Many of you have heard Rob’s and my good news: we’re expecting! I’m 14 weeks along, so just beginning my second trimester. After a miscarriage, pregnancy can feel like a tentative and uncertain thing, but as the weeks have gone by, we’ve become more confident and I’ve allowed myself to get excited.
But I feel like there are two people living inside my head right now. One person is more happy than she’s ever been before: I can’t wait to have a baby and February can’t come soon enough. That person, though, is wracked with self-disappointment and anxiety. Pregnancy and mental illness can be a bad combination.
When I had anxiety in the past, I’d take a medication called Klonopin. It’s not the kind of medication you want to take every day for a long period of time because it can be addicting. But it was one that I would take as needed, when I would have the occasional day of anxiety. I’d pop the pill and within an hour feel its effect: a calmness would spread through my body and a peaceful clarity would return to my thoughts.
You can’t take Klonopin while pregnant. There are certain drugs that I am taking—I’ve talked with my psychiatrist and we think the benefits outweigh the possible risks. But Klonopin is out because we’ve deemed the risk too high.
Just a few days after the positive test, I started experiencing some strange anxiety. It’d hit me around 9:00 or 10:00 in the morning and last for a few hours before subsiding. Since then, I’ve had that anxiety every single day. It used to happen only in the mornings, but now the time fluctuates. If I try to push through it, it usually just migrates into the afternoon. And not being able to take my usual medication has been really, really hard.
For those unfamiliar with anxiety, it can be mental, physical, or both at the same time. I don’t think it’s the same for everyone. My anxiety tends to be physical—a tightness in the chest, a pulsing in my throat, a sour taste in my mouth—mixed with rambling thoughts, worries, and insistent self-doubt. Lately, I’ve gotten pretty good at displacing the difficult thoughts by deep breathing and mental imagery. The physical symptoms, however, don’t seem to be going anywhere.
I usually cope by laying down. Resting seems to help the physical symptoms go away, even if it takes hours, which it usually does. Because it knocks me out for such a long time in the middle of the day, it feels debilitating. I can’t get a lot done. It feels like it sucks the life out of me, and the last thing I want to do is write. How can I be a writer if I’m not writing? I can’t! So even my identity is affected: it feels like the anxiety has taken my writer-self, and the self-motivation it requires, away from me. Instead, I end up feeling like a loser who stays at home all day, unable to do much of anything. My self-esteem, let’s just say, has been better.
And all of this in the midst of pregnancy. Like I said, it feels like there are two people living inside of me. Part of me is giddy and excited; the other part of me is worn down by the anxiety. I want to fully embrace happiness, but I’m held back.
What does it mean to “give myself grace” during this time? I’m good at giving grace to others, so why is it so hard to give it to myself? Now, more than ever, is a time when I need to give myself grace. I need to have compassion for myself, and give myself time and space to get through this. It’s been slow-going, but that’s something I’m learning right now. I’ll keep you posted.