Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Honesty

OK, I'm not exactly sure how to get into this.

For a while I had a hit counter to see how many people were visiting my blog and I got rid of it because it was sort of embarrassing...

While some bloggers have hundreds of readers, I only have a handful. Mostly family. That's OK, because really I just wanted to blog for them in the first place. (And for myself.)

But one thing I've always struggled with since my discovery of the blogosphere is the almost constant happiness, positive attitude, joy, love, and so on, with a very rare mention of a struggle. I know that much of this is because nobody wants to be a downer, and certainly it's no fun to repeatedly read about others' problems. I know that we all HAVE them, but we don't "talk" much about them.

The only issue with this, and maybe I'm just messed up, is that sometimes it's nice to hear that others have problems, too. It's easy to feel alone when you're struggling and all you read about from others is their last family vacation, their kids' awesome performances (stage, athletics, whatever), their "last night during family home evening" stories, their perfect husbands, or just how they're so "happy".

Please don't get me wrong, I LOVE to read about those things! You all inspire me-how many times have I said that? I SO admire the wonderful things so many of you do, as wives and mothers, and SO appreciate the ideas I get from reading your blogs.

But here's the deal...

I've decided to share something here, for all the world to read. Not because I'm looking for any attention, as a matter of fact I'd turn off comments for this one if I knew how. (I'd block all two of you!! LOL) I've decided to share this because I KNOW there are others who are struggling with some of the same things, and, should they stumble across my blog, I want them to know that they're not alone.

So here's my story. It's a long one, just so you know.

When I was in either fourth or fifth grade I threw up all over my principle at school, while my entire grade level was about twenty feet away standing in line to board a field trip bus. It was truly humiliating. That experience triggered something in me and I began to have occasional anxiety and even panic attacks. At the time, it was all based on a fear of getting sick again in front of people, I think. I even took a several-day-long field trip to space camp and spent the whole time in the nurses office. I just KNEW I was sick!

Over the years the anxiety sort of came and went in phases. Oddly enough, I was always able to perform without fear. I had just done it all my life, I guess, and it never bothered me. Other things would sort of bring it out again, but it has never been very predictable. I sort of never know when it's going to be an issue.

More recently, it has really become a problem, and you know what has happened? I've "learned" to be afraid of being afraid. That's the best way to explain it. Because of this, it (the fear) has begun to win. A couple of years ago I finally gave up riding the "big rides" because of the predictable panic attacks they caused. The fear I experienced standing in line for an hour wasn't worth the 45 seconds of fun. (And I DO think they're fun!) I can't really tell you what I'm afraid of standing there in line. I've never had motion sickness in my life, and I love thrill rides. It doesn't make sense, but it still happens. The newest issue, though, is where I draw the line...

I'm afraid to sing.

Now I'm crying. Hold on, I can't see...

OK, I'm back. I'm afraid to sing. When my second son, Carter, was about three months old I "retired" from performing to raise my family. I believed then, as I do now, that putting my effort into my children and family was the right thing to do. However, as I sang less and less frequently, it started to get scarier and scarier. Now, it's terrifying. But here's the thing-I've NEVER had a real panic attack before a performance. I'm not afraid to SING. (Please don't take this wrong) I KNOW I can sing. I've been doing it all my life. SO WHAT AM I AFRAID OF!? I know the answer to that question. I'm afraid of being afraid. There's really no explaining a panic attack to someone who's never had one, but it's a terrifying experience. And so, I've become afraid of anything that might trigger one.

I know, it's crazy.

I also know it's real.

Moving here has made it worse. All of a sudden I'm new. I don't know anyone. No one knows me. That means I didn't sing for a long time. I was asked to sing at a funeral on New Years and, although I worried about it, I ended up almost being late to the service and never really had time to get scared. A couple of weeks ago I was asked to sing in Relief Society (a women's meeting at church), and again, although I worried about it non-stop, I never had a real panic attack. Right after the meeting I was asked to sing in Sacrament Meeting at the end of the month. I'm terrified. I can't even enjoy singing anymore. I spend way too much time being afraid of being afraid. So I've decided I've had enough.

I will not give up my music.

Tomorrow I have an appointment with my doctor. It's a really hard thing to admit to having an issue like this because those who don't have it just want to say "get over it" or "think positive". Mind over matter, right? I've been telling myself that for years. I'm finally able to admit that I can't fix this on my own. The anxiety, coupled with living in a new place, in a too-small-for-my-family house, with not enough of my husband, has lead to a kind of sadness and discontent that I know isn't healthy. I want to move somewhere else all the time. I've tossed around going back to Missouri, moving to Oklahoma, even heading back to Arizona, where I haven't lived since I was 16. I'm finally able to admit, though, that where I live is not the problem. You can be happy anywhere, if you're happy. And this feeling isn't happy, or healthy. I want to be healthy again. And happy. For me, for Russell, and for my little ones who need me.

In case you don't know, Donny Osmond has also struggled with this problem. I bought and read his book, and that's when I decided to "talk" about it. Others need to know they're not alone. So many people struggle with anxiety disorders, panic disorders and depression. Like I said, it's so hard to admit, and you feel like nobody really understands. And, I'm sorry, but unless you have any of these issues, you DON'T understand.

But it's OK. I'm OK. I truly believe that I can beat this. The Lord is aware of me.

Now, I don't intend my blog to become a platform or anything, but putting this all into words has been good for me, and hopefully, if any of you are struggling with any of these things, I have inspired YOU to get some help. Talk to someone. Heck, you can even "talk" to ME, just comment and let me know you've sent an email if you're not comfortable leaving your thoughts in a public place. (rowemom5@sbcglobal.net)

Don't feel sorry for me or anything. The Lord has blessed my life in so many ways. We all have our struggles. This is mine. But I have faith, a supportive and wonderful husband and family...

And hopefully a good doctor!! *chuckle*

I just re-read this post, and decided to add a little something. First of all, I did see my doctor, and am very hopeful and optimistic about his plans. But as I read this post again, I realized that it sort of comes across like I'm down or depressed all the time. I'M NOT! Most of the time I'm happy and everything is fine. It's just that when "it" does show up, I hate it, so I decided to fix it. Does that make sense?

Thanks so much to those who have shared their thoughts. Like I said, it's so great to know others understand. You guys are the best!

Update 6-7-09
Well, overall I would say things are pretty much the same. The update is really more of a story. As I said in my initial post, I was asked to sing in church last week. All month long I was just fine. But Sunday morning, I woke up completely overwhelmed. I couldn't get it out of my mind. My hands were sweaty, my insides were shaky, I couldn't eat breakfast, and I absolutely could not think about anything else. Russell was gone to meetings, so I sat out on my porch swing and called my mom. After a really good talk, I decided I didn't have to do this anymore. I called and explained that I wasn't feeling well and wouldn't be able to sing. I gave a name of a young woman I knew that knew the same song, and suggested they call her. (For the record, she did sing and I heard it was great!) For the first hour or so I honestly felt nothing but relief. I sat down, ate breakfast, and felt great! After that, when I took my shower, I started to cry. I realized that, for the first time in my life, I had canceled an opportunity to sing. I had given in. And I felt guilty. I felt horrible for putting a burden on someone else to find another singer. Blah, Blah, Blah. I cried and felt sorry for myself for a while. Did this mean I was never going to sing again? Would I EVER have the courage to try again? I still don't know the answer to that question. My sweet husband doesn't understand, but he tries. He loves to hear me sing, and it makes him very sad to think I may not do it anymore. And you know what? I may not do it anymore. Part of me can't stand that, but another part of me is just thankful for all of the experiences I've had. I quit singing professionally to raise my family, and that's what I'm going to do. For now I don't plan to sing any time soon. I'm focusing on other things. I'm focusing on being cheerful, staying busy, being a good wife and a good mother. If I'm asked to sing, I'll respectfully decline. For now, I plan to avoid those things that give me extra stress.

I know that this post is just getting longer and longer, but I decided I would keep all of the "issues" on this same post, so that any new readers can get the whole story without having to search.

Things are good. I feel good about what we're doing. It'll take a little time, and I don't know if I'll ever be "normal", but that's OK. If I never ride a thrill ride again, if I never sing again, that's OK. If I can just be a good wife, a good mother, and a "good" child of my Heavenly Father, that will be enough.
I'll keep you posted!!

Update 2-4-10
I wish I were here to say that I'm all better and I'm singing my little heart out. Although I do think it's about time I make the attempt, I have yet to sing anywhere other than my home, my car, and one time at a Karaoke party. The hardest part is that I think the longer I wait to sing again, the harder it's going to be. I want to be able to get up in front of people the way I always have, and not think twice about it. Unfortunately, I think WAY more than twice about it! So, as of now, I'm still struggling with this. However, I want you to know that it really isn't affecting my everyday. I am able to do all of the regular things moms do, and that is wonderful! I count my blessings that I only face this issue under certain conditions. I know that there are those who have this problem and are much more affected on a daily basis than I am. I am so thankful that I can be empathetic to their feelings. I am able to continue my everyday life, but I know what fear is, and that makes me more able to understand, and maybe even to help, someone in need of that understanding.
There's always a blessing if we seek it.
I will continue updating this post, as things continue to change, whether it's the fear itself, or just my perception of it. Thanks for keeping up with me!
Update 8-31-11
After over a year on medication, I quit.  I just hated the feeling of "I can't be normal without these pills", so I stopped taking them.  Although I did stop cold turkey, you're not supposed to.  You're supposed to taper off.  After a couple of days without the medicine, I would get these zapping things in my head and eyes, and that was just proof that I did not want that stuff in my body. 
Anyway, since then, I've not cried one time.  That was about three weeks ago, and with all the things going on right now, including a possible move far away, I would have expected to be a basket case, but I'm not.  I actually feel really good. At peace.
As for singing, I did sing at a graveside service several months ago, and I never had any real anxiety.  Nervousness, yes, but not anxiety.  Big difference.  I don't know that I'm ready to sing in Sacrament Meeting yet.  For some reason, that has always been the scariest place for me to sing.
As I've gone through this experience, I've learned something.  This may sound way off base to you, but I believe it's true, at least for me.  See, I used to be quite a bit thinner than I am now.  I used to be a more dedicated housekeeper, excercisor, and dinner cooker.  Over the last three years, since we moved here to Texas, I've sort of let all of that go.  I believe that has been part of the trigger for my anxiety.  I believe that as I gain control over those areas of my life, the anxiety will go.  Maybe completely, and maybe forever.
But as of today, I am full of hope, and the Peace that comes only from a loving Heavenly Father.
And for that, I am thankful.

4 comments:

Eden said...

See my response on my mom's blog...
http://motherswhoknow.blogspot.com

Kristy said...

Remember that is also runs in our family. Sometimes I think there is no way to get away from it. Uncle John, Grandma, my dad, Johnny, Cami, Katrina (Steven?), the list goes on... I think it is great that you are doing something about it. I keep thinking I need to, instead of crying in the dark every night. I love you, don't be afraid.
Call me if you want to talk!

Gale said...

ok this is going to be long. For years I thought that women who complained about depression, panic attacks and mental issues just needed to wakeup, wash their faces, think positively and move on. I was NOT compassionate and had very little patience with it. Then when I was almost 8 months pregnant with my youngest child my husband and I decided to sell a retail business that we owned. We began the process of selling and about the time that we had secured a buyer my husband became very busy and was out of town all the time. It became my job to handle the entire sales transaction including training the new buyer. Only days after money exchanged hands the new owner, a man, asked me to lunch. When we got to the restaurant I discovered that he had buyer’s remorse and he began yelling at me saying he wanted his money back and no longer wanted the business. I was mortified in this restaurant as he screamed at me and began accusing me of all kinds of horrible untrue things. Again, my husband was out of town and I was all alone dealing with this mans ugliness and threats. He began demanding large sums of money and threatening lawsuits (which he did but we had done everything right and been honest so he had no recourse). This went on for weeks and was very frightening to me. Something inside me changed I began having panic attacks....UNCONTROLLABLE. Every time I drove anywhere near the store I would break down. I had times where panic would ensue and I had absolutely no control. One day in Church I sat down and within minutes I was sobbing uncontrollably. My husband had to drive me home quick. There was no rhyme or reason but for several months it persisted and paralyzed me. I kept thinking..."c’mon Gale, you are bigger than this, get control of yourself", but it just felt bigger than me. I now have absolute compassion because I now know that it is not about just thinking differently. I felt so powerless. I hope that you get the help you are seeking because I KNOW how difficult it is. I will remember you in my prayers

Joella said...

You are very brave to admit this "problem" and to seek help. Good for you. You are very blessed to have a great husband and a beautiful family. We miss you here in Springfield and honestly I have wished many times you were here to give Kennedy singing lessons so I didn't have to pay someone I don't know. You will be in my prayers.

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