I written a lot about scananxiety that shows itself around cancer diagnosis related scans but what about all the time that isn’t around scans that is filled with anxiety?
I am a psychology major and very distinctively remember learning about panic and anxiety disorders. Truthfully, I thought these were “make believe” disorders, something a patient could effortlessly overcome if they would just chill out. Then LJ was born in 2015 and we endured one hell of a deployment in 2016. I had two kids now, our dog had to be put to sleep, my Dad passed away, Joshua’s dad needed open heart surgery, the kids got hand-foot-mouth disease, and a hurricane was headed straight towards us ( it didn’t hit us but when to my home state). It was an intense six months and as the time passed I began to learn what anxiety looked like and felt like. I was becoming easily overwhelmed but most of all I had this new chest pain, it felt like someone would be standing on my chest.
My anxiety really started in childhood. If you know me well you know I chomp my teeth. It’s kind of like grinding but more like a clenched jaw that I move up and down. I have been doing it since I can remember and it causes jaw pain, headaches, and my dentist says if I don’t stop i’ll need dentures around 50 years old because my molars will be gone. It’s just something I’ve always done but was definitely the most easily identifiable symptom of anxiety for me.
When Emmaleigh was born I had what I thought was regular first time mom worries. I really could have been diagnosed with Postpartum depression and an anxiety disorder then. I just had this constant worry that I was going to ruin her life by doing something wrong as a mother. After LJ was born every worry heightened. Now I had two lives in my hands that I was responsible for and I wanted to make their lives as stable as possible with hopes that their future mental health would be normal. Just a whole bunch of unrealistic expectations that were causing excessive worry and several mini panic attacks a week.
We survived that ridiculous six month deployment but shortly after Joshua returned home his grandfather passed, my grandma passed, and we got orders to move to Anchorage, Alaska.
After dealing with 2016 I now had a huge trip and move across the continent to plan. Planning and busyness were my other two ways to cope with my anxiety. If I was planning something, then doing something, I didn’t have to deal with whatever was originally causing the anxiety. Often all this busyness caused more worry and problems so it was just a hamster wheel I felt like I couldn’t get off!
Shortly after arriving to Alaska, LJ was diagnosed with DIPG. You can read here if you haven’t to understand what diagnosing day looked like but now I really had a reason for anxiety, panic, and depression. In one short conversation I was immersed into the childhood cancer world and an oncologist was telling me I had less than a year for my son to live. The feeling of impending doom and zero control was real. I had none. No control of this deadly tumor and it was deadly, impending doom was about to unfold right before our eyes.
It is obvious that any parent who is given this type of diagnosis about their child would feel some type of anxiety and after dealing with it for most of my life I was determined to cope with this mega dose of anxiety inducing life circumstance too. I held on tightly to scripture, especially, 1 Peter 5:7
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
2018 was the craziest, most intense year of our lives but we were SO busy I was able to cope with most of my anxiety. Between the very long period of shock that this was even real life happening to our family, 6 weeks of radiation, all the memories we made in Cincy, beginning of the clinical trial, going back to Alaska, then traveling to Cincy once a month, we were so busy that my anxiety was really manageable. Minus scan time…but that’s a whole separate beast.
2019 has been one of the most calm and joy filled years we have had since LJ was born. We moved to Ohio, bought and renovated our first house, and have been slowly settling into our new life. You would think this calm and slowness would help someone who has anxiety but not being busy started to get to me. At around 18 months post diagnosis I was washing dishes, got really light headed, and could feel my heart start to race. I looked down at my watch and my heart rate was around 120…for no reason. No scans were coming up, actually we were freshly post stable scans. As soon as I calmed down I called the Doctor’s office to make an appointment and in true military facility fashion they could see me in 6 weeks. A mental health appointment was being put off for 6 weeks…and they wonder why the suicide rates in the military are ridiculous?
When it was finally time for my appointment the doctor asked what the origin of my anxiety was. I looked at my kids, looked at her and said “my little boy has terminal brain cancer.” That was the end of her eye contact with me and at that point she probably would have prescribed me anything I wanted. We decided to try Celexa and I started it the following day.
After the first two weeks of pure exhaustion (because I was taking the meds in the morning instead of the evening) I began to feel so much better. Much less overwhelmed, slower to anger, able to complete tasks that I want to, not just have to! I had been putting off metal health medication for a solid ten years. After dealing with anxiety most of my life I wondered what I would be like if my brain chemistry was assisted to be corrected and succumbed to being medicated. It is easier to be the mom and wife I want to be without the constant feeling of being worried or overwhelmed.
Anxiety, panic, and depression are things that can be helped both naturally and medically. I’m doing it all right now. Exercise, routines, essential oils, deep breathing, journaling, lowering expectations, supplements, and medication. Im obviously an open book. If you have any questions about my personal experience with anxiety, ask away! If you want help or guidance about your next step in your own battles, ask me too! Reaching out for help can be hard, but living with un treated mental health issues is much harder. Trust me.