Real Pregnancy Talk: My Birth Story: An Unexpected Emergency C-Section

“Even the best laid birth plans can go sideways.” ~ me, a few months ago

Let’s talk about how it feels when your birth story goes completely off the rails.

Remember when I wrote a few Real Pregnancy Talks ago about how even the most thorough and realistic birth plans can sometimes go awry? Welcome to my life!

Let’s begin with an exciting announcement… My son, Dorian Lee, has finally entered the world!!! On Tuesday October 1st, 2019 at 11:58am, he burst onto the scene with hardly any warning, weighing 6lbs 9oz. I was 3 days over 40 weeks at that point, so his arrival was definitely something my husband and I, as well as our family and friends, were very eager for. That being said, when labour got underway, everything happened sooo quickly and my head is still spinning from it all.

On the night of Monday September 30th, after walking all day with my husband on a 10k journey, I started to experience really terrible cramps in my lower back. I had been having some bleeding for a few days prior to this, but after a trip to the hospital’s obstetrical ER, I was told that this was totally normal and simply my body preparing for labour. I was, naturally, on edge about this though, and so when I started having more intense cramps on Monday night, I started to feel like I was moving into more active labour. By early Tuesday morning, after no sleep at all, my husband and I noticed that my cramps, or rather what we now realized were contractions, were lasting about 1 minute and were happening every 3 to 5 minutes. We decided to head straight to the hospital to not risk being too late.

When we got to the hospital and were admitted to triage, they started to monitor my contractions and examined me. I was only dilated to 3cm, and so not very close to the “pushing stage” of labour at all, but they began to see that my baby’s heart rate was dropping slightly every time I had a contraction. The doctors decided to admit me to the birthing unit so that they could continue to monitor the baby and hopefully move me closer to real labour. As I waddled over to my birthing suite, I started to feel a bit more anxious, but overall I just felt excitement that we were finally going to be meeting our son.

When we got into our birthing suite, we were told by our nurse that it would be a good time to consider an epidural. I was all for having one anyway, but the nurse explained that time was of the essence because if my baby’s heart rate continued to drop, I may need to consider a C-section and if I didn’t have an epidural done straight away, I would have no choice but to be put under general anesthetic if a C-section should need to happen. I of course wanted to avoid that, and I really was becoming fatigued by the pain of the frequent contractions, so I decided to have the epidural. Unfortunately, there was a bit of an issue getting the epidural to work properly and I had two separate doctors try to administer it, which was uncomfortable as I was still working through the seemingly non-stop contractions. My husband even fainted when they were trying to get the needle in…his first time ever fainting in his life, probably because of the insane amount of stress we were under and watching me undergo a tricky procedure multiple times until it worked. It eventually did work, though, and I felt blissfully calm and at ease as I settled back into my bed and realized that, yes, I was still having intense contractions but I couldn’t feel a single thing. This was the most peaceful part of my labour, when I felt the most confident and excited, and it’s also when my husband called our parents to tell them to come to the hospital. I was still only dilated to 3cm so we knew (or, I should say, we thought) we still had hours left of waiting for our baby boy.

Our parents arrived and came into the birthing suite to say Hello to us, and my mom stayed with my husband and I because I always knew I wanted her in the room to provide me with extra love and support. It was at this point that things started to happen really rapidly and the whirlwind began. The doctors were still noticing that my baby’s heart rate kept dipping whenever I had a contraction, so they thought it best to move labour along a bit faster if possible. They started to give me oxytocin to increase the frequency of the contractions and help me to dilate faster, and they quickly saw that I was dilated to 6cm within an hour of being on oxytocin. However, the doctors and nurses became very alarmed when they noticed that my baby’s heart rate was dipping even lower with each more intense contraction, and I remember my main nurse rushing into the room and saying that she was very unhappy with my baby’s heart rate and thought we should stop the oxytocin to give him a break. A resident doctor agreed with her, and so they stopped administering the oxytocin, but they also mentioned to me that I should consider giving consent for a C-section because they were that worried about what was happening to my baby. 

It was at that moment that I had no choice but to fully surrender to the doctors and nurses. This was something I had no problem doing because I have always had complete confidence in my team and the hospital. My husband and I chose early on to go to Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto for our care because we believe it is one of the best hospitals in Canada, if not the world, and so I told the nurse and doctor that I had no birth plan whatsoever other than to follow their advice completely and let them do whatever they felt was appropriate and needed to be done to keep me and, especially, my baby safe. After telling them this, I was given the forms to sign to consent to a C-section and was told that they would continue to monitor the baby’s heart rate but that at least they were ready to perform a C-section if necessary. I settled back into my bed and got ready to wait and see what would happen next. Somehow, the uncertainty didn’t phase me at this point as I had decided to place my trust in the doctors and nurses and let them guide me through the experience.

But then, what I thought for 9 months was going to be a relatively average birth became an emergency. Not 5 minutes after I signed the consent forms for the C-section, about 4 doctors and nurses ran into my birthing suite frantically. I was so confused because I had just been told that we would be monitoring my baby for a little while yet, but apparently his heart rate had dropped so low that they were extremely concerned. I was told that I was going to be taken for an emergency C-section immediately. Although I had maintained my composure up until this moment, I instantly started to cry. I honestly believed that my baby was going to die. I can’t explain why I felt this way, but I just had this ominous foreboding come over me, and I burst into tears, asking the nurse if there was a risk that my baby was already dead. She assured me that everything was and would be fine, but I couldn’t control my fears and I continued crying as they wheeled me into the operating room. My husband trailed behind with one of the sweetest and kindest nurses we had met who helped him get prepared to enter the OR himself. This meant that I was brought into the OR alone, and my nerves started to overwhelm me as the team lifted me onto the operating table. 

Everything was a frenzy in that operating room. I had never had surgery before this (other than having my wisdom teeth removed, which I consider pretty standard) and so I had no idea what to expect, but I definitely thought it wasn’t normal that at least 10 doctors and nurses were running around, rushing to get me prepped and saying things like, “We need to get this baby out now!” I kept asking the anesthesiologist to assure me that I wouldn’t feel anything because I was still weirded out by the epidural not working the first time around, and he administered a few different types of medications, as well as laughing gas, to ensure that I was completely calm. This meant that I was delirious and loopy, though, which only made me more aware of the frantic preparation around me and convinced me further that my baby was in serious danger. I have never been so scared in my entire life, and I remember fighting with everything in me to stay awake, not faint, and maintain control of my sense of self so that I could vigilantly watch out for my baby. After another 30 to 45 minutes of surgery, which involved hearing minute details of the doctors putting my organs back in place and stitching me up, I was free to move to the recovery room and finally hold my baby.

There is nothing better on this Earth than holding the adorable Dorian Lee in my arms, and although my birth experience was not at all what I expected it would be, it is so very true that having your baby with you at the end makes everything worthwhile. I would undergo a hundred more surgeries to have Dorian Lee beside me, and at the end of the day, I know I made the only decision I could to keep Dorian safe and sound. That’s all I need to think about to remind myself that, C-section or natural birth, all that matters is that my baby boy is healthy and here with me. I guess this all just goes to show that, particularly when it comes to children, you can’t always plan ahead or obsessively control every aspect of life…you often need to just go with the flow and let life’s little miracles run their course to beautiful fruition. And, I think we can all agree that Mr. Dorian Lee is pretty beautiful, isn’t he? 😍😍😍

Janille N G

Girl with a Green Heart

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Understanding the Science of Stress ~ #JNGReads ~ A New Non-Fiction Favourite

“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” – Paradise Lost, John Milton

I have always loved this quote from Paradise Lost. I have it written down in several notebooks, typed out on a sticky note on my laptop that I frequently scroll over, and even had it framed on the wall of my room when I lived with my parents. From the time I first read it, back in second year university, it became a sort of mantra for me, providing me with comfort and reassurance that even if times seemed particularly bad and I felt incredibly stressed, my mind was strong enough to control those feelings and to get me through whatever stressors I encountered.

But, what I have learned in the last year is that (sometimes…often) the mind isn’t enough. Robert M. Sapolsky has a similar quote in his book Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers: “To a certain extent, our perceptions and interpretations of events can determine whether the same external circumstances constitute heaven or hell…” The crux of Sapolsky’s text, though, is that the mind isn’t always strong enough to overcome external circumstances and put them in perspective and, what’s more, sometimes the mind isn’t even capable of doing this sort of heavy lifting if there is a disorder or disease (such as depression or anxiety) that prevents it from doing so. To believe that the mind can persevere in all instances and actually change one’s perspective on reality 100% of the time is foolhardy and naive, and probably was incredibly detrimental to me back in university and had adverse effects on how I would learn to cope with stress as an adult. The point being that understanding stress and the science behind it is no simple task and certainly can’t be reduced to the belief that the mind, if persistent enough, can get a person through anything.

I don’t often read non-fiction books. In fact, I rarely read them, if ever. However, it seems that this year I have done a lot of reading of non-fiction and the main reason for this is that I have felt empowered and motivated recently to finally try to understand my anxiety. When it became evident, towards the end of my first trimester of pregnancy back this past March, that my anxiety was going to be made much more severe by my pregnant condition, I knew (partly because my doctors were telling me) that something had to give and that I needed to get a better handle on my anxious condition once and for all. Not only for my baby’s health, but also for my present and future well-being and overall happiness. Part of this process has involved seeing a psychiatrist and learning about meditation and mindfulness techniques. Part of it has been about exercising as often as possible and forcing myself to go out and interact with my friends and family members even when I don’t feel up for it. But, I have always been an avid learner, a true student at heart from the moment I entered my grade one classroom, and so I felt that I wanted to supplement my doctor’s appointments and daily activities with reading material that would allow me to come to grips with feelings I have had for my entire life. I never have put in the effort to truly understand my anxiety in this way, and I immediately picked up the self-help book Let That Sh*t Go by Kate Petriw and Nina Purewal hoping that it would be a quick and easy read that would at least help me feel a little bit better. It certainly did and it was good, but it wasn’t anything truly groundbreaking or earth-shattering and it didn’t by any means fundamentally change my perspective on anxiety. I next delved into a book recommended by my psychiatrist, Mind Over Mood, and this was of course a huge eye-opener to me in that it taught me the basics of cognitive behavioural therapy and worked wonders to help me reframe my insecurities and fears and better manage my heightened emotions. What I felt these two books lacked, though, was an explanation of what was going on in my brain, of the chemical, biological and physical mechanisms that were clearly contributing to my anxious state and probably had been since my birth. It was a desire to get to the bottom of these internal processes that led me to pick up Sapolsky’s book.

Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers is easily one of the best books I have ever read, of any genre or category. (That’s right, I’m putting it right up there with Jane Eyre although it is, naturally, a very different text!) I was utterly blown away by Sapolsky’s work, and as someone who has never studied psychology and who only studied science up until the end of high school, I was thoroughly impressed by how accessible and relatable he made the scientific explanations in this book. This type of text could easily become overwhelming, but Sapolsky is very careful to keep things manageable for his reader, and he even infuses dry humour, jokes and wit into the text (especially in his often unexpectedly hilarious footnotes, which are a must-read in themselves). He of course uses terminology like “glucocorticoids” and names of “catecholamines” like “epinephrine” and “norepinephrine” often, but he uses them so frequently and explains them so thoroughly that the reader gets the sense, by the end of the book, that these concepts aren’t all that incomprehensible. 

I also made a conscious effort to take my time while reading this book, not because it felt dense at all, but because it did feel heavy. I admit, it was an emotional read for me because I could so easily and fundamentally relate to the findings that Sapolsky examined; I became one of the test subjects he discussed because I recognized how my experiences fit into the results and conclusions. On the one hand, it was nice to know that there is a scientific explanation for why I feel a certain way, but it was also jarring and terrifying to be confronted with so much evidence and research to explain something that I have kind of taken for granted for my entire life. It made my anxiety feel that much more real and that much more difficult to ignore.

Chapter 15, thus, became an incredibly meaningful chapter for me as it investigated anxiety disorders and the personality types that lend themselves to these sorts of disorders. Needless to say, I checked pretty much every box, and that was, as I mentioned, both liberating and scary. There was this sense, as I read, that Sapolsky just understood ME, on a fundamental level, and again, while it was nice to know that I am not alone in any of my feelings, it was also emotional. It made me even more moved when Sapolsky began to call anxiety a “disease” and distinguished it from chronic stress as being rooted in “a cognitive distortion”. Sapolsky posits that, whereas chronic stress is normally a response to an actually perceived external stressor (whether physiological or psychological), anxiety can arise due to stressors that are entirely imagined. This is definitely in-line with my own personal experiences, and while I appreciated the understanding Sapolsky’s description provided to me, no one ever wants to hear that they suffer from a disease. That’s not an easy pill to swallow, and I found myself realizing that I even exhibited anxious tendencies and behaviours as a young child (such as obsessive thinking and phobias) and becoming a bit saddened and melancholy about this. With my increased knowledge certainly came a better understanding of myself, but this wasn’t always a pleasant experience to be sure.

What I did gain, most definitely, was a better comprehension of the biology of anxiety and a greater appreciation of the fact that it is a physical, scientific condition rooted in the brain. I’ve always known deep down that my anxiety is not something I have very much (if any) control over, but it is easy to believe, when something is a mental struggle, that if you can just be stronger, you can get past it. That is, after all, what Milton suggests and that quote from Paradise Lost is still one of my favourites. What is important to remember, however, is that mental illnesses are in fact just as physical as clearly physical ones, and although I always had an inkling of that, Sapolsky’s book solidified it for me. It made it clear to me that I shouldn’t be hard on myself, that I might not be able to conquer this all on my own, and that is okay. It made me realize that, just as I would seek help for a broken leg, there is nothing at all embarrassing or shameful about seeking help for a troubled mind. On the contrary, it is actually quite important and necessary.

I’d like to close my review with a few quotes that particularly spoke to me from Sapolsky’s text. I will never be able to explain myself the concepts he espouses (he is a scientist, after all, and I don’t claim to be), but hopefully these quotes will give you a sense for how he writes and what value can be derived from picking up this book. It is one that has undoubtedly changed my life in so many ways and I would not hesitate to recommend it to those who wish to get to the root of what their brains might be undergoing on a daily basis.

Quotes That Particularly Resonated with Me:

“Anxiety is about dread and foreboding and your imagination running away with you.”

“the distorted belief that stressors are everywhere and perpetual, and that the only hope for safety is constant mobilization of coping responses. Life consists of the concrete, agitated present of solving a problem that someone else might not even consider exists.”

“most things that make us anxious are learned…we’ve generalized them based on their similarity to something associated with a trauma.”

“For all anxious people, life is full of menacing stressors that demand vigilant coping responses.”

***********

“Find ways to view even the most stressful of situations as holding the promise of improvement but do not deny the possibility that things will not improve…Hope for the best and let that dominate most of your emotions, but at the same time let one small piece of you prepare for the worst.”

“Find that outlet for your frustrations and do it regularly.”

“Have the wisdom to pick your battles. And once you have, the flexibility and resiliency of strategies to use in those battles…”

“Sometimes, coping with stress consists of blowing down walls. But sometimes it consists of being a blade of grass, buffeted and bent by the wind but still standing when the wind is long gone.”

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

By Your Side ~ #JNGReads

“I knew it was the extreme amount of stress I’d been under lately. Something had to give. I needed an outlet.

Under no circumstances should it have taken me almost a week to read a 350 page young adult book. But, I had an unexpectedly rough week, which is fitting for this reading experience in so many ways.

By Your Side by Kasie West is a novel about a teenage girl, Autumn, who gets stuck in a library over a long weekend with a misunderstood guy from her school, Dax. A common criticism of this novel that I’ve come across is that the setting of the library seems totally inconsequential, as neither of the characters actually read when they’re trapped in there, and that the portion of the novel when Autumn and Dax are trapped in the library is too short. These two things are true. However, they did not affect my rating of this novel whatsoever, and I will explain why.

“Just talking about rules right now was relaxing me. Structure sometimes helped me feel safe.”

By Your Side was unlike anything I expected from reading the synopsis, and yet, in so many ways, it surpassed my expectations. This is all down to the fact that Autumn suffers from anxiety.

I had an anxiety attack this morning. There’s a long story behind it, related to the long week I had, but to make that story short, I found myself crying in bed this morning as I thought about all the obligations (mostly social) ahead of me this weekend. I eventually calmed myself down (I’ve been told that anxiety attacks are not supposed to last for more than 20-minutes, even though they often seem to go on for an eternity), and when I did, I was able to get back into reading By Your Side right at a spot in the book when Autumn is also coming to terms with her anxiety. Autumn becomes easily overwhelmed when in certain social situations with her friends, and she slowly learns, through the course of the novel and with the help of her new friend/love interest Dax, that saying No is okay and important, particularly when she is being pushed beyond her limits.

“‘Have you ever felt trapped?’

I gave a single laugh. ‘Yes. I have anxiety.’”

Saying No is something I wish I was better at…but I’m working on it. I have felt exactly what Autumn has, that urge to give into people, to always say Yes to them even if you feel yourself starting to break. What I appreciated about West’s treatment of anxiety was that she focused on the sense of responsibility some people with anxiety feel, this burden of not wanting to disappoint other people or let them down. West focuses much of her portrayal of anxiety on Autumn’s family members and Dax reminding her that she has to keep herself healthy, that it is okay for her to admit her limitations, step back, and take some time alone to focus on her mental well-being. I don’t think this sort of thing is talked about enough in society, even with the current move toward focusing on anxiety disorders and mental illness. I believe that many people who don’t suffer from anxiety would find it hard to wrap their mind around why a person may feel uncomfortable about going to a particular social engagement, or why the thought of doing a certain social thing would bring them to tears. But, I have been there, most recently this morning, and I can say with conviction that for individuals who suffer from certain types of anxiety, there is no rhyme or reason; all we know is that some things, on some days, by no logic or rule, are simply beyond our power.

“‘Thanks for letting me stay home this week.’

‘Of course. You need to take care of yourself.’

‘I know. That’s why I’m staying home from the basketball game tonight too. Just the thought of it makes me cringe.’

‘There’s nothing wrong with that.’”

Autumn eventually gets to the point where she can say No to her friends, based on how she is feeling and by gaging her own mental health, and she is lucky in the sense that her friends are supportive of her and open to learning about her anxiety disorder. Believe me, not everyone in the world is that understanding. Having said that, I personally appreciated that West emphasizes the importance of taking care of yourself, of doing what is right for you. Anxiety is just as real as any physical illness, and I agree with West that it has to be treated as such: sometimes, a person with anxiety simply isn’t feeling well enough to do something, and that feeling should be viewed as just as valid as if someone couldn’t make it out because of a stomach flu or throat infection. We all have our boundaries and barriers, and not every day is going to be an anxiety-filled one…but the ones that are need to be taken slow and easy, and Autumn is conscious of that towards the end of her story.

Is By Your Side the best young adult novel I’ve ever read? Probably not. Don’t get me wrong, it would make an adorable, light-hearted move and I really liked Autumn and Dax and their cute banter. That, I would only give 3 stars for though…for West’s portrayal of anxiety, however, I’ll up my rating a touch.

I would encourage any teenager who suffers from anxiety to pick up this book, because not only is it enjoyable, it will also remind you that what you’re feeling is perfectly valid and should be respected.

❥❥❥❥(out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

Don’t Touch ~ #JNGReads

I got Don’t Touch at Chapters 3 days ago, on sale for $1.50. That is both a travesty and a blessing.

It is a travesty because Don’t Touch by Rachel M. Wilson is an excellent young-adult novel and it is worth much more than $1.50. So much more.

It is a blessing because if the book wasn’t on sale for $1.50, I never would’ve spotted it and decided to pick it up. And, I am lucky to have had the chance to read it.

Don’t Touch is a complex, intricate and deeply moving story about a high school student and aspiring actress, Caddie, who suffers from severe anxiety and OCD. Caddie’s anxiety is so all-consuming that she has convinced herself, after her parents’ separation, that she cannot touch anyone without dire consequences. Caddie purchases gloves, she wears long sleeves and pants even in the oppressive heat of summer, and when she develops a crush on her classmate Peter and is cast as Ophelia in her school’s production of Hamlet opposite Peter in the title role, she does everything within her power to avoid getting close to him. Caddie is the narrator of Don’t Touch, and so the reader is able to develop a very intimate relationship with her, hearing her innermost fears and turmoil at wanting to engage with Peter and her other friends, but not feeling as though she is able to.

There were moments in Don’t Touch that brought tears to my eyes. I don’t suffer from severe OCD, but I have friends who do, and I myself suffer from anxiety. I am learning recently that my struggle with anxiety (which began at the start of high school) is so much less severe and difficult than what so many of my peers have to endure on a daily basis, but I do believe that mental health is all relative, and my anxiety sometimes feels like the most horrible thing in the world, at least to me. I luckily have never been in Caddie’s position where I fear touching others, but I do understand the frustration that comes from having this one fear playing over and over in your brain, no matter how hard to try to get it to stop or how logical you try to be. Anxiety isn’t really logical at all, or at least it isn’t in my experience, and I was deeply touched by Caddie’s narration of her inability to calm herself down even when she knows her anxieties are nonsensical, silly and impossible.

Rachel M. Wilson writes about anxiety well, with heart and respect. She mentions in her Author’s Note that she herself suffers from OCD, and that is clear in her careful treatment of mental health struggles that she is familiar with them. I only wish her book got more hype because I believe it is the exact sort of text that teenagers need to read. If I had read something like this book in high school, it may have helped me comprehend my anxieties and understand that they are not as uncommon or embarrassing as I originally thought. I don’t mean to say that a book like Don’t Touch would’ve cured me, but it would’ve made me feel a bit more “normal”…whatever that even means.

Caddie is a strong character, despite her anxieties, and what is most profound is the message that ailments like anxiety or OCD do NOT make a person weak, but rather they can make them impressively strong. Caddie goes through a lot and she doesn’t always come out on top of her anxiety, but in the end, she has developed methods to cope with it and she is able to touch people and enjoy this proximity. She comes a long way, but what is most special and poignant about her progress is that she seeks help, from her mother, from her friends, and from a trained professional. She eventually realizes that power comes from talking about her anxieties, from taking the power away from them, and she becomes vocal and unselfconscious in her discussion of what is plaguing her. This was beautiful to see and an incredible message for anyone who suffers from anxiety or OCD to be left with: that speaking about it, owning up to it and in a way embracing it, is the first step toward wellness.

“Talking about fear takes its power away.”

I would highly recommend Don’t Touch to anyone and everyone because it truly blew me away. I wasn’t expecting to find it so sharp and touching, but it was, and I think it is worthy of a lot more attention. Spend $1.50 on it, spend $15.00, spend $50.00…but whatever you do, pick up this book!

❥❥❥❥(out of 5)

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

My Victorian Condition ~ A Life Talk

I could never be a Victorian.

Isn’t that ironic? How many times have I mentioned here (and in my life in general) that I would love to have lived in the Victorian era? I mean, for god sake, my bio on the side of this very blog’s homepage professes…

~ I would trade this life for a Victorian life in a heartbeat. ~

But, it has come to my attention recently that there is no way I would survive a Victorian life…and it has everything to do with one tiny thing I have been carrying around for my entire life. My anxiety. Now, I know there’s a stigma about mental health issues, which is definitely going away slowly, but is still pretty prevalent in society. Not many people feel comfortable about discussing their mental health struggles, and honestly, I’ve always sort of been one of those people. I talk very openly about my anxiety with my close friends, my immediate family and my fiancé, but it’s not something I’m exactly eager to shout from the rooftops. I’d like for the people I work with not to have any clues about it. I never revealed it to any of my classmates or my professors. I just always felt that it was the sort of thing that needed to be kept silent, or at least not have attention drawn to.

I’m very lucky because my anxiety is not debilitating and, to be honest, I’ve never had it diagnosed. But believe me when I say that I know I suffer from anxiety because I have read enough about it and seen enough examples of it in my life to know what it looks like. Although it is most certainly a different experience for each and every person, I have witnessed enough different forms of anxiety to know that my nerves and worries are more severe than most other peoples’. And perhaps I should feel shy about writing this post (even know, as I write it, I wonder if I will ever actually post it on my blog), but part of me just wants to write about my personal experiences, not only to get them out there for others who may be struggling, but also to help sort through them myself. Writing has always been a cathartic and therapeutic pastime for me, and so it seems like the best method to unravel my anxieties and get to the root of them.

My anxiety manifests itself as a preoccupation with things that are unlikely and illogical, but terrifying. I become fixated on one idea, one fear or source of nervousness, and I find it hard to stop my fixation and rumination on this notion until another one slips in to replace it. Don’t get me wrong, I have good periods when I’m not that consciously anxious about anything in particular, but at any given moment, if I sit down and think long enough, I will be able to pinpoint one or two things to be nervous about. As I said, these things are often totally outlandish and ridiculous, and yet I latch onto that slim chance that it may happen and sometimes make myself sick at the thought. I am getting better at realizing that my anxieties have no actual basis in reality, but that doesn’t mean that I’m able to overcome them entirely. I may never be able to do that, and I am strangely okay with that…I know that anxiety will be a part of who I am forever, and I also know that it will be one of the biggest things in my life that makes me strong and resilient. I try as much as I can to use my anxiety to my advantage, to try to become a stronger person because of it, as hard as that may often be. It has made me resourceful and driven to persevere and not let it stop me.

My anxiety is also always worse in times when I am incandescently and extremely happy. For whatever reason, it seems like, whenever I am most content and confident, my anxiety kicks in and reminds me that everything can disappear in a flash. It’s the ultimate manifestation of the “glass half empty” mentality…my anxiety is constantly there to encourage me to be prepared to lose everyone and everything, to make me believe that happiness is fleeting and fragile. These are the points when my anxiety is most exhausting, because I am most frustrated with myself. These are also the times, though, when I feel most compelled to work on my anxiety, to try to combat it by being even more joyous and ignoring the tiny voice inside me that warns me to be pessimistic. It is at these moments that I get fed up with myself and my overactive brain and try to live fearlessly and boldly!

Recently, however, it came to my attention that 3 of my biggest most all-encompassing anxieties would absolutely prevent me from living the life I have always professed to want. Ever since I was young, but definitely more so now that I have moved out to my own home, I have been predominantly anxious about 3 things: fire, lice and bed bugs. I think that most people would be afraid of these 3 things and the inconveniences they cause, but my anxiety will go to the point of exhaustion, where I am checking my hair every night, or pulling my bed apart to get at my mattress, or feeling terrible nerves whenever I am out even though I checked that the oven was off 3 times before leaving. It does tire me out, no question, to have these 3 worries constantly at the back of my mind, and I have actually gotten to the point in this fatigued state where I have almost broken down in tears after seeing a firetruck randomly drive in the vague direction of my home. Again, I think most, if not all, people would be terrified by the thought of enduring a fire or the inconvenience of having lice or bed bugs, but my anxiety causes me to take that fear to the extreme.

Which brings me to why I could never be a Victorian… It is a pretty widely known fact that the 3 most prevalent issues in Victorian society were fire, lice and bed bugs. As coincidental as this may seem, I wonder if maybe my anxieties stemmed from reading and watching so many Victorian stories when I was growing up. In any case, it’s no shock to anyone to learn that a large part of London burnt down in 1666…although that was centuries before the Victorian era, fires were still a huge occurrence in Victorian England. And don’t even get me started on lice and bed bugs…it seems that almost every Victorian household had them, and I once read an article somewhere that suggested that at any given moment in Victorian society, 85% of children had head lice. I have to be frank, I didn’t want to do any research for this post as I wanted to speak of my own personal ideas more than anything else, so those statistics may be off. But there is no doubt that the things I fear on a regular basis were spreading rapidly during the Victorian era.

When my best friend, CV, mentioned to me that I could never live in the Victorian era because all of my greatest fears were a viable risk, I was immediately disappointed. Time machines don’t exist (just yet), so it wasn’t like I was exactly missing out on a trip to Victorian England…but at the same time, it felt like my anxiety was actively preventing me from doing something I had always wanted to do. Generally, I don’t let my anxiety get in my way, but here was an example of a limitation, a society I couldn’t have lived in comfortably no matter how much I love it and wish I could visit it. It was shocking, to say the least, to think that this lifestyle I put on such a pedestal was also one that would have terrified me on a daily basis…and it was eye opening. Anxiety should never ever prevent you from doing anything, and that is something that is not always easy to wrap your mind around when you’re having an anxiety attack or fixating on something. For me, it was helpful to have this reminder, to have a moment of clarity where I realized that these things I fear are things that other people have gone through and survived, and are things that don’t happen all that often in a time I am very fortunate to live in. It was an interesting source of perspective for me, a little extra jolt to try to force down my anxieties about these issues, to try to talk myself out of them and work through them.

I am and always will be a Victorianist, and it seems that my own particular Victorian condition is to be wary of the very same things that my Victorian counterparts and idols would have been concerned about. Whatever that says about my anxiety, it does remind me that there are certain things I will never be able to dodge or control, no matter what time I live in, and that it would not necessarily be simpler to live in what many people perceive as a simpler time. At the very least, I am reminded now, on a daily basis, that the people of the past had many more reasons to be afraid (by my standards, anyway), and yet they lived, they didn’t fear, they somehow managed to go up against greater risks than I face currently. So if Queen Victoria can be strong, surrounded by all her candles and gas lamps, why can’t I? I think I can, because I do, after all, have all those Victorian inclinations, both good and bad, way deep down inside me.

Janille N G

Girl with a Green Heart