What It's Like Being a Single Mom With Anxiety


Today at work, my coworkers were talking about how open and honest I am. I told them I have secrets, but I don’t think they believed me. I wasn’t lying. No one knows how much I struggle or how I question my worth regularly.

All they see is the woman who strives to find the positive, who goes above and beyond for truth and kindness. What they can’t see is the depression lurking in the darkness and the panic attack I swallow down with a smile. The only people who know my hidden companions exist are my children.

I already know what you’re thinking. My children? Of all people, why subject my young and innocent babies to such monstrosities? Please, before you judge, hear me out. I am a single mother of two. My daughter is 7, and my son is 5. Privacy is not in the job description for a mother.

When a panic attack takes control of my being, I attempt to hide in a dark, quiet place. A place where the kids aren’t likely to come looking, like the back corner of my closet — but that doesn’t always work. If you’ve ever had a panic attack, you know how frightening it is, even when you fully understand what’s going on. Well, having a panic attack while the two small beings who rely on your strength every day  are standing in horror watching goes something like this:

Panic!

I have to hold back.

Panic!

I have to be strong.

Panic!

Just take a deep breath.

Panic!

Be strong for them.

Panic!

Oh God, it won’t let up.

Panic!

Can’t catch my breath, my hands are shaking, it won’t stop.

Panic!

Quickly, take the medication. Sit on the floor, that corner will do. Quickly, fetal position.

Panic!

“I’m OK. I’m OK!” Just hold yourself tighter.

Panic!

“You’re not OK! No one to hold you but your own d*mn self. You’re weak. You can’t even

hold it together for them!

Panic!

Body rocking, hands shaking, the tears. Can’t breath. Just hold tighter. Closer to the ground. Stay grounded.

Panic!

They deserve better.

Panic!

They deserve better.

Panic!

They’re here. Watching. Not a word. They just sit by me in silence.

Panic!

They deserve better.

Panic!

Tears. So many tears.

Panic!

Questions. No answers. Please, go. I’ll be out in a bit.

Panic!

They deserve better.

Panic!

No more tears. Quiet breathes.

Panic!

They deserve better.

Panic.

They deserve more. They shouldn’t be burdened by it.

Panic.

My children deserve better than my panic attacks.

My daughter always finds me. She sits silently by my side in the darkness, holding my hand. She never asks a question or brings it up afterward, and I can’t help but feel guilty for unintentionally burdening her with my secrets. People commonly say you have the child you can emotionally handle, but when you’re a mother with depression and anxiety, I think sometimes you are blessed with the child who can handle you.

To my coworkers, and the world, I do have secrets. I just don’t want to keep them anymore. Depression and anxiety isn’t beautiful, but I no longer want to be ashamed of the silent burden I carry.


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Depression

doctor writing on a chart

To the Doctor Who Laughed When I Told Him I Was Majoring in Psychology

Dear Doctor, When I was 19 years old, I was no longer eligible to use my parent’s insurance. I had to go uninsured because insurance costs were sky high. Going uninsured means I had to visit your practice, which offered free or low-cost visits to you, a “family doctor.” I came to your office because [...]
an image of a woman and her dog standing in a doorway with text that says trust in yourself trust the process

Learning That Healing From Depression Is a Process

I have depression. I am not depression. I can be depressed for long periods of time, and I can be happy for long periods of time, too. I have depression. But I am absolutely not depression. Even if sometimes it feels that way. Even if sometimes it feels like it will succeed in crushing every corner of my mind. The dark periods can last [...]
woman wearing boots waiting for metro train

When I Heard Someone Say Some Depressed People 'Don't Want to Get Better'

Last night I heard a comment that, at the moment, hurt my feelings. The comment was not directed at me, so after stewing for a few minutes, my attitude changed from hurt to just plain sad. Sad about the gap that exists between those with depression and those without. The comment was about how some [...]
a woman covering her face with her hands

When Resisting Depression Makes It Worse

It’s one of those days. The pull to stay in bed all day and hide from the world is the only thing I can do. Nothing bad happened. No one hurt my feelings. I just want to disappear from this dread and despair. Depression. Today, it physically hurts. The anxiety I am carrying in my [...]