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I'm Not a Bad Mom Just Because I Have Anxiety

I’ve dealt with anxiety ever since I can remember. It wasn’t until 2014 that I was actually diagnosed and realized that not everyone’s brain functions the same as mine. I always thought it was “normal” to be on a car ride somewhere and visualize myself getting in a car wreck, police informing my family, they having to identify my body and then my entire funeral. Every single trip. 

Apparently it’s not. 

My anxiety only intensified after the birth of my son, along with my depression.  Again, having dealt with it since I was a kid, it was hard for me to decipher what was “normal” and what wasn’t. Long story short, my life spiraled out of control, my marriage fell apart, I started abusing substances and self-harming, all of which resurfaced after not engaging in such behavior for close to 10 years. 

Life was rough to say the least. 2016 was easily the worst year of my life and I look back in amazement that I made it out alive. I can’t begin to tell you the amount of times I was literally one second away from ending it all. I am so glad I fought through those moments.

So in the time that has passed since those incredibly dark days, I have had to learn how to live my life with anxiety and not let it affect me as much. Some days are harder than others.

We often see anxiety depicted as scatterbrained behavior, sweating, hyperventilating, etc. And sure, some of that does happen sometimes. The truth is, anxiety presents itself differently in everyone. 

For me, anxiety makes me shut down. I feel so overwhelmed that I literally can’t function.  My work is impacted, the housework is impacted, my attentiveness to my kids is impacted, my relationships are impacted — I just don’t feel like I can handle anything.

How does that look in the everyday life of a mother? Sometimes it looks like me distancing myself into some place dark and quiet, away from my family, because I’m afraid of the mess I’ll become if I hear “mom” one more time. Sometimes it looks like accidentally losing my patience with my 6-year-old when we both become frustrated during homework time because I feel like I’m failing. Sometimes it looks like shaky hands as I fill up my son’s sippy cup for what seems like the millionth time that day. Sometimes it looks like a sore formed on the inside of my lip that I’ve bitten for days on end without even noticing. Sometimes it looks like blank stares as my children bicker back and forth and I just try and black it out of my reality.  And sometimes, as hard as I try, it looks like tears rolling down my cheeks as I try to gather myself and just be mom. Some days it’s really difficult. Luckily these days, those really bad days don’t come too often.

I’ve had anxiety attacks where I can’t breath, can’t speak and the only thing my body seems to be able to do is sob. I’ve had attacks where I’m seemingly glued to the kitchen floor and can’t muster the energy to bring myself to my feet. The worst part is when I’m having those moments and can’t even really explain why. And when I do try and explain, it just doesn’t sound like that big of a deal. But I think that’s the thing about living with anxiety — simple things seem insurmountable at times. It doesn’t make sense. I know that. But it doesn’t make it easier.

These days, I’ve found that writing helps me on bad days. Something about putting words on a page is therapeutic. I’ve also learned that as hard as it is, communication is imperative. If I can feel myself spiraling I have to verbalize it. Saying it aloud makes it real, not just in my head; it validates it, and then allows me to work through it. It’s so important to have those people — whether it’s a spouse, friend or family member — that you can go to in those hard times that will not judge you and also help you get through it.

I’ve had people tell me that having anxiety makes me a bad mom. Even without those people, Lord knows I’ve had my fair share of moments that I’ve told that to myself. And in complete honesty, when I wasn’t dealing with it in a healthy way, I wasn’t a good mom. But the truth is, being a mom with anxiety doesn’t make you any less of a mother. Some of us just have an extra hurdle to jump. 

I love my children with every fiber of my being. They are the light of my life. And on my particularly bad days where I feel like I’m drowning I am still a good mom. I’ve had to learn the best ways to deal with my anxiety, which is different for everyone, but learning those things was so important to me because of my kids. They will grow up knowing that there is nothing to be ashamed of if you struggle with your mental health. They will grow up having compassion for others who deal with things that may not be obvious to everyone. They will grow up understanding that people battle with things we might not understand. They will grow up and one day understand that their mommy was a warrior who fought some of the hardest battles all by herself.

I am a mom. I am a good, loving mom. I am a mom with anxiety.

Follow this journey here.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

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Getty image via Halfpoint