Monday, August 05, 2013

Stress and anxiety

Sometimes I'm never sure where to draw the public/private line when I'm writing here on the blog. Not everything needs to be or should be shared, but I've heard from enough people over the years that knowing someone else has been having the same struggles has been immensely helpful. I don't think it's healthy to pretend everything is all right when you are really struggling. People aren't mind readers and how can they help if they don't know anything is wrong.

The couple of weeks before we left for Michigan were particularly dreadful around here in terms of trauma behavior. I'm not exactly sure what set it off (and sometimes with trauma, there really isn't a reason), but I think that integrating our house guest and her two children into our home had a lot to do with it. Without going into details, let's just say it is a couple weeks of my life I do not care to repeat. Now, what no one often shares about therapeutic parenting is the difficulty as a parent in maintaining ones own mental health. It is very easy to fall into maladaptive behaviors yourself. And this is where I found myself last week.

Let's just say hyper-vigilance is exhausting and can lead to some pretty high stress levels. Unhealthy, non sleeping, high stress levels. And it is very difficult to get off that train. It gives me a whole new appreciation for my hyper-vigilant son. As I was sitting in my TM's therapist's office the week before our trip, and spewing my accumulated frustration, she said two things which really helped. The first, was to remind me that there is no way I can (or am even expected to) keep tabs on everyone and everything at all times. It is easy to forget this when it feels as though you are just seconds away from a major crisis all the time, and if you could just put out the fire in time, you will avoid the crisis. The second thing she said was to say that the single most important thing I can do for my family is to take care of myself; to give myself time to regroup and not be 'on call'.

Our vacation was a major reset for TM (which is what we all hoped it would be) and this past week was significantly better. But it seems no one thought to tell my head or my stomach. My stress and anxiety levels were continually off the charts and I helpfully added to it all by worrying about the fact I was so stressed and worried. Once again, I have new insight into my child of trauma. If it was this difficult for my to gear down after just a couple of bad and stressful weeks, how could I ever expect him to gear down after years of stress and trauma. It is difficult to let it go.

I ended up doing all the things for myself that I often do for the boy. First, I told J. how I was feeling (stress and anxiety doesn't like to share feelings, remember). That was an immediate help. He could support me once he knew what was going on and also knew how to pray for me. Second, I had to get my theology right. By worrying so much and thinking that I had to be on top of everything, I had forgotten that God was in charge and that He was able to take care of it. I had to remember that God could be trusted, even when things looked hard. Third, I had to keep reminding myself of what reality really was at that moment. Nothing horrible was happening and I didn't need to be on full alert. Deep breathing is a good thing. And lastly, I realized that it had been quite a while since I had done anything that I enjoyed doing and that relaxed me. It had been a good long while since I had been creative or made anything. So I cleaned my sewing table which had been collecting clutter since Easter when I did my last marathon sewing extravaganza. (Which really didn't count as relaxing, either. There was a deadline.) It is now all clean and tidy, everything is put away in it's place, and I could actually sit down and sew. I picked-up some panda embroideries a while back and I think making t-shirts with pandas on them for G. and L. will be my next project.

Yesterday, as I was deciding what to do, I thought it would be a good time to finally learn to crochet. I had been wanting to for a long time and the P family mom spent some time trying to teach me a few months ago. I didn't really remember, but it was enough for the instruction book that I had to make sense. The biggest reason I want to be able to crochet (besides the fact it is the one hand work skill that continued to elude me), is that I kept seeing these crocheted ripple blankets all over. And I needed to be able to make one. They look so cheery and comfortable. But first one needs to be able to crochet.

Nothing does more for my mental health than the combination of figuring something out that has proven troublesome combined with making something. And look what I did...

Now, if I had the right colors, I could start making that blanket. In all my free time.


MamaPPod said...

Did you hear that?? It was the sound of cheering from over here at my house. Good on you for crocheting! And now, you need to go here , and make up the blanket she's been working on little by little over the summer. The same blanket I was supposed to be working on little by little over the summer, by the way.

But anyway, CONGRATULATIONS for crocheting! More cheering from the crowd here.

LawMommy said...

From one mama who struggles with stress and anxiety to another - I do sincerely appreciate the honesty in your posts like this.

At one point earlier this year, I found myself hyperventilating in my doctor's office. (I think I had been spending so much time trying not to hyperventilate, that by the time I sought out the doctor (off the record, mind you, because the reason I was at the doctor's was for my son's track and field physical, and I had to send him into the hallway after the doctor was done so I could bend our family physician's ear privately, which led to the hyperventilating)...

Anyway, what happened was the doctor handed me a week's worth of Xanax for the "emergency that has developed" from my failure to take care of myself. (As a seven day solution, it was effective. I took it every night for seven nights, which meant I slept for seven nights, which meant that I was no longer insane from sleep deprivation.)

But more importantly, he said that long term anxiety reduction (in an otherwise healthy person) needs to come from taking time to take care of one's self, and he prescribed 30 minutes of "relaxing physical activity" (he specifically mentioned yoga, but I am such a clutz it's hard for me) - so I'm swimming, trying a slow belly dancing video or walking on the treadmill watching comedy shows. He also said I should spend 30 minutes a day doing something I love, even if that means laying the tub with a book. On days when I make sure I have that hour of relaxing exercise and "me time" - I do feel so much better. I really notice it when several days go back that I cannot do my "me" things.

Lucy said...

Have you looked into alternative/nutritional supportive therapies for stress & anxiety, for the adults and kids? I'm thinking enzymes in particular -

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