Today is Blue Monday, the most depressing day of the year. For those of us that suffer from anxiety, a more appropriate name would be Manic Monday.
I set my phone to play the soft soothing sounds of Tibetan bowls and flute meditation music and keep it on for the entire day hoping it will keep me in a theta and even beta state. A girl can dream.
My babysitter doesn’t show up. On her first day. When I need her most. But things happen for a reason right? She has a prior scheduling conflict she texts me. A meeting at 7 am. Who has a meeting at 7 am?
I have no choice but to get the kids ready on my own despite my anxiety. I do it slowly. There’s no other way. I feel a little weak but ok. One wrong move and the anxiety symptoms will overtake me and I won’t be able to move for an hour, maybe more, all the while wondering if it’s just anxiety or if I’m actually dying. I can’t let that happen. I’m alone with both kids. I need to get them ready for school and I need to get to work.
It’s ok until we get in the car. Little C screams the whole way because she can’t get her gloves on right. E screams back, “stop it!” My impaired nervous system cannot handle not this outside stimuli. My muscles start to tighten.
“Mommy will help you when she’s done driving,” I calmly say.
I don’t get E to school in time for her before school care but I do get her there just in time for the bell to ring.
“I’m nervous,” says E. She missed all last week because of scarlet fever and was off for the holiday break for two weeks before that. She cried at bedtime last night because she was so nervous about going back to school. School hasn’t exactly been her favourite place to be but grade two has been better this year. She likes her friends and her teacher.
“Look, there’s Madame and your friends,” I say.
I help E get out of the car, put her back pack on and watch her walk towards the school. My heart melts. I love her so much. The bell just rang and the kids are starting to go in. E gets there just as the last kid goes in and the door shuts, leaving her out.
I get out of the car.
“E!” I yell. “Knock on the door!”
She does and someone lets her in.
I put the car in drive and leave the school only to see E’s snow pants on the passenger seat. Shoot. I have to go back.
I head back into the school parking lot, grab the snow pants and run to the door. I knock. E answers with a big smile. I know she will be ok because of that smile and I hand her the snow pants and go.
The whole way to preschool, C is saying “I don’t want go preschool. I want go toy store.”
“Ok,” I say back.
We pull into the preschool parking lot.
“No! No! No! I don’t want preschool! I want toy store!”
“But the toy store doesn’t open until after preschool ok? Do you want to walk or go in the stroller?”
I open the trunk and tug and pull at the stroller stuck under E’s bike. I grab C’s jacket (because the one she insisted on wearing is too light for outside play), her snowpants, scarf, and indoor shoes and stuff them in the top part of the umbrella stroller which is standing on its last legs. I get C into the stroller and wheel her down the path to the preschool room door, open the door with my fob, and bring her in.
Now she’s sitting in the stroller at the top of the stairs.
“Do you want to walk?” I ask her.
“No! I don’t want go preschool.”
I’m not in any shape to argue. Normally I just would have picked her up, went down the stairs and brought her right into her classroom.
Now I’m negotiating with a two year old and getting nowhere.
She doesn’t budge. I finally decide to bring her in the stroller down the stairs and a dad passing by lifts the front of the stroller and gets it down for me. I wheel her to her classroom, get her hat and jacket off, and tell the daycare worker that’s all I can do and leave as C sprawls herself on the floor and starts crying. She’s in fantastic hands there and I know she loves it so I walk away not worried, just tired and stressed at the ordeal.
Now, off to work. I check myself in the car. How am I doing? I feel tightness in my neck, shoulders and down the front to my stomach. I start taking deep breaths.
In five minutes, I’ll be at work. But I’m an hour late. I arrive and sit in my chair. I feel off but maybe I just need to relax for a bit. I make small chit chat with my coworker. Why can’t everything just go back to normal? For the past five months I’ve been doing the same morning routine and it never got to me before. Now it’s all I can do to turn my computer on without having to go lie down. I start doing work. It’s hard to focus on the screen and I can only do a little at a time.
At 11 am, I decide to have some broccoli soup. At 11:30 I ask if it’s ok if I go into the next room and do some yoga.
I lie down on my mat.
My head starts spinning.
I get up slowly and sit on the couch. It’s not going away. Now I start to feel weakness in my legs. I start to feel faint. Should I text my co worker? Wait. It’ll pass. It doesn’t. I’m feeling extremely weak now. It takes everything for me to get up and walk back to my desk.
“I’m not feeling well,” I say.
My boss jumps into action. He’s the best boss and friend I could ever ask for. He starts bringing me water and Mac and cheese lol. I feel nauseous. I decide to call an ambulance. I need to get this checked out. I’ve never experienced this level of weakness before and maybe it’s not anxiety but something else…
The paramedics show up. They take my blood pressure. It’s high. I actually bust the cuff. I ride with them to the hospital. My boss follows behind in his car.
We get to the hospital and wait. The weakness lasts off and on for three hours, the longest I’ve ever experienced it. Maybe I have high blood pressure. It runs on one side of my family. Maybe I’m entering perimenopause and my hormones are out of whack. Maybe it’s something else or everything together.
I spend the waiting time chatting with my boss, trying to convince him to go back to the office, and googling my symptoms. He knows half the people in the waiting room. He’s just that kind of guy. After three hours of waiting with me, I finally convince my boss, as nice and wonderful as it is to have him with me, to go and he only agrees to go so he can drop off my car at home with the help of another coworker.
Soon after he leaves, my name is called.
I follow the nurse speed walking yards ahead of me into a small hospital room. I’m a little wobbly on my feet and if I turn my head from side to side I get vertigo. I sit on the bed. The doctor comes in.
I tell her my story and she orders up a bunch of tests. She’s particularly concerned about my chest tightness and wants to make sure my heart hasn’t beeen damaged or worse…
I keep googling my symptoms and find comfort in strangers online talking about how afflicted they are by their anxiety. All my symptoms and suffering seem to be matching up. We’ll see.
I’m taken to another waiting area to wait for the tests. Through it all, despite the weirdness happening inside me, I have been able to remain calm and even joke about it. I kept saying to my boss and coworkers, “see you on the other side!” and when we got to the hospital waiting room, my boss joked that he expected something different on the other side. “This is purgatory,” I offered back.
A hospital volunteer comes and sits in between me and another patient. He’s a real jokester and I think he likes the two of us because we are the only ones to laugh at his jokes whenever he passes by.
“They should put slot machines in here for you guys!”
I laugh. The other woman laughs. Everyone else pretends he doesn’t exist. It’s hard to laugh when you’re suffering. I think the only reason I’m able to do it is because I’ve been down this road many times before.
“If all you folks are still here tomorrow morning, I’ll make sure you get to the front of the line!”
I smile and give a little chuckle. That’s when he comes to sit beside me.
He’s about 60 years old, short and round with a kind face and a blue vest with badges. He tells the other woman and I how life is what you make it, how he volunteers twice a week, has two children in their thirties, how his wife battled cancer for ten years, how he loves our medical system and that he’s single now and has high blood pressure because he’s not having enough sex.
Despite our ailments, we erupt in laughter. I kind of wonder if he’s actually trying to pick us up lol. Nah…
It gets a little uncomfortable after that last joke so he takes a hint, gets up, gives us a big smile and salute, and continues on his rounds.
“What a character,” says the woman as he turns the corner.
“Yup,” I reply and get back to google.
My name is called.
The nurse brings me into another hospital room. She takes my blood pressure lying down, sitting up and standing up. I’m relieved to see it not as high as when I first came in but it’s still high. I lie back down and raise my shirt. Yes, I’m still wearing nursing bras I say to myself. She sticks nodes all over my chest and arms and attaches cables for my electrocardiogram. I’ve had lots of these and I’ve been to the ER lots of times throughout my anxiety journey so it doesn’t phase me but there’s still internal things going on making me anxious so I’m anxious. I close my eyes. It’s done in a second. Next the nurse draws blood and I’m taken to another waiting area to wait for my results. The blood tests will take an hour.
I google. A few minutes later I’m called into another room with the most comfortable hospital bed I’ve ever sat on. I curl up and wait. An older lady walks in and introduces herself as the hospital crisis worker. Note to medical staff: A nicer title might be helpful. We go through my history of anxiety, what I’m feeling now, some relaxing exercises like what to do if you’re having a panic attack while grocery shopping (look at things and call them out in your mind to keep you in the here and now) and how putting your hand on your chest helps to stop tightness. I try it. Not bad.
“Do you have beds here for mental health patients?” I ask. I would really love to stay the night.
“We do have some but they’re all taken,” she says.
“Do you have a counsellor?” she asks me.
“No. I’ve been trying to get one for a long time. It’s been hard. Now that I finally have coverage from work I can see a psychologist. How do I find one?” I ask.
“We don’t have any here at the hospital,” she says. “You’ll have to find one by going online.”
She leaves and an hour later, the doctor comes in.
“All your tests came back normal,” she says. “Best to see your family doctor about your anxiety.”
Phew it’s just anxiety. Well not just anxiety, but at least this is a path I’ve been down before. The symptoms seem to change each time but in the end, it’s always anxiety. I just need to see my family doctor and get on the right meds. In the meantime, I have to rest at home.
Just as I was about to leave, a nurse comes in to take my blood pressure. Great. I just kind of calmed myself down and now here we go again.
“Wooh! That’s high!”
“Should I be going home?” I ask.
“No, it’s high because you were just talking to the doctor and moving around,” the nurse replies.
“But I’m calm now. And it’s high. Are you sure it’s ok for me to go home?” I insist. Sure I’m right in the middle of acute and sub acute and it’s noisy and there are lots of light but this bed is so comfortable and I feel safe here.
“Yes it’s ok. For you to go home.”
Ok. Whatever. I know blood pressure spikes when you have anxiety so I’ll just keep telling myself this is ok and temporary and I’ll follow up with my doctor. I had high blood pressure the last time I had an anxiety relapse too and then it stabilized after I went on meds so I’m going to keep telling myself that. Anxiety is always looking for a path to terror to create more anxiety and you have to be like a goalie, blocking the shots. It just one fearful thought after another which you have to reason your way out of. It’s exhausting and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. That’s what they call the “battle”.
My neighbour picks me up. She picked up my other neighbour in the exact same circumstance just a few months ago. All the moms on my street are on meds for anxiety and depression. I have Ativan at home but I’ve never taken it. Anxiety also makes you afraid of taking medication. My neighbour turns to me and says Ativan helps her sleep. I was happy to hear she takes it and is ok and it was also what my other neighbour in the same situation took for three months after her anxiety attack. “Maybe I’ll try it,” I say. “Since all the cool kids are doing it.” We share a laugh as she pulls into my driveway and I head on inside. It’s late but C and E come barreling down the stairs to hug their mommy. I love them so much.
“It’s just anxiety,” I say to J.
“Well, that’s not good,” he says. I know what he means. Our problems aren’t over. But I can’t think of that right now. He gives me a hug and I down the chicken he bought me and the potatoes he made. What would I do without J? He, too, has been down this road many times with me and he knows there’s a period of recovery coming we will have to figure out.
Still feeling weird and tight but not under attack, I decide to cut an Ativan pill in half and slip it under my tongue.
I head upstairs to bed. My limbs start to feel a bit heavy. Must be the Ativan. I fall asleep and wake up an hour later with body chills. What now? Do I have a fever? Is this a reaction to the Ativan? Or is it just damn cold in here? I pick up my phone. J, in the other room with E, texts me, “are you cold?” Good, so it’s not only me. But these chills! I put on a warmer pyjama and turn the thermostat up. The floor and doorknob feel like ice so it must be just cold. I manage to warm up and fall asleep, my phone still playing the soothing sounds.
What tomorrow brings, I don’t know.