Thursday, January 24, 2013

Stress, Anxiety and Making Changes in Challenging Times

I don't like the above picture....probably because that is what I'm being told!

I see this picture and I think of the new mom who is told to put her baby to sleep using the cry it out method so the mom can get her rest instead of the mom understanding that it is normal to not get full nights of sleep for a while and that she could sleep with her baby in a family bed and to sleep when the baby sleeps, etc.

I don't like the connotation of the words with the picture - as if the children are making her ragged and causing her to be harried so much that she is ill. And the children are to blame.

Yes, parenthood like any part of life has it's challenges at times, but it is not like that all the time. Not even most of the time. It's not funny to me. I don't see the humor in it when so much of our society blames children for so many things including being children! Children are a blessing, not a curse. And if a parent is stressed (like I am feeling lately especially), it is up to the parent to be creative and seek ways to make changes and find support and encouragement so that the parent can support their child as he continues to moves through the place he is in. Blaming children is not cool and not okay in my opinion.

A couple of weeks ago, I had some kind of stomach thing going on where I felt nausea, had very weak muscles from the back of my chest down my arms to my hands, kept going to the bathroom, couldn't relax, couldn't sleep and didn't until 10 or 11 am the following morning until 1pm the next day - totaling about 3 hours. The worst of it was that I felt like something was terribly wrong, like I was going to die. Man, that was BAD! And it lasted ALL night! This was on January 9th into January 10th. I had been drinking green smoothies and juiced once withing the prior couple of weeks, and that night ate a huge salad (Jim felt nausea and used the bathroom in the night too...his stomach felt fluky as well and we wondered if it was the salad), the night before I taught my first stretch and tone class in three weeks. Katie came with me to take the class and then after it was over, she wanted me to do some of the exercises she does which are arm and back intensive - lots of planking type exercises which were too much for me and I stopped midway through.

During the day on the 9th I had driven to Portland and back for Li's dental visit and then that evening Makana, Kanoa and I went to the YMCA to swim while Li was in the gym. We had been to the Y three times in four days, including me following Kanoa around in the playgym which was probably full of various germs as the daycare kids and Y members use it often. So what did I have? Maybe a combination of overstretched muscles, some kind of stomach bug, and anxiety?

A visit to the ER on Sunday night (the 13th) showed my blood tests normal. Heart sounded fine. Blood pressure was a little higher than usual for me, but I did feel nervous that night too...and ended up going home and not sleeping. I had gone because I was talking to my mom on the phone and she mentioned that it could be a heart attack coming on or something serious and I might want to consider going. Well, I HAD thought of that, but didn't really think it was as I'm in pretty good shape. But....that got me worried and so I thought better safe than sorry and I went. After returning home with at least knowing it wasn't my heart and all looked good, I couldn't sleep and was up all night again. Sigh. The dr there thought it was a panic disorder, such as a panic attack. When I looked up panic attack on my own, the information said that they are supposed to last about a half hour. Mine was all night though. Can they last all night? I checked out Lyme disease and anxiety online and found information that said if a person has a panic attack that lasts for more than a half hour or all night, consider that it may be lyme-related. That is a possibility as the lyme tests I have had in the past have shown bands that indicate lyme, but if I'm remembering correctly, the result was "equivocal" as there weren't enough bands to say it was positive. Yet other doctors say that if you have a band that is lyme indicative, then you have it. So, who knows....

On 1/21, I went to our local nurse practitioner and he said he doesn't mean to sound stereotypical, but he thinks I don't get a break and it was anxiety caused by not having time to myself and that a stay at home parent has a harder time than those who go to work and don't get enough credit. I don't sit around eating bon bons, that is true. But, what he said reminded me of that comic. I HATE the idea of blaming children for a parent's anxiety. If it is related to anxiety, then the parent didn't notice the signs of stress and didn't make the necessary changes to better deal with it and cope with whatever is bothering them. The only thing I can think of that is bothering me a lot is Kanoa's frequency of quick and intense upsetnesses. (Since I've written this, I should add that since I've been a kid, I've always had a fear of death too - fear of the unknown I guess and worrying that it will be bad or painful or fraught with anxiety. Maybe if what I had was some sort of combination of virus, muscular thing and I was feeling it, then the anxiety kicked in about death and my anxious thoughts lasted throughout the night...? Maybe it doesn't have anything to do with Kanoa then? Or maybe all of that and Kanoa's upsetnesses were ramped up for a while?)

In an effort to help myself, in case that is what it is, I've decided to make some changes which I hope prove helpful.

1. See a chiropractor who does kinesiology and NET (mind-body, emotional and physical symptoms).

2. Have a phone appointment with Michelle Barone, a family therapist that is knowledgeable about unschooling and NET practitioner.

3. Try to go to bed earlier.

4. Exercise - run on treadmill or walk outside, preferably run, to help alleviate anxiety. (My dad suggested running as it helps him.)

5. Read The Whole-Brained Child (Michelle suggested that book. As I began to read it, I realized I had read at least the beginning of it before, but not all the way through. This time, I will read the book all the way through.)

6. Give Kanoa more attention, spend more time connecting and make more of an effort to anticipate what I could do to prevent upsetness or what might be useful to bring if we are out.

7. Got 2 other book suggestions from a play therapist in town who spoke to me over the phone. I decided not to see her, but ordered the books to see if there was anything helpful to take from them. The first title is "The Mindful Child: How to Help Your Kid Manage Stress and Become Happier, Kinder, and More Compassionate" and the second title is Keeping Your Child in Mind: Overcoming Defiance, Tantrums, and Other Everyday Behavior Problems by Seeing the World through Your Child's Eyes." Also ordered "Your Four-Year-Old: Wild and Wonderful" which I haven't read since Katie or Li was little. (Now to find some time to read...maybe bits at a time.) I am not fond of part of the title of the second book, but like that it says Seeing the World through Your Child's Eyes. That is something useful and I already do try to do that.

I am with Kanoa, Li and Makana almost 24/7 except for if I go to teach Stretch and Tone, (now I'm catching the last bit of a 6 week writing class that runs a little before and a little after stretch and tone too), or do the occasional shopping/errands when Jim is home. I am usually with the kids almost 24/7. Jim is usually at work. Katie is at school for hours each day, then with friends or home but often still connecting with friends online or gaming, reading, or doing homework (sometimes simultaneously). She did take gymnastics for a while too. Rarely Li goes to the game store downtown (by himself) or the gym at the Y (when he does go to the Y, I stay in the facility with Kanoa and Makana so he feels comfortable). Once a week Makana takes a gymnastics class (same time as Katie's), but I'm in the facility with Kanoa. While we are there, Li usually goes to the fitness area. Kanoa and I ride elevators, roam the halls, run the track at the fitness center, go into the other gym or the playgym if it is open. Whatever else we do, Li, Makana, Kanoa and I tend to do together, though I do offer the other kids to do things on their own if the activities aren't suitable for Kanoa or we sometimes do them on weekends when Jim is home. Both Li and Makana are more into gaming and skyping with their friends right now than doing things outside. Plus, it is winter in Maine and we tend to be in a lot more than when the weather is nice out. (Though you wouldn't know it is winter in Maine if you looked at Makana! She has often worn shorts and tank tops throughout the winter! She must be growing or is one of those people who feels more warm than cold.)

As Kanoa has gotten older, he often enjoys watching his brothers or sister play on the computer or will watch a show or play Minecraft on the computer for a while. Those do give me times to make food, clean up, check email, do laundry, write, have a cup of tea, or whatever I choose to do with that time. Michelle Barone suggested that to check in more with him and not do multiple things at a time, even if he seems like he is fine. He might need me to be with him more often than I was.

It is a balancing act to figure out what to do and when and what to prioritize and when to prioritize one thing over another. And as things change or one person seems to need More of my time and attention, things shift once again. :)

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