Agoraphobic Moving Across State Lines?!

This post is long overdue.

I made it to Oregon a few days before the start of February! I’m so happy and proud of myself.

For a few weeks leading up to going, I had been seeing my exposure therapist several times a week. We started driving in circles on the on and off ramp over and over. Then I would drive on the freeway to the next exit, and back to the exit by my house. Over and over. Then I was able to make it two exits down the freeway…

The night we left I was having more anxiety than normal, so I took some Xanax. I was really tired, and started feeling pretty loopy from the  Xanax. I felt comfortable that I would probably pass out in the car, so I told Rex to just start driving. We loaded the baby, the cat, the dog, and grabbed what we could. My dad had flown out from Nebraska to help us move, and to help my mom. He told us not to worry about anything, he’d pack the house, and if I was feeling capable of going, then to go.

We must have left at two or three in the morning.

I was pretty nervous a lot of the beginning of the drive, but once we made it over Highway 17 (a long winding road through the forest that goes over a big hill, and you come out on the other side in San Jose), I felt better. I felt like I’d made a big escape. I was so happy to leave the bay area.

We listened to the audiobook Ready Player One (by Ernest Cline, narrated by Wil Wheaton) the whole drive.

I went in and out of sleep the whole time. I woke up a few times and caught glimpses of snow, forests, mountains, and lakes.

When we got to Oregon it felt like a dream. I had spent over a year dreaming of being out of the house I was so afraid to leave. Dreaming of moving somewhere that wasn’t so congested, full of crime, and expensive. We had wanted to move out for so long, but that was impossible (Check out this article about how it’s the third most expensive place to live in the nation).

But we did it! Even though I was battling agoraphobia, and even though there was a time I was so housebound I wondered if I would ever be able to leave the house, I moved to a different state and I couldn’t be more overjoyed.

Since it’s been over a month since we’ve been here, I’ve definitely noticed my anxiety is a lot better. It helps that there’s not crazy traffic. It helps that I’m not afraid here. Every time we hear news from Santa Cruz, it’s terrible. Rex’s friend got stabbed twice in the back last week. Dirty needles washing up on the beach. Shootings happening in the parking lot of my favorite bookstore. Ugh. I just keep thinking, what if we had gone with our baby to check out books, and BAM stray bullet? It feels so much better to be here, where I feel like I can go out and be safe. That’s definitely helped with my anxiety a lot.

My anxiety hasn’t completely gone away, but I’ve found it’s a million times more manageable here. I still get anxious if I start getting too far from our new house, but that’s only when we try to leave our town to go to different surrounding towns. I feel fine anywhere within our town, which is a far cry from not being able to go around the block.

My best friend is here, and it’s amazing to be raising our babies together. We even went and saw a play together last night! I was initially nervous about going to a play and having to sit through the whole thing, and that came up a few times during the play, but I breathed through it and found myself just letting myself enjoy the play and forgetting to worry.

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Horribly groggy. Snapped a selfie at a random rest stop on our way up to Oregon. 

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Rex and I outside our new house. We got really excited because it was snowing. Silly Californians.

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My first post-partum corset. Getting back into waist training and it feels amazing. I’m not a 22″ waist anymore but, you know, I’ll get there.

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My adorable baby! She’s almost five months old now!!!

Thank you for reading, and for sharing this journey with me. It’s been hard to write with so much going on, and still adjusting to motherhood… but this blog, and the people whose blogs I read, and those who comment, just mean the world to me. It’s a long journey, and I’m still going through it.

❤ Chloe

Not stopping, starting Zoloft.

I made it to another appointment! It was fine. Again, surge of adrenaline beforehand, but pushed through and didn’t panic.

I’ve been really wanting to start freeway driving, and I don’t know what’s been holding me back. The rain? I don’t know.

I’ve been visualizing driving on the freeway every day.

Yesterday I had an anxiety attack (not a panic attack, I differentiate hugely between the two). I’m not sure why, but I looked in the mirror and thought, “I’ve felt better than this, and I’ve felt way worse. And I’ll feel better again, this won’t last forever.” Somehow that seemed to make me feel a lot better.

I started taking Zoloft today. I’m kind of nervous about it. I feel like it’s such a critical time for me to do well right now. I want to get up to Oregon by the beginning of February, and I’ve been on a good upward swing, and my head has been racing about whether or not it’s a good idea to introduce anything new into my system, in case it sabotages my progress… But then there’s a chance that it could be that extra boost that I need to make progress even faster.

My housing situation is not looking good here. There’s a chance of eviction, the energy is heavy, the city keeps coming around for inspections, the landlord wants to overhaul the place, and there is no affordable housing in the area… so I can stay here and let things run their course, or I can take charge and move somewhere that I can be happy, relax, and not have to stress about having a stable place to live.

I really hope that I don’t get a bunch of weird side effects from the Zoloft, and that it will actually help instead of hinder progress. I’ve never been successfully on an SSRI for any amount of time long-term, but of all of the different ones I’ve looked at, it seems to have less side effects than other things.

I’m really grateful that my anxiety has been lessening, and I’m really proud of myself for pushing through, despite how grueling and difficult it has been. I feel like anything life throws at me will be nothing in comparison to having to overcome agoraphobia, and severe panic attacks. Sartre said, “hell is other people.” Sure, but it can also be yourself. I think it’s worse when it’s yourself.

So.. have still been meditating, visualizing, and have also been reading up more on the law of attraction, and the power of “I am” affirmations. Baby girl has been keeping me busy, focused, and grounded.

Also, happy solstice everyone!

 

 

What would my life look like without anxiety?

I have been doing so much better lately, and I partially attribute this to how much visualization I’ve been doing. I’ve been visualizing being calm in situations that normally would induce panic, and I’ve found that has been incredible in allowing me to succeed in situations that would generally be difficult for me to deal with.

I was doing a meditation via Headspace (the anxiety pack), and the question, “what would my life look like without anxiety?” popped into my head.

This question seemed huge for me.

Images began flooding my mind of how different my life would be without anxiety (or just the ability to manage it so that it didn’t impact my life so dramatically).

I think this is a great exercise to do, and can be really helpful if you’re struggling. A few things though… I think it’s important not to judge your current life against the life that you’re imagining in your mind. That won’t help a thing. Beating yourself down just keeps you down, it doesn’t help you pull yourself back up (which is what you want).

Having a concrete(ish) idea of what kind of life I want if anxiety was completely off the table makes that life seem more attainable. It makes it seem more realistic. And it also made me realize that it wouldn’t be a completely drastic thing. All the things that I seem to want aren’t gigantic unrealistic goals. They’re small, little things. Like taking my daughter to the aquarium. Things like that. Being able to have fun and rock out to music in traffic instead of getting all crazy-eyed and freaking the hell out.

Also, I’ve been setting a timer daily for about ten minutes, giving myself that time to do my visualizations. Yesterday I was enjoying it so much that I ended up setting the timer over again three times.

So, I don’t know if this will help you, but it’s been really helping me. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments section, or share any experience you’ve had with doing visualization-type techniques.

❤ Love to you all!

 

https://youtu.be/jlZDiztyxMI

“The conductor, frozen thunder rumbling through the ground
With a perfect little twist of that suit of armor and crown
You created, built for denying it
Hiding the cuts and bruises due to the self-inflicted bone crushing anxiety
I’m with you, so understand that all of this within you
Has chiseled you a flower out of stone
Yeah, you are not alone”

I’m finally doing the things!

I’ve been doing the things and it’s been great! By “the things,” I mean I’ve been going out of the house daily and doing various things.

I stayed in a hotel for five days. My house did get red-tagged, but got un-red-tagged.

I have gone lots of places and done lots of things – more than I have in the past year combined. It’s a breath of fresh air from not leaving the house at all, and driving around the block over and over again, or not being able to drive around the block at all.

I made it to a doctors appointment with no anxiety. I went to a museum and a marine sanctuary. I’ve gone shopping at a lot of different places.

And I met one of my favorite authors, Jenny Lawson!

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I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on how it felt for so long as though I’d never be able to leave the house again without getting a panic attack.

And it was always the little things I would hyper-focus on.

Things like, “I miss grocery shopping,” or, “I feel like I’ll never be able to get a Starbucks again.”

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And those things felt so big and huge and unattainable.

And the more I’ve gone out and done things, the more I feel like everything else keeps getting easier.

I started small – going the the library by the house, the grocery store by the house, a local coffee shop… and then branching out from there. Allowing myself to take my time. And the less pressure I put on myself, the less the anxiety was there and the more I was able to do.

I finally feel like I can really beat this stuff, or at least manage it to the point where it’s not all-consuming. I know that anxiety will probably be something I’ll have to manage for the rest of my life. But that’s okay, as long as it doesn’t completely overrun and consume my life.

There are still a lot of things that I want to do, and things I don’t feel quite up to yet, but I feel like I’m getting closer to those things every day (like drive on the freeway, and move out of the state). Those things felt so unattainable just a few months ago, but now I feel as though it’s possible for me to be up to them in a week or a month, or maybe tomorrow if I’m feeling good enough.

As soon as getting around the block became totally normal and not panic-inducing, it felt like the rest of the world started opening up even more.

I’ve certainly gotten twinges of anxiety here and there, and sometimes I’ve set out to do something and said, “hm, maybe I need to stop pushing myself for now and come back to that later.” And that’s okay. But I haven’t gotten a panic attack, and that’s freaking awesome!

I’m finally feeling like despite having panic disorder, maybe I won’t be agoraphobic forever. Maybe I can really do this thing.

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So, I’m excited for the future, and finally feeling in a good place. Motherhood has been really good for me, and Rex has shown to be an amazing father! And we just had our anniversary yesterday!

It’s been difficult to find time to blog lately what with being a new parent and spending a lot of time being out and about… but I fully intend to keep up with this blog (hopefully more regularly in the coming weeks).

I feel very determined to be successful in getting past all the things that have held me back for so long. All the fears and phobias and future-tripping (aka “what if this or that happens?”).

And if you’re struggling, just know that there is light for you as well. I know that when I was in the middle of the worst of everything, it made me feel better to read about people who had been through similar things and pulled themselves out of it, because it gave me hope that maybe I could do the same thing… but often I’d be hard pressed to find an agoraphobia recovery story that wasn’t one of the same three or five ones that showed up on google, and instead would end up finding awful stories.

I think that a lot of people who have gone through hell and come out on the other side have a hard time going back to that place to share about it. I know that for me, sometimes it’s hard to talk about or even think about how bad things were, how hopeless everything has felt, because part of me feels like if I allow myself to go there it will all come crashing back. So maybe it’s easier to write about the bad stuff when you’re in it, and then not want to re-visit, or acknowledge how bad things were later when you’re doing better. I don’t know. I guess I just feel like it’s important to talk about all the good stuff that happens when you start to emerge on the other side of mental illness, because when you’re in it sometimes it feels like no one else has ever made it out, and it makes you feel like you never will.

Not that everything has been easy – after staying at the hotel, and returning to my apartment, I felt like I had walked into a time-capsule of my sadness. I looked around and just thought, “wow, I barely left this place for an entire year. How did I even do that?” And I felt so overwhelmed, and almost let myself go into a really bad place… It took a lot of work to pull myself out of it. A big part of me wants to move and start fresh somewhere else. And I’m really working towards that, but for now I’m going to have to make do with where I am, and show myself that no matter where I am I will be okay, even if where I am is somewhere that I was really not okay for a long time.

As always, thank you for reading ❤ you are wonderful.

Red tagging an agoraphobics house?

 I’m currently waiting to hear back from the city on whether or not they are red tagging my house. As in, deeming it unfit for habitation and giving me zero notice to leave. By zero notice, it would mean I couldn’t stay in my house tonight. 

 
They red tagged the unit below me last week. There was carbon monoxide leaking into the house every time the hot water was turned on. 

Also, it turns out that panic/anxiety/obsessive thinking are side effects of carbon monoxide. Great. 

They turned off the hot water, so I’ve been out of that for the past week+. 

This also explains why I may or may not have at one point thought there was a ghost in the bathroom every time I would try to shower… Carbon monoxide leaking straight into the bathroom when the hot water was turned on, and not a ghost!

Anyway, I’m trying to stay calm and not panic. It just feels like the most ironic thing ever. 

Rex referred to it as an obstacle in the heroes journey. I feel like I’ve been through enough of that. I mean – shit. Fuck this. I don’t want to be forced to leave my home at a moments notice and go stay in a hotel. 

I gave my exposure therapist a heads up that this is happening, and she said if need be she would help me get to a hotel, so that is good. 

Also, I had an awesome outing with my exposure therapist yesterday. I even made it to a kids toy store and bought a wooden magnetic rocket ship :).

Anyway, here’s to hopping I don’t have to relocate in the next 24 hours!

I had my baby!

I had my baby! Two weeks ago! I haven’t been writing (or doing much other than taking care of my baby, and staring in awe and amazement at her), but fully intend to keep up with the blog now that she’s here.

I have been wanting to write down what my labor and delivery was like, and what it’s been like after taking her home from the hospital.

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that I’ve been battling agoraphobia/panic disorder for a long time now, so I’m also going to talk about those things in relation to going through such a huge thing.

During my pregnancy I searched around the web desperate to find someone who had been through pregnancy while having full-blown can’t-leave-the-house-agoraphobia. I didn’t find much of anything… so I hope that if anyone reading this is going through something similar, maybe it will help (maybe it will scare you, because I’m going to be as real as possible, but hopefully not), and feel free to ask me any questions, or reach out if you need someone to talk to.

I went into labor at 7AM on a Friday morning and gave birth at 3:09AM on Sunday. I was in labor for about 44 hours.

At first the labor pain was manageable. I even took a bath and shaved my legs, and tried to relax a bit. My mom, grandmother, Aunt, Rex and a wonderful friend were all there for me throughout most of my labor. I squeezed Rex’s hand pretty much the entire time.

I had been doing meditations for a few months prior to going into labor. I was doing silent meditations as well as guided meditations through an app called Headspace (highly recommended). With every contraction I found myself counting my in and out breaths up to ten, like the app suggests you do during their meditations. I hadn’t taken any birthing classes and I didn’t have a doula (not for lack of trying to find a good match), but I have to say that trying to go into each contraction as a meditation worked wonders.

I was timing my contractions, waiting for them to get close enough together to go to the hospital. Throughout the whole time, my biggest fear remained the car ride to the hospital. Despite the physical pain I was in, I was terrified of having a panic attack due to the same issues that I’d been battling for a long time.

The contractions continued to get more intense and closer together. I labored at home for around thirty hours, until I was in so much physical pain that I kind of snapped and said, “I take back what I said about wanting no medication, get me to the hospital, I want an epidural, I’m hitting my pain limit.”

We waited for my next contraction to come on, and when it was done I rushed into the car and we drove to the hospital.

And… the car ride was nothing. I closed my eyes the whole time and listened to Destiny’s Child. It was kind of funny – I kept wanting to listen to Destiny’s Child, despite there being an epic playlist of carefully curated music that I had made.

The car ride was over before I knew it, and as I got out and into a wheel chair, I wondered why I had been making such a big deal about it. It hadn’t been a big deal. It was fine. Then I just had to concentrate on labor… Except, they wanted me to get in an elevator. I’m very afraid of elevators, so I got out of the wheelchair and walked up the flight of stairs, much to everyones disapproval and astonishment.

(After reading, Rex wants me to point out that he was “initially chagrined and then extremely proud of you for being really bad ass and sticking to your guns.”)

We finally made it into one of the rooms, and I changed into the maternity gown that I had bought online (pink with polka dots, way cuter than the hospital gowns). I know that I was in that room for a while, but it’s already hazy two weeks later.

Finally they took me into another room where they gave me fentnyl for the pain. This was probably the scariest part for me. I have a fear of feeling high, and the fentanyl didn’t take the pain away, it just made me feel completely out of it and high, which wasn’t very fun. My friend was really helpful in talking me through that part – she has a lot of similar anxieties to me, and could relate to my fear/feeling uncomfortable under the influence.

After a lot of going back and forth about the epidural, I decided to get it. I was terrified. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to walk, and would be totally stuck to the bed. For an agoraphobic, I sure have an awful lot of fears about being stuck somewhere. I kept calling the anesthesiologist back into the room so I could ask him a bunch of questions pertaining to my irrational (and some maybe kind of rational) fears about the epidural. He was patient and helpful, and after a lot of “okay I’ll get it… no no, I’m too scared to get it… Oh god, ow this is too painful, I’ll get it…”, I finally got it.

It kind of worked initially, which was relieving, but then it felt like my contractions were at their most painful, and I could feel everything except my left leg.

I had the perfect analogy for how this felt, and as per usual, I found a way to explain it using something from Harry Potter.

I felt like this:

When Harry is on the Quidditch pitch getting chased by the rogue bludger, and then he falls and breaks his arm. Professor Lockhart comes and tells him not to worry, and that he will fix his arm. Harry protests, but Lockhart insists and does a spell to fix it. Except, that instead of fixing it, he removes all of the bones in Harry’s arm, and Harry has to spend the night in the hospital wing regrowing the bones back.

this is how my leg felt on an epidural

That’s how my left leg felt. The boneless jelly part. I must have explained this to several different nurses who were completely unfamiliar with Harry Potter, and who all gave me kind of funny looks about it.  I tend to assume everyone is super familiar with Harry Potter, but that’s rarely the case.

(After reading this, Rex wants me to point out that I kept calling it my “floppy leg.” And would start yelling “stop touching my floppy leg!” or, “hey, that’s my floppy leg!)

They ended up giving me more epidural, but this did nothing but increase the wobbly jello feeling of my poor left leg. And for some reason everyone in the room kept wanting to touch my leg, which just felt creepy.

The contractions continued to get worse, and worse, and worse, and things were seeming pretty intense.

When I started to lose it, and began snapping at everyone, and I could no longer focus on counting my in and out breaths, they told me that I could start pushing.

And I pushed for five minutes, and then my beautiful baby girl was placed on me.

And she was perfect.

And I thought that I would do it all over again a hundred times, just to have that moment with her. And by all of it, I mean all of it. The hell it felt like during pregnancy trying to get to appointments. A thousand panic attacks, all the anxiety, everything.

It was all worth it.

I’ve never felt my entire being filled with more love in an instant, than when they put my daughter on me.

Up until that point, I knew there was a baby inside of me, and I loved her, but it didn’t feel so real or so wonderful as that moment felt.

And that feeling persisted.

It persisted so intensely that I didn’t sleep for four days straight. I was overfilling with love and deep feelings of joy and connection to this little being that my body had created.

It was like, after all of the hard times I’d been through, finally there was a breath of fresh crisp air, and calm, and peace, and ease. And everything was okay. Better than okay – everything was perfect.

My entire life had been brewing up until this point, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. All the wishing for things to have been different than they were completely vanished, and I was filled with the most intense feelings of love and gratitude for everything that I had been through.

And I immediately felt thankful that things had been so difficult – because I was overcome with the sense that I was now able to overcome any obstacle that life threw at me from that point onward. I was overcome with the feeling of being so strong. All that time spent afraid that my body would black out or pass out, or somehow fail on me was replaced with a feeling of being invincible – with a feeling that I trusted my body. My body was capable of so much more than I had ever imagined it was. My body had made something so beautiful and perfect, and had gone through so much pain and stress, and it knew exactly what to do the entire time. And I was safe, and she was safe, and nothing could get between that.

And all of the worrying about myself was transferred to this beautiful person outside of myself. Constantly checking to make sure she’s okay.

I had been afraid that they would make me stay in the hospital prior to giving birth, because I felt that I knew I would want to get back home and to my safe space as soon as possible… but the hospital became a new safe space, and I felt happy to be there. I was happy that I could call on a nurse any time of the day or night if I ever had a question or needed help with something. I was happy to be away from my house that I had spent so much time cooped up inside of. I was happy there was a balcony to sit on outside. I was happy.

After giving birth, I felt like I had just fought a war and won. I felt like a warrior – fearless, full of courage, and victorious.

I named my daughter Artemis, after the Greek Goddess. Goddess of the moon, the hunt, protector of women and children, of the forest and the animals.

Artemis

I remained a little bit nervous about the ride home from the hospital… but the feeling of being strong persisted. I didn’t close my eyes once on the drive. Instead, I looked around, and it felt more normal to be riding in a car than it had in over a year.

I’ve learned that we are stronger than we could have ever possibly imagined.

I’ve learned that sometimes all of the difficulties, pain and heartache that we go through can be completely worth it, and that it’s possible to even feel grateful for the darkest times in our lives.

I still have a long way to go as far as my anxiety, phobias, and panic are concerned – but I have a renewed feeling of hope, of strength, courage, willpower and gratitude for absolutely everything. I’ve overcome so much just in the process of making this beautiful baby, and I know that I will be able to overcome so much more.

All of us can, and you don’t need to have a baby to do that. I feel like that was my extra push, but I know that each of you can find yours as well.

We are stronger, more courageous, more awesome, and more beautiful than we’ve ever imagined we are. That’s what my daughter taught me just minutes after she was born, and I can’t wait to learn the rest.

Thank you so much for reading, and to the wonderful people who read my blog. You gave me so much strength through my pregnancy journey, and I am so grateful to all of you – who commented, who blog, who write, who inspire and share. You are beautiful, and I’m grateful to be able to share one of the happiest moments of my life with you.

❤ Chloe

Also, of all the songs on my gigantic playlist, my daughter was born while Survivor while Destiny’s Child was playing.

And I ride, and I ride.

I’ve been neglecting my blog this past week, mostly due to feeling overwhelmingly lazy. But I mean, I haven’t been that lazy. In my defense, I feel freakin’ huge. As of yesterday I’m 34 weeks pregnant, which means I really don’t have that much longer to go. Everything feels increasingly difficult though.

I’ve been keeping up as best I can with my exposure therapy, and trying to get out and about in the car. I’ve been making bits of progress here and there, but there have been times when I feel like I’m making no progress at all, or where I feel like I’m making anti-progress. Like the other night, I wanted to do some driving on my own. I decided to start with going around the block, and I got hit with a surge of adrenaline and panic and it felt horrible and awful. I just sat in the car for about an hour and a half listening to music and spending time being in the car, because driving at all just felt like too much. I’m doing the best I can, but sometimes (a lot of the time) it feels like it’s not enough.

I’ve also been a bit down because I keep missing events and things that I want to go to. Felicia Day was in my town yesterday, and I kind of wanted to cry missing it. I love her. The day before I missed Blue Oyster Cult doing a free show on the beach minutes from my house. Stuff like that. I feel like I’ve gotten pretty used to missing out on things I want to go do, but it still feels painful, especially because the only thing holding me back is myself, which makes me feel all kinds of mad at myself. But I’m working on that and trying not to be too hard on myself.

In other news, I started learning how to play The Passenger on acoustic guitar. I’m working on it. Rex agrees I should put the song on my blog because it feels relevant.