I’m Saying Thanks for Anxiety in My Most Difficult Year Yet

Happy Thanksgiving: Why I'm giving thanks for anxiety

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’m recalling what I am thankful for this year: Of course, my number one reason is my child, who is growing a love and joy in me like no other. It’s been a FUN year watching him grow, celebrating his first birthday, and achieving many major milestones, like walking. I’m also thankful for a wonderful marriage with my teammate; fun trips to Wisconsin, Texas, Atlanta and Oxford; good health for all my loved ones; and enjoying pretty much everything I have asked for. But one thing I didn’t ask for, what I would have told you 4 weeks ago was the worst thing ever handed to me, that I could never dream would be a blessing, has become what I am most grateful for this Thanksgiving: my struggle with anxiety.

Anxiety isn’t a feeling I’ve identified throughout most of my life. Although I’ve been a high-achieving person, and I’ve been instructed several times to just chill out, this year I dealt with the crippling, heart-gripping pain of chronic anxiety. I can recall several times this year when I felt on the verge of a panic attack, the feeling of my heart beating in my chest so great that it scared me. I don’t know exactly when it started, but I do know that it was earlier in the year. The first several months of my new journey through motherhood was pure bliss. I was thriving in my role as a new mom, completely smitten with my little blue-eyed boy. His newborn life was met with many (though minor) medical issues, and our struggle only strengthened our bond. Going back to work was daunting, but since I love what I do, it was manageable.

For a while.

I guess eventually the juggling act became too great. My efforts to maintain a happy and peaceful family, household, and career just couldn’t be contained anymore. I called my husband, sobbing, completely undone by the pressures. I told him something had to give. I just couldn’t do it anymore. Now, typing this as tears well in my eyes, I realize that I was heart-broken over missing those first few months with my boy. I missed lying on his bedroom floor, reading books, watching the clumsy movements of his newborn body, and filming videos to send to Bryan at work. I missed lying on the couch all day, totally undone and exhausted from the round-the-clock nursing, but loving nothing more than the 24/7 snuggles that were found in this new relationship. Sure, the housework was constant, the first year of bottle prep was grueling, I had to start hiding dark circles under my eyes, and I longed for rest each night, but that didn’t compare to the feeling of dropping off an all-to-often sick baby at daycare, leaving my heart with him at the door.

I thought this was all part of newborn life. I didn’t expect it to be easy, and I knew lots of other working moms had to do it. But by the Spring, I began to realize that something wasn’t right. My brain was foggy, my vision blurry, and I hadn’t experienced chest tightness like this so often. I tried to put my whole being into my moments with my son, but after a few minutes, I would realize that I had mentally drifted off, feeling outside of my own body. I constantly feared for his safety, my brain racing ahead to imaginary moments in time, either to what would need to be done to keep him on schedule or safe from harm. I was doing everything I could to soak up this precious time, although I wasn’t there. It’s this part of the story that makes me want to chalk up 2017 to a wash, angry that something had stole my ability to fully enjoy motherhood, the time I had always looked forward to the most.

But then I learned how God was going to redeem my story for HIS story. He wasn’t going to let me live with regret of this year. In fact, he was going to make me downright thankful for it.

Knowing something wasn’t right, I reached out to other Mama friends and began the process of healing. I visited my OB, discussed my symptoms, and heard the words I had heard too often before: “You need to let go.”

*Disclaimer: This is not a suggestion for treatment. If you’re struggling with similar symptoms or you think you have anxiety, you need to get a personalized approach with the help of trained professionals. This is just what worked for me.

I knew she was right. I knew I was doing it to myself. I knew, because I always had. I was the classic Type A perfectionist my whole life. The over-achiever, good-at-everything type. (Trust me, I’m not bragging.) Except singing. And maybe dancing. I didn’t even try to be good at those, and that’s what you should be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

Not long after the sobbing phone call to my husband, I embarked on the process of letting go – beginning with letting go of the stigma of counseling. I couldn’t even think about it at this point, I had to find relief. In my first appointment, I started with the medical list of symptoms, only to end with the emotional release of my broken heart. The tears came again when she said I was grieving the bond with my son. Here the tears are again, right now. Spot on. She said it. I had to give up the notion that other Moms seemed to do it just fine. No one else could tell me how to do motherhood. It was my own experience. And as I said before, I think the medical issues we overcame only made me that much more attached.

Bryan and I decided to make a change for our family. It was the answer, and I knew it would provide the relief. I was stoked. My counselor was thrilled for me.

It was prolonged.

For months.

Still is, actually.

Moments were frustrating, sure, but I decided that I was going to do everything possible right now to make the change. I couldn’t let my circumstances define me. I needed healing. I gave up coffee, focused on getting more sleep, and prioritized exercise. I worked hard to start letting the little things go. I read more, and Rebekah Lyons’ book You Are Free has become the anthem to my year. I am reading it painfully slowly, highlighting, underlining, and note-taking my way through it. I’m still only about halfway there.

Happy Thanksgiving: Why I'm giving thanks for anxiety. Bible study, self-care, reflection

I am thrilled to share that just about 4 weeks ago, the anxiety lifted. Just, completely disappeared. I can’t attribute that to anything but God, even though I had taken many steps toward this end, if it was up to me, it would have vanished a long time before. On Sunday morning, after a yoga session on October 29, I was set free.

“It’s not my story of struggle, it’s his story of rescue.” Rebekah Lyons

The anxiety has tried to creep in since then, but I am now able to sense it and work it through. Yoga really helps, and most mornings at 4:30am, you can find me on my mat. Counseling helps too. A lot. You’ll be able to find me there probably forever.

So, why am I thankful for my struggle? Because halfway through You Are Free, I had a life-changing moment. It happened precisely in Chapter 5. Each word was an epiphany to my story, a rescue to my struggle. I had identified with Rebekah throughout the book, realizing that the achiever and people-pleasing mentality only showed it’s dark side in my adult life. Anxiety put me in front of a therapist, and once the anxiety of my new motherhood life lifted, it left behind the spotlight on my natural tendencies that had been there all along. Anxiety pointed out my true need for surrender. It was a product of who I was, and someone I no longer wanted to be.

Half-way through the chapter, I abruptly stopped reading and decided I needed to find a baby name that meant “surrender”. OK, pause, this is a funny way of honoring my struggle, I think a lot of people get tattoos or something, but I had to convince my husband to grant me another child somehow or another. 😛 I went to Google, began typing “baby names that me….”

I stopped. Dead in my tracks.

My son’s name dawned on me: Harvey. We liked the name originally, then when we learned the meaning, it sealed the decision. It meant “battle-worthy”. We were immediately connected to it, for the hope that his life would be marked by his fight for what’s right, noble, and good in the world. We knew that any battle he faced would be worthy if he fought it for God. But one day in November, his life took on a whole new name, and that baby boy who stole my heart in 2016 sent it Heaven-ward in 2017. It was his presence that brought crushing anxiety upon me. And just when I began to question why my biggest blessing would also bring my biggest struggle, I got chills with the realization: His life uncovered my need for my greatest healing. His name wasn’t just for the world, it was for me. He made my battle worthy. The world didn’t need him. God didn’t need him. God needed his daughter to be set free, and he used our son to do that. For that, I am ever thankful.

Alyssa

Why am I sharing this?

This is my most vulnerable spot. I have put words to my soul and laid it all out there for anyone to read. The old Alyssa says I’ve just opened myself up to judgement. The new Alyssa says I am letting that go, trusting that His story of rescue may hopefully ignite yours.

You see, I’ve learned that anxiety is so very real. I can now identify with anyone afflicted by it, and I know that many are. It’s my hope that you can find relief through your struggle, whether that’s through realizing you’re not alone, or through using some of the resources I did. You’re worth the battle. Keep fighting.

2500 Calories: What This Dietitian Eats & Why Calories Matter [Example Diet]

In my professional work as a dietitian, I am constantly talking to people who are afraid of food and calories. Many are putting themselves on diets that are too low in calories, mostly because of misconceptions and bad information about weight management. When calorie needs aren’t met, the body conserves energy for essential functions – like keeping the heart beating and lungs breathing. This happens because calories, by their definition, are energy.

Not eating enough calories (energy) = the body conserves calories (energy)

It’s a miraculous process, really, but it can be frustrating for people trying to lose weight or for people demanding extra energy out of their body for things such as exercise or breastfeeding.

Greinke pitching for the Los Angeles Dodgers: Why Calories Matter

And new Moms are often attempting to do it all: Breastfeed while trying to lose weight postpartum and live in the busy-ness of newborn life. When I became a Mom last year, I was shocked to find myself going many hours before being able to get food in my mouth. Pre-baby life, I was eating around the clock. This girl loves her food, and skipping meals wasn’t a phrase in my vocabulary.

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Your Peanut Butter Just Got Even Healthier [Recipe]

Are you a peanut butter lover like me? Is it hard to imagine that it can get any better? Chia seed makes it just that! (And chocolate. Chocolate and peanut butter for the win, amiright?!)

chia peanut butter on crackers

Chia is tiny but mighty. It’s SO easy to incorporate, and it boosts the nutrition factor by adding fiber, omega-3s, protein, antioxidants, and key nutrients such as calcium. Together, these nutrients can help digestion and gut health, satiety, heart health, bones, and nutrient stores. I buy this one from Amazon, because it seems to be the best price I can find. And, of course, because anything delivered to the doorstep is a huge win.

chia peanut butter ingredients

Adding chia seed to peanut butter is so simple. I recommend choosing the natural peanut butter – the one with the oil on top. Oil separation is natural, so this variety doesn’t have added ingredients that may be harmful to heart health (such as hydrogenated oils). Simply stir it up, add the chia, stir more, then refrigerate!chia peanut butter in jar

I have to make sure to mention that, because after my brother asked what kind of peanut butter to buy, he complained to me that his PB sandwiches were really greasy. He didn’t realize he had to stir the PB first! So, make sure you do that. 😛

chia peanut butter on spoon

Made this way, every time you reach for PB (which, for me, is daily), you can also get chia. From peanut butter sandwiches or crackers, stirred in oatmeal (delicious!), on fruit, or out of the jar, you will have upped the nutrition factor. Also made this way, it’s a huge cost savings! A jar of store-bought chia seed peanut butter can sell for TEN DOLLARS. Get out! This whole bag of chia seed costs less than that much and will last a whole lot longer.

Are you a peanut buttah lovah like me? What do you enjoy it on most? I’d love to hear to give me some more ideas! Simply comment, send me an email, or find me on social media! Facebook @ In Pursuit of Fruit, Instagram @rdn_alyssa

Fruitfully,
Alyssa

1 More Reason My Son Is My Role Model

Mother and son looking at each other with admiration. He is my role model.

Most nights (meaning the nights I remember), we answer a fun question from this Q&A A Day journal. I like these cheesy kind of things and taking a moment at the end of each day to reflect. And truthfully, sometimes it’s the only conversation I get to have with my hubby outside the normal day-to-day stuff.

A few months ago, we answered the question “Who is your role model?” Like most of my answers, I quickly wrote my son’s name. He has inspired us on a daily basis to become better people, for him and because of him. Watching the world through his eyes has made me appreciate the little things and has reminded me to slow down and enjoy life. What has been one of my favorite characteristics to witness is his resilience in learning. (In fact, that’s just what I wished for him before I even knew who he was.) Once he realizes that he’s beginning to do something new, he practices it ceaselessly.

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An Open Letter to My Child: It Won’t Be Easy

Dear child,

Don’t you see how much I love you? I would do anything for you, my love. You are the most precious part of life. I created you – I suffered for you – and it was worth every bit of pain to give life to you. It is my greatest treasure to watch you grow. And when you express your love for me, oh my…I can’t even begin to explain the way my heart feels in my chest. 

Mom holding newborn child

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7 Diet Principles You Won’t See on My Blog

7 diet free principles you won't see on my blog

As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, I hear many assumptions people have of what they expect me to believe regarding food, health, and eating. Most of my nutrition philosophy would probably surprise you (like this article I was quoted in about how I feed my child). So, I thought I would outline what you can expect to see and not see in this space.

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Learning a New Recipe – For Cooking Up Life

I feel like I’m learning a new recipe – for cooking up life.

I have made an editorial calendar for the blog mapped out for October, which was a lot of fun to plan. In between a full-time job, my daily duties, and making sure I’m present for my family, I’m squeezing out as much time as possible to get things running consistently. I’m up early and late working on the content, and I can’t wait to get it out! This is a fun hobby for me, a creative outlet, a place I can share my passion, and hopefully a way I can inspire a healthy relationship with food and eating.

cooking recipe with mom

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Harvey Means “Battle-Worthy” – Our Fight for Texas

Harvey

Harvey monogrammed onesie

It is a name that has spurned my heart with love and joy for the past year.

But this week, I am seeing footage of the devastation from Hurricane Harvey in Texas, and my heart is shattering. To see so much pain, wreckage, and even death surrounding my home state and my son’s name, I am deeply saddened.

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