I’ve dealt with anxiety ever since I can remember. It wasn’t until 2014 that I was actually diagnosed and realized that everyone’s brains didn’t function the same as mine. I always thought it was normal to be on a car ride somewhere and visualize myself getting in a car wreck, police informing my family, they having to identify my body, and then my entire funeral. Every. Single. Trip. Apparently it’s not! My anxiety only intensified after the birth of my son, along with my depression. Again, having dealt with it since I was a kid, it was hard for me to decipher what was normal and what wasn’t. Long story short, my life spiraled out of control, my marriage fell apart, I coped by using Xanax (prescribed, but abused), drinking at least two bottles of wine a night, and self- harm, which resurfaced after not engaging in such behavior for close to 10 years. Life was rough to say the least. 2016 was easily the worst year of my life and I look back in amazement that I made it out alive. I can’t begin to tell you the amount of times I was literally one second from ending it all. I am so glad I fought through those moments.
So in the time that has passed since those incredibly dark days I’ve had to learn how to live my life with anxiety and not let it cripple me. Some days it’s harder than others.
Often we see anxiety depicted as scatterbrained behavior, sweating, hyperventilating, etc. And sure, some of that happens sometimes. The truth is that anxiety presents itself differently in everyone. For me, anxiety makes me shut down. I feel so overwhelmed that I literally can’t function. My work suffers, the housework suffers, my attentiveness to my kids suffer, my relationships suffer… I just don’t feel like I can handle anything.
How does that look in the everyday life of motherhood? Sometimes it looks like me distancing myself into some place dark and quiet, away from my family, because I’m afraid of the mess I’ll become if I hear “mom” one more time. Sometimes it looks like accidentally losing my patience with my six year old when we both become frustrated during homework time because I feel like I’m failing. Sometimes it looks like shaky hands as I fill up my son’s sippy cup for what seems like the millionth time that day. Sometimes it looks like a sore formed on the inside of my lip that I’ve bitten for days on end without even noticing. Sometimes it looks like blank stares as my children bicker back and forth and I just try and black it out of my reality. And sometimes, as hard as I try, it looks like tears rolling down my cheeks as I try to gather myself and just be mom. Some days it’s really difficult. Luckily these days, those really bad days don’t come too often.
I’ve had the anxiety attacks where I can’t breath, can’t speak, and the only thing my body seems to be able to do is sob. I’ve had the attacks where I’m seemingly glued to the kitchen floor and can’t muster the energy to bring myself to my feet. The worst part is when I’m having those moments and can’t even really explain why. And when I do try and explain, it just doesn’t sound like that big of a deal. But that’s the thing about living with anxiety. Simple things seem insurmountable at times. It doesn’t make sense. We know that. But it doesn’t make it easier.
These days I’ve found that writing helps me on bad days. Something about putting words on a page is therapeutic. I’ve also learned that as hard as it is, communication is imperative. If I can feel myself spiraling I have to verbalize it. Saying it aloud makes it real, not just in my head, validates it, and then allows me to work through it. It’s so important to have those people, whether it’s a spouse, friend, or family member, that you can go to in those times that will not judge you and also help you get through it.
I’ve had people tell me that having anxiety makes me a bad mom. Even without those people, Lord knows I’ve had my fair share of moments that I’ve told that to myself. And in complete honesty, when I wasn’t dealing with it in a healthy way, I wasn’t a good mom. But the truth is, being a mom with anxiety doesn’t make you any less of a mother. Some of us just have an extra hurdle to jump. I love my children with every fiber of my being. They are the light of my life. And on my particularly bad days where I feel like I’m drowning I am STILL a good mom. I’ve had to learn the best ways to deal with my anxiety, which is different for everyone, but learning those things was so important to me because of my kids. They will grow up knowing that there is nothing to be ashamed of if you struggle with mental health. They will grow up having compassion for others who deal with things that may not be obvious to everyone. They will grow up understanding that people battle with things we will never understand. They will grow up and one day understand that their mommy was a warrior who fought some of the hardest battles all by herself.
I am a mom. I am a good, loving mom. I am a mom with anxiety.