After I wrote about my experience on coping with depression as a mom a few weeks ago, I had a lot of feedback wondering if I also experience anxiety in the motherhood role. I knew that no amount of research could ever write a post that would resonate with my anxious mama readers, so I asked one of my closest girlfriends to share her experience with it. Elizabeth Bauer is a science fiction and fantasy author (pick up her awesome The Gifted Series or the first book of her newest Zanite Chronicles here, and you can follow her on Twitter @ElizabethCBauer). She also struggles with chronic anxiety, which intensified after her son was born almost two years ago. Read on to look into the window of her life, as well as ways she lessens the effects.
Having anxiety is already hard enough on its own. It picks you apart all day, every day. It comes in different forms and affects each person in its own unique way. According to the Mayo Clinic, THREE MILLION cases of anxiety are recorded in just one year. That’s not including those who haven’t sought out professional help. With a number that large, it’s obvious that quite a few people who have anxiety are most likely moms too; whether they have multiple littles or if it’s their first.
Being a mom is hard, but add any type of mental illness into it…it becomes a hundred times harder. With most anxiety, there’s a constant voice in your head giving you doubt, irrational fears, and can make the simplest of tasks seem like the most difficult and complicated thing you’ll ever do. Sure all mom’s worry, but anxious mama’s…they are on an entirely different level.
Every. Single. Day. My mind decides to fight an invisible battle against its own self. My logical side tries to fight back, but it’s a never ending civil war. Which only intensified after I had my son. The irrational fears multiplied, along with the heavy feeling in my stomach and chest.
When I’m with my son, all I think about are the “what-if’s.” What if he isn’t eating enough? What if he gets sick? What if he chokes and I can’t clear his airway? What if he falls down the stairs? What if he finally pulls the dogs tail one too many times to make him snap? Then the more irrational and intrusive thoughts begin. What if there’s an accident on our busy road and the car crashes through the living room where he plays? What if the tree outside his window falls in the middle of the night? What if someone looks into our windows seeing the giant mess of toys, and calls CPS thinking I’m incapable of keeping my home clean and safe for him? The list is endless, and I know the chances of the more irrational things happening are pretty rare, but there’s always that “What-if.”
Then there are the moments when I’m at work and he’s home with his dad, where I have absolutely no control of what happens. This is probably the worst part of the day for me, because my non-mom anxieties flare up while I’m in public. So while I’m worried about being energetic and cheerful, my mind is slowly destroying me. I switch back and forth from thinking “don’t get fired I need this job” to picturing horrific situations my husband and son could get into.
It doesn’t get better when we’re all together either, because we are at that wonderful terrible—I mean—terrific two’s. One of the hardest things for me is when we are out and my son throws a tantrum in the middle of the floor at a restaurant or store. Then we get “that look” where I know…I just know, someone is judging me, and sadly it’s normally another mom. A few days ago, I actually had to carry my kicking and screaming son out of the store, and almost hyperventilated on the way to my car. Of course, we all understand how kids can be, but for someone with anxiety, the extra attention is not something I need.
Being in a continual state of anxiety is overwhelming. Even as I write this my mind is whispering how terrible it is that my son is watching a movie instead of playing with me, or learning something, like how to talk, which is a struggling point for us.
Littles take so much work and there are so many expectations, that it’s a perfect storm for an anxious mama.
I could probably write forever about my different anxieties, and what fuels them, but I also want to try to help anyone who might be struggling.
First I want to say, you’re doing a wonderful job. Your little ones’ love everything you do for them, even if you think it’s never enough. I wish I had all the answers. I wish I knew exactly what to tell you to help…but I don’t. The tips I share are the things I try. They don’t always work, but we have to start somewhere.
One thing I try to do first, is remind myself that not all of my fears are illogical, but they are irrational. I remind myself that he’s okay. That my fears won’t come to life and get him like a monster under the bed. If that doesn’t work, I hug my son. I know that seems like such an odd way to deal with anxiety, but for me it helps. By giving hugs, kisses, and cuddles, I feel like it helps reassure him that he’s loved. Even if Mama needs to take a step away to breathe, or even cry. At least if I can show him as often as I can that he’s loved, and that I would climb the steepest mountain to make sure he’s happy, I can soothe the beast in my mind that doubts that, for even just a moment.
Journaling is another coping mechanism that can come in handy. Write down the things making you anxious. Get it out some way to try to relieve the pressure.
Talking to someone, especially a professional, is probably the best solution. I personally don’t, because on top of my mama anxieties, I have social anxiety. I have wanted to talk to someone for years. I have even looked therapists up, but never follow through. I just can’t right now, but maybe you can, and it will help.
Lastly, confide in your partner. Let them know the most ridiculous thing that runs through your head. Chances are they can help you calm the monster within. You did choose them for a reason, right?
So next time the storm in your mind builds, remember you’re an amazing mother, and your little ones adore you. Even if you take a moment to cry or glance at your phone for even the smallest distraction, they will still love you, and they will still smile at you like you’re the best person in the world.
Being a Mama is hard. Being an anxious Mama is even harder.
You’re not alone in this never ending battle, and your anxiety doesn’t define you.
Thanks for being vulnerable and sharing so much, Elizabeth!
Visit Elizabeth on Twitter @ElizabethCBauer, or on Amazon.