Baby Butterflies

“What are you most worried that it will be?”

“Heart failure,” I say, to which my doctor nods and mutters “of course”.

“And maybe… anxiety?” I laugh because I think it’s funny to be worried that I have anxiety. My doctor laughs too.

I had been having a weird feeling in my chest on and off for weeks before I did anything about it. I had been trying to identify what sort of feeling it was and what was bringing it on. It wasn’t a pain. My heart was beating deep, not fast, and my breathing felt not restricted, but not quite right. It was kinda like butterflies in my stomach except the butterflies were pewter and stuck up behind my sternum.

Sometimes I would pick up my baby and walk into the kitchen where my partner was making dinner and feel the heavy-heart-beating-weird-feeling. Holding my ever growing and ever weightier baby I would say to him, “See – now, I’m getting it now!” This reinforced the idea that my heart was going to combust, my lungs fail or I had exhausted my chest and body in the first half year of being a mum.

I booked an appointment because one day while I was driving, I realised that I had had the weird-heavy-heart-butterflies for a full 24 hours. I needed to be responsible I told myself, for my daughter. I couldn’t wait this one out. Always fully booked, I had to wait a few days before I could see my doc. I took it easy, stopped driving and stayed home, didn’t pick up the baby too much, tried to rest. My sister messaged me every hour in case I had dropped dead and my baby was left alone. This sounds dramatic – but I was really actually very concerned.

The day I finally got to the doctor, I suddenly felt safe! I was so sure that something drastic was going to happen, that sitting there – about to get answers – I felt a great relief. The doctor poked and prodded and listened to my chest. “It’s like… I’m not short of breath… but I could just get a little bit more.” She nodded knowingly and motioned for me to return to the seat at her desk. My doc had previously proven herself a bit of an alarmist – I thought for sure she would send me for all the tests. Every test. It would be exhausting, but necessary. I could count on my doc to leave no stone untur-

“I don’t need to send you off for heaps of tests or anything,” my suddenly non-alarmist doc was saying.

“Oh?”

“Hundred percent anxiety symptoms,” she said smiling her warm but I-have-a-lot-of-people-to-see smile. “So now, you don’t need to worry… about it being anything serious. You can focus on trying to fix this. Your heart is not going to stop. Your lungs are fine.”

The doc asked me how I’d been feeling generally. I told her I was feeling fine. I guess that’s why I didn’t think it would be anxiety. I manage fine.  Then I remembered my little paranoid period where I would fully imagine someone killing me whenever I turned a corner in my house. So I told her about that. I told her how I felt pretty weighed down by the world. Not my personal world. The Trump world. It was the morning of the Manchester concert bombing. “Well, this morning’s events would not have helped that,” she said.

I’ve felt pretty good since my baby came along. Hardly ever down, pretty positive, very supported. This anxiety thing is a whole new ball game for me – depression, I know how that feels, but this is different. I knew I lost my Zen a bit after the baby came: I started to feel this new sort of stress when my partner and I would take the baby out, anywhere. To Bunnings, to the supermarket, to Queensland. I started saying things like “I just feel real stressed when we leave the house.” Hubby would ask why – if she cries, she cries. If she poos, she poos. If we forget something, we’ll deal with it. Even when I was with him I felt a deep concern about getting in the car and heading out with the baby.

So I guess that’s around when it started. And to be honest, having someone say, look you might have post-natal anxiety – meant that I could immediately feel relief that I wasn’t dying from something more serious, and start to take action to try remedy it. [I messaged friends and fam after the docs – “I have anxiety, LOL. I really shouldn’t say LOL, but I’m so relieved I’m not dying!”] I’m a mentally strong person, but I haven’t always been very organised. Feeling anxious about getting out and about has caused me to write more lists, pack my bag early, and talk through exactly what I need, where I will be, what time I will leave and how it will all work out.

We all know people who have crippling anxiety that stops them from living normally. I can live normally, I just recognise the pewter butterflies when they attack, and try to calm them down. Sometimes I feel like I’m a little allergic to my baby though. It usually hits me when I am getting ready to leave the house with her. Sometimes just as I open the front gate. Today I was merely rushing around doing things and the butterflies were in manic mode. And still, it hits about half of the times that I pick her up.

She’s my little allergen.

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P.S. If you need help, make sure you see someone. 🙂 And look out for your new mum friends who might be staying at home a little too much, or seeming a bit stressed about the new little life in their life.

No News is Good News (like seriously, none of the news is good)

I’m driving and I’m cursing. Oh man I’m cursing. I’ve made the mistake of tuning in to 774 on my way out West – breaking my self-imposed news ban. The ban began on Monday, and to be honest, I didn’t think I would make the week. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve still been on Twitter and Facebook, the Twitter feed offering enough news headlines to keep me in touch with the world, but in a way that means I can quickly scroll through without become emotionally involved.

I usually have ABC News 24 running all day. Even after I’ve heard the same bloody story word for word for the eighteenth time, I still leave it on, just in the background as I play with baby Kylo, potter about the house, breastfeed, cook, clean – I basically exist with the hum of the news behind me. If it’s not the news, it’s Parliament Question Time or the Press Club Address. (Yeah, I know, thrilling.)

[So I’m in the car and Georgie Downer has just been asked a question – about the government’s inaction on workplaces short-changing workers and using visas to hold them to ransom. She answers by saying that those examples are another reason new citizens should be proficient in English. Urgh. She has no concept of her own privilege and no compassion, nor understanding that migrant workers are likely working in jobs IN ORDER to improve their English, or certainly to support their studies. Pure victim blaming. Grrrrrr SMH.]

Every piece of news has seemed horrific lately – I know I don’t need to tell you. You live in the same world as I do, where a former reality TV host who has admitted to sexual assault and regularly releases policies on Twitter is President of the United States, the leader of the Philippines sends death squads to murder civilians, capital punishment still exists and sometimes goes wrong, children are STILL being bombed in Syria, refugees are being targeted left right and centre and still being locked up in camps that we as a nation seem to have collectively forgotten etc etc so on and so forth.

When the floods hit northern New South Wales and claimed the lives of the mother and her children, I lost my shit. I couldn’t deal. I pictured her holding her children as the car sank. I can’t even deal writing these few short sentences about it. After that, Syrian refugees – buses of them, and dozens of children – were killed whist they were trying to flee. I found myself weeping as the story ran on the TV. Who the fuck bombs buses of fleeing refugees? What sort of a world is this?

Since understanding that I am probably am empath, I’ve realized how deeply I can become involved in things that I watch. Masterchef or My Kitchen Rules will routinely leave me with no fingernails remaining as with every nail biting moment of the show, I actually remove the tips of my nails. Not just cooking shows. Documentaries, movies, anything where there is suspense or really REAL drama that I can transport myself into and experience to the point where it disturbs me. It seems ridiculous, but I have had to learn to ‘turn off’ and watch without feeling and without getting emotionally involved in whatever is happening on the screen. Doesn’t always work though: we were recently watching my current favourite show, Grand Designs, and the house owners were having a wall-sized single window pane positioned on the side of their house using cranes; everything hinged on that moment and a centimetre out would screw up EVERYTHING. My partner looked across at me – “Is this stressing you out?” I glanced down at the perfect crescent of fingernail that I had bitten off and placed next to me on the table and lied, “No.”

Violence is something that stays in my mind’s eye very vividly. I actually have a fantastic visual memory. (I was raised without violent movies when I was young which could have something to do with how they affect me.) When my partner joined me on maternity leave we binged on Vikings. We watched every horrendously intense, but brilliant episode in existence to prepare us for the new series. That’s like, 50 episodes in a week. Being fans of Game of Thrones and House of Cards, A LOT of what we watch is quite violent. However, I’m a full on pacifist. I once joined a Karate club and gave up after one lesson when I realized I would have to hit someone.

So anyway, after all that binging, I became aware of disturbing thoughts and visions that were creeping in to my mind. I would pull the baby through the house in her bouncer, walking backwards, and picture someone stabbing me in my back. Serious. I would mentally remind myself to book a dentist appointment and then have a vision of a drill going through the top of my mouth. I would see murderers in the dark when I went to the toilet in the middle of the night. I would hear noises in the supermarket carpark nearby and imagine a car crashing through our bedroom wall. And so on and so forth. Until one day I said to my partner “I have a problem.” And so I (and we) stopped watching certain movies and series.

[This isn’t the first time this has happened. Whilst staying a week on the idyllic, quiet island of Korcula in Croatia, we watched every season and episode of the Sopranos. I had never watched it before. I found myself outside in the sunshine, doing some hand washing in my bikini, loving life as a traveller – but then began to have feelings that if I walked around the corner of the house someone would jump out and shoot me with an Uzi.]

And so, I banned myself from certain TV, and all the news for a week. It just seemed right, and to be honest, it really helped. It also forced me to do other things – and watch some good History series. (Oh yeah the Crusades – peachy. Ha!) I don’t agree with turning away from the world or putting your head in the sand, but when something is affecting you in a negatively way, maybe you need a break from it?

Surely some of my issues here comes from getting used to being a mum. I don’t like it when people start every sentence with “As a mother” and I wasn’t a fan of people who continuously said to me “You’ll understand when you have kids”, BUT – But…. Yeah my life is different. I can’t JUST think about me. Clementine Ford said that having a child was reckless as a part of your heart is walking around outside of your body. Yes! Maybe it is just my mortality that has hit me, now that I and my partner have not only been charged with the protection and responsibility that naturally comes with having a child, but also the legacy of family. There is something that extends further than our two lives now.

I made it through my no news week. I’m trying to relax. I’m trying to find the Zenness I’ve been really good at, at other times in my life up to this point. I want my daughter to be chilled out. I don’t want her to fear death, or anything in life for that matter. Unfortunately the world is not a great place right now – so it’s easy to find myself fearing stuff for her.

After Georgie Downer suggested that migrant workers should just get better at English to stop them from being exploited, some faith in humanity was restored for me when the last caller of the session rang through and told her how preposterous her answer was.

Maybe there will be good news next week. And if there’s not, perhaps I’ll just turn off again.

trumpcat