5 Things That Happened When My Anxiety Met Motherhood
Millions of people struggle with anxiety. The emergence of this delightful nuisance and its symptoms and severity are unique for each individual. Growing up with it, you might learn your triggers, learn to understand what it is and, most importantly, learn to accept it and yourself. Then, when you finally feel like you have reached an accordance with your anxiety, boom — you add something to your life that throws you off balance, like a baby. That little tornado brings such a change to your life that you may feel your loss of control is immeasurable. Since the addition of my little one, I have noticed and noted the following motherhood anxiety triggers:
1. Fear of judgment.
As a first-time mom with no experience with anyone under the age of 13, I was terrified of what people would think of every little thing I did. When I say “people,” I’m being extremely inclusive — strangers, doctors, friends and family. I didn’t want to leave the house because I was scared I would appear “inattentive.” I didn’t want to allow myself to cry and feel the postpartum feels because I feared I would seem ungrateful. I wanted to always hold the baby in public to show I was a “good mom.” Even today when I post on social media, I edit, re-edit, then question if someone will think less of me because of that post. It’s important to take a step back and realize no one’s opinion matters. Social media is filled with trolls and perfect moments. Sometimes, taking a break from Facebook and Instagram does wonders.
2. Extreme self-doubt.
Every mom probably experiences self-doubt. For us anxieters (I’m coining the term), obsessing over every single decision is a biggie. Anxiety is like obsession; it’s overthinking and doubting. Did I let the baby cry it out too long? What if this nap will keep him up all night? Then I won’t get sleep and I won’t be able to function at work and I’m never going to feel rested again. The spiral only leads to a gray, foggy place. Take a moment, step away, breathe and realize this freak-out is just temporary. Every decision you make is not going to be brought up when your kid is in therapy at 25 years old. Some will, but not all of them — just kidding! We will make mistakes and we will learn from them.
3. Need for validation.
We all want to know we are doing a good job at this mom thing and we are killing it in all other areas (whether it’s appearance, profession, fitness, cooking, etc.) However, the need for validation can be extreme for a person with anxiety. Sometimes, we feel like we aren’t enough. Unfortunately, our need for validation can be annoying to others … which leads to more insecurities. Every day is different — one day you may feel like a superwoman, conquering every task with confidence; then the next, you want confirmation regarding every minute decision. No one is perfect and you are doing the best you can.
4. Search for balance.
How is it possible to maintain your relationships, work, the household, bills, a social life, physical fitness, social events and your sanity? Unfortunately, it’s not. Kids or no kids, this gets more difficult as we get older. Perfectionism is often a trait of people with anxiety. Attempting to maintain this balance will likely cause a break in sanity. It’s OK to say “no” and set boundaries. Trust me, this is so hard to do, but the people who love you will understand. Also, sometimes work needs to be just work. It’s important to prioritize and put things (and people) on the back burner sometimes. However, everyday priorities will shift and that’s OK!
5. Necessity of self-care.
I never knew the importance of this until I didn’t allot time for me. Lack of self-care often leads to darkness. Taking care of yourself is the light you need to find your way out of a hole. It can be in the form of the gym, a manicure, therapy, date with a friend or anything that helps you find and be you. Many anxieters are people-pleasers and put other people’s needs and feelings before their own. This is exhausting. Not everyone will like you and it’s impossible to make everyone happy. This is something I have a hard time accepting and struggle with every day. Your health needs to be your priority and it’s not selfish to put yourself first!
My anxiety and I have been together a long time. For most of my life, I’ve considered it a defect that makes me less appealing. I’ve always been vocal about it with my closest friends, and my parents have been supportive since it reared its ugly face at 6 years old. Luckily, the surge of mental health awareness has allowed many to come out of hiding. Becoming a parent changes us and, unfortunately, can cause an anxiety flare-up. Keeping the anxiety beast hidden is deadly; taming it is what allows us to move forward and conquer every day.
Getty image by tatyana_tomsickova