paralyzing and they don’t make any sense… there is one thing, and only one thing that is comforting while I wait for them to pass: telling myself that this happens to other people too… and nobody ever dies.
    -Thank you for this post-

  • kriss10

    You really do have a wonderful husband…

  • CarolinaMel

    Hormones are evil. Period.

  • lbnassar

    I thought I was having panic/heart attacks around 42 (10 years ago) and then mentioned the symptoms to a BFF after. In my case it was a perimenopause symptom – chest compression, skin crawling, shortness of breath. I DID NOT WANT TO BE THERE. Been riding that hormone wave ever since; progesterone cream has helped with the height of the waves and cut the bleed from 7 to 4 days. I think I am past it now, but if I forget the cream, I spot. General wisdom says that multiple women in the house have their hormones in sync. Sorry to say my teenage daughters and I are not. My poor husband. THANK YOU HEATHER for facilitating great conversations with your experiences.

  • paginatrix

    I tell my husband I’m on the DL.
    That, he gets.

  • cvjn

    you know, i signed up just to leave a comment on this post because i had the EXACT same experience.

    after my second daughter, when my period returned i started getting premenstrual panic attacks, like i had never had before in my life. i was not doing a great job of tracking my cycle so the first couple of times it took me by surprise. and it was not every month, just the times i was exceptionally (wait for it) sleep deprived. sleep deprivations and pms together just undid me.

    thanks so much for sharing. i’m going to show this to my husband, and just maybe he’ll gain a little insight.

  • bditty

    I read your post, walked to the bathroom and BAM–first ‘monthly bill’ after the cease of nursing #4. I’ve heard about women syncing up but…I don’t think I’m on this site THAT much.

    Huge relief though, since #4 was a little surprise that snuck in when I ceased with #3!

  • juliaislaughing

    Panic attacks are terrifying, the first one, is unexplainable fear. My thoughts are with you.

  • The Bold Soul

    I just sent you an email about this (not realizing comments were open… duh!) but just to chime in: not only do you have the BABY hormones playing havoc with your body, but you’re in your mid-30s, yes? Welcome to the very beginnings of the pre-menopause years! I think you’ve got the hormone double-whammy going on here! I was about 36 when I started having panic attacks for no good reason (no babies, anyway) and after spending a fortune on doctors and tests that led nowhere and where NO medical professional even suggested hormones as a root cause (they just said I was having panic attacks), a friend told me about HER experiences with hormone-induced anxiety attacks and that made total sense to me, so I got myself to a good therapist. I’m 48 now and once in a while I still use the deep-breathing tricks she taught me. And I haven’t even done the full menopause thing yet. Oh, goodie, I have THAT to look forward to next! Friggin’ damn hormones. They can just BITE ME. Oh, wait… they already have.