Post-Layoff Anxiety: And This Too Shall Pass … Right?

The view from my treadmill. A sea of toys and this cutie!
The view from my treadmill. A sea of toys and this cutie!

Phew! I’m back from a quick 45:00 on the treadmill. I intended to do a 50 minute walk/run (I call it a wog) where I alternate walking and running, but after a 5 minute walk I started running and didn’t stop until 40 minutes into the workout. I felt good. I would have kept going except for the anxiety that I will “overdo it.” I don’t even know what that would entail, but I am petrified of finding out. Part of it is after an injury, pregnancy and now this heart thing, I don’t want any more setbacks! But there’s more to it than that.

It’s been a week now since I had the catheter ablation to correct my heart condition (SVT). Part of me wants to put a sunny face on everything and tell you everything is fine, but part of me wants to level with you. So, I’m going to level with you.

I struggled with post-partum depression after my second child was born. This time, I haven’t had even a drop of depressed feelings since my daughter was born two months ago. That is, until I had the ablation a week ago. What I am finding difficult is that I have been struggling with anxiety since I’ve been home from the hospital. I am struggling with this idea that the ablation messed up my heart for the worse and that I won’t ever be able to train at the level I want to. I have ZERO evidence of this and my doctors assured me everything went perfectly with the procedure and that the risks for any post-ablation problems is VERY low. After a few days of feeling like I was on the verge of a panic attack about it, I had a heart-to-heart with my husband.

Now I’m kicking myself for scheduling a somewhat hardcore medical procedure at the end of January. It all makes sense. As you might remember, I told you a while back that my dad died. He committed suicide during the first week of February in 1987. February has never been easy since. Now you might not get the connection, but here it is. One of my biggest fears about having the ablation done was that it would irreversibly damage my heart and therefore make training impossible. I feared the loss of training. Dad dies = loss. Heart procedure gone wrong leading to no training = loss.

It drives me crazy, because I have a wonderful husband, amazing kids, an impressive academic and professional resume to fall back on, etc. etc. Yet I cannot stop this loop of thoughts telling me my running is DOOMED! ย I worry that the constant state of low-level anxiety I am in the last few days will create a self-fulfilling prophecy. I am working hard to relax. Doing deep breathing exercises, having a small glass of red wine after the kids go to bed, talking (and writing) it out and getting back to running. I also am working on scheduling an appointment with my occasional therapist who helped me deal (finally) with the loss of my dad, a mere 20 years after he died. I know if I don’t nip this in the bud at it’s early stages I could be come full-blown depressed.

Black Clouds
Over the last few days, I feel like this thing is chasing me. (Photo credit: Sky Noir)

Just talking or writing about it helps because it shows me how it’s not true. But as any of you who have ever struggled with anxiety or depression knows, knowing the fears aren’t the truth or likely to happen often isn’t enough to get out of the funk. It can take time and a whole lot of effort to avoid getting sucked down into that black hole. I don’t want to go there!

Does anyone else struggle with the fear of loss? Has anyone suffered from anxiety or depression after the birth of a baby or a medical procedure? Please share your stories. Knowing I’m not alone will definitely help!

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Salty Running boss and mother of 3 little ones with PRs of 3:10:15 (26.2), 1:25:59 (13.1) and 18:15 (5k). I love to write about running culture, mental training, and fitting in a serious running habit with the rest of a busy life.

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  1. There are so many things that I relate to in this post. Where to start? First, Iโ€™m glad that you feel comfortable sharing all that you just did in this post! It is still so taboo to discuss depression and anxiety and suicide. Thank you for being honest about all of this!

    I haven’t had a child so I can’t relate to that but I can relate to the depression/suicide/loss/anxiety part. I had surgery in June. My only major medical procedure beside wisdom teeth extraction. Ever. I was so terribly afraid of the surgery! I was afraid I was going to die or wake-up in the middle of the procedure. I had a procedure that ‘fixed’ several things and it was multipurpose for me. It is specifically to ‘cure’ sleep apnea and I absolutely hate having those terrible sleep studies so I kept putting off my post-op one. I started having issues sleeping at night because I wasn’t using the cpap anymore and I would wake up fearing that I wasn’t breathing. After several weeks of anxiety filled nights I finally scheduled my follow up and found out everything was fine. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Addiction, depression and anxiety, as well as other mental illnesses that are a combination of these things are within my family. I suffered with severe depression from around the age of 10 until 22ish. I was suicidal through most of high school and while I only had one or two attempts I suffered from suicidal fantasies that were sometimes overwhelming. Unless you have gone through this, it is almost impossible to explain these feelings to others. Additionally, trying to share these feelings with friends and family can leave them feeling helpless, scared, concerned or just totally freaked out. My way of dealing with it now and as I got older was to kind of retreat, go within and experience all of the feelings so I could release them quicker. The more I fought it the longer it took for them to go away. I also sought some relief through yoga, running and cycling. Those activities are my main therapy now. Especially yoga. It has changed my life in ways that would take tooo long to name. ๐Ÿ˜‰ No I try not to let myself even go there. I might indulge myself for a few moments and then I say enough, STOP, STOP, STOP and breathe. I have my days, weeks, months though sometimes. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Iโ€™m a work in progress for sure!

    One thing that had an impact on me was the serenity prayer. When I started going to alanon years ago I heard it and a flip switched in my brain. Suddenly, I didn’t have to be responsible for all of the things that I was making myself responsible for. I didn’t have to be the one in charge of everything. Everything wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t even a religious thing for me as much as an acknowledgement that the universe is far bigger than I am and how could one person be responsible for that much!? ๐Ÿ˜‰ It became a mantra, a reminder. When I wake up in the middle of the night, my mind spinning I saw it over and over and over until I fall back asleep.

    It is awesome that you felt comfortable talking to your husband! Iโ€™m glad that he could be there for you!!! Also having a counselor or psychiatrist as a neutral sounding board can be so helpful too even if you see them intermittently. The biggest thing I struggle with in terms of anxiety is obsessing over something, similar to your constant fear of what the future holds for your training post op. It is ok to think these thoughts and have the feelings but also to recognize that you can’t do anything but move forward and live your life. For me the trigger is usually fear of loss as well. No matter what happens, that’s where mind goes immediately through the chain of events playing out in my head. Just acknowledge what you are feeling and talk or write through those feelings to get to the root of what it is. Identifying that will help you recognize that it is usually something out of your control and that you have to breath and trust that everything always works out! And if you just need to hear those words, you can always email or call me and I will tell you that everything is going to be ok! <3

    As for dealing with the loss of your father, all things in happen when they are supposed to. You might not have been ready to deal with all of it until now. And even now you might only be able to deal with parts of it. Donโ€™t limit your mourning process. Say or write EVERYTHING that you think or feel about this experience and the consequences for you. Most of make sure after you've gone through all of that you can forgive, yourself, your dad and whoever else that you feel like you need to.

    We always have more strength then we know! Make sure you take time to celebrate the little moments that make your heart sing!

  2. This is really awesome Tracie. Thanks so much for sharing and giving your advice. Salty – I too send a big virtual hug. I don’t have the wise words or experience to draw from to help you, but I’ll always have your back when you need it. You are an awesome person and runner – none of that is going away or changing any time soon. Give yourself time and room to get there. You’ll be great. I was actually just thinking during my run the other day you are going to be an unstoppable runner now that your heart is all fixed! True story!!

  3. Great response, Tracie! Salty, I give you so much credit for going through with the surgery as I know I would’ve been more uneasy about even doing it. I wonder if the increased anxiety is also from having a long lay-off. It seems like it has been a long time since I was bike pacing you on a tempo. I can imagine the longing and now the wondering. But you are a beast and while the first few months of getting back will probably suck and feel crappy, you’ve done it twice before and I cannot wait to see you do it again! Hugs!

  4. Can we make this one big group hug?! You guys are awesome and I am so lucky to have you all as friends! THANK YOU SO MUCH for supporting me even when I’m getting all Eyore on you ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Another thought — don’t discount the stinkin’ weather as another factor in your lows. It may sound trivial, but countless studies have shown that people are remarkably more optimistic and hopeful when it’s sunny and warm than when it’s gray and cold. Everything, EVERYTHING, is gloomier in winter. I discount half of my feelings from November through April. Hang on, and pray the groundhog was right.

    1. Oh yes! That’s definitely a factor! The end of January, beginning of February are the times of the year when suicides are the highest and when people in general feel most depressed. But with how shitty February has always been for me, March is always FANTASTIC! I love March when there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel and spring is in the air. Just 3 weeks to go!

      PS So great to hear from you! I’ve missed you around these parts ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. I had post-partum depression after my second child, who is a January baby. I didn’t know I had that until I was coming out of it. I don’t have much to share other than know that you are not alone. I had terrible thoughts and anxiety that I would drop my son or I would harm him. I had NO IDEA where that was coming from. I think it was the stress of adjusting from one to two kids that were 18 months apart. He was also an around the clock nurser, so I felt that I was always nursing him and not sleeping enough. I never got help for it, but I knew what “it” was after I had my twins and knew that if I was to experience the same thing, that I would get help IMMEDIATELY. It was debilitating. I couldn’t go anywhere, do anything. I was running on the treadmill inside, but I did feel that I would never get back to where I was before. It took a good five months for me to get out of the “fog” of that depression. My only advice is seek help. I was nursing like you, so I know medication isn’t an option. But, talk therapy can do wonders!!!

    1. Thanks so much!!!! PPD is so awful! It’s depression, which sucks but combined with feeling like a horrible mother. What was so scary to me was that I had NO IDEA I was suffering from it even though I’ve been depressed in the past. This doesn’t feel like ppd – just acute anxiety related to the procedure, but I know these things can be a slippery-slope to depression so I am hell-bent on treating it seriously to avoid that if possible!!! Thanks again! The more of us who share our stories the more we can help others going through it!

  7. It’s been awhile, but in some ways you never forget, but I struggled a lot with post partum depression after some of my kids (particularly kid 4 and kid 6). The first time it went on for months before I (or anyone) ever realized that was going on. The other time it was noticably bad, I was expecting/ready for it, but it really didn’t make it any better. Sucked just as bad! So, you are not alone. My heart aches and remembers when I read others going through the same thing. A big cyber hug for you

    1. Thank you! I had ppd after my second and didn’t realize it until she was 6 months. Once I realized what it was, it subsided. It was AWFUL! It helps a lot to know other awesome moms survived it too!