Anxiety is a real and awful reality. But it doesn’t have to rule your life.
Let me start off by saying that this is a difficult post for me to write.
There are many different people in my life that I always worry will think of me differently when I talk about having anxiety. I also know that there’s a lot of stigma attached to anxiety.
I realise that anxiety is “all in my head”. It’s a mental health issue. That doesn’t make it any less real.
As a Christian, I know that I shouldn’t be anxious. It’s literally in the Bible. But I’m also human and this is something I deal with every day.
As a woman, I fear that my anxiety will just be seen as something that I’m making up. Something I’m using for attention. Believe me when I say that this is not the case.
As a mother, I worry that people will judge me for letting my anxiety get the better of me. And that’s where I want to truly begin with this post.
The Anxious Mom
After having Matthew, I experienced what many moms experience. PSD. Post Natal Depression. I’m still dealing with it, but I believe it’s a mild form of PND which mainly seems to ramp up the anxiety I already have.
It all started with me feeling lost.
I think a lot of new moms feel this way. I had no idea how isolating, scary, tiring, and repetitive being a new mom would be. If I’m being entirely honest, I thought I was losing my mind.
Thankfully, I wasn’t alone. Daniel was here to support me, but when it came to the feeding, cleaning, sleeping routine that repeats over and over and over… it was all on me. I felt myself slipping away like I had no idea who I was anymore.
If you’re sitting with a tiny baby in your lap right now and you’re feeling this way – IT’S TOTALLY NORMAL. YOU’RE NOT GOING CRAZY. IT DOES GET BETTER.
Anxiety has been something I’ve dealt with on a regular basis over the last few years. It’s something I’ve come to know, understand, and see the signs of. Unfortunately, what I wasn’t ready for, was the reality of being a mom with anxiety. I hadn’t even thought about it. Neither the intense hormones that surge after a baby is born which can completely rip you to pieces mentally.
Add to this the trauma of my birth experience (something I’m not yet ready to share on the blog here) and my new baby being in the hospital for almost 2 weeks after being born, and my anxiety was at an all-time high.
It was terrifying.
Facing the Facts
During a check-up with my doctor, someone I trust and love very much, I broke. I wanted to talk to her about potentially seeing a professional. Someone I could talk to about my traumatic experiences and why on earth I was crying all the time.
My doctor encouraged me to talk to her right then and there. And boy did I! I broke. It was like a floodgate had been ripped open. I sobbed in her arms. I shared everything. Every feeling, every fear, every moment just came spilling out like I had no hold on my mind and mouth.
As my doctor hugged me, she told me that everything I was feeling was normal. I wasn’t going insane after all. I just needed a little help.
She prescribed a mild medication to help with my anxiety. Not an anti-depressant, just something to help me stay calm.
At first, like a complete idiot, I didn’t take them. I wanted to deal with the anxiety and everything else on my own. I was a strong woman with a willpower that could fly me to the moon, right?! Wrong. I was foolish.
The Reality of Anxiety
If you’ve never had a tiny baby around, here’s something you may not know. Babies cry.
For no reason.
At the most inconvenient times.
When you’ve had very little sleep and your tiny baby starts to cry incessantly for seemingly no reason, it will put you on edge. To say the least. You see, babies have been designed to cry in such a way that it makes us uncomfortable. It’s God’s way of making sure that we don’t simply ignore them, but instead, jump up to do whatever they need.
If you’re a parent with anxiety, especially a new mom with a tiny baby crying in her very tired face, that cry can be the ultimate trigger.
I found myself crying in fear whenever my baby would stir while asleep. I was terrified of feeding him, burping him, changing his nappy. All of it scared me to fits of tears that I kept to myself.
When he cried, I felt myself shut down. I couldn’t deal with it. I would look at this crying infant and feel nothing. Or I’d cry too and just rock him, not knowing what to do next. It was hell. There were times I’d be shaking like a leaf and just had him to his dad. I couldn’t do what he needed me to do. I couldn’t do it. Thankfully, Daniel took over without a question.
But I felt like the worst human on the planet.
I wasn’t being a mother. I was a scared shell of myself, disgusted by my lack of love and compassion whenever the anxiety flared its ugly head, and I didn’t want to be this person, this ghost.
If I made plans, I’d often cancel them and then hate myself for it. One day, I sat alone at home with Matthew, so tired of just sitting at home. So tired of being this robot that did the same thing over and over. I sobbed and sobbed. My chest literally shaking and all I wanted to do was die. That realisation scared me.
This is a photo I took of myself about a month ago. My anxiety was flaring and Matthew had just fallen asleep on my chest. My eyes are dead and my skin is grey. I’m not me. I don’t recognise the person in this photo.
If you follow me on Instagram, you wouldn’t know any of this was happening. I post photos of Matthew just about every single day. Either on my feed or on my Stories. It’s my way of holding on to the memories of this time that I know will end all too soon. And yes, I even shared the photo above, stating how tired I was…
Take the Medication
One day, about a month and a half ago, I decided to stop beating myself up and try the anxiety medication the doctor had prescribed.
And my life changed. I was on edge, my heart was racing, Matthew was vomiting non-stop thanks to reflux and I felt myself wanting to scream/cry/burst. My lips were raw from me biting them, I was picking at my skin, I had let the anxiety get the better of me.
Enough was enough. I popped one of the capsules into my mouth and about an hour later, it kicked in.
Suddenly, I was smiling, making jokes and swaying with Matthew in the kitchen while he laughed. I felt my heart rate return to normal, Matthew threw up and I laughed while cleaning him up because he’s just so silly.
Later that day, he cried and cried and I didn’t cry too. I just held him, hugged him, and loved him until it passed. Finally, I recognised myself again.
The medication didn’t change me or make me feel dull. It calmed the anxious part of my brain that wouldn’t let me live my best life. It shut up the part of me that doesn’t belong in my head.
Keep Your Head Up
I’ve learned that I don’t need to fight my anxiety or beat myself up when it flares. I know now to push it aside, step around my anxiety, put it behind me and keep moving forward. There are many ways that I do this. I pray, I breathe and I distract myself. But I also take my anxiety medication.
Thankfully, I don’t need to take the medication every day. I only need to take the meds when I feel the wave of anxiety start to crest. I know the signs.
When I need them, I take them. And it makes me a better mother.
If you suffer and struggle with anxiety, please please please – talk to someone. I can’t stress this enough. You’re worth so much more than what anxiety tells you are. I promise.