I have struggled with anxiety since I was about 9 years old. Although, back then, I had no idea that’s what it even was. Ever since I was a little girl, I always had trouble with change. My first memory of this was in elementary school. I was in fifth grade and about to make the transition into middle school–that meant a new building, all new teachers, and new faces. When the first day of sixth grade arrived, my body didn’t know how to handle it. I felt so sick to my stomach and would just cry on the stairs uncontrollably. I was constantly late to school because I would lock myself in the bathroom, giving my parents no other option than to drive me in late. Once I got into the routine at school, those feelings diminished…but they resurfaced when it was time to transition to high school, and the cycled repeated itself.
I continued to go through life suffering with this unknown anxiety, always brought on by big changes in my life. I never really thought of it to be a major problem until it led to my eating disorder. Losing weight became a subconscious obsession. The thought of food or gaining any weight increased my anxiety and also accelerated my weight loss. It wasn’t until I began to seek help (unwillingly at first) through counseling, that we discovered I had been dealing with anxiety nearly my whole life. I saw a counselor for about a year to try and deal and work through my eating disorder. That was about five years ago. I no longer see a counselor, but I have an amazing support system. My mom and my sister are my rocks.
Flash forward a few years–I meet the man of my dreams. We dated for over three years, got married, and a month later got pregnant. One of my biggest fears during pregnancy was having postpartum anxiety/depression. I knew that I was more susceptible to it because it was something I have already dealt with most of my life. I was stricken with anxiety my whole pregnancy: fear of miscarriage, fear of my baby’s healthy, and fear of stillbirth (just to name a few). My diagnosis with Cholestasis led to a lot of my anxiety.
June 15th I gave birth to my son, and he was perfect. I couldn’t have been more in love. But, it didn’t take long for anxiety to take over my life. I relied fully on the nurses to care for my son while we were in the hospital. I was unable to breastfeed because Jackson had trouble latching, and I wasn’t producing a proper milk flow…which I blame a lot on my anxiety. The day we left the hospital, I balled my eyes out. My mom was waiting for us at our apartment, and I just remember asking her, with puffy eyes, if she could stay the night and help me. I cried–no, sobbed, every single day for the first four months of my son’s life. I was constantly staying at my parent’s house because I was terrified to be alone with my son. Not because I was afraid that I would harm him, but because I felt so inadequate as a mother. I felt like I did everything wrong. Any time he cried, I felt as if it was my fault, and that I wasn’t giving him what he needed. The cries and lack of sleep only heightened my anxiety.
I never slept at night because I was constantly checking to make sure he was still breathing. If my son was in his swing and I had a blanket on him, I had to take the blanket off of him if I left the room–even if it was for a brief minute to run to the bathroom. I would have visions of the blanket somehow draped over his face and returning to find him suffocated. Whenever we drove in the car with my son, I had to sit in the backseat with him because I needed to have my eyes on him 24/7. Any odd noise he made, I would call the pediatrician because I was so afraid that if I didn’t call them, something would happen to Jackson. These are just a few of the many, many irrational fears I had.
Anxiety stole those first few precious months from me and my son. I couldn’t enjoy my baby the way you are suppose to. That still leaves a pit in my stomach and a knot in my throat. It angers me that I let my anxiety control my life.
Thankfully through prayer and support from my loved ones, my anxiety has gotten much better. But, anxiety is still a part of my life. I still have moments throughout the week where I fear and worry about little things, or about my ability as a mother. However, I am learning now to talk it out immediately instead of letting it build up and consume my whole day. I no longer want to allow anxiety the satisfaction of destroying all of my days. I refuse to let anxiety take away any more of my precious time with my son. As I am approaching the birth of my second son, I want to take all the proper steps and precautions in order to avoid the same thing from happening again. I lost precious months with my first and I will not let it happen again.
Anxiety sucks. But if you are reading this and you also struggle with anxiety, please know that you are not alone. Figure out what works best for you and seek help. Personally, I find what helps me the most is talking and venting it out. Sometimes just hearing myself talk out loud helps me think more rationally. I also find my strength and comfort through seeking the Lord. He is my Rock and Safe Place. When I am having an anxiety attack or just feel completely overwhelmed, I go to a quiet place and listen to worship music. And lastly, show yourself grace. We are the hardest on ourselves. This journey won’t be easy and it won’t be perfect. We need to be kind to ourselves. Self love and self care is so important. Anxiety does not make you weak, and it does not make you a bad mother or person. We need to stop letting those lies rule our thoughts and perception of ourselves.
So, lets fight together and beat anxiety. You are strong. We may lose the battle sometimes, but, we will never lose the war.
“I cried out, “I am slipping!” but Your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me. When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.” Psalms 94:18-19