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Living with Panic Disorder

As a new mom who has been recently diagnosed with Panic Disorder, I’m in unfamiliar territory. As I’m still new to living with Panic Disorder, I have yet to think, “I’m going to get through this.” Instead, I keep asking myself, “When will I get through this? Will I get through this?”

For those who are unfamiliar with Panic Disorder and how crippling it can be, I’ll share my story.

On April 20, 2014, my husband and I welcomed our first child, a girl. Naturally, we were completely enamored of her. And, having suffered multiple miscarriages over the years, I was ecstatic to finally have a nearly full-term pregnancy (she was 5 weeks early). During the first few months of my daughter’s life, things were expectedly stressful. Neither of us slept much, especially me with getting up every two hours to nurse the baby. Breastfeeding came naturally and easier than expected. It seemed…effortless. But, thinking back, perhaps this was where my anxiety began. I started becoming paranoid about not producing enough milk to nurse her. I was constantly counting diapers. Constantly taking her across the street to the pediatrician’s office to have them weigh her to make sure she was gaining and thriving. At the time, I figured it was a typical, paranoid, first-time mom response. My paranoia subsided as she kept gaining weight and I kept counting diapers. I felt fine. I felt lucky that I had been spared from the nightmare of Postpartum Depression.

In July 2014, my husband lost his job. After several weeks, he was hired for another job in New York State. We had no money and had to rely on the kindness and generosity of friends and strangers through GoFundMe to raise enough money to do a DIY move cross-country. Because of them, we were able to make the move. My husband drove a large moving truck while I flew with our daughter and cat to New York. We stayed with my mother-in-law for about a month and a half until we got the money together to rent a place closer to Albany, where my husband worked. During those six weeks, he had to drive an hour and a half to Albany and an hour and a half back five days per week. Around $200 per paycheck on gas alone. So…come November, we were very excited and relieved to finally have our own place closer to the capital.

Fast forward to January this year, and my husband found himself out of a job again. I stopped working in August so I could focus on taking care of our daughter.   He immediately applied for Unemployment Insurance and began looking for another job. I started looking as well. I dreaded going back to work. I wanted to stay home with my daughter. Just the thought of leaving her in the care of strangers made me…anxious. For over a month, both of us submitted resumes hoping at least one of us would end up back in the workforce. My husband had more success. He was called for an interview for a car dealership, and the pay was good. $41K plus commission, he was told. They offered him the job later that day and he started the next. Turns out, the $41K plus commission was a lie. They said, “Oh, I’m so sorry. That’s the salary for managers.” He makes $10 an hour. Not “plus commission.” He earns his check from the “draw.” Meaning, if he hasn’t made a sale that week, the next sale he does make goes back into the draw. What they should have told him was that it was commission only. He makes sales, but has yet to see any commission. He’s drawn only draw checks since he started on the sales floor. And he puts up with a great deal of abuse and derision from his coworkers and superiors. They call him, “stupid, slow,” etc. in front of other coworkers and customers. And I hear about this almost every day. And my heart breaks because my husband is none of the things they call him. But, I digress…

Living on $360 per week has taken its toll. We are constantly getting disconnect notices for power, our phones, etc.   We’re constantly making payment arrangements just so we can keep these things and not be completely isolated. Our Internet was cut off this week, so we have to rely on just our phones’ data for communication. We had to borrow money from a friend so we could get our passports renewed (more on that later) and to pay some things off before yet another move (more on that later). We are on food stamps. It’s all very humiliating.

So…at the end of March, after my husband had been in his new job for a few weeks, I got very sick. We were lying in bed with the baby for the night, and I remember thinking, “I don’t feel well. What if something is wrong with me? I feel some pain in my chest. Oh my god, what if I’m having a heart attack? What’s going to happen to Dina? Oh my god, I’m going to die.” And WHAM!!!! I felt dizzy, lightheaded, had hot flashes, chest pain, I couldn’t swallow…all the “classic” symptoms of a heart attack, right? I called 911 and told them I thought I was having a heart attack. They asked me a bunch of questions, “can you breathe?” “are you changing color?,” etc. Yes and no. The ambulance arrived and began taking my vitals. Heart rate: totally normal. Oxygen: normal. They told me I wasn’t having a heart attack, but if I wanted, they could take me to the ER so I could be looked over. They also said that I’d be ok to call my doctor and see what they wanted me to do. I opted to stay home. Shortly before the paramedics left, I started feeling cold. I started shivering. About an hour later, after they left, I started feeling nauseated. I threw up every hour for four hours. Violent vomiting. So violent I couldn’t catch a breath between hurls. (As I’m typing this, I feel a lot of the same symptoms. Talking about it leads me to it.) My husband called in the next day to take care of the baby so I could rest and take care of myself. I couldn’t really eat anything, which is challenging when you’re still breastfeeding. I felt “off” all day. I didn’t feel right.   I went to my doctor the following Monday (this was on a weekend), and he told me I likely had a nasty GI bug that was going around.

Exactly one week later, at the same exact time, it started happening again. I had my husband take me to the ER, where they did an EKG (after I kept telling them I thought something was wrong with my heart), said it was normal, and gave me some medicine for nausea.  They told me it was probably still the “GI bug.”

For the next several weeks, I was feeling on edge, that something was medically wrong with me. That I was going to die before my daughter reached her first birthday. I kept getting the hot flash sensations, even in my sleep, and I would snap out of the mindset and think to myself, “see??? There’s something wrong with me!!!” I started going to therapy because I felt like I was losing my mind. My doctor prescribed Zoloft after explaining that I had anxiety.

Then, a few weeks ago, it all happened again. Only worse. It started when my family was sitting down to dinner, and I was watching my daughter eat and smear her food all over my husband. I smiled to myself, then out of nowhere, I thought, “I’m going to die. Right. Now.” And I got hit with wave upon wave upon wave of the same feeling I had in March. When I thought I was having a heart attack. I felt out of my body, hot flashes, tingly, chest pains, lightheaded, my heart was racing, I felt like I was choking. I felt like I was having a heart attack. Again. I thought, “Oh my god. It’s really happening this time. I’m going to die. I was right.” I called 911. Again.   This time I told them I wasn’t sure if it was an anxiety attack or a heart attack. The paramedics came and checked me out. Again. Nothing was physically wrong. Again. But this time they did put me in the ambulance and take me to the ER. They did another EKG. Normal. Blood work. Normal. Everything. Normal. The doctor explained that I’d had a panic attack and suggested I take Xanax or something similar, but that I would need to stop breastfeeding to take them. I started crying. Started getting anxious all over again.

A few days later I went to my doctor. Again. He wanted to put me on Klonopin. I had done some research beforehand, and spoken to my daughter’s pediatrician about anti-anxiety medications while breastfeeding. Research and her pediatrician said that Ativan would be the safest to take. That there weren’t any known reports of sedation in baby like there were with the others of that class. I had to argue with my doctor, but he eventually relented and prescribed Ativan instead. He also scheduled me for an exercise stress test (to rule out my heart and to ease my mind), did another EKG (normal), and referred me to a different psychiatrist who specializes in anxiety and related disorders. I had my first appointment last week when I was officially diagnosed with Panic Disorder and my Zoloft prescription was increased to 100mg.

Apparently all these things I’ve thought and felt are “normal” for Panic Disorder. There is nothing “normal” about these thoughts or feelings. I don’t even feel like myself. I am constantly afraid that I’m going to have another attack, that it will be worse than the last; that a panic attack is going to kill me. Logically, I know it’s not true, but when your brain isn’t communicating the way it’s supposed to and your body goes into “fight or flee,” your brain doesn’t necessarily listen to reason or logic.  My therapist broke down the body’s response to these signals step by step, every single symptom and why it happens. And it made perfect sense. Logically. But part of me is still irrational and scared about it happening again. I have chest pain and I worry. Even though I know it’s because of the anxiety, and not necessarily during an attack…it’s just because I’m anxious, period. I know it’s not my heart because it’s been checked and checked and checked.

It’s. Anxiety.

It’s. Anxiety.

It’s. Anxiety.

I have to keep telling myself, “it’s anxiety.” Because if I don’t remind myself, I’ll get out of control with the thoughts again and think I’m dying. And fly into another panic attack. And, god, they. Are. Awful. The worst feeling I’ve ever had is a panic attack. And living in fear of having one isn’t fun.

“What if I have one when I’m giving my daughter a bath?”

“What if I have one in the shower?”

“What if I have one when my husband is at work and I’m alone with the baby?”

“What if…”

“What if…”

“What if…”

And all of this does nothing but contribute to my anxiety. It has all come together and taken me from anxiety to full on “Panic Disorder.” And it affects some 6 million people every year. Mostly women. I keep reading about how it’s more “common than you think,” keep hearing people say that to me. Yes, it is comforting to know that it is more common than I thought, but it still feels incredibly isolating and frustrating. I feel like a prisoner of my thoughts. And when a panic attack does strike, I feel completely and utterly alone.

I’ve been on the Zoloft now for about a month total, and it seems that it’s started to finally work its magic. I still have irrational thoughts pop into my head, and I still feel a bit anxious every day, but it’s not as much. It seems to slowly be getting better. I’ve added an anxiety relief yoga session to my medications and psychotherapy. I find I have to do it every day to remain calm. It’s working. All of it is working, even if it’s slower than what I’d like.

I’d like to say that I know I’m going to make it through this. That 6 million people get through this every year…but I’m not quite there yet. I’m still in the scared and anxious phase waiting for my therapy, medications, and meditation to fully connect and work their magic. Right now, I just want to feel like I can make it through a day. Or week.

I have a long road ahead of me. So does my family. I am not alone in having to suffer through this. My husband has to suffer through it as well. To watch me go through these cycles and spirals and … craziness. He feels helpless, even more so than I. I’m sure our daughter can sense the anxiety. I feel a heavy cloud over me every day. I’m just waiting for it to break. Any day now… Any day now…

And now that I’ve finally been diagnosed and started management for this disorder, we’re going to shake things up a bit again. (We’re at the “later.”) After months of searching for a good, stable job, my husband was offered and accepted a position in Seoul, Korea. So…back to Korea we go. Where we met. It’s a lifestyle that is familiar, and a country that is familiar…but it’s also new. I’ve never done an international move with a baby. With myself and a cat, yes. Not with a husband and baby. So, although the international moving is familiar, it’s also very new. New worries; new anxieties. Will I be able to ship a freezer full of breast milk? Will I have to dispose of it (god, please, no)…we have to do passports for us AND the baby (done), vet trips for the cat to make sure he’s good to enter South Korea again, wait for orders so we can get packed up and ship the car, etc. But this time…with a baby. This time…with Panic Disorder.

I know it is too much to ask at this point that my panic stay at bay, but I do hope that it can at least be kind and not come on as strongly as it has in the past. Now that I know what it is and what it does. Now that I am aware. Now that I have more information. Now that I know what is “wrong” with me.

And if Panic does make a close and personal appearance, I always have my yoga and Ativan to help. For now…

Pregnancy and Invalidation

So, as you can see by the title, this post is relating to pregnancy.  MY pregnancy.  That’s right…after several years of miscarriages, I have successfully made it through the first trimester and am now on the cusp of entering my third trimester.  Clearly I haven’t been so great about posting here, but today I really feel the need to write about pregnancy and how women can be invalidated during their pregnancies.  I’ve spoken to some friends regarding their pregnancies and found they also experienced invalidation during this very beautiful and powerful time.  That said: today I am writing only of my personal experiences with this, specifically my experience leading up to an appointment at my OB yesterday.

During the course of this pregnancy, I have experienced multiple forms of invalidation.  Things like, “we’ve all had babies, we really don’t care if you’re tired,”  or “just deal with it.”  In some of these instances I wanted validation.  To feel heard.  To know I wasn’t alone in how I felt.  Instead, I received invalidating comments, a lot of them from women, which really baffled me.  I’m seeing so much in the U.S. how women invalidate each other, whether during pregnancy or not.  I see women tearing each other down instead of supporting one another and building each other up.  But that’s another topic for another day.  A completely different issue.  It’s also an issue I haven’t been immune to (more on that later as well).

Over the last 48 hours, I experienced the most invalidating experience of my pregnancy so far (and I do hope it’s the last).  Last week, I was given a gestational diabetes screening.  For those unfamiliar, it’s 50g of sugar water in a little bottle, and it tastes horrible.  You drink it one hour before your scheduled appointment, and have your blood drawn exactly at one hour to check your blood sugar level.  Evidently my levels were “barely” over the cut-off.  More on that in a few minutes…

So, after guzzling the equivalent of a King Size candy bar in the form of sugar water, I went to the doctor, had my blood drawn, then went straight to my ultrasound.  This was my last ultrasound until I’m closer to the end of my pregnancy.  During the ultrasound, my daughter was literally bouncing off the walls of my uterus.  My husband and I watched the ultrasound monitor as Dina (our daughter) started kicking her legs and shaking her arms, suspended by fluid in my uterus.  She was going CRAZY.  She did that for about 2 minutes, then started bouncing off the walls again.  She was moving around so much the ultrasound tech had to use more than one tummy full of gel from rubbing the sensor all over my belly just trying to keep up with her.  I was told (and common sense also told) me this was a result of the sugar water.  After I went in to the exam room to meet with my OB, the doctor told me it’s also common for baby to crash after that sugar high.  Not surprising.  She’s a little human and that is how humans respond to  a sugar crash.  I was told that it would be normal to not feel my daughter moving for the rest of the night.  I was also told my test results would be in the next day, and that if I didn’t receive a phone call by the end of the week, I was in the clear and fine.

Fast forward to this past Tuesday.  Almost a week later, and I hadn’t received a phone call.  Per my doctor’s statement, I figured I was in the clear.  No gestational diabetes.  Great.  Awesome.  Tuesday is when I get the call that my results were in and my blood sugar was “slightly” elevated.  That I was “barely” over the cut-off.  “Barely.”  OK, fine.  What do I need to do next?  Drink 100g (double the amount of the first) of sugar water and have my blood drawn every hour for three hours.  Yeah…NOT comfortable with that.  I then made the mistake of asking questions.  My questions were: Can you tell me what the risks are to my baby?  Answer: We wouldn’t do anything bad for your baby.  Ask again: Can you tell me what the risks are to my baby?  Answer: We wouldn’t do anything bad for your baby.  We do this all the time.  You HAVE to do this.  My response?  No, I don’t HAVE to do this.  I want more information about how this will affect my baby.  To no avail.  NO ANSWER. Nothing.  All I got was the equivalent to “you have to do this because I said so” from office staff.  My doctor is out of town this week.  I then start asking questions about alternate diagnosis methods since this person couldn’t answer my question in ANY way.  I was told there were no other diagnosis methods.  Really…because I have read articles in pregnancy publications and my doula also confirmed there ARE in fact other diagnosis methods for gestational diabetes.  I’d like to know more about these options.  Simple enough a request, right?  Not so much.  The person on the line got even more aggravated with me and told me, “we don’t do anything else.  This is protocol.  If you don’t like this method, you can find another doctor.”  Wow…really?  Well, maybe I will because all I’m looking for is INFORMATION so I can make, you know, an informed decision about my healthcare and the care of my baby.  Crazy thing, because I’m pretty sure I have the LEGAL RIGHT to do so!  (Side note: while the snarky comments were running through my head, I did not say them out loud.  I was, however, very adamant about my questions and wanting information)  The office member then proceeded to lecture me for 20 minutes about how “irresponsible” I was being for “refusing” to have the testing done, to which I replied, “I’m not refusing testing.  I am asking if there is an alternate means to diagnose and I’m asking what risks there are to my baby.”  And in circles we went.  Utterly ridiculous.  At this point, my blood is boiling, I’m pissed off, annoyed, you name it.  I even reference my daughter’s antics during my ultrasound after having only 50g of sugar water.  I mention the concern I have regarding the sugar and her heart rate.  How the subsequent sugar crash will affect her.  At NO TIME did I say, “No. I do not want to do this.”  I just wanted MORE INFORMATION!  Finally, the office worker said “well, since your results were so close to the cut-off, I’ll talk to the doctor about other options and call you back.”  Great!  Progress! Finally!  We hang up, and about 20 minutes later she calls me back and says the doctor there this week said that since my numbers were so close, they could find another way to diagnose.  Success!!!  Or not….she tells me to show up at 8am, they’d let me know about 8:05 what the options were, and to go ahead and fast like I am supposed to just in case.  Ok, fine.  I can live with that.

And here we come to Wednesday.  My husband and I go to the doctor and arrive at about 7:50 and sit in the lobby.  The lab tech  calls us back and gets me ready for my initial fasting blood draw.  I mention to her the conversation I had the previous afternoon with the woman in the office.  She looks in her paperwork to see if there are any notes.  No notes.  I ask her if she’ll talk to her and check the status of my inquiry and give her the name of the person I spoke with.  She goes to the back and returns just a few moments later telling me no one is in and they won’t be in until 8:30.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t wait for them to come in.  My dog had a follow-up appointment at the vet at 11:30, and the test takes three hours.  So, I proceed to ask the lab tech the same questions I asked the day before.  Her response?  She laughs in my face.  That’s right.  She laughed at me.  And gave me the same party line “we wouldn’t give you something bad for your baby” BS.  And I responded, “no offense, but 20 years ago doctors were doing things deemed safe for baby that are NOT considered safe today.  I just want to know how this will affect my baby.”  She couldn’t (or wouldn’t) answer either.  Finally, I gave up simply because I felt I had no other choice.  No patient should ever feel that way.  A patient should feel an active part of their own healthcare.  My husband was FURIOUS.  I drank the damn sugar drink, went into the lobby with my husband, and started to cry.  I felt violated.  I felt abandoned.  I felt invalidatedThat my concerns were not addressed nor taken seriously.  I was laughed at for being concerned about the effects of the sugar water on my baby.  To make things worse, I’m sitting in the lobby crying and the nurse I had spoken to the day prior before speaking to the office staff (who had also left early and didn’t bother getting back to me before she left, which led to me calling the office back and speaking to the office staff in the first place) comes out to the lobby, stands over me with a scowl on her face and an attitude and says, “You HAVE to take the drink.”  I looked at her deadpan, with tears in my eyes, and told her I had already done it.  She then turns around with the same attitude and stomps to the back of the offices.  Of course, I start crying again and feeling invalidated all over again.  Eventually, another office worker I had NOT spoken with previously sits down across from me and my husband and starts asking me questions about the situation.  Bawling, I explain to her that all I was trying to do was get more information about how the sugar water and testing would affect my baby, how the changes in my body and blood sugar would affect baby, and that all I wanted was to know if there were other options before doing the test I didn’t feel comfortable with.  I told her the staff were not helpful, blew off my concerns, did not address my questions, and were extremely rude to me.  I explained to her my concern with the sugar crash Dina would experience and how uneasy it made me feel knowing she’d be doped up for hours on sugar, crash, and then be silent for what could be the remainder of the day, that I wouldn’t feel her move, and that made me uncomfortable because I wouldn’t know how she was.  This particular staff member actually took the time to explain the drink to me, explain how it would affect baby, and what I could expect.  She also explained any potential risks, which were minor.  That’s all I wanted.  That’s it.  And she gave it to me.  Granted, it was a bit late at this point, but at least someone finally took the time and made the effort to put me at ease.  She apologized for what happened with the staff, and told me that I could call her any time for questions, that she knew how it felt to be worried about everything during pregnancy after suffering multiple losses.  This was all I needed!!  Why was it so difficult for other staff members to do this?  Instead, I get this whole ordeal that basically makes me feel like I was forced to do something I wasn’t comfortable doing.  The ironic part: all of the staff (minus one doctor) are female.  Most of them likely have children.  They know what it is like to wonder…or are they people who blindly follow whatever a healthcare professional tells them?  I admit, I know little to nothing of medicine, but I do know that I should and DO have the right to ask questions if I need more information to make a decision about my healthcare.  If a doctor is telling me to do something or to take something, I want to know why and how it works.  I like to be informed.  And instead of informing me like they should have, they made me feel insignificant.  It broke my trust, and that is something that is so major when it comes to pregnancy and eventual delivery.  I don’t know that I can trust my healthcare professionals to follow my birth plan or to do things the way I want them to be during my delivery.  As my doula says, “this is your birth story.”  It is my birth story…so I should definitely have a say in what is happening during my pregnancy and delivery.

I plan to have a chat with my doctor during my next appointment.  Depending on her response to the situation, I may very well end up finding another doctor during my third trimester.  Not exactly the ideal solution, but I’d rather find someone new than continue with someone I can’t trust to follow my wishes or keep me informed during my delivery.  I can not tolerate a doctor who will condone invalidation of their patients.  For all I know, she could be horrified by the behavior of the staff.  She could also be mad at me and tell me to find another doctor.  We’ll see what happens.  At this point, I just hope for the best.

On a positive note: my results from the three-hour test came in today and I do not have gestational diabetes.  So, there’s that.

Follow-up on Previous Post

Ok.  I reviewed my notes and found the original epiphany I found that I wrote down for myself.  Here it is:

“Fear of happiness.  I am afraid to let go and fully embrace an ecstatic path because I do not know how to cede control.  I need to learn to cede control and give things over to nature and deity.”

In a nutshell: pretty much what I posted in my previous entry, but in the exact words as they came to mind.  I even have about 10 boxes surrounding it and a ton of stars.  My way of saying “REMEMBER THIS AND PAY ATTENTION, STUBBORN ASS!!”

Short and sweet entry here.  Time for me to go do a little “work” on this block. 🙂

In frith,

Sara-Kitty

Hello, Phoenix & Inner Self

Well, here we are in Phoenix and moved into our new apartment.  Ok…maybe not MOVED in (our stuff is currently somewhere over the Pacific in transit).  But we are here, and we have a roof over our heads.  Here we are smack in the middle of the civilian sector.  After 12 years either serving in or working for the Air Force, this is new terrain for us.  A new yet old experience.  I think it’s hard for us both to remember far enough back to fully remember what it’s like having “normal” jobs.  But it seems to be a good fit for us so far.  I know both of us will miss the Air Force lifestyle and the constant moving around.  I have no doubt that both of us will experience a touch of wanderlust in about two to three years.  And who knows…there could come an opportunity in that time for us to relocate for bigger jobs.  Who knows what will fall into our laps when we work for it.

So…while my husband is busy working at his new job at Channel 12 here in Phoenix, I’m “busy” taking a break from the chaos of Marketing and gathering myself back together.  I’ll be staying home and being a “temporary housewife” for the next few months so I can recover from burning the candle at both ends.  I’m also using the break as an opportunity to focus on areas of my life and my self that need improving, but I never made time for because I was too worried and preoccupied with my professional self.

I’m taking another class with Francesca De Grandis (my teacher whom I have written about on several occasions here).  I’ve only been in two classes this session, but I am already feeling the effects.  It’s amazing how much self-reflection you can do when you don’t have to focus on deadlines, orders, surveys, and all the other things that happen behind the curtains in Marketing.  Honestly, the self-reflection began several months ago, but I always pushed it aside because I felt that my career took priority, that it defined me.  I worked so hard to reach my goals, I completely put the rest of myself on hold.  What a HUGE mistake.  The fact I was so preoccupied with that speaks volumes on its own.  I completely sacrificed my spiritual and inner self for my career self. *sigh*  Why do we do this?

Anyhow…on to my biggest moment of self-reflection thus far.  I’m going to come back to sacrificing spiritual and inner self to career at a later time.  It’s something I’m still mulling around in my head.

During our first class last week, I had an epiphany.  (Don’t expect me to share what we were talking about specifically.  It’s not going to happen.  I am simply going to relate MY thoughts).  I made a comment about being afraid of happiness.  I don’t know why that specific thought decided to come into my mind at that precise moment, but there it was.  I think I dumbfounded myself.  I thought about it for a moment in class, then brought myself back to what was being said by Francesca and my fellow students.  But the thought sat in the back of my mind for the remainder of class.  I jotted my thought down on my tablet so I could remember the precise phrase that came to mind (I have it written down still, and I’ll share it at some point, but I forgot to bring my notepad with me on my way to write this).  My thought was this:  I am afraid of happiness not in the sense that I am afraid of it in general…I am afraid of screwing it up.

I grew up in a manner that was difficult and challenging.  I don’t regret it.  I don’t judge it.  I am thankful for it.  After all, if I didn’t have the childhood I had, I wouldn’t be the woman I am today.  I love the woman I am today.  BUT…the manner in which I grew up required perseverance, hard work, independence at an early age.  CONTROL of the things around me…of my life.  And that is what this fear boils down to.  I am afraid to CEDE control in my life.  Yes, when I was younger, I was VERY afraid of what happiness was because I didn’t truly KNOW it.  There was always turmoil.  There was always a fight to be had (whether for survival, with a person, etc.). NOTHING came easily (not that it always should).  As I became older and I worked for the people and things in my life, I did become more comfortable and accepting of “happiness.”  I realized that not everything had to be fought for.  That sometimes you can just go with the flow and just BE HAPPY.  But that whole part of ceding control would bother me to no end.  I AM a control freak.  No so much regarding others…but regarding ME and MY life.  I CONTROL MY OWN FATE!  And I do very much believe that is true…that I control my own fate.  But…BUT…don’t we sometimes need to cede control in order to gain a better view of the bigger picture?  Putting control into the hands of someone other than myself is my weakness.  In many cases.  Not always.  But I find that my unwillingness to just throw my hands to the wind and say, “OK!!  IT’S OUT OF MY CONTROL!!!  DO YOUR THING GODDESS!” hinders me.  It hinders my progress.  It hinders my ability to perceive. To listen. To speak. To fully…BE.  It also hinders me in other facets of life.  It hinders my profession.  It hinders the full potential of my marriage.  It hinders my relationship with people.  With other living things.   It is a block.  A big, huge, massive, concrete, ugly block.  It is a block I NEED to get rid of.  To wash away.  And it’s something that is sooooo engrained in me, so much of a part of my psyche that the very thought of cleansing this block terrifies me.  Again, the control.  You see the pattern here?  Despite knowing that I could reach a level of enlightenment and inner peace and bringing myself closer to myself and to deity, I am still stubborn and don’t want to give away my control.  How frustrated I am with myself.  And this is precisely why this block needs to be washed away.  Control is good.  The extent of the control I wish to have over my own life is unhealthy.

So, this is where I am.  I have been sitting on the fence for a few months, and now I am ready to take the plunge.  Am I still scared?  Yup!  But if I don’t take that plunge, I will continue hurting myself.  The next few months are going to be difficult, but they are also going to be liberating and beautiful.  This has been in the making for a long time.  Now it is time.  I pray that I can cede control  yet maintain control.  I pray for a balance that is needed in myself and in my universe.

In frith,

Sara-Kitty

Goodbye and Thank You, Wolf Pack

Here it is.  Close to the end of my time in Korea.  It’s my last night in Gunsan.  My last night with the Wolf Pack, the 8th Fighter Wing.  For those unfamiliar with the Air Force and the legacy of the Wolf Pack, click here.  This place is truly unique within the Air Force, a place with morale and a camaraderie I’ve never seen.  It’s unlikely I will see it again.

So, now it’s time for the obligatory sentimentalities.

First, I want to thank everyone who has been part of the Wolf Pack since 2010 for making my time here so memorable and fun.  Thank you for all the experiences, and for allowing me to serve you while you were here.  Thank you for the opportunity to learn more about my career field, and giving me insight into our younger Air Force demographic.  The information I have learned from you is invaluable to me as a marketer.

Next, thank you to my wonderful staff in the Marketing department.  You already had the tools to be great marketers, and you were already using them.  I hope that I was able to teach you new things and to use those tools in new ways.  Keep using those tools and concentrating on your talents, and learning new talents.  You have taught me so much as a supervisor and Marketing Director, and I hope I was able to teach you half as much as you taught me.  I have no doubt you will continue to do well, and that you will continue to do great things.  Thank you for the teamwork and the friendship for the last three years.

For all the close friends I’ve made here: thank you so much for welcoming me into your life and for letting me get to know you.  I have never met such a diverse group of people who are so willing to go out on a limb and make new friends.  One of the effects, I think, of being Wolf Pack.  Many of you have such limited time here, and to make the time go faster and easier, you have to make friends fast.  And many of these friendships will last a lifetime.  This is the bond that forms with Wolf Pack.  Thank you all for simply being my friend and accepting me as I am.  You are by far the most open minded and accepting people I have come across in my life.  And a lot of you have become a surrogate family.  Much love to you all.

Tomorrow, I will drive away from the Wolf Pack for the final time, and I will be thinking of all of you and the memories created here in this remote location, where everyone works and plays together.  Where some of the best memories of my life were formed.  I have no doubt I will be fighting back tears as I see the 8th Fighter Wing grow smaller in the rear view mirror.  Please know I will miss you all dearly, and that you have made a huge impact on me personally and professionally.  And you all have my most sincere and heartfelt respect.  No one does it better than you.

So, until we meet again some other place and time: Defend the Base, Accept Follow on Forces, Take the Fight North.

Take care of each other, Wolf Pack.

-Sara

 

Irony

So…I’ve found myself wrestling with something over the past few days since I received my orders from the Air Force to return to the United States.  For the first time in 12.5 years, I will be living on U.S. soil again.  What keeps rolling around in my mind is that I’ll be touching down in my home state of California the day before the one year anniversary of my mother’s death.  It’s irony at its best.

My mother was not thrilled at the idea of me moving to England 12-and-a-half years ago, but she understood I had to go.  I was married to my first husband at the time, and he served in the Air Force.  When the Air Force tells you to go somewhere, you don’t really have much of a choice.  And my mother told me at the time, “Sara, I am your past, not your future.  Your future is your husband.”  I know it was very difficult for her to say those words, but my mom was completely selfless in a lot of ways.

After my first husband and I separated and I decided to stay in England, mom pretty much said the next thing.  Sure, she would have loved for me to move back home. What mother wouldn’t want her baby close to her? But again, she said, “I am your past, not your future.  Live your life.  This is the woman I raised you to be.”  And again, I know it was very difficult for her to say that.  I know she meant it, but I also knew she wanted me to come home.  She agreed with my point of view that staying in England was a once in a lifetime deal.  Never again would I have the opportunity to live there.  So, I stayed.  And we talked on the phone at least two or three times per week. For hours on end.

When I started applying for Marketing Director jobs, there were many places I considered applying.  I knew the position at Travis Air Force Base (near my mother) wasn’t available, so I applied stateside with other branches of the military, and I applied overseas with the Air Force.  When the job here in Korea was offered to me, I called my mom, and for the THIRD time, she told me, “I am your past, not your future.  This is your dream job. I want you to take it.  Yes, I would love to have you home, but you are a grown woman and I am so proud of the woman you’ve become.  Live your life.”  And for the third time, I knew saying that had to be excruciating to her.  Again…the most selfless woman I’ve ever known.  I know she wanted me home then as much as she did before, but I also knew (because mom often told me so) that if I gave up my goal to be a Marketing Director and career woman, I’d never hear the end of it.  More than wanting me home with her, my mom wanted me to be successful and happy.  Mom told me all the time, especially after she had her  first stroke and got sick, that if I packed things up and moved home to be with her or take care of her, she’d never speak to me again.  She flat out told me she would be disappointed in me.  That it wasn’t the life she wanted for me.  People assumed I was selfish in my choices to stay overseas and strive to attain my goal.  Here’s the thing:  I didn’t just do it for me.  I also did it for her.  Because she was so proud of me.  Because she wanted that for me.  Because I couldn’t stand to disappoint her.  And because I knew above all else that I was becoming the woman she had always wanted me to be.

So here I am getting ready to move back to the U.S.  I’m not moving to California, but I’m moving to a nearby state.  I’m not going there with my career in mind, for the first time.  I’m going because that is where my husband’s career is taking us.  Above all else, I support him and his career choices and prospects.  But, here I am 12 years later finally moving home to the states.  So close to the first anniversary of mom’s death.  I can’t help but wonder why life didn’t take another turn and I didn’t find the opportunity for my career to progress in the states.  Why I couldn’t have gotten home sooner so I could have spent more time with mom before her passing.  I guess if I did find a job in her area, I wouldn’t have had the same life.  I would never have met my husband.  I would never have met my future.  And mom would tell me the same thing now as she did with my first husband, “I am your past; not your future.  Your husband is your future.”

I love my mom, no matter what some people may say.  Do I feel selfish sometimes for following a career path that kept me overseas for so long?  Of course I do.  But I also know my mother never would have forgiven me if I’d passed on those opportunities.  And now that I’m headed back to the states, a part of me feels that it’s too little too late, regardless of what my mother wanted for me in life.  I feel a pang in my heart much like a dagger because I wasn’t able to get home in time to be able to see mom more frequently.  But…no matter what, I’m finally on my way there.  And I know mom is looking at me from wherever she is and thinking, “I’m happy you’re coming home and that you have this new life ahead of you.  I am your past, not your future.”

So…I guess I’ll end this with the immortal words of Ozzy Osbourne…”Mama, I’m coming home.”  I just wish you were still here to see it.

In frith,

SaraKitty