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.

Things That Help: Finding Things to get Excited About

There is something about having things to look forward to that can give you a huge boost. I practice mindfulness/present moment meditation, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get excited thinking about future events. And as someone who has been struggling with fluctuating levels of severe depression/panic/anxiety and agoraphobia, finding things that I love and look forward to has been essential in giving me little boosts that keep me going when I’m feeling in a bad spot.

New anything Harry Potter related? Finally! Yes!

New anything Harry Potter related? Finally! Yes!

Right now, I’m SO EXCITED for Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess) to come out tomorrow. She is an amazing writer. If you relate to my posts at all, and you have a kind of dark sense of humor, youll fall in love. Seriously. Check out her blog, and her book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened.

Furiously Happy

Furiously Happy is about “taking those moments when things are fine and making them amazing, because those moments are what make us who we are, and they’re the same moments we take into battle with us when our brains declare war on our very existence. It’s the difference between “surviving life” and “living life”. It’s the difference between “taking a shower” and “teaching your monkey butler how to shampoo your hair.” It’s the difference between being “sane” and being “furiously happy.”

What else? I think because I’ve gone through such long periods of not leaving the house, it’s even more important for me to find things that occupy my mind to look forward to. I read a lot of books, and I get really excited when authors I love put out new books. Or video games. I’ve been playing Life is Strange, and they release a new episode every two months or so. That has been really awesome to have to look forward to!

Life Is Strange is a five part episodic game that sets out to revolutionise story based choice and consequence games by allowing the player to rewind time and affect the past, present and future

Life Is Strange is a five part episodic game that sets out to revolutionise story based choice and consequence games by allowing the player to rewind time and affect the past, present and future

I guess what I’m trying to say, is no matter what, you can always find something to look forward to. And if you don’t, go find something to get excited about. I know it can be hard. But those little things have really given me extra pushes during the dark times, that there’s at least something up ahead that I can look forward to, no matter how small or seemingly silly it might not be to other people.

This is an amazing book, and I'm incredibly excited that Tim Burton is currently making the movie!

This is an amazing book, and I’m incredibly excited that Tim Burton is currently making the movie!

Maybe it’s the fact that your favorite YouTuber puts out a video every week! Maybe it’s an album release from your favorite band, a book, a movie, a TV show, a game or game expansion. And sometimes the things that we look forward to don’t live up to our expectations, but that’s okay, because when you can at the very least have a good arsenal of silly little things that make you happy that you look forward to, that alone kind of makes it worth it.

I follow a lot of YouTubers, and this is the most recent one from Jenna Marbles. She cracks me up.

Hell. You don’t even have to find things that aren’t out yet to get excited about. Just go on a random internet hunt for cool things until you find them. And then get excited about them!

What are you excited about? Any recommendations of things to look out for? Post in the comments!

I can’t wrap my brain around knowing over 1,000 people in person, and remembering things about every single one of them.

I don’t understand how some people have such booming social lives, or how people can know so many people. I’ve always been the type of person who has 1-3 good friends at a time. Quality over quantity, you know?

I was thinking about that today, and then I started thinking about Rex (my boyfriend). We’re kind of complete opposites in a lot of ways. For instance, I’m kind of a computer/internet geek who has been making internet friends for over ten years and is incredibly introverted.

I don’t think Rex has a single internet friend. Yet, he has over 1,000 Facebook friends. And he knows them all in real life.

I literally cannot wrap my brain around this concept.

Not only does he have over 1,000 Facebook friends, but I’d be willing to bet you could point to any one of them (not exaggerating here), and he’d be like “oh yeah, that’s so and so’s brothers ex girlfriends sisters fiance’s step-cousin who works at this place downtown, who I met at this one party, and so-and-so introduced me, and then we talked about [insert a band or something], and they have really great stories about interacting with giraffes while wearing protective goggles.” I don’t know, just weird ass connections and random facts about everyone.

I imagine that every time he does this (go into excruciatingly specific detail about people he knows), my eyes gloss over and a little drool drips out of my mouth as I sit in a sort of bewildered stupor, wondering how the hell anyone can, a) know that many people, b) remember that much stuff about someone you met a handful of times.

I mean, I’m agoraphobic. This blog mostly deals with me being agoraphobic/anxious as hell, and trying to go places. Every time we go somewhere, he will inevitably run into someone (or lots) of people he knows. Dude, like how? How is that even possible?

I think maybe he is curious as to how I know so few people? Because, if you’re used to knowing so many people, it might be weird to think about not knowing a ton of people. Like how I think it’s so freaking weird that he knows every single person ever. And he has a person for everything. Car broken down? He has several car connections that will just come help him out, and several locksmiths. I mean, I’d be willing to bet he knows someone in any given profession that is useful (except a vacuum repair man. What the hell, Rex? It’s okay, we got our vacuum fixed anyway, thanks mom!). So, not every profession, but a lot. EDIT: after posting this, he has informed me that he has known vacuum repair people in the past. Of course he has. He also has informed me that you probably don’t want to know vacuum repair people because they are predominantly tweakers. Duly noted.

Anyway, it’s like 4:30 in the morning and I’m up in bed, less than two weeks from my due date, and everything is uncomfortable and hot and itchy and achey and stupid and bloated, and I was spacing out thinking about how weird it is to know so many damned people. And I was going on a rant in my own brain about it, and decided to rant about it via keyboard for you, wonderful, beautiful reader.

Also, I have been making progress with exposure therapy and driving… except that I’m so freaking pregnant, and I feel huge and nauseous and bloated, and it’s really hot every day, and everything feels like it’s way harder than it should be. As Rex keeps telling me, “you’re playing life on hard mode right now.”

But. I have been making it to more places, and I’ve gone places that I have been unable to reach up until this point.

Like this park.

I have selfies of me at the park, but I'm feeling too self conscious about myself lately. So enjoy this bench and a vague view of the ocean.

I have selfies of me at the park, but I’m feeling too self conscious about myself lately. So enjoy this bench and a vague view of the ocean.

Okay fine, here's me and Rex at the park. I feel so bloated.

Okay fine, here’s me and Rex at the park. I feel so bloated. I keep feeling self-conscious that my face is gaining weight, but I’ll just need to get over it and be sassy and awesome and own my shit. 

Okay, here's a selfie of me driving. In the car. Outside. Sweet.

And here’s a selfie of me driving. In the car. Outside. Sweet. 9+ months pregnant.

Oh, and I finally confronted the light that has been the bane of my existence for the past six months or so. And it wasn’t a huge deal. And I went to Walgreens. And they were selling a ton of Nightmare Before Christmas stuff, and I went crazy and probably spent too much money on halloween stuff, but I figure it’s been one of my goals to make it there for 6+ months, so it’s okay and I shouldn’t feel bad about it.

And red lights have been getting easier. And some other stuff too. And I’m thinking that maybe this anxiety stuff will keep getting better. I hope it keeps getting better. I think it will.

I leave you with a song by one of my favorite people. I could probably rant a lot about Erik Peterson (Mischief Brew), but It’s getting closer and closer to 5 AM, so maybe I’ll save my rantiness about him for another day. In the meantime, enjoy, and thank you for reading ❤

Also, I’m just posting this without reading anything back. Here’s to hoping I’m good enough at writing to avoid bad spelling and grammar. 

More progress with exposure therapy! And rock ‘n roll baby time!

I’m feeling really good about today. I had an hour long drive with my exposure therapist at two today, and it went well. We even stopped for smoothies, and she said I’d driven farther than I have the whole time she’s been seeing me.

After she left, Rex asked if I wanted to keep driving, and I did. I drove even farther. I went to the post office! And bought stamps. And it was kind of boring! Yay! I get way too excited about things being relatively boring, which I guess makes them not as boring, really. But, boring is good. Mundane is good. Panic is not good. So anything that’s not panicky or anxious is good in my book.

I bought two sheets of forever stamps so I can mail out some thank you cards to people from the baby shower. That felt awesome.

After that, I wanted to keep driving, so I did. I drove even further again, and ended up making it to Rite Aid and shopping for things for my hospital bag. I got socks, mascara, travel tooth brushes, travel shampoo/conditioner and things like that. And it felt totally normal. The fact that it felt relatively normal was almost overwhelming, because I haven’t felt able to do normal things in what feels like so long. The more I do things, the more I feel like there’s actually hope that I can be a fully functioning human being, out in the world doing normal things, and not a total shut-in who can’t leave her house for months/years on end. Phew. That’s relieving as hell.

I’m still feeling nervous about making it to appointments, but not as much as I have been. It seems easier. I realize that the worst part is the anticipation. Like, there were so many times today where I would see a street up ahead with a light and be thinking, “oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, what if I get stuck, what if I suddenly faint or black out, what if I go blind, what if I lose my shit and just can’t….. oh, okay, it’s already over, cool. That was actually kind of easy. Nice.”

Also, the crib, car seat and stroller arrived in the mail today. I ordered them a few days ago, and am really excited to start setting up everything before baby gets here.

I finally picked out a crib bedding set, and it’s inspired me to do a rock ‘n roll theme in babies room.

This is the crib set I ended up picking out! Also the crib in the photo looks exactly like the one I ended up getting. I can't wait to get it all set up!

This is the crib set I ended up picking out! Also the crib in the photo looks exactly like the one I ended up getting. I can’t wait to get it all set up!

I was thinking about decorating with images of strong/bad ass women in rock… Joan Jett, Debbie Harry, Siouxsie Sioux, Patti Smith, Stevie Nicks etc. And maybe some Bowie. I was thinking it could also be a really fun DIY project to make artwork and stuff, without having to spend a bunch of money on premade decorations. It’s a pretty unique theme at least. I’ll keep you guys posted on it.

And speaking of badass women in rock, I give you Suzi Quatro. 

and one more…

Keep on driving.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted – I’ve been pretty exhausted lately, but still want to keep up with posting.

I was having a pretty difficult time for a little bit as far as exposure therapy goes, and getting out. I didn’t go out or do any driving for a few days and kept building it up in my head to be more and more of a big deal… Then when I finally went out driving, I remembered that it’s not that scary, and it’s okay. I started small and kept working my way up, and now I’m driving longer distances than I’ve been able to since I started exposure therapy!

I had an appointment last week that I missed due to a panic attack. That was really difficult, but instead of letting it get me down completely, I’ve been more determined than ever to squelch my fears of being on the road.

I had my baby shower over the weekend and it was wonderful! It was so great to have so many loved ones gather and celebrate the baby. My mom and a good friend of the family threw it for me, and it was so sweet. I’m so grateful.

Yesterday I drove further than I have in so long. I’m really happy, and it makes me feel like things are opening up, and that I will be able to overcome my fears.

It’s still difficult, but looking brighter.

And I’m due in less than four weeks, which is kind of scary, but I’m also excited to have the baby. I’ve been pretty exhausted most of the time due to being so pregnant right now. It’s pretty ridiculous, I feel like I’m expending too much energy just writing this right now, or getting up to do small things. I definitely can’t wait to get back some energy!

Here’s a song off of the album I was listening to most of the drive yesterday. I think it’s good driving music. I’ve been on a psychobilly kick lately. Also, I was recalling to Rex yesterday that during this song the lead singer gave me the mic to sing along when I saw them years ago, and that was pretty cool.

Living somewhere pretty can kind of suck when you’re agoraphobic

Sometimes I hate that I live somewhere so beautiful.

Well, okay. I’m really grateful I live somewhere so beautiful. It’s great. And nice.

I can hear the ocean outside my bedroom window every night. Sometimes I fall asleep listening to the fog horn, the sound of waves crashing, and the sea lions barking like mad.

But it also drives me crazy when I feel incapable of going to the beach when it’s so close.

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On the other side of my house, I look out the window and I can see rolling redwoods and mountains in the distance. The nearer skyline is dotted with palm trees. It’s nearly always sunny, always perfect weather, always beautiful.

My house is surrounded by bamboo, and there are flowers everywhere, and it’s just so damn pretty where I live.

It makes staying inside extra torturous.

599844_3990547994983_1073980629_n

I feel like if I lived somewhere ugly, in the middle of nowhere, or somewhere that didn’t have all this natural beauty (and events almost every night that I feel sad about missing out on), I wouldn’t be so hard on myself about not going out… because there wouldn’t be much to do. I mean, I’d rather not step inside a Walmart again in my life anyway, so that’s no big deal.

403891_3990548274990_914916714_n

But I miss the tidepools, and the sunsets over the beach. I miss making sandcastles, and boogie boarding, and swimming in the freezing water. Jumping into the ocean at two in the morning. Going hiking. The smell of the redwoods. Eucalyptus trees. Thousands of butterflies gathering together every year. Bonfires on the beach. Sitting on the rocks by the lighthouse. Reading books at the harbor. Drives up the coast. Zoning out and realizing you’re in San Francisco an hour later.

San Francisco

Sometimes it feels like I’m mourning my old life. Sometimes it feels like it’s what I have to look forward to again someday. Sometimes it just feels stagnant and hopeless.

Anyway, I apologize for the relatively depressing post. I’ve just been feeling so frustrated lately. Every time I feel as though I’m making progress, I feel myself getting down on myself because I can’t do X, Y or Z yet. Every time I make it around a different block, or down a new street, I know that it’s bringing me closer to meeting my goals, but I still feel so far away from the life that I truly want to be living, and the places that I want to be.

Edit: I was trying to remember which Sublime song was about my town, when I remembered it was this one (also, this entire band reminds me of being in junior high):