How I Overcame a Breakdown
Over Labor Day weekend, we ended up off-roading through the desert, doing four photo shoots, and literally jumping for joy in the Palm Springs windmills. God, it felt good. After 8 months of feeling like a prisoner in my own body and mind and not being able to drive more than 5 miles down the road, it all (all being anxiety) finally melted away. Here’s why and how I finally overcame a breakdown and debilitating anxiety.
My Anxiety Journey
While I’ve always had some underlying anxiety, I’ve never had truly debilitating anxiety.
Mine was kicked off from my Hashimoto’s and what I now know is adrenal fatigue.
What did that look like?
I literally jumped at any noise (Fred Baby opening the refrigerator, the blender turning on, a car driving by). I couldn’t even watch TV. I couldn’t even look at my computer screen and take in information. My brain said no. I could barely take a shower.
About the only thing I could manage to do was watch Gilmore Girls on my iPad on the lowest light and volume setting. I had to sleep with a light on. I couldn’t see people. I wouldn’t even let my in-laws into our temporary condo. At the worst times, I wouldn’t even let Fred Baby into the room with me. Every little thing was setting off that fight or flight panic response.
We know now that this aligned perfectly with me getting a bad batch of my thyroid medication, and from there things went wackadoo. But looking back, it had started before. The entire house-buying process was so stressful, even though Fred Baby shielded me from 99% of it. That feeling of limbo.
I distinctly remember the day we went to sign the paperwork which would mean that the house was officially ours. If you’ve ever been through this, you know there’s TONS of paperwork. My brain couldn’t even read a sentence. I could barely sit still. I repeatedly visited the ladies room where very unladylike things occurred because my body was not having it.
I was already fatigued and had no reserves. Back then, I’d ride with Fred Baby to the grocery store but sit outside while he grabbed what we needed because I didn’t have any extra juice to shop. It’s a very troubling feeling.
One December night, about a week before his birthday, we had just had the yummiest dinner. I decided what would make it even better was dessert. But we were missing one ingredient for the gluten-free chocolate chip cookies I wanted to make. We hopped in the car for the 5-minute drive to the store. I asked Fred Baby to grab the baking soda while I perused the card section (I needed to get his birthday card!).
As soon as we walked in from the dark parking lot into the glaringly bright store, I felt off.
He took off for the baking aisle and left me in the card section where I started feeling hot and sweaty and panicky. I quickly grabbed a card and he came back to meet me. I told him I wasn’t feeling well and wasn’t sure I could make it through checkout. We decided to leave but then I said no, I think I can make it. There were only two people in front of us. But then I decided otherwise and bolted out of the store.
I paced back and forth outside of the grocery store trying to calm down. We finally tried to drive the five minutes home, but it felt like an eternity. Partially because I kept making him pull over. I’d get out and walk. I felt like I needed to run. That flight or fight response is no joke, and my response is flight.
After an agonizing drive home, I tried my best to calm down but when you are in it, you are in it.
It’s the worst feeling in the world that I’ve experienced yet.
(Dear Universe: That’s not an invitation to show me otherwise. Please, cut me a break for a bit!).
I was in bed for days. We had planned a fun drive to Texas for Christmas, but had to abort. I could barely walk outside. The irony that during that time we did this shoot is so rich. And foreshadowing. Or life imitating art or vice versa. You know what I mean.
We ended up spending Christmas in a hotel, luckily one with a kitchen. But I was so spent. Every time I would get up, my blood pressure would drop and I’d get dizzy. Even taking a relaxing bath was too taxing. The day before Christmas, we managed to make it to a Lab Corp five minutes down the road to get my blood work done. But not without Fred Baby having to bolt out to the car to bring me a smoothie he had made as I started to feel faint during the withdrawal. But just the fact that I made it there and back in the car was a major accomplishment. #winning
After that, we had another week or so in a temporary apartment. It was not glamorous. The rides from house to the hotel to apartment were so anxiety-inducing because every noise set me off. I couldn’t process motion or speed well.
On January 1st, we finally were able to move into a condo that was only one house away from our house, which was being remodeled into the Modernism Week Show House.
This was very convenient as a million decisions needed to be made each day regarding the renovations of the house. Fred Baby was a literal superhero during all of that. And I still feel terrible that SO much rested on his shoulders since I could barely get out of bed.
I owe him everything.
And I owe friends BIG time. And everyone who helped make the house happen and kept me afloat.
I had a doctor’s appointment scheduled but the day before had taken methylated Vitamin B. (With MTHFR, it’s supposed to be better. But with everything going on and an intense desire to get better, I forgot how sensitive my body is. I always need to start low and slow.
But I took the full dosage. BIG mistake. HUGE.
I don’t know why, but it amped up my anxiety to a point of insanity.
I logically knew how I felt wasn’t right, but there wasn’t anything I could do to get the chemicals evened out in my body.
The morning of the doctor’s appointment I was a MESS. Poor Fred Baby. He’d done so much to find that doctor, book the appointment and we’d waited so long for it.
I came to him trying my best not to cry but with my eyes bulging out of their sockets, buzzing like a hummingbird, explaining to him that I would NOT be able to get in the car and get to the appointment.
At first he said, Oh yes you will go to that appointment. Until he really saw me and heard why. Like a crazy person, I told /begged him to please, please, please go to the appointment for me.
That I needed him to tell the doctor what was going on and that I needed something like a Valium to just be able to get in the car to make the five-minute drive to her office.I was like a chihuahua, no disrespect to chihuahuas. Just nervous and pacing.
Before this, in a desperate bid to be able to make it, I downloaded the HeadSpace App and tried to meditate it away. No such luck.
Turns out meditation doesn’t work when you’re trying it for the very first time in the midst of a breakdown.
He went to the doctor and at first they refused to see him, since he wasn’t the patient. Luckily I married a man who doesn’t take no for an answer and has always fought for what he wanted. Needless to say, the doctor saw him. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to prescribe anything without seeing me first and she wasn’t able to make house calls.
We felt stuck.
I was desperate for help but incapable of getting it. Thank god for good friends. One is a doctor in LA who has a doctor friend in Rancho Mirage. Actually, the husband and wife are both doctors. Even though they have four young kids, are both doctors, and she had the flu at the time, she spent an hour on the phone with us listening to what was going on. A few days later, her husband was in town for a conference and offered to stop by to see me in person.
We were elated and beyond grateful, but since I was still going out of my mind from these chemicals being off, I was also terrified. It was dark outside and I spent 30 minutes pacing back and forth in the shared outdoor backyard common area. A neighbor even came outside to make sure I wasn’t a thief or something. I could barely talk to him to say I was just walking.
Finally, angel doctor arrived. He was SO kind, gentle and sweet. Even though it was 10pm, he spent well over an hour with us talking and getting a prescription for Valium submitted to a 24-hour pharmacy. I literally couldn’t sit down for any of our talks, but he was so calming and explained how his mother has Parkinson’s and a side effect of that and/or her medication is often extreme anxiety so he was very familiar with it.
I owe him and his wife and our friends BIG time.
That night, Fred Baby drove to get the Valium.
I want to preface this by saying, I’ve never done any drugs and had always been resistant to taking anything like anti-anxiety meds or antidepressants because addiction runs in my family (with my grandparents). But I was never so excited to have something to take in all my life by that point.
It did the trick, and the next day I was able to make it to my doctor’s appointment. Fred Baby had prepped them and they let me come in the back way so I didn’t need to deal with the commotion of a waiting room, etc.
The doctor was wonderful. She knew my levels were off on my thyroid, which had launched all of this fun, but said basically my body/mind was so keyed up, that until we evened it out with something like an antidepressant, that my body wouldn’t be able to absorb thyroid medicine. So she prescribed Lexapro and Valium. (Note: Fellow corn-intolerant friends, name brand Valium has corn in it, so I have my compounded.)
It definitely helped a lot, but wasn’t an instant cure or anything like that. But it was a vital step.
My mom, sister and niece came out to help take care of me. This was something I was so excited for, but also terrified of. I did not want my precious little KayleeBug to see me in this state. I was warned that the Lexapro would likely make me very sleepy and I was still anxious. I didn’t want to scare her.
Luckily, that didn’t happen and being around her is the best medicine in the world — that and laughter.
My mom and sister were so helpful with meals and everything. The doctor said exercise was vital in having the Lexapro work. So each day we would kick around a soccer ball out back. Even though I was so low on energy and had to force myself to play, once we were playing I was ruthless. I literally took down my mom, niece and husband at different points (and my took down I mean I tripped and tackled them). My cortisol was sky-high, clearly! This resulted in fits of laughter and all of us laying on the ground in tears from laughing so hard.
But it wasn’t all fun and games.
There would be times when my mom, sis and Kaylee would come into my bedroom and it would make me feel very anxious. These are people I love most in the world. I point this out just to say that when you get so worn down to breakdown status, nothing is logical. I just didn’t have the juice to be able to take in or handle much stimulation, particularly at the beginning or end of each day.
Did I mention this was all going on while our house was being made over to be the Modernism Week Show House, in which 6000 people would be coming through our house?
And that I couldn’t even go over to our house during the day when workers were there because the sounds were setting off panic attacks? I could barely go at night when the house was empty.
Even on Valium and Lexapro, I couldn’t see my friends who were designers doing rooms in the show house. It was too much stimulation.
Poor Christopher Kennedy and team. I didn’t see him for over 2 months. You might have seen my name was on everything show house-related. While we benefited hugely from getting to have our house designed by some of the world’s most talented designers, the goal was fundraising and this was a charitable initiative. I did not want to let anyone down.
Also in the midst, a designer who was supposed to do one of the largest rooms, the family room, instead could only commit to doing a smaller space, so we needed a designer for that room.
I became that designer.
Luckily I was able to manage it and I had the support of so many brands to make my vision a reality in a short period of time (6 weeks).
But the people physically putting that room together were Fred Baby, friends and family. My father-in-law and Fred Baby spent hours putting together shelves, while Kristen, my mother-in-law and sister-in-law put up and ironed curtains. It took a village, a village I am so grateful for.
Wow, this was supposed to be a post about a gingham dress, but clearly I had more to say.
The first event of the Modernism Week Show House was on Friday evening. On Thursday, I kept waiting for everyone to leave so I could go style my room. It was about 11pm at night and one person remained: Natasha, who was designing my Cloffice. By this point, my mom had flown back to Texas and my sister and Kaylee were in LA for auditions.
Fred Baby’s mom, dad and sister were in town and his parents even dropped off groceries at our condo one night. We met them outside because it felt too overwhelming to have them in. The people I love most.
Anxiety is a crazy beast.
Anyway, Fred Baby and I finally went over to the house at 11pm so I could start styling my room. I wanted total silence to do so. We ended up running into Natasha and her sister around 11:30 when they were finally leaving from styling The Cloffice to perfection. And of course Natasha was the nicest, funniest person ever. But they were tired and I had work to do, so the interaction was brief. I was just glad it didn’t cause a panic attack.
As Natasha later said, I snuck in like a styling ninja in the night and gussied up my room until about 5am. I had sent Fred Baby home to get some sleep a few hours before and he ended up calling around 5 to check on me. I had just finished up and even though our condo was maybe 50 feet from our house, he came to pick me up.That guy, I swear.
Of course, the big question looming was: Would I be able to make it to the actual Modernism Week Show House opening night party and red carpet gala?
I desperately wanted to, but had only seen a handful of people in months: Fred Baby, two doctors, my mom, sis, and niece, Fred Baby’s mom and dad for five minutes, and Natasha and her sister for about two minutes.
I had become a hermit who was afraid to leave the house, even to go outside for a walk.
Friday rolled around and I managed to get dressed.
Joy came by because she generously agreed to do an in-studio interview for a local news segment with Christopher that I was supposed to do, but clearly wasn’t going to be able to do (getting in a car was still a no-go) and she needed to borrow an outfit. She’s super woman.
So I got to see her, a friend I love dearly and owe so much to. A little while later, Sarah came by to get some of her goodies she was using to style her room with that we had been storing at the condo. She’s a doll, and it was great to see her. They were my baby steps.
My friend Alle, a TV news reporter, wanted to do an interview with Fred Baby and me. FB asked me if I was up for it. We agreed as long as we could do it at the condo, out back, then we’d try it. That went well too. Those little things gave me the confidence I needed to get to the opening party that night.
So much work had gone into the show house and I wanted to be able to thank people in person.
As evening rolled around, I began to gussy myself up.
I took a deep breath, a Valium and Fred Baby’s hand and said: Let’s do this.
As we walked the 50 feet up the hill to our new home, it was a lot to take in. So much so that we decided that going through the front door through crowds of people was probably not the wisest entrée back into the real world.
So we snuck around to the side of the house, where I knocked on the sliding glass door of Joy’s room. Only a few people were in there, so it was perfect to get to hug her and say hi in a low-key way. We then went back outside, over to the next room, Fred Baby’s office, where we got to catch up with Michel Boyd, who designed the office. As that room began to fill up, we exited for outside again.
The next room was The Cloffice with my Soaking Room attached. We peeked in the window and saw Natasha and Dee.
Luckily no one was in there yet other than those two awesome babes, and they said: Climb through the window!
Seriously, I asked? YES, they insisted.
So, as Fred Baby had been doing for months already, he lifted me up.
Suddenly I was with these two kindred spirits in OUR new house. We piled into the clawfoot bathtub and took silly photos.
It felt so good.
Eventually, Fred Baby and I decided to stay inside and wind our way through the house to all of the rooms. We had done it. It has been a long road, but baby steps, tons of support, and a few little pills got us there.
The next night was the main event: the Red Capet Gala.
My sister and Kaylee were back from LA to attend, and the four of us got dolled up.
This time we walked straight to the front of the house, down the red carpet and through the front doors.
As always, thank you for reading and for your support.
PHOTOS by FRED MOSER
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Kelly, I’m so sorry you have been going through all this, and so happy that you are through it! From your Instagram pictures I never would have guessed that you were going through this. Thank you for sharing!
I have so many friends who really suffer from anxiety. It’s so interesting that the underlying cause of yours was chemical. I wonder if that’s the same for lots of other people as well.
I can’t wait to read part two and see where things went from here.
Sending lots of love!
Thank you so much for reading. I, too, wonder the same thing as to the underlying cause for some many others.
I hope this helps and look forward to sharing Part II soon xo!
Oh, Kelly. I am SO grateful to you for sharing this story. We have all – or at least so many of us – dealt with anxiety, and it IS, my friend, a BEAST.
What was one of the happiest weeks of my life was a struggle for you, and now I know all of the details as to why.
As pretty as your pictures are (& yours, too, FredBaby) your heart and open dialogue is even prettier…and, warmer.
So grateful to have you as my healthy friend in this world.
Oh friend, thank you so much for your support. It truly means a lot.
Your cheerful, open spirit is such a bright spot in the world and my world.
Hope to give you a big hug in person soon xoxox!!
Kelly, what a generous and brave woman you are to share your story. I am going through something similar as part of a long term illness & while I haven’t figured out how to manage all the moving parts, reading your post allowed me to decompress and know I am not alone.
I’m so sorry to hear you’re dealing with a long term illness, but you are definitely not alone.
If there’s anything I can do to help, please feel free to reach out, even if just for support.
We’re all better and stronger together xo.
Ok, so I may or may not have cried…ok, I did…and I did it sitting at my desk in my office full of men…It was great. I love you my friend. This was SO well written and wish that we could have walked through our wackadoo moments together…however, I am SO thankful you had friends there to be patient with you through this…and above all, Big K. I mean seriously…who would have thought (what, almost 20 years ago?) that he would have turned out to be more amazing every day. Tell him I’m SO GLAD he was persistent in dating you and I love him!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I love you Melly!!! And trust me, there’s plenty for us to walk through together and I loved to do it sooner rather than later. Will call you soon so we can finally get this party started. LYLAS! 😉 xoxooxoxox.
Hate the thoughts of what you’ve been through. So glad to hear your on the road back to a healthy, happy life. Thanks for sharing with your readers…I’m sure you’ve helped a lot of people by writing about your health problems. Kudos to Fred Baby for everything he’s done to help get you back to where you are. Keep it up!!!
Kelly…I appreciate your honesty and confronting these debilitating conditions. Unless you have been through it, it’s nearly impossible to put into words but you did an amazing job…I’m so sorry for you and everyone who suffers in these situations and I applaud you and of course FB for tackling this bravely as a team! Cheers to you from someone who understands…Bravo!
Kelly, No one would have guessed that you were literally running for your life behind the scenes of that beautiful transformation on your home for Modernism; I visited that week, and every detail in every room was perfection. I told Christopher it was his best one yet! Having experienced situational anxiety in response to a difficult divorce, I felt your pain come through every word you wrote–and am so happy that there were loving supporters at every turn to guide you through it. I found that as well! Bravo for getting to the other side. Your blog and photos and clothes and beautiful table settings are as lovely as you are.
I’m so sorry that you have been going through such a difficult time and dealing with anxiety. I had no idea. I definitely relate to aspects of it and thank you for sharing your story. Missing you and wishing you health, happiness, peace and tranquility!
I needed to read this more than you know. Can you tell me where to find part 2 of your story?