I was recently asked to share a very personal post, which I was happy to do, but it took a lot for me to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, so to speak). While I’m waiting for the post to be shared, I thought I should share it on my own blog too. It’s speaking about anxiety, which to some degree I think I have (what degree that is, I am unsure). It took a lot for me to write because I don’t think until now I’ve ever truly acknowledged it before. I’ve talked about being ‘worried’ or ‘stressed’, but since becoming a mum I think I’m more aware that I have a heightened sense of anxiety.
Anyway, this is a bit of my story. I hope that it might help another mum – any mum – in their own journey. If you have any comments, feedback or reflections from your own story, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!
I’ve done a few different things since leaving high school (all related to working with children), and one of them was studying to work in a childcare centre. I was walking towards the centre where I was doing my first practicum, when I started to feel heavy in the chest and struggled to breathe. I was alarmed – What was going on? – I called my dad (he’s a paramedic), called the centre, and left for home. I didn’t think of it as any more than a bizarre feeling of being unwell. I assumed I was sick. I didn’t link it to the obvious feeling of worry, stress and horror I had earlier that morning before leaving home.
I’ve never been diagnosed, but I’m 99% sure I have anxiety to some extent. Panic attacks like this one have only happened to me once or twice, however I know that I stress and worry a lot more than the average person does. Generally it’s about the little things. My husband tries to help me by talking through these situations with me, and reminding me that yes, I do actually want to go and do things and socialise rather than live as a hermit for the rest of my life, but yet it still remains a constant struggle for me.
This was what I was like BEFORE becoming a mum. Can you imagine what I am like now that I am responsible for a tiny little human too?
My little boy was probably around 8 or 9 weeks old when our mother’s group discussed a trip to the movies. Of course, I immediately said YES because I love catching up with the girls and chilling at the movies (who doesn’t??). So I signed up, paid, and locked myself into the outing.
And then, of course, it got to the day before the trip. And the same thing began to happen that usually does before I do anything that I’m unfamiliar or uncomfortable with. I started to panic. I started to worry. I started to feel that heaviness in my chest at the very thought of going out (albeit not a panic attack). I considered cancelling, but then knew logically that would be silly (especially since I’d already paid!). I planned every part of the outing in my head – where was I going? Which way would I drive? Where would I park (this is constantly a big concern for me)? How was my baby going to be (he is the LOUDEST crier you will ever hear!)? What would I do if he completely lost it in the middle of the movie? How was I going to feed him? Should I take the carrier or my stroller? The constant wave of questions and worries washed over me, as it always did. But I went.
And the same thing happened that usually happens after one of these outings – I SURVIVED. And I ENJOYED it (shock horror, right?). Which of course made me sign up for the next one (which was awful but that’s a different story!!)
For me, having anxiety is kind of like feeling worried about something, ALL THE FREAKING TIME. Which is hard because it can make things a lot less enjoyable. It made the early days of motherhood a lot less enjoyable because I was worrying all the time. Especially since my darling little man screeches like a banshee when he wants to (just in case mummy and daddy weren’t paying attention!!). I was anxious about going out in public. I was anxious about going to mother’s group, in case he would cry in the small room (which he did – with 16 mums and bubs. Needless to say, we couldn’t hear the nurses speaking!). I was anxious about going shopping. I was anxious about catching up with friends, even in my own home.
Gosh anxiety sucks.
But I have found there has been one thing that has begun to burst the anxiety balloon for me. I was going to use the analogy of a bubble, but bubble’s burst instantly. Balloons can burst slowly if you poke them in the right spot. For me, I feel as though my anxiety is gradually getting better as a mum, like a balloon slowly deflating.
The thing that has helped me the most is the group of other mums alongside me. Call them what you will – friends, family, village, tribe. Whatever they are, they are getting me through this debilitating and crippling anxiety that sucked away the enjoyment of the early weeks of my son’s life. The mums that offer to catch up for coffee or cuddle my son when I’m tired; the mums who chat to me on instagram and Facebook and encourage me; the mums and friends who message me to say how great a mum they think I am (which I’m not sure about, but thanks ladies!).
While my husband is a true pillar of love and support, sometimes you just need another mum who has BEEN THERE. They’ve given birth to their child, they are home with them 24/7, they struggle with the same worries and concerns that I have (maybe not to the same extent, but still they’re there).
So if you’re struggling with anxiety one way or another, I want to encourage you to try not let that worry stop you from going out there and socialising with other mums (or if you can’t work yourself to that yet, join some mums groups on Facebook and Instagram – they’ll be awake at 2am like you!). Those mums will UNDERSTAND. They will ENCOURAGE. They will SUPPORT. They will offer you coffee and cake and walks. And you’ll find, like me, that it gets a bit easier to leave the house to go for an outing. And you’ll worry a little bit less about whether your son cries at the top of his lungs (except maybe that you want him to feel better!). If you’re unsure of who to talk to, find me and we’ll chat!
Find your mum village/tribe/sisterhood/circle. It’ll be the best thing you ever do!