Anxiety: The Worst Houseguest Ever

By Wednesday, October 30, 2019 7 3

Something happened to me in February that changed me entirely. And permanently. Or so I hope.

On February 13th I experienced a panic attack. I’ve never had one before, but suddenly I was frozen at my kitchen sink as absolute terror overtook every cell of my body. It lasted 6 days because I had no idea it was.

It was the most shocking, horrible, debilitating experience I’ve ever had. I was convinced it was an awful disease because I couldn’t accept that my mind — not mine — could do this. When I finally accepted it was my mind, I didn’t trust myself and that’s a very unstable place to be. Aftershocks of severe anxiety rocked me for months.

I had never met anxiety until it came to visit that day. I know I’ve never met it because I would’ve remembered. I’m not talking about “I’m a little nervous, let’s go to yoga” anxiety, I’m talking “I’m out of my body with terror, let’s imagine ALL the worst-case scenarios and cry a lot” anxiety. Once I allowed anxiety into my house, it had every intention to stay forever. It’s the worst houseguest ever. It’s black mold in my walls. I had to strip myself down to the studs to rid myself of its sickness.

This light installation by Mihoko Ogaki became my spirit animal

The panic attacks and anxiety were my mind’s way of waking me up. It was like being woken up from a sound sleep by a fire alarm directly into my ear. I was fully out one moment and fully awake, fists up ready to get medieval the next.

I saw how life just happens for many and I was heading that way. It’s easy to fall asleep on yourself. It’s easy to think you have enough time. I saw in February that I had delayed pursuing my purpose too long and if I didn’t wake up, I would run out of time. I saw my college self being like “You haven’t even tried yet? Ew.”. Sure, my college self was wearing raver pants and platform shoes but dang, girl had some gumption!

My choices were very clear: (1) I could live with severe anxiety and be an empty shell of my former self, or (2) I could fundamentally change my life and be reborn. I decided immediately to fight, to kick out the shitty houseguest and bleach the mold. College me was like “Yo yo, she back!” and I totally felt like wearing raver pants again.

There is no universal prescription to eradicate anxiety which makes it such a lonely experience. For me, my antidote is pretty sweet because I am required to do the things that make me feel alive. So, I do those things. My antidote also requires I recognize that if my mind could create the crappiest thing in all the land like panic attacks, it can also create the opposite. So, I focus there.

Saw this unfortunate tree hiking and was like: “That’s me!” The perfect reminder that sometimes change isn’t gentle. Sometimes it involves ripping wide open to see what’s really inside.

Anxiety still tries to take the wheel to steer me to darkness. It’s like it’s alive and like all forms of life, it has an insatiable need to continue living. It feeds off fear and negative energy, so anxiety no likey my fluffy hope and gratitude. Yes, I still have aftershocks and probably always will, but I know how to smother them with sunshine and rainbows. I also know that bad things aren’t always bad and sometimes they’re gifts. February and anxiety were my gifts.

For those who suffer from panic attacks or anxiety, I see you. I didn’t see you before but I see you now. And because of February, I finally saw me. I will always have a scar from this year, but it isn’t ugly and I won’t hide it. I am more than ok, I am awake. I am done with delay and shitty houseguests, but definitely not done with raver pants.


Sometimes you need a wake-up call. While some wake-up calls are soft hands gently nudging you awake, others are violent, rude face slaps that leave you gasping for mercy. If you get one of those, you’re lucky but only if you choose to be.

Babies, Squirrels, and Grit

By Tuesday, October 15, 2019 0 4

Having small children, while challenging as I went belly up about in my last post, is a magical pretend world where you are completely enchanted by tiny, gross heathens who would lick a toilet plunger if you would just please please let them.

Being a baby is really hard work. What impresses me most is their tenacity to give life their all, every moment of every day. They are abnormally motivated to learn, grow, and try new things. All. Day. Long. Meanwhile, back on the farm, I can go weeks without a complex thought and have a hard time trying a new face wash.

Their brains are building 2 million new synapse connections each second – that’s a fact, y’all. In their first year, their brains will double in size and their cerebellums, the part responsible for balance and coordination, will triple in size. They go from floppy, barely responsive, drooling protozoans to agile, clever, fully interactive chimpanzees.

It’s also a fact that we have to do an extraordinary amount of work to keep these vulnerable creatures alive. Oftentimes it’s like they’re trying to kill themselves. Nature has shown the longer babies are dependent on their parents, the smarter the animal. So, our childhoods are long because we are smart. Human babies are completely helpless so they can be completely protected, freeing them up to spend most of their focus learning how to use their brains.

Babies seem to have something adults lack and I kept wondering: how are we different? I watched a TED talk on the topic by Alison Gopnik, a child development psychologist, who described the difference this way: babies “are the brilliant butterflies who are flittering around the garden and exploring and we are the caterpillars who are inching along our narrow, grown-up, adult path.” Another way to put it: babies are the research and development division of humanity while adults are production and marketing. What a way to make adulthood sound like a total snooze fest. I want to flit! Babies por vida!

Gopnic described the consciousness of babies and young children as a lantern and that of adults as a spotlight. While adults have a powerful, focused attention span that brings singular objects into vivid light, babies have a less powerful, but more broad attention span that notices everything with equal clarity. So, it’s not accurate to say babies and young children are bad at paying attention, instead they’re bad at not paying attention. Hence the “SQUIRREL!!!” distraction issue they frequently encounter:

Interesting side note: Gopnik says caffeine mimics the effect of all those neurotransmitters firing in a baby’s brain – that scattered, jumping from thing to thing, somewhat out of control energy you feel after four lattes is how a baby’s brain works. Exhausting. No wonder they need nap time.

What I’ve witnessed in my kids and what I hear from Gopnik is that in some ways babies are more conscious than adults. Children are firing on all cylinders at every moment. They don’t take breaks to poop or puke, those just happen in the midst of what they’re doing. There’s no time to stop for trivial stuff, babies must go! Smash paper, throw dino, [*poop*] pick up stick, yell a little, [*vom*]…

My kids experience levels of frustration I can hardly comprehend like learning to grasp an object, developing the muscles to hold up their huge ass heads, and figuring out how to crawl.

Crawling was brutal. My son, Jonah, could only crawl backwards at first. When he saw a crumply book he wanted to crumple, everything he tried just meant he moved further away. No crumple at all! Bullsh!

Here Jonah is stuck buck naked under a bookshelf. I mean, who among us hasn’t been stuck buck naked under a bookshelf?

For over a month, Jonah howled with frustration, but — get this, you guys — he harnessed the power found in his frustration as the ultimate motivator. Frustration isn’t a blockade by which he gives up; it’s a vehicle by which he tries harder. What the…??!!?

My adult mind was blown by that news. I almost gave up on an entire year once because New Year’s Eve was a dud.

The thing I keep thinking is: we all learned to crawl, we all worked to hold up our heads, and we all failed to crumple that book. The grit I see in my kids is the grit innate in all of us. We are born factory-loaded with an unstoppable amount of motivation, tenacity, and zest. For most of us, it goes away or at least does a sharp nosedive. Where does it go? Why don’t we keep it? How can we get it back?

Part of me wants to go back to the time where everything was curiosity, potential, and awe. Lots of me wants to flit around the garden instead of march on the path. I’d like to retain my motor skills, emotional control, and lack of desire to lick toilet plungers, however. In the meantime, I’ll keep on being enchanted by my tiny heathens, and let their grit remind me of my own.


It’s entirely possible babies are smarter than adults. They are definitely more alive. They also forgot to mention to channel babies in moments of frustration and ask ourselves: what would Jonah do? Jonah would keep trying until he figures it out. Except if he sees a squirrel.

Swallowed Whole

By Friday, October 4, 2019 2 6

Oh hey, world! Wow, it’s nice to see you. Like, REALLY nice. You look amazing – have you been working out? Did you do something with your hair? Seriously, we have so much to catch up on.

Let’s just address the elephant in the room and allow me to sincerely apologize for not calling or writing or communicating in any way for the last four years. You’ll never believe this, but I actually lost my brain. I lost it somewhere between my first third trimester and my second third trimester if you can follow that math. I’m going to put it all out there because I need to in order to heal from having children.

I am aware there are many women who don’t lose their brains when they have kids. Some feel they were born to be mothers, some launch companies while having twin infants (ahem, my sister-in-law), and others continue to regularly shower (what kind of sorcery…?). 

I am not one of those women. Being a mother wasn’t innate to me, especially a stay-at-home mom, and I took myself to a numbed, paused place.

I was swallowed by motherhood. Like a whale to biblical Jonah, my Jonah swallowed me whole. And like biblical Jonah, while I didn’t perish inside and it was actually pleasant inside that blobby whale, it was also claustrophobic, suffocating, and wholly disorienting. You forget there is a world outside the whale and that you don’t have to stay there. You can leave whenever you want.

And then I had Isla. She is a redhead and that’s probably all I need to say about that. And post this photo:

“Have two kids,” they said. “It’ll be fun!” they said.

Where once I had one shadow, I now have three. My children are right beside me every step and poop I take – yes I’m VERY comfortable talking about poop now, thanks for asking. And it’s never enough. All the attention, love, and special mama time, it’s never enough. Mama should always give more – or at least that’s the guilt I put on myself. I’m aware they didn’t give me that guilt, it was all me. It’s easy to think your needs don’t matter.

Even though I was surrounded by beings that need me and love me more than anyone ever has, as well as a more-than-your-average-bear helpful husband, I never felt so alone. Being a mom, in our village-less ways, can be the loneliest experience.

I found myself struggling to carry on conversations with the non-baby form of humans (I’m a great conversationalist with toddlers – hire me for your next ice-breaker toddler event!). When previously my brain was filled with fabulous discussion topics, an abundance of wit, and uniquely poignant contributions to our political landscape, now all I was capable of was sleep schedule calculations, the fascinating classifications of poop, and any question that starts with “why” – Why are you not sleeping? Why is the floor wet? Why do you need FOUR very specific spatulas? WHY did I volunteer for this??!

Everyone says to love it, savor it, and know how fleeting the absolute love of small children is, but that enlightened perspective doesn’t change the fact that these years are hard for many of us. I love my children more than I thought possible, but — a big ole BUTTT — I have struggled. And I’m here to say it’s ok to feel that way. You aren’t a bad parent if you agree with me.

This may seem horribly ungrateful that I’m complaining about being blessed with two gorgeous, healthy children, but I experienced very real, very scary, and potentially permanent mental repercussions from those four years inside my cute ass whales. More on that in this post.

I know it’s entirely my fault and all I had to do was take care of myself just a little, but I didn’t. Bygones. I martyred myself because I thought I was supposed to. I thought I had to pile more weight than I could carry until I fell down every night. I thought I was supposed to be numbed and on hold. I thought I was OK until I really wasn’t.

The most important thing is that entirely due to what I went through, I am woked, as they say. I am back, the blog is back, and my big girl goals are happening. I’ll never be who I was before my kids because I choose to be better. I’m thinking, writing, and showering again. I could launch a company.

This post is part of my healing process and rebirth. I need to shine a light on it so I can be done with it, so I can fully rejoin the world, and so maybe I can help other mothers from losing themselves to their children/guilt.

The light I’m shining is blindingly bright when you haven’t seen the world in a while. I am so grateful to be me again and to talk about something other than sleep, poop, and why. Yes, my first post in three years is mostly about sleep, poop, and why, but cut me some slack. I’m still relearning how to talk.

Things They Forgot to Mention:

Um, having kids is different than not having kids. They did mention that but not that it can be other-planet, time-warp, brain-eating-amoeba different. What they also forgot to mention is that you can leave the whale but you have to build the raft and detonate the dynamite yourself otherwise you could stay swallowed forever.

Cute little baby whale blob

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