The other night in the middle of dinner, I had a breakdown. I had been feeling it coming on for a few days, but tried to push it aside… that is until I couldn’t anymore. I started crying hysterically. My heart was pounding. My breath got shorter. My husband took me tightly into his arms, and reminded me to breathe. Through my gasps, I told him about how terrified I was that I wouldn’t be around to see our daughter grow up. He held me, silently, as I sobbed. It was totally irrational and completely out of nowhere… but that’s the thing about anxiety – you don’t get to choose when it strikes.
I discovered my anxiety issues several years ago when it landed me in the emergency room. I’d been having mild chest pain and went to urgent care to make sure everything was okay. The doctor told me I seemed fine, so I left with little answers and a lot of worries. That night, I could feel my thoughts racing. I felt my arm going numb. I put on my headphones and listened to calming music and eventually drifted off to sleep. Not much later, I woke up abruptly with heart palpitations. Off to the ER at 1:00 am! I spent the entire car ride there trying to manage the onslaught of questions racing through my head. Was I having a heart attack? Was I going to die? It wasn’t until a week later, when I was back in the ER, that I got a clear diagnosis:
It looks like you’ve had a panic attack.
My anxiety isn’t present all the time. In fact, I can often go several months, sometimes even years, without any issues. You probably wouldn’t know I suffer from it by interacting with me, but when it rears its ugly head… its physically and emotionally debilitating.
Parenting is hard. Parenting with anxiety can be really really hard.
Parenting with anxiety may mean crying hysterically in the middle of dinner, seemingly out of nowhere, about how terrified you are that you won’t be around to see your child grow up. You can’t escape the thought because you are convinced it’s going to happen because you’re undeserving of the beautiful life you’ve been given.
Parenting with anxiety may mean that when your child cries, it feels as though a ball of energy is trying to escape you. You want to fix whatever is wrong but don’t know how and the crying is so difficult to hear that you eventually yell “STOP!” And then you see the look on your child’s face. The fear, and confusion, and sadness. And the only thing worse than the look on their face in that moment would be if they no longer had that look on their face if/when it happened again.
Parenting with anxiety may mean that every infection, abnormality, change in behavior, bump/cut/bruise feels like you’re going to lose your child. Every accident can make you so anxious that your entire body begins to sweat and you literally feel sick to your stomach.
Parenting with anxiety can feel isolating and scary and downright crazy. At this point, I can recognize the early changes taking place in my body and mind when I start to get anxious. Sometimes there’s a clear trigger; stress is a huge culprit, but other times, even I don’t know what’s causing it. Even so, I’ve learned that talking about it can make it feel like a weight is being lifted. That break down I had the other night? I was able to share that heavy load that was weighing down on my heart and my mind with my husband, and letting myself break down actually allowed my racing mind to finally rest.
If you’re a mom struggling with anxiety, please know: You are not alone. You are not less than. You are more than enough.