Wow! Have I crammed in a lot in three days. I recited a few choice words for the naysayers on Alexa’s blog on Monday and I introduced you all to a dog loving thirty two year old mystery man yesterday, and today, well today…
Tamara’s here. I could go on and on about my soul connection with Tamara. Our NICU stories, our identical choices in baby names, love of all things grunge, sort of the same maiden names, the instantaneous emotional connection I have to just about everything she says, and the list goes on. On top of that, I love Tamara’s photos, and I love her words. I adore the story that she shares here today.
In honor of our guest. I’m serving up cookies. Tamara absolutely gets the biggest one. There will also be cupcakes with candles on it for her birthday – which is tomorrow! So give her a shout out and show her some love.
If you have never met Tamara before today, then boy, are you in for a treat.
Do you remember how you felt when you had your first driver’s license hot off the presses? I crammed everything I needed to know in the “Six Hours Behind The Wheel” course in my last two months of being 16. I woke up on 17th birthday and with butterflies-turned-angry hornets, I took that test pretty darn well until I plowed through a stop sign at the end of the test. Oops!
Still, I passed. I don’t even know if the instructor saw. He was already writing the big “P” for Pass on my file. “P” for possibility.
With my license and with a big old Buick Century in tan that my younger brother had inherited in our great-aunt’s will but wouldn’t be able to use for another year, I was good to go. My maiden voyage was to my favorite Jersey diner. I don’t know how my parents could let me out like that – with only two months of practiced driving under my belt. Still, they did. It felt..like how I imagine it feels to fly.
Mobility felt like flying. The thing is, it never got old to me. Sometimes still, I’m gleeful that I can drive anytime I want.
I thought I’d never feel such elated feelings of freedom ever again, until recently when I worked through fairly severe anxiety.
There had been times in my life of debilitating situational anxiety but they never lasted for long. Then came a time in which I couldn’t will it away. I became a parent and my kid got hurt when she was a baby. I didn’t recover from it like I always had in other situations. I was often nauseous. Antisocial. Idle. Not daydreaming. I felt like I had clamps around my lungs and I couldn’t fully breathe.
I felt out of control in that dizzy and spinny way, and not in that flying way.
It was a long and overdue buildup – a pile-up of new and old situations. Post-traumatic stress from childhood tragedy. Transitions into marriage and motherhood. An unease with changes of any kind – maybe caused by my father’s sudden death when I was four. Maybe I was born this way. Thick, suffocating anxiety. I agonized over both obvious and hidden triggers to anxiety attacks. I stayed home during the worst and I would muddle anxiously through social outings with one eye always on the clock during the best. I would feel ok for periods of time and then worse again. When I got pregnant with my second baby and moved into a maybe-forever home, it became too much to bear when I was couch-ridden from pregnancy and anxiety. The whys of my anxiety attacks no longer mattered.
All that mattered was the hows.
If and how I would cope with the frequent anxiety attacks. If I could learn to stop them in their tracks, and eventually prevent them completely after a simple trigger or warning sign. My realistic goal would be to have larger periods of time between them, if I couldn’t get rid of them completely and forever. What was most important would be to live my life without having to think about every little thing I could do. Large crowds and parties were nearly impossible. Even spontaneous errands and play dates could be difficult.
Running through sprinklers and getting ice cream in our pajamas and going on last minute road trips? Impossible, or so I thought.
The anxiety would not just creep up, if I stepped out of line of my plan of laying low and saying no. Of hiding out and turning in.
Rather, the anxiety would be a roaring whoosh inside my ears and a weight on my heart. I felt heavy.
There was no magic switch, obviously. Rather, relief and healing came slowly and peacefully like a wave as I broke apart and dealt with various pains and fears. I am never medicated since I’ve been pregnant/nursing, and I have never had panic attacks so I’m not going for the most intense treatment. So I do a number of things, in no particular order, from mild to serious. To feel light again.
One by one, like an arsenal of tools in my belt. Bettering myself with my strongest weapons. Learning to fly, at least now with two children and a rough couple of years gone by, and most importantly – picking myself back up after I inevitably crash or stumble again.
And so. I call my mom or a good friend when I need to cry. I buy Rescue Remedy and “Fear-Less” and all of those other herbal anxiety pills that may be placebo and may be real. I write more and photograph more. You may have noticed this. I get a lot of baby hugs, and husband hugs when I am feeling ready enough to talk to him more. I answer to each and every baby and kid call. The anxiety makes me angry that during the worst of times it has separated me from this
And there’s only so many times I’ll let that happen before I attack back.
There was being so strong during and after Desmond’s birth…and getting us all through the tentative newborn months.
Friends are lifesavers. Blogging friends are like magic. I exercise in some way – chasing kids, hiking, walking to the mailbox. I take deep breaths into my stomach, just for the heck of it, or when I feel rising signs of anxiety. I repeat affirmations in my head. I take help from the people who I know really mean it – which is most people I know. Ok, I’m not perfect at that but I’m learning.
I headbang to ridiculously good music while alone in my car.
And lastly, when I felt I couldn’t do it on my own and with the help of my friends and family, I got help. In my case, a post-traumatic stress therapy called EMDR. I don’t have all the answers, and I never will, and I can’t claim to be an expert at anything except what is best for my family.
Feeling weighted down by pain and fear and anxiety was the answer for me for so long because I allowed it. I want my days to feel like flying. There are extremely scary take-offs, and turbulence and bumpy landings, of course, but the freedom I feel lately?
That’s just like learning to fly.
It’s been over a year since I started treatment. I got through Des’ first birthday and Scarlet’s fourth birthday, as well as the anniversaries of both my father’s death and my grandfather’s death, all without incident. I have a history of incident around these times. I will probably always be challenged throughout life – that’s just who I am – but it’s nice to have a toolbelt of steps to take when it gets overwhelming. It’s not 100% and I still have reactions to small things but there’s a difference between suffering and coping.
Coping well. Self-care. They equal mobility. Mobility equals possibility. Possibility feels like flying.
And you know what? Just like with my driver’s license, this way of living just doesn’t get old. Ever.
There’s too much to miss, wound tight around myself. Right now I am here and I am fighting and I will always fight. I will say “yes” to big plans and little plans. Hot, sweaty concerts and tiara-making in the comfort of our home. I won’t spend too much time watching clocks and squeezing the pressure points on my wrists that trigger nausea relief. I will play and run and soar and I won’t think too hard before saying “yes” to all of it. To you. It will never be perfect and it may always be just a touch or staggeringly hard. That’s life.
That’s real life. So why not spend as much time as you can feeling like you’re flying?
Tamara is a professional photographer, a mama of two, a writer/blogger at Tamara Camera Blog and a nearly professional cookie taster. She’s been known to be all four of those things at all hours of the day and night. After two cross country moves, due to intense Bi-Coastal Disorder, she lives with her husband, daughter and son in glorious western Massachusetts. Pets are soon to follow. She dreams about northern lights, moose and whales always.
You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Bloglovin.