Here is my story of a darkness so thick, so threatening, and so suffocating. My story of darkness where I managed to find the light and rediscover who I truly was and what I was capable of. Any journey of anxiety is a difficult path, but there is a way through and I want to share my story in hopes it can help someone else.
Anxiety has been a visitor in my life before, but not quite like this. This time, I was older, wiser (I thought) and I was a student in grad school… I was supposed to have my shit together. Most importantly though, I was a mother. Anxiety had no place here, it was not invited, nor welcomed into my life. It came with urgency and it did not limit where it would wreak havoc in my life, it began to affect my work, my studies, my marriage. All of this I could deal with. I kept pushing this unwanted visitor out of the way and as I continued to push through and not address what anxiety was trying to tell me it seeped its way into the most important, the most protected, and the most valued part of me… My relationship with my children, my motherhood. And then it was dark.
It was so dark that I could not see, I could hardly feel anything besides the internal vibrating caused by the multiple alarm bells ringing in my body. The only thing I could hear was my own voice, scared, shaken, and shamed. I felt SO much shame! This period of panic, or anxiety, or fear, or whatever you want to call it made me feel so inadequate as a mother. I felt like I was failing and that my two darling children would surely become messed up because of this. I felt like they knew, that even they were judging me and comparing me to other moms. Let me just explain, my kids at the time were barely 4 and 2 years old – how could they have even possibly had the mental capacity to size me up? This was the constant battle I was fighting. Not only was I full of shame, but I was also recruiting shame further in my life by comparing myself to every mom I saw, every tv mom, and every insta-mom. Which we all know is a grossly unrealistic representation of what motherhood is (most of the time).
The anxiety got so bad, I ended up having a panic attack while driving on the highway with them. This was it I thought, I have officially failed as their mother. I am a failure. My kids deserve better than me. Then, the fear of not being able to keep them safe came on hard and fast like a storm that you only see in movies. I felt awful, I felt broken. I began to feel afraid of being alone with them, all the what-ifs!
What if I have a panic attack? What if I pass out? What if I just completely freak out and they witness that? It was fucking torturous being in my mind. Bless my sweet husband’s heart, he saw through the smoke and mirrors of anxiety, he saw through the fear, he saw through my pain, the tears, the ache in my stomach every morning when I woke he saw me. He never stopped seeing me and never stopped reminding me of who I was. As the kids lay asleep at night, I lay awake crying in his arms.
Here’s where it gets better…
I began seeking and actively participating in any and all known anxiety-reducing techniques. I somehow, through the darkness, saw even just the tiniest crack of light that assured me that it wasn’t over for me. I sought medical advice, read books, took vitamins, exercised, meditated, used oils, sought support from my Therapist and my closest family and friends. As I started feeling more and more like myself, the light began getting brighter too. I didn’t feel so afraid of the darkness anymore. Somewhere through the journey, I got closer to the darkness, even embraced it, learned from it, calmed it, and soothed it.
I realized that maybe anxiety was not out to destroy me, but thought that it could protect me or send me signs every now and again that things were out of place, that I wasn’t been authentic, and maybe that I needed a change or a breath. When I took the time to connect with, sit with it and understand it, it really didn’t seem scary anymore, we just had some work to do together to figure out how we would move forward in life without being destructive to each other.
I also discovered how incredibly strong and resilient I can be. I carried on with all of “mom duties” as usual through this period of craziness. I did not miss a beat, the kids made it to every birthday party, every school event, all of it! I still took them to the parks, family gatherings, baths, read stories, cuddled up for movies, and the whole nine yards. As I spend all this time in my head berating myself and feeling so much shame, my kids saw nothing of it. They still saw their kind, loving, involved mom doing all the mom things.
What seemed like an eternity, was in fact a brief moment in time. As time moved forward from those few months of hell, something amazing happened. I made some pretty significant changes in my life, my living situation, my studies. All of it. At times, I am even grateful for the darkness as it pushed me to grow, pushed me to live my life in an authentic way, made me re-evaluate what was really important in my life and what to let go of.
If you are reading this and you are struggling with anxiety and navigating parenthood, I would like to share these tips with you:
- Lean ON those you trust. Whether this is your family, Therapist, Doctor, friends. It is so important to share what you are going through. It allows you to release some of the heaviness you are carrying and it also gives those who love you the opportunity to show you- remind you of who you are and what you are capable of overcoming. You will also see that most of us are struggling or have struggled with anxiety, sharing our stories often encourages others to share as well, and then some of the “shame” we are carrying can also be released. We are human, we are in this together.
- Lean INTO the anxiety. This sounds so contradictory I know. When we lean in and embrace the anxiety, it begins to lose its power and fear, panic, etc that it riddles us with. If we can lean in, close enough to hear it whisper, we can begin to work with it to grow. I find this is best done with someone you trust and someone that has the knowledge and experience in inner work. Find a therapist you can connect with!
- Breathe, Breathe, Breathe. Practice deep breathing, mindfulness, mediation, or anything that helps you relax and calm your nerves. Create a playlist and listen to it on repeat, have a bath, take a walk! (you get the idea)
- Surround yourself with positivity. Let go of the insta-mom/Pinterest mom comparison, the truth is no one has their shit together as it is portrayed on social media. It’s merely the highlight reel of someone’s “best moments”.
You are doing the best you can, that is enough. Your children do not need the “perfect” mom, they need a mom that they can connect with, a mom they feel safe with, a real mom. You are enough.
You got this Mama 💙