Monday, September 29, 2014

Groggy v. Nervous Wreck


Justin got home from work at 2 a.m.Sunday morning.

I'd been tossing and turning so much that the covers were rolled into a giant ball at the foot of the bed.

For days we'd been discussing the availability of taking my anti-anxiety meds, and I was planning to let myself take half of one the next time he was home and I didn't have to drive anywhere.

2 a.m. seemed like a good time to give it a shot. With him here, I didn't have to worry that I wouldn't hear or respond to Ella if she needed me in the night.

I slept solidly until Ella woke up at 7 a.m. (God forbid a kid who is grumpy when awoken at 7 o'clock school three days a week for preschool sleeps in on a day that we have no where to be.) Justin had to sleep until noon, since he had to work another swing shift, so it would be a true test of my anti-anxiety-medicated parenting skills with backup in case things just weren't going well.

When he woke up, he asked how I was doing, and I said I felt much calmer. That it was such a relief to be awake and not feel so on edge all the time.

I told him that I'd been so worried about not being there for Ella if I were groggy, that I'd forgotten that I was not really present for Ella when I felt so anxious, either. I realized that she'd be much better off with me groggy than me losing my mind.

Because that's what anxiety is. It's losing your mind. I was being sucked back into so many bad memories, analyzing them and wishing they'd gone differently.

I was getting out of the car in the garage and flashing back to memories of my teaching days, when there had been conflicts with students, or teachers, or administrators, or friends. I was angry or disappointed with myself for what I'd said to people in 2004 or 2005. This, while I was unlocking the garage door, getting Ella out of the car, unloading the groceries.

It's called ruminating.

I was getting irritated with Ella for being four--fellow parents know what that's like, but I was feeling worse about it, having a shorter fuse, and hearing her say things like, "Why are you rushing me?" when I was trying to get her buckled into the car and all I wanted was for her to put her arms through the harness part of the seat belt so that I could get out of the 90 degree garage and into the air conditioning.

People were asking me how I was doing, and I was saying, "Fine," but not remembering to ask them how they were doing in return. I know I was saying "fine" in a strained voice, and I could feel the vacant look in my eyes, the I'm-lying-but-you're-not-really-asking-and-we've-just-run-into-each-other-so-I-can't-tell-you look. It was Target, church, the greenbelt, the park. No one really wants to know the truth when they ask that question as courteous greeting; the truth is not the courteous response.

Justin told me he knew, that he could tell by looking at me over the past week that I'd been struggling to hold it together.

My heart sank. I'd hoped I'd been doing a better job of getting by. I'd hoped the only sign he'd seen was me actually using the words to tell him that I felt "so funny," "so weird," "so off," "so anxious."

But of course he knew.

The night before, at a church pizza dinner with other families, the one friend whom I'd told about the leukopenia diagnosis and ensuing anxiety asked me if I'd gotten any more news. I told him no. He asked me how I was feeling, and I said, "Not good," shaking my head and feeling the tears almost surface, hearing the catch in my voice. 

"I can tell," he said.

Oh, no.

So, Saturday night I took half a pill and slept for five solid hours.

It was like pushing a reset button. I have now survived two days without my heart racing, without my palms sweating, without my throat tightening, without feeling like I am doomed to falling into a relapse of clinical Major Depressive Disorder and Anxiety. 

I put my head down for a minute while I was folding laundry and Ella was with Justin in his office and I fell asleep. I let her play on the iPad while I closed my eyes on the couch for a rest on the couch. (Remember, she had a fever, so she legitimately had to stop dancing around and rest, too.) 

Justin's off today, but when he works later in the week and I'm solo-parenting with Ella, I'm not going to feel guilty for letting her watch an extra episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse or have time on the iPad. 

Ella will survive extra screen time unscathed. It won't ruin her childhood. She won't remember that time she was free to zone out with electronics and feel sad about it.

If I am clinically depressed or anxious, it will be a lot more damaging to my relationship with her. We'll remember that time I was mean to her. We'll remember that time I made her cry again and again. We'll have a harder time pulling out of these hard times together. It wouldn't ruin her entire childhood, but it wouldn't benefit it either--that she spent less time in front of a screen and more time with me frustrated with her. 

This is the way it is, for now. 

The upside is, now that I'm not crazy with anxiety, I don't think it will be this way forever. I'm still very worried about the leukopenia. The doctor said, "I trust you won't be letting people cough in your face," but I'm a mama with a low white blood cell count attempting to stay healthy while parenting a kid who isn't always covering her cough and always needs help with Kleenex when the sneezes are just too gross. I'm scared (and pretty sure) that he's going to tell me to switch up my meds, which means I'm less worried that I have cancer or a chronic blood disease in addition to my chronic mental health disease, but still very worried. 

Changing my meds means changing my brain chemistry, and til all this started happening, my brain chemistry was working just fine. Changing my meds is like telling a diabetes patient that she has to change her insulin dosage, even though her blood sugar has been level for years. It doesn't sound like a great idea.

Luckily for me, I have a psychiatrist who sent me an email on Sunday evening just to check on me. She'd reviewed my chart and seen a possible correlation between my meds and my white blood cell count. She planned to work with my hematologist/oncologist to fix this problem. 

There's hope. Which is nice, after feeling hopeless for so many days. 

In the meantime, I haven't taken another anti-anxiety med since 2 a.m. Saturday--36 hours or so--and I can already tell I'm going to need one soon. Fortunately, Justin is off today, so he can do the driving while I get through another day without losing my mind.

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