Recently this is something my toddler and I have in common. On Friday I decided to be brave and take Greyson to Target even though it was during his afternoon nap time. I know every mom reading this is gasping…you don’t mess with toddler nap time. I knew I was tempting fate, but we also had ZERO diapers in the house, so we HAD to go. Meltdown or possible blowout with no diapers…both seemed pretty scary to me.
His morning nap time had run unusually long – he takes after a younger version of me with his sleeping habits – when I used to be able to nap for hours and hours. This was before my anxiety got so bad, when it was depression I was usually battling and I could sleep for hours just to shut out the world. Now I take medication to sleep at night, otherwise my mind would run all night long with hypothetical questions (what if we have a tornado, what if there is another terrorist attack, what if Greyson isn’t hitting all his milestones, what if we have to move to someplace scary, like Detroit…it goes on and on) – impossible to shut off. As I sit here writing this now, it’s 2:30 AM and there isn’t an inkling of tiredness in my body.
But back to Target. Greyson cried in the car, and when I put him in the cart to ride around, and when I wouldn’t give him my car keys. Whining and crying through the aisles (we were already there so why not grab a few extra things we needed) I tried to pacify him with toys I had brought and his sippy cup of milk, but nothing was working. It was like shopping with a little octopus in the cart. He grabbed everything within reach and either threw it in the aisle or cried when I took it away. I mean we really didn’t need newborn size binkies, a DVD of Despicable Me, or any clearance Easter candy…so more whining, more crying…
Our grand finale was in the middle of the toddlers’ clothes section. Greyson grabbed his sippy cup of milk and threw it out of the cart. He was so tired and I had pushed my luck. The top flew off and milk splattered all over the carpet and probably on the display rack of cute pink bathing suits next to it. I took a deep breath and flagged down an employee. We made it home in one piece, the little guy finally got to nap and I also learned a very important lesson about messing with naptime.
Friday was a day I had to take a Xanax before leaving the house. My anxiety has been especially bad since the news of the man who committed murder on Facebook Live had been spotted in Erie, Pennsylvania and then killed himself. I generally never watch the news but my husband had mentioned this to me in an off hand comment.
Why would this particularly set me off? Well, Chris and I lived in Erie about 3 and a half years ago. It was too close to home. The same thing happened last year, September 23rd when the shootings at the Mt. Vernon, Washington Macy’s happened. I froze up, I couldn’t breathe and my anxiety went into overdrive. I had shopped in that Macy’s more times than I could count, since I had grown up about 25 minutes south of there. I couldn’t get it out of my head that I had stood right at that cosmetics counter numerous times. It played over and over in my mind.
This event triggered the worst anxiety attack I have had to date and it happened in Target. Apparently Target is where the Hartsburgs like to have their breakdowns – which is unfortunate because I love Target. I still love Target – not the fact that I can’t ever get out without spending less than $50, but still, I heart Target.
This anxiety attack set in suddenly. I always take the same path around Target, just one of the many weird compulsions that comes along with my anxiety. I had noticed a random man wandering around the store and my heart started to race a little. My palms were clammy and I was covered in a cold sweat. I continued around the store feeling like I was underwater and my hearing was distorted.
This random man was probably harmless but my thoughts started spinning. He walked past the cosmetics aisle I was standing in and there it came. Full blown anxiety attack. I gripped my shopping cart, body shaking, sweat dripping down my forehead, feeling like a boulder was crushing my throat and chest. Nothing felt real and my mind raced trying to think of any doorways I had seen, that I could run to and out of. I was convinced this man was there to commit a shooting. My brain had taken over and I froze. I frantically rummaged through my purse for my Xanax and dry swallowed one, waiting out the chest pain and racing heart. When it finally stopped, I raced to the checkout lines and paid for my items. When I got home I cried.
These are the kind of events that I know trigger me. Other times, I have no idea where it comes from, why that feeling of impending doom settles over my chest and crushes it until I feel like I can’t breathe. But looking into Greyson’s face, even when he is having a meltdown in the middle of Target, will always be my anchor.
Since last week’s blog was a little heavy, I thought we could use some humor, after all, this blog is supposed to be about dealing with anxiety WITH humor. So here you go, a few of my all-time most embarrassing moments that happened in the SAME trip…
I promised the pee story, so here it is…in all it’s glory. And just FYI the above picture is a picture of an actual picture. This was 2003, back before digital cameras were the norm, everyone had iPhones, and even before Facebook…gasp. I know, I know…it’s hard to believe. Did this trip even happen if it’s not documented in an old Facebook album??? Yes, it did. And I humiliated myself not just once but TWICE. Oh yes, you are getting way more than JUST the one cringe-worthy story today…
It was my freshman year of college at the University of Washington and I was a naive small town girl from Arlington, Washington attending a college with a student body probably 2-3 times the size of my hometown. I agonized over my outfits every morning, I convinced myself oatmeal raisin cookies were a healthy snack at midnight while I was studying (it couldn’t have been the cookies making me pack on the pounds, the dryers had to be too hot and were obviously shrinking my clothes…right?) and I actually learned how to work said washer and dryer.
My closest friend was Sarah, a girl I met in my FIG (Freshman Interest Group – a program designed to help freshman meet people on the huge campus) and we quickly became inseparable. Our quirky personalities clicked and we were always together. When the topic of spring break came up I mentioned that a former boss (remember that Ace Hardware t-shirt I was wearing the night my dad left? – well I ended up working there on the weekends during high school) of mine (and family friend) had a son that went to school at BYU in Hawaii. There had been an open invitation if I ever wanted to come visit.
We convinced our parents it was a good idea for us to go to Oahu for a week by ourselves (and for them to pay for it) and that we would stay with our family friend and his roommates. They had a gorgeous little beach home right by the water on the North side of the island. They had class and serious girlfriends, we weren’t old enough to rent a car and we couldn’t walk to a ‘sunbathing’ worthy beach. We got bored real quick. Luckily one of the roommates took pity on us one afternoon and drove us to Sunset Beach. It was gorgeous, and one of the prime surfing locations on the island – everything we had imagined when we planned our trip. The roommate warned us to pay attention to the waves, but to otherwise relax and get our tan on.
We spent some time ogling the surfers before settling in and assuming our sunbathing positions. Sunscreen and sunglasses on, magazines out, and bathing suit ties undone to avoid the dreaded ‘tan lines’. I must have drifted off to sleep because I suddenly felt a chilly rush of water sweep over my body. I sat straight up, panicking as I saw my belongings being washed back toward the ocean. I managed to snatch up everything…except one sandal. I couldn’t have just ONE sandal for the rest of the day (plus I had a pretty bad shopping habit during college so they were probably pretty expensive), so I hopped up and chased the sandal down the beach until it stopped in the sand and the rogue wave returned to the ocean.
It was at this very moment, as I bent down to pick up my runaway sandal that I noticed a very uncomfortable feeling – like a million eyes on the back of my head. And while bending over, noticed that my bathing suit top was hanging only from the bottom set of ties around my rib cage. The entire beach had just watched me run, basically topless, down the beach, after a shoe. I. Was. Mortified. I clutched my suit top and sandal to my chest and basically did a walk of shame of sorts back up the beach, head down, face burning red, sat down, re-tied my bathing suit and said to Sarah, “we have to leave, now.” I didn’t look that particular roommate in the face for the rest of the trip. He had seen too much.
I really didn’t think it could get any more embarrassing than that moment right there. But you know what they say – never say never.
A few days later Sarah and I, being bored – again, decided to take a bus to the other side of the island and check out Waikiki. Our hosts were busy and didn’t have time/weren’t interested in driving two bored teenage girls to Waikiki on a Sunday. They suggested the bus. Now this is where it gets tricky. The buses on Oahu run on “island time”. And it being a Sunday, apparently run whenever they feel like it. We waited at the bus stop down the street for about an hour, finally boarded the bus and then shopped, bought sarongs and souvenirs, explored, and checked out the beaches in Waikiki. We also drank A LOT of water because it was hot.
The day started to get away from us and we found out the buses stopped running after a certain time from one of the vendors so we hurried back to where the bus station was. We waited, and waited…and waited. No buses to the North Shore. We contemplated how much an hour long taxi drive would take and then realized we didn’t even know directions to where we were staying and had maybe $40 between us.
After almost 45 minutes, I had to pee. Bad. My anxiety kicked in, big time which never helps with the peeing sensation. I knew if I left to find a restroom, that the last bus would come and we would be stranded. So I held it. Such a bad idea. I sat, I paced, I rocked back and forth…all to distract myself from the several bottles of water now threatening to explode from my bladder.
Finally, the bus showed up and we believed our worries were over. As we sat down I realized that while our problem of getting back was solved, I had never had to pee this bad in my entire life. I had to pee so bad it hurt. So bad it was making me nauseous. Sarah tried to distract me but talking or laughing just made me have to go even more. I asked the bus driver exactly how long the ride would be and he explained it would be over an hour with all the stops. I knew I wouldn’t make it. No bathroom on the bus – something had to be done, drastic measures must be taken. Measures you can only go through with one of your best friends.
Sarah and I devised a plan. We had:
- An almost empty water bottle
- A sarong to hide behind
- An almost empty bus
We moved toward the back of the bus and Sarah held up my sarong. I grabbed the empty water bottle and looked at the opening – it looked like it was the size of a straw. Didn’t matter. I did what I had to do…and ended up peeing all over my hand AND the bus seat. SOME got in the bottle, I’m still not sure how. It took everything I had in me, but I stopped.
“This isn’t working!'” I cried to Sarah. I put the lid on the bottle and threw it to the back of the bus. To this day I feel so guilty about whoever found that bottle. So gross. But I was frantic and convinced about 3 liters of liquid were about to splash all over the floor of this poor drivers’ bus.
So back to square one. I was pretty much covered in pee so I wrapped myself in my sarong and we discussed our options. We asked the bus driver when the next stop was. He explained the next and last stop before the North Shore was at a shopping center. It would be an hour after that until we would be home.
I knew I would never make it. We had to take the next stop. All I can say is that Sarah is one loyal and true friend. She never once questioned my need to get off of what might have been the last bus to the North Shore to for the evening – and for that I m eternally grateful. After what seemed like an eternity, we finally made it to the stop. I practically ran off the bus and saw a Chili’s right in front of me. Sarah headed toward the entrance, thinking I would be heading into the bathrooms inside the restaurant. As I stood up and started walking, the liquid inside my bladder surged forth like the rogue wave at Sunset Beach. I couldn’t make it.
I sat down next to the bus stop, in the grass, and let it all go. Sarah turned around and asked what I was doing before she came to the realization that I had sunk to a new low in life. Peeing in the grass, next to a bus stop, right outside the Chili’s dining room windows. I didn’t even care. I just sat there, contemplating what I had just done and wondering if I would ever be able to tell a soul this had happened. Sarah came and sat (a safe distance away) from me. That is one true friend right there.
As we sat in silence, a random teenager rode by on his bike, “hey, you guys waiting for the bus?’
So why write a blog about something as unfunny and serious about anxiety you may ask? Well…I have a twisted sense of humor and I truly believe that if I don’t laugh about my anxiety and the weird things it makes me think and do, I might explode. Just kidding, but I wouldn’t be living a complete and happy life – and I’m just not satisfied living an incomplete life. None of us should be.
I’m also passionate about bringing attention to the topic of mental illness. So many people suffer in silence and shame. It’s taken a long time but I have zero shame in telling anyone that if I didn’t have a great therapist, psychiatrist and anti-anxiety prescription, I would most likely be a very poorly functioning member of society.
I can remember sitting in my car during college and the guy I was seeing randomly finding my prescription for Zoloft hanging out of my purse. “Why do you have this?!” It wasn’t a concerned question. It was a disgusted question. I had suddenly become that crazy girl he would go tell the entire baseball team about and I felt humiliated. However, a few years later I met a girl randomly at a Halloween party and it turns out (we’ll call him Baseball Boy to avoid naming names) Baseball Boy had been seeing both of us at the same time. So, sexy Mrs. Clause and Ariel the Little Mermaid laughed and chanted something to the effect of “He is such a bleeping a-hole!” for a LONG time and it was glorious. Not my finest or proudest moment, but dang, it felt good.
When people find out how severe my anxiety is, the response is almost always the same – shock, or even confusion. I get this line all the time ‘but you seem like you have it all together?!’ Which makes me wonder if they picture all people with anxiety as complete non-functioning members of society, or Bob from What About Bob (one of my favorite movies by the way – “Baby steps into the elevator”). But the truth is, most of us with anxiety are just really good at hiding it. You would never know that sometimes my anxiety is so bad it takes a Xanax to get myself out of the house. Why am I sharing this? Because I want to end the stigma.
While I believe my anxiety is hereditary and just the way my brain works, there are instances in my life that had HUGE impacts on how I view the world and, I believe, have increased my anxiety over time. There are two particularly distinct experiences in my life where I can think back and actually remember the anxiety I felt at that time. It’s almost like when a certain smell brings back a particular memory, but in reverse.
My very first memory of every feeling anything close to an anxiety attack was when I was 8 years old and my dad walked out on our family. I was having a sleep over with my best friend, Emily. We were either rocking out to my favorite country music singer at that time, Reba – you know it, she is the queen of country. My favorite song at the time was “Fancy” and looking back I’m surprised my mom let me listen to it over and over again considering it’s about a poverty stricken mother turning out her daughter to prostitution…but nevertheless, it went right over my head and I can still sing the entire song word for word. We had sleeping bags set up on my mom’s hideous early 90s hunter green and peach velvet couch and I was as happy as any little 8 year with her best friend could be. Ironically, for pajamas I was wearing an oversized, red, Ace Hardware t-shirt that said something about having a screw loose (a reference to all of their hardware supplies). And this was the very night I believe my little brain started to have a screw loose.
I remember my dad walking into the living room with a big light blue suitcase. It was night and I had no idea why he was leaving or where he was going. I asked him. “To spend the night at the Fire Station,” was his reply. I was young, but this made zero sense. My dad was a deputy sheriff for Snohomish County and worked graveyard, (I know he volunteered at the fire department sometimes but NEVER overnight) why would he be going there to spend the night? My little brain went into overdrive, what was happening. I knew deep down that this was a lie, and it both enraged and broke me.
My mom was crying, Emily (who was a year older and always light-years ahead of me in life matters) understood. Everyone seemed to understand but me. My dad was leaving. He was leaving me, our family, our home, and the best thing he could come up with was a lie. I don’t remember much after that point. My mom tells me my grandma came over after he was gone and I collapsed sobbing. But I can still feel those feelings – the cold sweat, the nausea, racing heart, wanting to escape my body, the out of control feeling that I wanted to run away from there, and finally the brain fog. I’ve blocked all memories out after he walked out that door because it was just too much. The only thing I wish would have been different about that night is that he would have been man enough to tell the truth, and not lie right into the face of his oldest daughter.
My second experience was September 11, 2001. Just writing that date makes my stomach clench. Can you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing when you heard the news? It was my senior year of high school, I had late start and I was just putting on my makeup and listening to the radio (this was before anything other than CDs or radio and that makes me feel old). I rushed out to the living room to watch the news with my mom. I was terrified. They say most people have two reactions to dangerous or panic situations: flight or fight. I have a third and very useless biological response: freeze. That day I froze. I was overcome with anxiety and at that point had no clue that anxiety was what I was feeling.
We sat in dark classrooms the next two days, watching the news, waiting for teachers with family in New York to reach their loved ones. The skies eerily quiet, as my hometown has an airport and all flights had been cancelled. It was at this point that my anxiety truly took hold of me and became an every day monster in my head, instead of annoying little reactions to actual stressful or upsetting situations. Would I have eventually developed full blown Generalized Anxiety Disorder if 9/11 had never happened, I believe so. But it was at this point in my life that I stopped feeling safe, and started worrying about every public place I went to. I am always curious about how this unthinkable event in our history has impacted people in my generation. We were finding our way, shaping our personalities, learning who we were as individuals. How do you think it has shaped who you have become as an adult?
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 40 million adults suffer from anxiety disorders in the United States and only a third of those people seek treatment. That is an unacceptable number of people getting the help they need. My hope is that with this blog, at least one person suffering will get the help they deserve.
I promise that not every post will be this serious, but this gives you a bit of my background and a better understanding of where I’m writing from. Plus, life is not always roses and rainbows and I want this blog to be real and from my heart. I promise the FULL story about peeing on the bus in Hawaii in my next post.
So, why did I start this blog…
My name is Lindsay by the way. Mommy to a one and a half year old, Greyson, and a crazy French Bulldog named Olive, wife of 4 years to Chris, a hockey coach (I don’t enjoy hockey by the way – weird right?) and a small business owner currently living smack dab in the middle of the USA in Nebraska. The Midwest is not my scene, I grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, an hour outside of Seattle and I miss the mountains, trees and rivers/ocean/lakes every single day. BUT I love my husband, so we go where the coaching jobs are. I also suffer from extreme anxiety, so as you can probably guess, the unstable lifestyle of a coach’s wife sometimes brings my anxiety out full force. I do my best to keep it in check, and writing has always been something that helps bring me out of my head and back down to planet Earth.
Basically, writing has always been my sanity. I went to college (Go Dawgs!) with dreams of becoming a Speech and Hearing Pathologist, but after failing my first math and physics classes and the program advisor telling me point blank that I wouldn’t make it into the program – I knew I just needed to follow my heart.
Ok, maybe I didn’t ‘just know’ right away. Maybe I called my mom crying and whining about how the advisor had no right to crush my hopes and dreams…but EVENTUALLY I knew that I needed to proceed with a major I could excel at. So English Literature was what I majored in and fell in love with. Reading novels and writing papers was pure bliss for me. I even edited my roommates’ papers…for fun.
Going back in time before college, I’ve suffered from Generalized Anxiety Disorder for as long as I can remember. I’ve seen countless therapists and tried various medications, practiced mindfulness, yoga, exercise (blah) and just about everything that will pop into your head to recommend to me when you read this. But the ONE thing that always seems to bring me back from spiraling into an anxiety whirlwind, is writing.
This blog is my happiness project, my place to share my experiences with anxiety but to write about all the good, funny and embarrassing things that happen in my every day life. If you take away one thing about me from this first post, know this: I am not afraid to make fun of myself. I once tried to pee into a water bottle on a moving bus in Hawaii. Life lesson learned, and a funny story ALWAYS.
I hope you’ll join me on this journey to finding the bliss and happiness in every day life. We all have our struggles, and we can all use a little more positivity and a lot more to smile about.