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encouragement

29 Oct

I’ve been reading a lot of blogs, facebook comments, and emails, along with having numerous conversations with friends about the toughness that is motherhood.

Mommas, you know what I’m talking about, right?

I don’t know what it is about this particular school year, but I find myself falling into bed daily with a huge pile of regret weighing on my chest.  It is the worst feeling.

I know I’m not alone here.

As is becoming our nightly or weekly brainstorm session, last night, my hubbie and I spent an hour discussing all that we’d like to change in our current schedule to make life feel a little less like a ticking clock that is wrapped around our necks, reminding us of the 8,346,529 to dos.  We had a good conversation; we always do.  But nothing was solved other than we both agreed to take it to prayer.  That has been our weekly discussion for the past few months.

There has been a lot of talking and reflecting, but not a lot of changing.  This is in part because I overcommitted myself this semester with too many teaching responsibilities, leadership roles at our church, and necessary (but time consuming) therapies for Jonah.  It has been a terribly painful balancing act and most days have ended in utter frustration, disappointment and discouragement.  Plans are already in place for a different commitment load next semester (praise God!).

To put it plainly, these kind of feelings suck.  And more than anything, I’m tired of them weighing me down.

Interestingly, I saw this video yesterday and was encouraged.  I know I’m not the only one trying to find the elusive balance that is parenting with grace and patience.

So during my morning prayers and walk, I took this to God (for the millionth time) and prayed for love.  Nothing more.  Just to love my kids and my husband.

And somewhere in my chaotic stream of thoughts, I grabbed on to the idea that today I am going to take time to focus on what I did do, and less on what I need to do or even worse, what I should be doing because most of the time, those shoulds are just unrealistic.

This thought process is a bit foreign to me, I have to admit.  I got all twitchy thinking about trying to hash out an “I did” list instead of a “to do” list.  None the less…

*  I prayed for myself, my kids, my family and friends and those who have asked for special intentions.

*  I made three home cooked meals for the kids and provided two healthy snacks.

*  I spent a number of hours educating my kids in a wide variety of subjects.  This one?  Kind of a huge time commitment!

*  We took time to pray as a family, like we do every morning and night.

*  I helped with the unending atrium planning at our parish.

*  I spoke with a parent about how their child is growing in the faith during my atrium session.

*  I helped the kids come up with saint costumes for our All Saint’s party.

*  I took time to write this post (that is huge for me).

*  I invited my parents over to dinner just because.

*  I took a walk down our driveway to check the mail—mainly as an excuse to catch my breath and regroup for a few minutes.

*  I did my afternoon prayers before our afternoon school got started.

*  If all goes well, I will snuggle with a kid (or two or three) as they settle in for bed.

*  I will plan my atrium presentation for the upcoming session.

*  And, if the night ends well, I will have a bit of time to catch up on the day with Jason.

Darn, see the last 3?  Those haven’t happened…they are on the “to do” list, but these things happen on a nightly basis and they are an important part of my day.

So I guess what I am trying to do here is to use some of my energy being mindful that I am doing some things just fine.  And that darn to do list?  It can kiss it.

How’s that for a new way of thinking?

moving

20 Jun

The last three months have been an utter blur.  Packing up our old house, moving out and in to my parents, painting every flippin’ room (except the mud room, our bathroom and the school room….still getting there) from ceiling, trim, and walls, to all of the cabinets being refinished, and ripping up 4 rooms of flooring, cleaning (oh so much cleaning), moving in, unpacking, organizing, sorting.  Oh my.  Jason and I have never been so utterly whipped.

This moving thing has taught us many things about ourselves, our family, our priorities, our goals and our likes and dislikes.  In no particular order:

1.  My husband is pretty awesomely handy.  He has fixed and done so many things and saved us tons of money because of it.  One area that has been a challenge for him in prior homes was plumbing, so when we were having some issues with our washer hook up and a garbage disposal that wouldn’t work, I insisted we call our favorite plumber.  He caved (mainly because it was midnight and he was exhausted).  When the plumber came to access garbage disposal because it was  shaking like crazy and making crazy noises, he shined his flashlight down the drain and laughed.  He then pulled out a very chewed up rag.

I’m gonna blame that one on the painter who came and re-finished our cabinets.  That was not one of my rags!

Embarrasing, why yes?

2.  When painting, go with your instincts.  The last room I painted before we moved in is probably one of my favorite rooms in the house.  I hated the color that I picked for the room the second I opened the can.  But, being tired, utterly sick of painting and desperate to be done, I applied it.  Guess what, I still hate it.

3.  Overgrown landscaping=Poison Ivy:  I’m terrified of this stuff.  Everything makes me skin break out and the thought of poison ivy on me or any of my family makes my OCD go nuts.  Every time I venture out to weed, I become paranoid about touching any of that nasty stuff.  Today, I messaged Jason:

“I just ventured to the side of the house to spray some of the brush.  Of course now, I’m terrified I may have touched poison ivy.  Because that is how I roll.”

We need to save up and pay somebody to clear the over grown brush.  That stuff has got to go!

4.  Sleep deprivation brings out the worst in us.  Jason and I are not fans of swearing.  If I hear Jason swear, I know something *major* is going on.  I have the occasional slip, but for the most part, we try to keep our words clean.    Apparently, exhaustion has brought out a terrible habit of saying “Freakin” and “Damnit” because well…let me share a story to illustrate my point.

Today James woke up CRABBY.  We made the crazy decision to move him to a big boy bed when we moved in last weekend which means that he is up about two hours earlier than normal.  This?  Makes him crabby.  Today he was being an absolute bear and I about lost my mind with him while I was trying to make lunch.  I sent him OUT of the kitchen.  His response was, “Damnit.  Freakin.” OVER and OVER and OVER.

I had to walk out of the kitchen (into my favorite ugly painted room) and cry and laugh until tears were running down my face.  I eventually composed myself enough to have a little talk with him and tell him those are naughty words.  I swear if he had seen that commercial from the 90s “I learned it from watching you…” he would have thrown those words in my face.

That?  Was equal parts hilarious and humiliating.

5.  My kids are awesome and Annie, at age 7, has mastered babysitting her brothers.  Everyone who came to the house to help with our millions of projects commented that I could take a break because that daughter of mine is totally a little mother.  This is true.  We are grateful they lasted 4 weeks of day in and day out watching Jason and I work, work, and work some more on the house.  Their positive attitudes and repeated, “I just can’t wait to live here” comments were fantastic.

This past weekend, Jason and I slept in until 8:30.  I dashed out of bed once I realized the time to find that Annie had gotten her brothers up, dressed and ready for church and had started making breakfast.  She said to me, “I know you guys are really tired, so I thought I would let you sleep in.”  She is such a good kid.

Tonight we will be rewarding them for the patience and charity.  We have a surprise set up for them that will blow their minds (more on that tomorrow).

6.  Numerous people, mainly family, told me over and over, “Don’t kill yourself” while Jason and I were working like crazy.  Jason always laughed at those comments and said, “Clearly these people don’t live with you.  You are always this intense.”

True.  Very True.

7.  Budgets—we live and die by our budget system.  Moving…grrr…that makes budgets go crazy and no matter how much we tried to plan, there were and still are a million little (expensive) things popping up.  This?  Is stressful.

8.  I LOVE living out in the country.  The kids and I drove through our old subdivision yesterday and there was not an ounce of remorse.  I love being out here.

9.  I miss having a routine and am itching to get back into the swing of things.  Everyone has their days of feeling out of sorts and I think we are all ready for everything to fell “normal” again.  We are getting there.

10.  Never borrow a friend’s new (to them) truck to help move your stuff out or in.  You will inevitably end up denting something and feeling like a complete and utter tool.  Hire the professionals (though budget twice as much as they quote you…because…yes.  That happened and Jason and I about started crying, “Freakin” and “Damnit” when we got our final bill.)

11.  I hope and pray that we never, ever, ever have to move again.

And this was Lent, huh?

24 Mar

Today we enter into Holy Week.  My favorite week of the year.  The week, the days, the Masses that remind of us of the Pascal Mystery.  Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.  Easter is the holiest and highest feast of the Liturgical year and, as a Catholic, I’ve been given the opportunity that is Lent to prepare my heart, mind, body, and soul for this great celebration.  I’ve written before about my Lenten plans, the biggest of which in my mind was to slow down and take more time to pray.

Ahem…

It’s a good thing that I ended that post with:

“So there is the plan.  As always, it is written in pencil and I’m giving the eraser to God, asking Him to show me how and where He wants our family to grow in holiness.”

That eraser, friends, was Gi-stinking-normous! 

Here’s why…

We listed our house on ForSaleByOwner.com.

Actually we did this years ago.  But when I got pregnant with James, was put on bed rest, had a premiee baby, etc., we raised the asking price to something unreasonable knowing we wouldn’t get any activity on it.  We were hopeful that someday we could get back to our dream of moving out of a subdivision and getting some land.

Jason and I began talking and praying about our desire to move again.  We felt a very strong pull from God to begin this process again.  The desire was very strongly placed in our hearts.   And so we responded.

We logged back onto our ForSaleByOwner account and within a week of dropping the price, we had a serious buyer come through.  Then the next week, we had 4 showings in three days.  We had realtors calling us to ask if they could show the home.  Apparently there is a shortage of houses in our town, especially in this price range.  It was crazy.  In fact, we daily get inquires about the house.

Just a few days after the stretch of showings, we had an offer on the table.  We countered; they accepted.  The inspection went extremely well (they didn’t ask us to fix anything because the findings were so minimal).  And tomorrow is the appraisal.  We are praying that goes well, too.

Seriously! 

In Matthew 7:7, we read“Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you.”  Repeatedly, we feel as if we knocked and God not only opened the door, but He kicked our indecisive behinds through it. 

It has been amazing.

Once we started getting serious lookers through the house and especially after we got the offer, our life began to revolve around house hunting.  It has been a blur of seeing homes, mortgage applications, inspections, appraisals, number crunching, etc.  I cannot even begin to count the number of nights we got to bed hours after our usual bedtime. 

We are utterly and completely whipped. 

And oh my gosh, if I have to run the vacuum one more time, I think I might just cry.  Keeping a beautifully clean house with three kids, while homeschooling is a recipe for insanity. 

But, wow…God has been doing such awesome and amazing things with this process.  We have been praying for years and asking for the patience to be at peace with where we were living.  And in an instant (it kind of felt like that), Jason and I both felt like it was time to move on.  The pieces have been falling into place in the most remarkable ways.

We put an offer in on a home that we absolutely love.  It was accepted without even a counter offer. 

So, yeah, really…Lent being over doesn’t even feel like that is possible.  But, as always, I’m approaching Holy Week with the realization that God knows how, when, and in what ways my heart needs to be ever more focused on Him and His will.  A million things could still go “wrong,” but we are doing our best to remain prayerful that God has this under control.  I’m doing my best to rest in His peace that He is working out some beautiful plans for our family. 

I am grateful.  I am so very tired.  I need to go pack. 

Please pray for us.

Fall

15 Oct

I’m struggling right now.  There, I said it. 

This time of year is super tough for me.  The weather is growing colder and the sunlight disappears for days on end.  The blah days are beginning to out number the beautiful, sun filled carefree day and nights that were the last glimpse of summer.

While I love the opportunity to snuggle down with a good book and warm blankets with the kids while the rain falls outside (for the third day in a row), my brain hates this time of year—specifically the part that deals with sleep and mood.

Last night, I was heading to Adoration (holy hour of prayer before our Lord) with 2 of my dear friends and the topic of mothers and mental health came up.  We were sharing stories about times or scenarios that naturally bring anxiety and/or depression and/or irrational mood swings. 

For me, when Fall hits, a huge shift in our day to day routine takes place, mainly because we homeschool.  Our days and nights revolve around this decision.  And other commitments kick in again—sports, fine arts groups, co-ops, atrium sessions (a HUGE contributor to my crazy brain).  Every day, we are moving and shaking—which I love.  I used to think that I rolled best when we were busy.  Now I would say, I roll best when we are busy and my brain can keep up.

When the sunlight begins to disappear, my brain goes a bit nutty and insomnia kicks in which makes my anxiety crazy.  I lay awake at night with this or that nonsense running through my brain over and over and over.  I get up, I walk around, I lay down somewhere else, I catch a glimpse of sleep here or there.  Eck.  I hate it. 

During our car ride last night, we were commenting that we all struggle with these mental health issues.  Every single one of my friends has battles with this here and there—some more than others, but it is a common thread. 

Yet, I struggle to write about it because it is so very personal.  I have to pray with every fiber of my being to keep my crazy brain in tact.  I know what my triggers are and this time of year, I have to be extra vigilant. 

This season is passing—literally and figuratively.  I know It will all be OK.  It always is. 

Right now, it is just hard.

The one where I tell James what I am really thinking

7 Sep

Dear James,

I love you fiercely.  Oh so fiercely.  You are a bundle of hugs, kisses, and “Hi, Mommy!”  All day, you follow me around.  You demand hugs.  You demand to be picked up.  And when I do, you plant a juicy kiss right on my lips.

You are passionate.  You are intense.  You are a fiery ball of naughty.  And you my love, are driving me nuts.

You see school started this week and you are so not happy about it.  In fact, I’m pretty sure you are making it your goal to completely and utterly destroy my vision of what our homeschool days look like. 

:: big sigh::

Last year was smooth sailing.  This year, we’ve hit every bump along the way and we are only 4 days in. 

You are so damn strong willed.  You will scream and cry at the edge of the schoolroom and even if your brother or sister come to play with you, you are not content unless you are in the school room—destroying everything. 

You scream, “NO!” all day long.  You like to wrestle your brother (who hates to wrestle) and when he cries, you point to him and say, “Cry.”  And then you sit on him. 

When I try to have you sit on my lap while I work with your siblings, you kick and yell and demand to get down.  This always lands you in the playroom (just outside the school room).   And then you yell some more.

By the end of the day, I’m a little frazzled (okay, a lot—I admit it).  But then we get ready for bed and you snuggle in to me with “Raarrr” (your stuffed lion) and “Buddy” (your blanket) and I sing and rock you until you get sleepy, and then you whisper, “I wove you mommy” and my heart melts. 

And I pray that tomorrow will be a better day. 

I love you, little man.  Please be good.

Or your mommy just might lose it.

Love,

me

Taming the Beast of Anxiety

1 Aug

OK, let’s be totally honest:

My name is Amanda and I struggle with anxiety.

I’ve always been the tightly wound, high strung, perfectionistic, type A personality.  When I was in second grade, my parents and teachers worried that I would end up with an ulcer because I was always worrying about doing my work “right.”  Let’s just say, not a lot has changed in 25 years.

However, the way that I’ve learned to cope with the gripping anxiety that can keep me awake at night, suffocating me and making me feel like I can’t breathe has changed—thanks be to God!  For the most part, I can keep the beast in line, but it takes work.

Here’s my artillery:

1.  Exercise:  every. single. morning. no matter how tired I am or how long of a night I’ve had, I must get up and walk.  The speed and length of time depends upon how wigged out I am with stress and anxiety, but the minimum is a half hour at a get you sweating, but not kill you speed.  I’ve been totally hopped up on stress prior to the walk and it always, always, always calms me down.

2.  Pray:  During my walks, I pray the Rosary, which is a series of prayers with some big guns, get the heck away from me devil content.  I’ve had some of my most insightful and powerful prayers in the early hours of the morning when I walk.

I also bring the anxiety to prayer throughout the day—especially if there is a situation that is causing it.  One of the most important things I’ve come to understand is that the devil knows all too well my weaknesses and he does everything in his power to use those to create anxiety.  But I know with certainty that anxiety is from the devil, not from God.  My God is one of love, and peace, and mercy.  To Him, I run to everyday and beg for the grace to be at peace.  I often grab a crucifix and lay it before me when I am praying.  I place my anxieties at the foot of the cross.  I give them to God, and ask Him to fill my heart and mind with HIS peace.

When I am feeling particularly attacked (because c’mon, spiritual warfare totally exists), I ask for close friends or family to pray for me.  I need help.  I am weak and I’m not too proud to admit that.  Jason often prays over me and together, we tell the devil to get back to hell!

For sure, I’d be in a very bad place without my faith.

3.  Diet:  Certain foods and beverages wig me out.  I pretty much don’t ever drink alcohol, not because I don’t like a good glass of wine, but because it makes me hyper-anxious.  I also never drink caffeine, because oh my geeeeeez that flips me out.  I also know that I can’t have chocolate after mid-afternoon, because sadly, that makes me too wired to fall asleep, which makes me anxious, and no amount of chocolate or coffee or wine are worth that crazy feeling.  It is strict, but my mental health is worth it to me.

4.  Talk:  I talk to my husband a lot.  Thankfully he is a great listener and has a way more laid back disposition.  He know just what to say (most of the time) to help bring me back to peace.  He is my earthly rock.

5.  Write:  I have journals full of my “working through it thoughts.”  And, yes, you may have noticed that rants show up on this little blog.  These are innocent, folks, I promise.  I’ve had friends and family email or call me, “Are you OK?”  Yes, totally.  I just write to process.  I’m an intense personality (or so my husband tells me), so it fits that my rants are intense, too.  Sorry.

6.  Vitamins:  Over the years, I’ve had numerous doctors try to prescribe me medications for anxiety.  To this point, I’ve never felt called to take anything.  I’m not comfortable with it and I hope I don’t have to go that route.  Instead, I work with a “natural” doctor who has tested various B-vitamins and other nutrition support to keep my mind a (mostly) happy place.  I have had amazing results going this route and I am so thankful for good doctors who do it differently.  I’m not saying anything about anyone who does take prescription meds.  I think in the end, we are all doing what we know and believe is best, and that is OK.

So, yeah, lately I can feel the anxiety mounting as I prepare our school curriculum, open up another atrium at church, and other life issues that aren’t appropriate to blog about.  I HATE THAT FEELING (yes, all caps is necessary).

And, I often find myself wishing my brain worked differently, but it doesn’t.  So I struggle, and I fall, but I always pick myself back up, through God’s grace, and do my best to kick the devil out of our house and my brain.  Because he is not welcomed.  The End.