Messy, Blessed Life of an Anxious Mom
I started showing signs of anxiety when I was a teenager and I always found my own ways to cope. Whether it was avoiding my triggers, making lists or planning ahead; I was always able to function. I never thought of myself as “struggling with anxiety”. I just thought of myself as a “worrier”. Growing up, I dreamed of being a mother but I never thought my anxiety would interfere with my parenting. I could not have been more wrong. Parenting is difficult enough and if you add anxiety to the mix, it’s a whole different ball game.
Leaving the hospital with my first son, I was so confident that I was going to have everything under control. I was extremely organized and I always had a plan for everything so I did not think parenting would be any different. Well, my son started showing signs of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) when he was about two weeks old and my whole world flipped upside down. Having a child with GERD is not easy for any parent let alone one who was in denial about their anxiety and need for control. I completely hit rock bottom and was mentally and emotionally paralyzed.
After months of suffering, I finally went to see my doctor. I was diagnosed with postpartum depression and generalized anxiety disorder. I started going to therapy and I finally learned some real coping techniques to help me handle my anxiety. I have done a tremendous amount of growing as a parent living with an anxiety disorder, and I’ve learned different ways to manage.
My anxiety is very messy but so is parenthood and I had to learn to balance the two. My oldest son is almost 9 and my youngest is almost 5. I sometimes become easily overwhelmed. I have days where my mind is racing with anxious thoughts and my boys are running around the house like a herd of animals. I have become self aware of when I am reaching my limits and am able to remove myself from the chaos and noise. I take a timeout for myself by doing some deep breathing, exercise or just being still in silence. My children are my number one priority. But, to take care of them, I’ve come to understand that self care is just as important, especially when struggling with anxiety.
I have also learned that I can not let my fears get in the way of my children experiencing new things. One of my biggest fears was of one of my children getting sick. I would completely freak every time my first son would get a fever. My anxious thoughts had me thinking of the most catastrophic scenarios. Well, I definitely knew I had to work on that or else my kids would be stuck in our house forever. Little by little, I was able to conquer that fear. In fact, we went on a cruise when my youngest was only 14 months old and had the best time. Did I clean their hands pretty often? Yes, but I was so proud of myself for going on the vacation and letting go!
I always had difficulty making decisions before I had children, but this became even harder when I became a mom. My decisions now affect my children, not just myself. The weight of that pressure on my shoulders was extremely difficult to manage at first. I would always question my choices after seeing another mom doing the same thing differently. I learned over time that what is best for one family is not always best for another. I have to constantly remind myself of that.
Another challenge for me is being in the moment. My mind is often racing with thoughts and it’s very hard to be present. I realized that I was missing out on so much because I was always focused on my thoughts. I now try my best to turn off those thoughts and enjoy the moments with my children. It is not easy by any means, but I’m getting better at it every day.
I am so grateful for my boys because they are the reason I was finally able to take control of my anxiety. They help me to push my boundaries and challenge my anxious thoughts every day. I no longer put pressure on myself to be the “perfect mom.” I learned to accept that I am enough and I am doing my best.
You can follow Danielle on Instagram @mydearanxiety22.