Learning to Fly

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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I headbang to ridiculously good music while alone in my car.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.


Learning to Fly — 62 Comments

    • I’m just gushing at your words and at all of the words of yours and my blog friends who checked in today. And happy early birthday my friend. May it be the happiest of them all so far. xxoo

    • Thank you, Ashley (and Lisa too!) I really did write about it a lot when I was in the thick of it, but that was before I joined SITS. I truly think it would have helped to have “known”you all back then. And hey, it may happen again, of course, and I’ll be grateful to have a blogging community.
      Tamara recently posted…Learning To Fly, To Ilene’s Place!My Profile

  1. There is so much we don’t know about one another, Tamara. We tend to look through that magical “they’ve got it all together” camera lens and wonder why our lives can’t be as perfect. I am so sorry you have had to struggle so mightily, and I am so thankful you are sharing your story. I especially love what you wrote here: The anxiety makes me angry that during the worst of times it has separated me from this-(pic of adorable daughter).

    What a poignant reminder to relish each and every moment that we can. Thanks for the unbridled, wide as the bright blue sky, joy, and your amazing images, too!
    Kim recently posted…Living in the In-BetweenMy Profile

    • Thank you for your beautiful comment. I know there have been a lot of wonderful posts lately about how happy people’s lives look on Facebook and I worry a bit if I’m one of those people who looks so happy, but I am genuinely really am happy a lot. And when I’m anxious – hoo boy – the posts show it. So I am happy to “meet” you all when I’m in a peaceful and clear way of thinking. It won’t be like this always, but I imagine it will come back around!
      Tamara recently posted…Learning To Fly, To Ilene’s Place!My Profile

  2. It is so wonderful to see the two of you here together. Tamara, I am so glad that you have found ways to help you cope and that you have that feeling of freedom and flying again. I have felt both moments of possibility and impossibility – and possibility is always better. Happy early birthday, my friend!
    Kim recently posted…How You Love Me?My Profile

  3. Ilene, thanks for hosting Tamara today! Tamara, thank you for sharing this very intimate view into your life. Your honesty and courage to share this struggle and journey with us are simply breathtaking. And inspiring. You’re an incredibly talented woman, wife, mother, and friend, and I’m so glad you’ve found ways to let your beautiful spirit keep shining, to overcome the challenges, and learn to fly again!
    Nicole @ Work in Sweats Mama recently posted…Summer Lovin: Kuhl Vega Sleeveless Dress ReviewMy Profile

    • Thank you so much, Nicole. I used to talk about it sometimes – but more in the safety of my blog than face to face to my loved ones. And I used to talk about it in more whiny tones. This may be my first post “from the other side” and I wanted it to be at Ilene’s place. I can’t explain it well but this seems like a very safe place.
      Tamara recently posted…Learning To Fly, To Ilene’s Place!My Profile

  4. This is beautiful Tamara. I’ve been in a fink lately, and I’m starting to wonder if it’s more than a funk. I’ve made a few phone calls to a doctor/therapist, but I haven’t really pushed to get something done. I really do need to do that, I miss feeling carefree! 🙂
    Rabia @ TheLiebers recently posted…Dominoes is a Dangerous GameMy Profile

  5. Thank you for sharing that intimate part of your life with us. I’m happy that you realized that you couldn’t do it alone and got help. That’s the first step and you’re doing an amazing job. Family and great friends to help are also a plus. Once again your photos inspire and gives us all hope. Hope you’re having a great week with the family.
    Growing Up Madison recently posted…Almost Wordless Wednesday: Toddler Helmet SafetyMy Profile

    • Right – I always thought I could do it alone because I always had in the place! Probably it was more of a band-aid thing and no permanent (or semi-permanent solution.) Hope you’re having a great week too! Our weather is finally more like yours, and get this, a moose is on the loose in the town next to mine!
      Tamara recently posted…Learning To Fly, To Ilene’s Place!My Profile

  6. Hey Tamara nice to see you here. You have opened up completely and I appreciate you sharing the most intimate parts of your life here. I manage a different type of anxiety with a loved one on a regular and everyone copes a different way. You have an awesome expression of your feelings with the photography and blogging outlet. I’m glad you share on a regular with us your beautiful family and talents.
    Joi @ Rx Fitness Lady recently posted…Delta Sigma Theta Centennial Recap & D.C. TakeoverMy Profile

  7. This was so beautifully written. Thank you for sharing this because sometimes we forget to share the other sides of what makes us who we are. Anxiety is not easy to deal with and we all cope with it in different ways. I’m glad you have found the right mixture of “how” that works for you and allows you to be in the now with those that you love 🙂
    Krystal recently posted…So Sometimes I Sugarcoat ItMy Profile

  8. I love when I click on a blog and get to see not just 1 blogger that I enjoy but 2!!!
    What an amazing story and journey Tamara!! I’m so glad that, for the most part, treatment is helping you and that you are able to enjoy all the little parts that make up life – hooray for flying!!!
    Kim recently posted…Pictures are Better than WordsMy Profile

  9. “Sometimes still, I’m gleeful that I can drive anytime I want.”

    You mentioned a few times, “it’s not perfect, but … ” but, it is perfect. It’s fitting that you’re here in this space today, sharing what you’ve shared, because you and Ilene have taught me much in short seasons. More than either of you will ever know.

    I want to feel that, too, that glee about driving anytime I want. I might not be perfectly there, but I’m fighting, just like you.

    thank you both for being my teachers.
    Eli@coachdaddy recently posted…On the Road Again: This Time, at Tamara Camera BlogMy Profile

    • Thank you so much. I think it wasn’t vastly different – but more about anxiety and a little less about joy and wonder. The “treatment” was really the combination of things I did for myself and the EMDR which is really just a normal 45 minutes of therapy with some cool headphones to make you think better about the past.
      Tamara recently posted…Learning To Fly, To Ilene’s Place!My Profile

  10. Amazing. Thank you for sharing that window into your soul. Anxiety can be very isolating.I love your honesty, rawness and courage. I love that you shared ways to cope too and I’m so glad that you have found some peace.
    Leah Davidson recently posted…Quote of the WeekMy Profile

  11. So much about you I did not know! I understand the thick, crushing feeling of anxiety. I too suffered from anxiety and depression, still do, but I am medicated! I also have a NICU battle story! Had no idea we had so much in common. I truly appreciate your honesty in this post!
    Alexa recently posted…Pin It! Tuesday!My Profile

  12. Oh Tamara, you brought me to tears today. This really touched my heart. I suffered from depression and anxiety, which included occasional panic attacks for many many years. I sought treatment a few years back and my life has changed so much for the better. I could relate to everything you wrote, and I applaud you for bravery in finding your way to happy. Thank you for sharing your heart.
    Stevie recently posted…Ticktock Goes the ClockMy Profile

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  14. First off, I love seeing you here Tamara. It’s Ilene that first introduced us and so thankful that she did. Thank you for sharing this. There’s so much that I can identify with, especially this –> “Feeling weighted down by pain and fear and anxiety was the answer for me for so long because I allowed it.” I too want my days to feel like flying again. You are doing an amazing job – self-care is so important. xox
    Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted…#tastethevibrationMy Profile

  15. I have tears in my eyes reading this because I can relate. I suffer from severe depression AND anxiety. It is debilitating and sometimes it controls me. I feel like I have to fight hard everyday just to keep from being completely shut in from it. And already there are more and more things that I can’t do. I’m so glad you were able to find something that helps you.

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