If you missed Part 1, you can read it here.
I don’t ever remember struggling with anxiety or worry growing up. In fact, I was a little bit of a thrill seeker. Haha. Kind of, I guess. I loved roller coasters, I liked to ride fast four-wheelers, I liked to do doughnuts in a parking lot. If someone said I couldn’t do something, I was going to do it or die. I was a perfectionist and if someone thought I couldn’t do something, that pushed me even harder to do it.
My struggle with anxiety didn’t begin until I was married and had my first child. He was a little over a year old and we were driving. All of a sudden I had an overwhelming fear that I couldn’t breathe. It came out of nowhere. I wasn’t scared or upset and nothing had happened to trigger this kind of response. But I got so scared that I couldn’t breathe, I thought I was going to pass out. And that scared me even more because I had my small son with me. Long story short, I went to the ER, they diagnosed me with a panic attack, and sent me home with instructions to take the medicine they prescribed. I took it thinking, ok this will make it stop. It will make me better.
All it did was put me to sleep.
It was a while after that before I had anymore episodes. Fast forward almost a year. I was expecting another baby and I was getting ready for work. As I was drying my hair, I got that feeling again that I couldn’t breathe. I got shaky and scared but it eventually passed and I didn’t think too much more about it. But several little things happened during that pregnancy that just basically put me on edge. I had to go get a few things checked out, I had a migraine with aura while I was driving by myself, my baby was upside down at week 34 and I was scared of a C-section. All small things. But they were building up.
At my regular 36 week appointment, my doctor said she thought I was in labor and wanted to hook me up to the contraction machine thing to make sure. I hadn’t felt good all day and I was dilated a few centimeters. While we waited all kind of thoughts went through my mind. Would my baby be ok being born early? We didn’t have the nursery finished! We didn’t have our bags packed and we had nothing with us! But sure enough, I was in labor.
By the time I got checked in, I was far enough along to get my epidural. I was actually excited about this because my first time around, everything about my labor went perfectly. To a T!
As they are giving me my epidural, I look at the nurse and say my ears are ringing. And she looked at the anesthesiologist and then back at me. She asked me how I felt and I told her that I felt not so good. She quickly laid me back down. My blood pressure had bottomed out. So now on top of all my other fears, every time they took my BP I asked my husband if it was normal. I was scared that it would happen again. After about 30 minutes, I notice that I can still feel and wiggle my legs. And I keep telling them, I can feel my legs. They acted like this was ok. Well, just because you can feel your legs doesn’t mean your epidural isn’t working. Ok. More time passes and my legs are now tingling like they are waking up after they have went to sleep. And I can move them and I feel pressure in my abdomen. Finally after they check me, and realize I can feel the exam, they believe me that maybe my epidural isn’t working. Duh!! So they call the anesthesiologist back in to see if he can move it around or just do another one so it will work. But just as he gets to the room, they say “Oh you’re ready to push!” So now, on top of all my fears about not being ready, about my baby being ok, about my BP, now I have to deliver a baby with NO epidural. The horror!!! But wait, they said. The DR isn’t here, so don’t push. Right. She eventually gets there and thankfully after only a few pushes, (THAT I DID WITHOUT THE SILLY EPIDURAL) my baby is born. And all my fears are, for the moment, put to rest. He is fine. Perfect. Beautiful. We hold him, the family comes in and holds him, everyone goes home, we settle in to rest.
A little while later, though, the nurse comes by and tells me that his breathing just doesn’t sound right and she just wants to take him to the Special Care nursery to be safe. No big deal. I think they will take him, look him over real good and bring him back. That doesn’t happen. Come to find out he IS struggling to breathe. I have to stay in my room forever, it seems like, until I get cleared to see him. I get wheeled to the unit and I see him in a little incubator under a purple light with a tiny blindfold across his eyes. He has wires everywhere and a feeding tube and he just looks so small and helpless. And all the fears come to a head and I can’t stop the flood of tears. I barely hear what the Dr. is trying to tell me, but words like touch and go, wait and see, underdeveloped lungs all penetrate. And now I am scared for my baby’s life.
I will briefly describe the events that followed because although it all happened in a very short time, it is a very long story.
He eventually gets Pneumonia and has to stay for a week. I can’t stay in the hospital that long.
My sis-in-law buys us a hotel room so we can stay close and visit him.
I have the worst ever headache of my life the next day and have to go see my Dr. She gives me meds with strict instructions to take it and go to sleep.
I take it before we get back to the hotel, and I’m so out of it my husband has to walk me to the room.
I fall asleep while he’s eating lunch and sleep all through the evening and into the night.
Which makes it a miracle that I even woke up around midnight to a completely black hotel room. I’m not sure what woke me up, other than it was the Lord, but I feel very weird. And I kind of think I am dreaming. But I see light coming in from the sliding doors in front of my bed. And I see a dark figure come through the door. And I still think I’m dreaming. I watch as a man slowly comes in our room and bends over at the coffee table. I even watch him come to the foot of my bed and just stand there. He starts moving toward the nightstand where my husband’s phone is blinking. And I suddenly know without a doubt I AM NOT dreaming. I elbow James and tell him someone is in our room. It takes him a while to wake up and get the light on, but he does get up in time to see the man running out of the room. So at least I don’t have to convince him that it really happened.
After all that, I’m done. I’m shaking and in shock and scared and I just want to go home. I don’t care that’s it’s late and I don’t feel good and my baby will be even farther away if we go home, I can’t take anymore. So we leave. And somehow at home I finally manage to go to sleep, despite the fear of the dark and that someone else followed us home and is going to break in our house, too.
Our baby finally got better and we brought him home and everything seemed to go back to normal. Everything except me. Now tortured thoughts filled my mind. I would have problems breathing, weird feelings that coursed through my body, I was dizzy, I thought I was going to die every day. Irrational thoughts that at the time were very real. And they consumed me. I went to several doctors for all these symptoms. Several things were thrown around but finally an ENT Dr told me I was just stressed. Maybe he deducted that because it was the 2nd time I’d been to him and all the other doctors told me I had inner ear and I had broken down and just cried right there in front of him. He assured me I didn’t have any ear problems and I needed to get out from under the stress. I was so mad I just looked at him and said, “If you’ll tell me how, I will gladly do it!” He just smiled and said you need to get out and walk 30 minutes everyday. That will help. What a hopeless situation. Did he not understand what I was going through? That I couldn’t be the wife and mother I needed to be when all these thoughts in my head WOULD NOT STOP! And the fear. The fear was so bad. Fear about everything. Even when I tried not to think about it, it was like the waves in the ocean. They just kept coming. Too powerful to stop. They came and knocked me under and drug me around in the sand and when I finally thought I could come up for air, another wave would just crash into me. I eventually stopped fighting and just gave into the thoughts. I didn’t try to stop them. They took over my life.
Vision disturbances, dizziness, trouble breathing, shaking, chest tightening, fear, crazy thoughts. These all took up residence in my life and stayed for a long time.
There was no one to talk to. No one understood. My husband and family tried to, but I could see in their eyes as much as they wanted to help, they didn’t know what to do. I didn’t say anything to anyone outside my family. I thought they would think I was crazy. Maybe I was…….