All of my life, I never had anxiety. I could go anywhere, do anything and would never feel the slightest worry. Then I had my son.
I remember the first time I felt any type of anxiety. It hit me all at once. It was in the hospital a few hours after I had my son. It was about 3 a.m. My husband was asleep and so was my son, I didn’t want to wake them. I remember standing beside the hospital crib where my newborn was and my heart started to race, tears started flowing and my chest felt tight. In that moment, I realized that it wasn’t just me anymore. I was responsible for a whole other person. Not only keeping him alive and well but I was responsible for the person he would grow up to be. I guess during my pregnancy I was so focused on what it would be like to hold him and kiss him that I didn’t realize the reality of it. The mental feeling that hits you in a dark hospital room. The emotional attachment that comes so quickly and you cannot imagine a life without them. Everything becomes so wonderful but so scary all so fast.
The anxiety would eventually subside that night but would reoccur every single night for months. I immediately became consumed in worry over SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). It’s rare. Very rare but that didn’t help what my mind thought. I would get up every few minutes in the middle of the night to check on him and make sure he was breathing. I would be on Google constantly researching statistics and factors that play a part in SIDS. Sleep deprivation was only making my situation worse.
On his first checkup about a day or so after we left the hospital, his pediatrician gave me a slip of paper with a few simple questions on it. One was asking if I felt depressed- I checked no because at the time, I wasn’t depressed. Another asked if I felt like harming myself or my child- Of course the answer was no. I wasn’t depressed then. I was anxious and those are different, right?
Six weeks later, it was time for my checkup at my OBGYN. I had spiraled down-hill even more. My anxiety was so bad and I didn’t want to eat or sleep or do anything besides hold my baby and make sure he was fine. I would have random outbursts of crying and my stomach was always in a knot. I was depressed. I decided to tell my doctor since I had came to know him very well throughout my pregnancy and felt like he would understand. I told him about how bad I worry and about how it was controlling me. It didn’t help that now I had a new fear of driving in the rain, especially with my child in the car.
I didn’t want medication. That makes me sound crazy- but I wasn’t going to go to a therapist because that also makes me sound crazy. Am I crazy? No. Those intrusive thoughts are exactly the problem. There was never a direct threat. Only the possibility of something happening that made me so upset.
I took the meds. However, I was very limited on what I could take because I was breastfeeding. They were Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI), not anything strong. I gave the medicine about 2-3 months to work but I never felt a difference. No helping or hurting or any difference at all. I was sure I was taking a placebo pill everyday- so I asked to switch to a different one. After about 4 more months of that not working either, I began other methods of anxiety relief and quit those prescriptions cold- turkey. Though I don’t recommend doing that because you could have some seriously negative side effects.
First was a CBD tincture and to my surprise, it was more effective than any medication. And no- It’s not marijuana, there’s no THC in any of the CBD products I used. I was doing good with this even though a good quality bottle of CBD can run you anywhere from $100-$300 but I still had problems occasionally.
By this time, the worry about SIDS was over so I could sleep. In fact, my son wasn’t an infant anymore and he was a fully functioning toddler. One that was bouncing off the walls and jumping off of beds. So there it was, my second worry. Now all I can think about is a head injury or a broken bone. Pretty soon I realized how tough toddler’s heads actually are and I could breathe again.
Then I saw a post from an instagrammer I follow about how her daughter suddenly died from brain cancer and that set me all the way off. Now I needed to get his eyes checked to see if the eye doctor sees anything unusual (because sometimes optometrists can see brain tumors). Now I need to monitor all of his vitals and inspect him for any sign of diseases. Now I can’t breathe again and my stomach is in knots again and I’m at a loss because I was doing so well for so long. Where do I go from here?
It was time to rewire my brain because it was apparent that I would never get to enjoy life like this. Every milestone he had would only bring me worry. Every time I leave him with his dad to go walk the dog would make me feel guilty for leaving him for that short amount of time because I would never forgive myself if something bad happened while I was gone. I was angry that I was always so worried. I was sad because I felt trapped in a cycle and I couldn’t stop it.
So I HAD to stop it. I have to accept that I cannot change everything and that worrying is only doing ME harm- it’s not helping him.
How do I manage anxiety?
I learned how to breathe. Really breathe. I learned how to stop a panic attack before it starts by breathing and grounding myself. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t think mediation was a bunch of bogus before I tried it but I’m telling you- it works. It’s not a savior though, I still have anxiety and I can’t give you a plan that’s going to eliminate it completely and immediately because I’m not there yet- but I’m way better than I was.
I don’t use medication still and I do use my CBD tincture occasionally but I’ve switched to herbal teas. After or during an anxious period, I’ll brew a cup of chamomile tea and it relaxes me from the inside-out. It’s especially good before bed.
I have people in my corner. You will always have people that are for you and people who are against you. Anxiety will make you not know which ones they are or even if you have any at all. I’ve been there. I’ve needed people who weren’t there. People who I thought were there for me have hurt me. So I have very few close people in my corner now but they are genuine. They are helpful. I couldn’t have been through this without them.
Other things that help me are regular exercise and drinking enough water. Vitamins are a big one too. Being deficient in certain nutrients can actually make you think you have severe depression or anxiety so really talk to your doctor. Eating healthy has a huge impact on mood too so I try harder these days to eat better and not to consume things with hormones! Sleep is a key factor in managing anxiety and depression but I still have work to do with this one.
Taking “self” time! Even if it’s a shower alone or taking the time to put on lotion after a shower, whitening your teeth or doing your makeup will help. Focusing on yourself just a little will make you focus on something besides worry and make you feel human.
The big one: limit or eliminate social media. The majority of social media posts are negative. Cut it out. Don’t read about things that would cause you to worry more. Even if it means unfollowing almost everyone. Do not let negative people cause you distress and this includes family. I’m telling you CUT THEM OUT. You do not have to continue to deal with it. You’re in control and you have the right to do what you need to for your mental health. I promise, you will wish you did it sooner.
There’s no right or wrong way to deal with anxiety or depression. Know when to get help and don’t be ashamed to. I’m still not where I want to be in my journey but I will always share the good, bad and ugly with any other mama out there. I will never try to give the impression that I’m perfect or that my life is perfect because it’s not. It’s perfectly imperfect though and these flaws give me a reason to share, encourage, and relate to others. Everyone has a different journey but some people make the same stops. I’m here for you.
You are loved.
You are enough.
You are valued.
You are allowed to mess up.
Your mistakes do not define you.
Your children will be amazing people.
Your children only care how you treat them and how much you love them.