mama musing // mental health

Through my life anxiety has always been a constant, it wasn’t until my 30s that I realized that it was something as big as it was. For the past 20 years I have let anxiety creep into, and affect my life.

Anxiety is no joke, depression and anger can get triggered when you start to think, “hey, what’s wrong with me?! Why can’t I just be normal?” I have always wanted to share this, almost as a disclaimer for anyone who has known me, but always hesitated at being that vulnerable. But after this week, I didn’t feel right not putting what has been so hard for me into words.

Really I want to start by saying I am sharing my story, not diagnosing, suggesting treatments, but just sharing how I finally feel. In my 30s I am figuring out my anxiety. I wanted to share it as a part of my journey, because with anxiety and depression, your head can be a terrifying place. I have found that writing out my thoughts and emotions helps me to understand them, and as my doctor suggests, recognize what triggers my anxiety, recognize what those emotions feel like so I can work through them, instead of being paralyzed by them.

My anxiety has ruled my life for so long, and it has not been until I had my daughter that I really was able to give my greatest demon a name. I also was diagnosed with a MTHFR gene mutation shortly before my pregnancy that, among one of its many talents, can cause a feeling of anxiety and depression.

My anxiety hindered my ability to enjoy social settings, but the worst of it was high school/college and after the birth of my daughter.

When I was in high school I had such a debilitating loneliness, and anxiety of fitting in that I almost hid from social settings. It lead to feelings of inadequacy about my appearance, which formed into a need to hyper-control food, that toed the line of a disorder. It’s the anxiety that ruled my first relationship that stretched the end of high school and through all my years of college. It lived in my friendships.

It was the anxiety that lead me to end that relationship because I was sure that the loneliness that came from my anxiety something I was lacking. I was also going through some health issues that heightened that anxiety. I was to the point that I would count the minutes at a restaurant, sweating, praying, that I made it to the end of a meal without being ill. I was scared to be anywhere but my house.

Even recounting these times, brings me flashbacks of how incredibly overwhelming those feeling were. Wondering if I could really go on. My mid-twenties were incredibly fun, but full of sadness. I blamed my anxiety on my long relationship, but I know now I was trying to blame it on something other than myself, I wasn’t ready to admit it was me. I was scared. I ran away to Philly, of course acting as though it was a big strong decision, I thought I could will my anxiety away.

Some good came of this, I got to see that I could survive out of my comfort zone. I developed a confidence I was missing, but once the new and shiny wore off, my anxiety was still there. Feeling lonely, anxious and self-doubt. In this time I got married and lead me to my most recent occasion where my anxiety nearly flattened me, the birth of my daughter.

I had a pretty easy pregnancy, with the exception of my 1st trimester which was incredibly emotional. I was taking a folic acid supplement, on recommendation from my doctor, and suffering wild fits of severe sadness and anxiety. Mix these feelings with a hard time at work and I was a mess. I soon found out folic acid was one of those MTHFR triggers of anxiety. I quickly stopped taking my supplement, and aside from the normal new mom jitters I felt good. It was the Postpartum Anxiety that I was not prepared for.

I thought my anxiety was something I had grown out of, but lack of sleep and losing the ownership of my body to a small human was crippling. I found myself scheduling mommy and me yogas and panicking outside the class refusing to go in. I would be so tired and sure that I was failing as a mother that I would look at my daughter and apologize for my weakness.

Through all these years, through all these experiences I said nothing. I wasn’t until the fog of the fourth trimester lifted, that I began to recognize what I was struggling and what had been there all along.

I finally opened up to my husband, explained the what I had been feeling. I am still not sure I have told anyone the worst of it, but I am still getting there. He has helped me see that what I am experiencing is not just a phase, or that I am just off, that there is something I can’t control that is affecting my life.

I have found that through seeing my daughter grow up, and seeing her intense love for me, that I want to be proactive about taking care of my mental health. I have found in motherhood, that time goes so fast and this little life I am helping shape is a sponge of emotions around her.

I am in a more open and honest relationship with my doctor, after a 4 hour anxiety attack I knew I needed professional help. I have also found that not being afraid to verbalize my anxiety and share with those around me has helped calm my mind during attacks. Seeing and hearing that I am not alone, has been amazing. Surprisingly social media has brought me to a world of women whose openness and honesty with their own struggles has helped me feel less alone.

I am learning to manage, I am lucky that through all of this I had people who loved and supported me. I am lucky that there was always someone there. I am sad to think that there are people who can’t find their way out, and it’s heartbreaking to hear suicide is their only means to end their pain.

I guess through all of this ramblingI want to say that if you feel this way your are not alone. I also do not want to hide that in these times there were great moments of happiness and love, that’s the scary part of anxiety.

I am feeling more prepared to move forward and find balance. If you are unable to find that, or still feel like there is too much darkness, please reach out to someone. The National Suicide Hotline is there 1-800-273-8255.