The Nightmare Cruise (2/22/06, Journal 5, page 82)

I was the most mentally healthy I had ever been in my entire life. Five years had passed since I had my first anxiety attack. I had been to years of therapy and I was finally off anti-anxiety medication. I started working as an Elementary Math Academic Intervention Services (AIS) teacher and began grad school. Things were finally looking up. I was living the life I wanted to live, the life I was in control of. My best friend invited me on a cruise with her whole family. I had never been on a cruise before and thought it was a fantastic way to spend Winter break. It was such a great idea that my sister and her boyfriend decided to tag along. I still recall the feeling on the ship as we sailed away from Port. I was a liberating feeling. I could feel the wind on my skin and it was an exhilarating. As the sun set, I can still remember looking out into the ocean and not being able to see any land. We were alone in the ocean. Only water and a beautiful endless sky to look at. Although it sounds scary writing about it today, I thought it was the coolest view I had ever seen. There were so many things to do on the ship and I wanted to do EVERYTHING. Life was good on the cruise…for about 2 days.I believe it was the 2nd or 3rd night we partied like rockstars. We went to a club on the ship and drank the night away. What a great night! But the next morning was painful. Hangovers are triggers for me. I know that now. I kinda sorta knew it then but it was easy to sleep it off when I was in my comfort zone of my own bed. When I was feeling nauseous on the ship, it was a very uneasy feeling and I slowly started to lose control. I remember laying out in the sun on the pool deck and just not feeling right. I decided to go back to my room and try to sleep it off. I fell asleep for a little while but the second I woke up, the anxiety set it. If you never experienced an anxiety attack, it is very difficult to try to imagine the feeling. It was an immediate “oh shit” moment. The wave of heat penetrated through my body. I knew there was no going back. I tried so hard to fight it. I jumped out of bed and found my sister right away to tell her I felt off. She has experienced the same anxiety that I have so it’s easy to talk to her and she helps me tremendously. She tried to distract me by suggesting we go play Bingo. I love Bingo. What a great way to keep my mind occupied. The only thing was, as I said before, there was no going back now. The anxiety set in and it was there to stay. I knew right then there would not be a single moment on the cruise that I wouldn’t be thinking “anxiety, anxiety, anxiety.” We played Bingo anyway. It was in a huge room and I couldn’t concentrate. I felt the room getting smaller and closing in on me. I had to leave. I’ll never forget breaking down when I walked out of the room. I could not believe this was happening to me. I was so mad! How come nobody told me anxiety could come back?! It was like I had relapsed! Life was so not fair! The anxiety hit me almost harder than it did the first time. I had worked so hard to get better and in an instant it was gone. Years of work right down the drain. I was left feeling hopeless and wanted so bad to talk to my mom. She always made me feel better at my worst anxious times. In 2006, wifi didn’t exist on cruises. There was only a computer station that offered internet for a pretty penny. I didn’t care how much it cost but I signed on to the internet and was able to get a hold of my younger sister through AIM (instant messenger). I was able to speak to my mom via a computer and I was at least thankful for that. She suggested I take my sister’s Xanex. I had never taken a Xanex before but I knew I needed one and as soon as possible. I was giving up hope faster than I could imagine. My sister brought me to where the health services area was or whatever that place is called and I asked if it was okay if I took my sister’s Xanex. They said it was alright and just like that I popped a pill. Nothing. I popped another. Nothing. I’m pretty sure I took 3 or 4 that day and still nothing soothed me. Let’s just say this was the beginning of an extremely long recovery that I am still working through today. My journal entry of this experience shows no clear sign of the torture I endured on that day. I felt hopeless but I guess at the same time, I felt hopeful that if I recovered from anxiety once maybe it would be easy to get over again. I was wrong. Here is my journal entry on that cruise and a few that followed after.

Hi, today is 2/22/06. I’m on my cruise now. I had a major anxiety attack and now the cruise is rough. I’m ok now and thats all I want to say about that. I have to be a strong person in the next 3 days! I also may need some meds. God-please give me serenity!

Hi, today is 2/25/06- I think. Anyway, I’m on the plane on the way home. What else is new- I’m nervous and scared. I feel like crying. I can’t wait till this is all over. I don’t think I’ll ever get over anxiety and depression. I can’t wait to see Shapira [psychologist]. I hope this all ends.

Hi-today is 2/28/06. Well, today was 10x better than yesterday. Yesterday I freaked out at school but I calmed myself down. I’m proud of myself. I’m a little depressed now but I made an appointment to get meds. My life must change again. It’s tough knowing the past 6 years have been so hard, but I have no choice to push on and stay strong. I’ll tell ya, it’s very hard- extremely hard. So hard I feel I can’t do it, but I must. I promised myself I wouldn’t kill myself and there’s no other choice but to stay strong, especially for Breanne. I love my sisters. I hope one day I go away and like it. =) Ok- Goodnight. SERENITY TONIGHT!

hi-today is 3/2/06. Very sick of this anxiety. It is getting better but I’m still nervous to relax. I just keep telling myself it will get better. I wanted to cry yesterday and I spoke to Margot. I just want so bad to enjoy life and stop thinking. I just pray that my life here on earth is happy. I’m going back on meds. I hate it but I think it will help. Thank God I haven’t needed Xanex again. I’ve been eating but I’m not very hungry. I miss wanting food and wanting to relax and take a nap. I think it’s time for a cry. I have to stay strong- Rachel did. I’m moving out so soon and I’m nervous b/c I want to enjoy it and I’m afraid I’ll have anxiety. God please give me strength!

hello, today is 3/18/05. I’m just depressed and anxious. I have very negative feelings like I don’t want to live or I want to kill myself. It’s so scary. I just feel like other people get upset but they just get over it and don’t think about suicide. Rachel helps me very much. She said that she was worse. I feel pretty bad now. I just want to be able to sit down and relax without thinking negative thoughts. Going through this is so f*cking hard. I just hope one day I’ll get over it. I just feel like the past 6 years I wasn’t entirely happy and that I never really understood life. I wish I did. That’s what gets me nervous. I don’t understand anything. I want to be able to look outside, take a deep breathe and smile. Please God help me!

I leave for Florida on April 19 and board the ship the next morning. It’s only a 3 night cruise stopping at a port every day. I’m nervous as all hell. The last two weeks were full of anxiety and some days were filled with very negative thoughts but as I’ve said before…the show must go on. I must push though. I have a very good support system so hopefully I will be ok. I’ll keep ya updated. Please pray for me!

Wandering Mind

It’s 10:40pm in a school night. Today was Monday. I took off work today after having the last 10 days off. I needed it, I promise. It was a mental health day and after having suicidal thoughts yesterday, I thought it was necessary to take the day to love my daughter and regroup.

I tried to go to bed at 9. Now it’s 10:43. Ugh! My mind wanders. I’m thinking of all the ways that possibly might make me happy. Too many options and what if I make a move and then I’m not happy? Then what? All I know is I love my daughter. Thank God for her!!!

10:45. Should I read? Should I buy things online? I already browsed social media and that made me feel like 💩. 10:46, it took me 30 seconds to find the 💩 emoji. 10:47.

I hope I’m not too tired for work tomorrow. It’s always hard to go back after a break. According to my boyfriend, I think I lose my mind around this time. He knows the cycle better than I do.

Ok retail therapy it is. I needed a new bikini for my mom bod anyway! Peace out, 10:49

CRUISE BOOKED!

This should be awesome right? I’m actually nuts for even considering a cruise but I’ve come so far and I actually think I MAY be able to handle it.

You see, in 2005 I went on an “awesome” cruise. It was awesome until about the third day. I had been off my meds and feeling the best I’d ever felt in my entire life and BOOM!… a huuuuge anxiety attack. I had drank alcohol the night before and that was a trigger for my anxiety. Under normal circumstances I was able to cope but being in the middle of the ocean suddenly threw me for a loop and I freaked out. I’ll never forget the intensity of the anxiety. It’s all written in my journal and I will post the exact words in the near future but let’s just say I literally wanted to jump off the ship. I had never taken Xanax and my sister and I went to the ship’s health services and asked if it was ok that I took my sister’s medicine. I think I took 3 or 4 that first day of anxiety. I’m lucky I stayed on the ship. I highly considered taking the next flight home once we docked at the next port but I forced myself to finish the trip. Not so sure that was the best decision.

Soooooo…about this cruise I booked. April 19th! Luckily it’s only 3 nights and each day we arrive at a new location and I’ll be with my boyfriend, daughter, two sisters and their families. I can do it. I’m not so sure I believe that but after surviving Italy last year I’m more confident I can make it.

Not many people know this side of me. “Wow I’m so lucky to have these great opportunities” many would say. I wish I felt that way. It’s more survival mode for me but like I’ve said, I have come a long way! I’m kinda proud of myself. I’m most thankful for my daughter who keeps me grounded mentally and on my toes physically.

I will find my cruise anxiety attack shortly and post. I’m nervous it will bring back bad memories before I leave for my new cruise but I’ll keep myself checked. Until then, peace out.

11:59pm

I can’t sleep. At least I’m not nervous. Just can’t sleep. If I fall asleep now, I’ll have 6.5hrs of sleep tonight. Will that be enough? Now I’ll be tired tomorrow. I hope not too tired. Busy day grading regents tomorrow. Now I’ll probably be miserable with less than 7 hours of sleep. At least I can get that much. I’m thankful for that, especially with an 18 month old toddler. Ugh…I just want to sleep! 12:02am ~signing off

A Nice Compliment

A student of mine walked into my class yesterday and told me “You look so pretty.” A simple compliment went a long way.

Since having a baby, I’m 10 pounds heavier and just feel plain older. I’ve never had a great self esteem so this is tough for me.

It’s nice when someone takes the time out to say something kind. I appreciate it.

The Happiest Toddler on the Block

Can you seriously say your parents did the best they could raising you? I was eating lunch several years ago with a few coworkers and they all shared how they absolutely thought their parents were the best and how they did a fantastic job raising them. My parents…not so sure. Maybe my mother would still be alive today if she didn’t fall into a depression. As a parent now, I’m terrified of my daughter one day thinking that I could have done a better job. As a teacher, when it comes to the Regents Exam, it’s comforting knowing I did the best I could and the rest is up to them. It’s a confidence thing. Be confident and know you did your best. If there’s nothing more you could do, then you did your best. That’s what I tell my students and that’s what I’m living by as a parent. I’m currently reading “The Happiest Toddler on the Block” by Harvey Karp. I’m learning a tremendous amount of information on toddlers and am excited to be the best mother I can be. My daughter is the best thing I’ve got. I will give it my all to make sure she flourishes.

Back to School Jitters

It’s midnight and I’m browsing Instagram thinking about going back to school.

“Normal” people hate going back. They dread it…”The summer went by way too fast!” Me on the other hand, I’ve always been excited to go back. Partially because I love to teach but also because I would be busy again and wouldn’t have to worry about my thoughts.

This year is entirely different though. Last year was my worst teaching year ever due to circumstances out of my control.

I am still very excited to teach again but hate the first week thoughts of:

1) When will I be able to set up my classroom and clear out last years teacher’s garbage?

2) Who am I sharing a classroom with…will there be 1, 2, or 3+ teachers in a room this year.

3) Will the computer work?

4) Will the printer work?

5) Will the smart board work?

6) Where are my textbooks and how can I get them to my classroom?

7) When will I find time to remove my items from my two different classrooms last year?

8) When will I make the first day photocopies?

9) When can I get my classroom set of calculators?

10) When will I receive a closet key because the school somehow doesn’t have one for my classroom.

This will be my 14th year teaching and somehow I get more anxious about going back each year. Each year there are more changes and more disorganization. I just want to teach! Just leave me in a classroom and let me be. I’m thankful this year will be (hopefully) better than the last but I’m sick of starting off the year so on edge.

On that note, I’m going to bed now. Goodnight!

My Retreat (Today)

Retreat: According to vocabulary.com, the noun retreat means a place you can go be alone, to get away from it all.

My first official retreat was a Mindfulness Retreat at Camp DeWolfe, Long Island in June 2016. Although this retreat was an introduction to my world of mindfulness, I learned more about the power of silence. On our last day, we were instructed to wake up and be silent. That meant to wake up with the other 6 people in our cabin and proceed through the day without speaking. The next morning we all (22 females, 1 male, and our instructor) went to breakfast and sat down with each other in silence. We were told not to speak until later in the day. Although I thought this exercise would be painful, it was quite the opposite. The first thing I noticed was the alleviation of pressure to fit in with conversation. We all came to the retreat alone and with that was the fear of not fitting in. In silence, I did not have to worry about when and if I should chime in to conversation. What if I was the annoying girl? What if I was the awkward girl talking? Not this time…we all ate quietly and just observed the silence.

The next thing I noticed were the sounds of silence. When you are not focused on conversation, you can really hear all the sounds around you. I can remember hearing the forks and knives hitting the plates and the sounds of chairs moving on the floor. They were sounds I never really focused on before.

What I noticed most importantly was how great the feeling was being silent and alone. After breakfast, I walked down to the beach where I sat and appreciated the view of the water and sky. It felt good to not have anywhere to be and just sit being mindful.

That first retreat taught me so much about myself and it allowed me to appreciate the moments I am alone.

This year was my first Mother’s Day. The Wednesday before my boyfriend surprised with an overnight hotel package for me. It was literally the best gift ever! After school the following day I went to the hotel. I sat alone at the bar and had a glass of wine. I then was pampered at the spa (my boyfriend set that up as well) and later had dinner in the restaurant, once again alone. It was so relaxing! I fell asleep in an awesome comfy king size bed, woke up the next morning and went to school. Haha, that makes me laugh.

As I write this, I am on yet another retreat. This retreat is at Manhattan College where I have the opportunity to take a math class (AP Statistics in which I teach) and stay on campus from Monday thru Friday. I am sitting on the stairs on a gorgeous night in front of my dorm room observing my senses. 5-4-3-2-1. 5 things I see, 4 things I can touch, 3 things I can hear, 2 things I can smell, and 1 thing I can taste. I feel peaceful, I wonderful sensation. I feel thankful.

Challenge yourself to be silent…on purpose. There’s a difference between being silent because you don’t fit in and being silent and just being in the moment, no matter how you feel. I’ve pushed myself out of my comfort zone and it feels quite nice. I think I’ll continue this journey we call life.

Love and Peace, Me

Letter from Mommy (5/1/04)

There’s nothing like snail mail! Even today I get excited when I get mail and it’s not junk. My mother rarely wrote me letters or sent me care packages in college but when she did, it meant the world! I can probably count on one hand the amount of times she did…but I’m okay with that. I’m actually thankful that I even received anything and sometimes she’d include a small check for spending money which is always fun!

When I was a senior in college, I studied abroad. It was my student teaching semester and I taught in the inner city of London. When I was in London, we didn’t have cellphones. We didn’t even have a phone in our flat (apartment) for the first month because it was new. Things have certainly changed since then! I keep a lot of crap (letters/notes/pictures) in my journals so I happened to find this jem while browsing. I don’t remember this exact letter but it made me smile to think of my mother and how excited I must have been to receive this.

The letter reads:

Dear ,

   Hi Honey. I finally got this list together for you. If you need a few more names I can give them over the phone.

   Bre went to the movies tonight. She saw “Mean Girls”. Said it was good.

   Rachel babysat for the Siegenfeld’s tonight. She had an interview at Harborfields today. Said it went O.K.

   I, of course have done nothing. What else is new.

   I hope you are enjoying every minute you’re in England.

   Tell me all the details when you get home.

   Margot got tickets for a Madonna concert. I don’t know when it is. She’s fine. I’ll try to call soon.

                         Love, Mommy     

                     I love you! xxxooo

My First Anxiety Attack (6/8/01 Journal 3, Page 101)

I had no idea this day would change my life forever. I was 18 years old and had just finished my freshman year of college. I was young and went out with my friends often. Obviously drinking alcohol isn’t good for you (especially at 18) but what I didn’t know was that it is a trigger for me. I know I am not alone in saying this but alcohol makes me feel extremely anxious the next day. In this journal entry, I vaguely describe my first anxiety attack.  I actually remember it much differently than it was written but here it is:

hey, today is 6/8/01. Well, a lot has happened. I guess I’ll tell you about the anxiety. I’ve always said that it’s my turn to get something bad happen to me. Well I think this may be it, but I swore to myself I’m strong enough to get over it. It started on Wednesday at Adventureland. I worked the merry-go-round and I was hungover and dizzy from the ride. So I left work early because I didn’t feel right. So later on around 6:30 I smoked a cigarette, hoping to calm myself down, but it made it worse. So I took a walk and I was flipping out, like that night.* So I went to see Kara, all I could think about was suicide. So that night I couldn’t go to Friday’s with my friends because I was so scared so I went to Alletto’s* with my mother and she came home with me and soothed me so well!!! I’ve never loved her so much in my life. So now I know I’m scared of new situations because I’m in the car with people I’m babysitting for. So we are going to Amagansett and Montauk with them for their wedding. I was really nervous before but now I’m fine. So I think I’m going to be OK this weekend. I proved to myself last night that I was OK and went to bed early and told myself I have to prove again that I’m fine. I’m going to a psychologist, I’ll be fine. I haven’t cried at all and I felt like I was going to yesterday. But I’m going to go now because I gotta eat. I didn’t have a single bite to eat yesterday, not even a chocolate. I had 2 jelly beans. But I’m strong and I can do it!! -Peace

*The night I did Ecstasy for the first (and last) time. (Click here to read)

*Alletto’s was a restaurant my mother worked at briefly.

The entry itself is actually a lot more positive than I remember it. I remember leaving work early because I felt off. I then remember trying to take a nap and hoping to sleep it off. As my face was turned towards the wall, I remember my body beginning to tingle and I felt a warm flow down my body. It made me scared (not knowing how anxiety felt) and I immediately got up and decided to take a walk in hopes of the feeling going away. I will never forget that walk. I had NEVER had suicidal thoughts until that walk. I couldn’t understand why everything looked so normal but I felt so “out of my body.” I saw a man mowing his lawn and couldn’t help but wonder why he was acting so normal as if life was a happy place. I thought I needed to die… and soon. There was no way I was going to be able to live like that. I knew right away something was wrong, something was seriously wrong. My walk was short because it definitely was not working but only made matters worse. I hopped in my car and drove to see my friend Kara at her work. Kara was my friend who I did Ecstasy with and helped me get through that God awful night. I told Kara something was wrong but I don’t remember exactly what I said or how she responded. I do recall though being totally freaked out by the loud noises and amount of people at her job. She worked at a busy arcade/restaurant at the time. I left her job and drove straight to my mother. She was working that night. To this day, I never did tell my mother the truth about my first anxiety attack and how it was brought on by my past experience of Ecstasy and being hungover. The thought and guilt of that made me feel like the worst person ever. My sister had begun experiencing panic attacks a few months earlier and I told my mother that I thought the same thing was happening to me. When I wrote “I’ve never loved her so much in my life,” I meant it. My mother had her issues and caused me a lot of pain but she absolutely loved me and lived for her children. I needed her so much that night. She drove me home and laid in bed with me that night until I fell asleep. I was TERRIFIED to be without her. To this day, when I am severely anxious, I am still afraid to go to bed alone because of that night. The entry then goes on to say I was babysitting the children of a couple getting married. I wrote things like “I’m OK, I’ll be fine, I’m strong,” blah blah blah but here is how I remember it. It was the worst timing ever. Two days after I had a life changing anxiety attack, I was to go away for a weekend with complete strangers. I was recommended by a family and I offered to travel with the a couple whom I’ve never met and watch their children while they got married. My mother drove me to their house and as soon as we got there, panic set in and I needed a bathroom pronto.  For anyone that doesn’t know this and pardon the grossness, anxiety and stress cause diarrhea. As if traveling with complete strangers wasn’t terrifying enough, now I was embarrassed because it was clear I was blowing up their bathroom as well. I was in the bathroom just long enough for my mother to leave their house. As soon as I got out of the bathroom and I realized my mother had gone, I ran out of the house searching for her. Embarrassing again…an 18 year old girl literally running out of the house crying to say goodbye to her mother. Luckily, my mother had not left yet and I was able to give her a huge hug and gain the courage to travel for a weekend without her. I thought I was being “strong” as I worded it. I had never experienced anything like this and as much as I thought I’d end up in a straight jacket in a loony bin like those people on TV, I also had the energy to fight for my life. After 17 years, I’m still fighting for my life. Frustrating, I know!

My fight is different these days. I know my triggers and I know when to ask for help. Looking back during those first horrific months of anxiety, they were worse than I thought. Have you ever completed a huge task like cleaning an entire room and when it’s finished you ask yourself, “damn, how did I do that?” That’s how I look at those days. I am so thankful for how far I’ve come. I have been through years of therapy and I’m still trying to win this battle we call life. My goal is to make my daughter proud. I want to be the best person and parent I can be. One day she’ll read my journals and blog and I hope she will learn from my experiences. The summer of 2001 marked my beginning struggle with anxiety and soon after, depression followed. This entry was significant in my life because the journal entries that follow are mostly related to my anxiety. If you would like to follow my story please subscribe to my blog below and feel free to comment or ask me any questions.

Love and Peace, Me