Parenting with an anxiety disorder

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[Another cross-post from my other blog.  In previous posts I’ve linked to this blog but feel I’d rather keep it more private.  I decided to post this as I am going through a lot of anxiety issues with my son at the moment and with myself.  I have suffered with anxiety for a long time and felt it more intensely when pregnant and in the postpartum months.  More specific content to Mommy Is Exhausted coming soon.  In the meantime– here is a post I wrote in 2015.  A snapshot of my pregnancy with my second child.  This post was also featured on The Mighty.

I tucked my 2.5 year old into bed last night, I softly sung the words of rock and bye baby to him while cuddled up to him so tight.  I rubbed his hair… I kissed his rosy cheeks.  After some pillow talk he fell asleep.  I held him closer.  I looked at him.  So innocent, so sweet.  Listening to him breathe in an out, I whispered into his ear… “I’m so sorry for being me.”

Earlier in the day he had jumped into the front seat of my car while I was trying to get him inside from preschool.  He was pretending to drive the car.  I was so stressed.  It was cold, I am so pregnant, I just wanted to get him inside so I could sit down.  I didn’t want to stand in the cold.  He laid on the horn.  I looked around to make sure no one was disturbed by this and I yelled at him.

“Mommy said no!”

“Stop!”

I felt my anger building.  I threw down all of the stuff I had in my hands and I pulled him out of the car.  He threw a fit in the middle of the road.  I hated this moment.  I hated that he wouldn’t listen.  I hated that I couldn’t stand to be out there any longer and I hated mostly that I couldn’t “enjoy the moment.” A moment that he was enjoying so much.

Anxiety robs you of so many precious moments.

So what is there to be anxious about in this moment?  Well, its not necessarily one trigger in one moment… it is the anxiety that builds all day, every single day.

You grow tired.  You physically hurt.  You cry.  You obsess.  You struggle with simple decisions that others wouldn’t think twice about.  You wake up every morning wishing it were bed time.  You count the days until it is the weekend when you can have some help.   You cry because you hate feeling that way.  You feel guilt.  You have a wonderful husband, a beautiful child and one on the way.  You have a steady job, a home.  You live comfortably.  You are blessed.

You are ungrateful? That’s what you will tell yourself.  Reality? You are plagued by your own mind.

Anxiety robs you of peace of mind.

There is never a moment in one day that you feel at ease.  You will check everything 100 times.  You will look for potential dangers and you will fix them.  You will worry about 10 minutes from now and 10 hours from now and 10 years from now in 1 minute.  Your mind will race and you will be completely exhausted.  You are a problem solver in your mind.  If you don’t fix it all RIGHT now, it wont get done and something terrible will happen and it will be your fault.  When someone, anyone, breaks your train of thought… you will lash out at them.  Don’t they see how important it is that you figure EVERYTHING out RIGHT NOW?

Unfortunately it might be that sweet, innocent, rosy cheeked 2 year old asking for more milk, or trying to jump on you for attention.  You love him so much and you’re trying to solve any potential problem… for him.  All he wants is a glass of milk and a hug.

Why is this so hard?

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Repost: My postpartum experience

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Stock Photo.  Posed by Model.  Freeimages.com/Anna B.

[This was originally posted on my other blog and was featured on The Mighty .  I decided to share it here to help other mothers in a similar situation.  Postpartum depression, OCD and anxiety are difficult.  You CAN feel better.  I implore you to reach out to a friend, family member or medical professional if you are suffering.  xoxo.]

Night time is here and as I sit here with a soon-to-be 8 month old,  sleeping peacefully in her rocker, I think back on the day’s events.  This is a routine for me.  I get my daughter to sleep, zone out for a bit reading articles/news/social media and before I get started on my work for the night I take a moment to reflect on my day.  Today I got to catch up with an old friend.  We chatted about her work, my work, day to day lives, our husbands and then my kids.  My daughter showed off her new crawling skills and even managed to kick my friend’s coffee cup out of her hand, spilling coffee all over her sweater. (This is why my wardrobe consists of leggings and t-shirts.) I stared at my daughter as I often do, beaming with pride over how fast she’s becoming so mobile, and then thought about how last week she wasn’t crawling at all.  It seemed like yesterday that I was just bringing her home from the hospital.  I shared this with my friend and before I knew it I was telling her all about labor, delivery and the horrible postpartum depression and anxiety I suffered through.  It is not my favorite part of this life I am building with my little one, but it has been an important part.  I’ve learned a lot from my suffering.

I’d been in labor for about 17 hours.  The time was finally here to push and after only two pushes, the doctor was throwing my little girl onto my chest.  I remember feeling the weight of her little body resting on me and being so relieved the pain was finally over.  I kissed my husband, cried, looked at her, cried some more… and then I asked the doctor if I was bleeding too much.  From that moment on, for the next few months — everything would be one giant blur.  The minute my body recognized I was no longer pregnant and the hormones did whatever the hormones do, I was not the same.  I obsessed over my postpartum bleeding.  I convinced myself I was swelling and that my blood pressure would sky rocket.  I called the nurse in every few minutes to examine the swelling in my feet (there was none).  My brain was on a roller coaster that had no end.  I couldn’t stop obsessing.  I couldn’t stop crying.  I didn’t sleep for the next two days at least.

I knew that I shouldn’t have left the hospital without being put on some sort of brain medication but I was so set on breastfeeding.  I had the Solly baby wrap, I had the breast pump.  I had everything I needed to be supermom.  I was going to breastfeed her for a year.  I was going to conquer this crippling anxiety because I had to.  I got home and I collapsed.  I couldn’t sleep.  I couldn’t eat.  I couldn’t do anything but cry, shake, panic, pace.  I couldn’t see my postpartum bleeding without feeling sick and having a panic attack.  I called the hospital nearly every night after I was discharged.  I called to ask if things I was experiencing were normal.  I called because I had a temperature of 99-something even though the handout I was given said to only call if it was above 100.4 .  I took my temperature exactly 200 times that night.  My husband grew concerned and called my parents.  I was losing my mind.  I was trying so hard to control my thoughts and feelings but they were so far gone at this point.  I was unrecognizable.

Only a week after having my daughter I got a minor infection and had to take antibiotics.  I had to stop nursing temporarily so she wouldn’t be exposed to the medication.  I started my daughter on formula.  This was my breaking point.  I hated myself.  I couldn’t do anything right.  The world was cruel in my eyes.  I’d wanted nothing more than to breastfeed and here I was, only 1 week postpartum and I was already “giving up.”  I told my parents that I was a horrible mother.  I lashed out at my husband…I didn’t want to exist.  I was so ashamed of myself.  I was so sorry for my daughter.  She deserved a mother that was so much better.  She deserved a mother that had her life together.  The hatred for myself surpassed everything.  I couldn’t even look at her.  My husband would take care of her and offer her to me.  I kept telling myself to hold her… take her… cuddle her.  I told myself to like it.  The truth was– she reminded me of what a failure I was.  When I recognized that I “didn’t want to hold her,” I knew something was definitely off.  I needed help.

For 6 straight weeks after delivery I was never alone.  I had an AMAZING support system.  My husband, my family, my friends.  They were all here.  Someone stayed with me constantly.  They helped take care of my babies and they helped take care of me.  My OBGYN called to check on me.  She saw me every time I called my doctor’s office with some new irrational fear.  She talked me through my postpartum depression.  She built me up.  My psychiatrist listened to my fears about medication and relayed to me her own postpartum experiences.  A member of her staff even came to my car to talk to me when I was sobbing too hard to go into the building.  My therapist, a Godsend, has helped me every step of the way.

As I sit here nearly 8 months later I can’t help but feel grateful for my experience.  I know that probably sounds completely crazy– but its true.  I learned from my postpartum depression and anxiety that every mother’s story is different.  This idea of the perfect mother I had in my head was just that, an idea.  It wasn’t reality.  Motherhood is messy.  Life is messy.  It never goes to plan.  I was dealt a hand of crappy cards.  My hormones were out of control.  They were bigger than my obsessive need to control them.  Because I couldn’t do it alone, did not make me a failure.  The important thing was connecting with my daughter.  The important thing was being happy and healthy for myself and for her.  I wasn’t currently the mother she deserved but I could get there.  I worked hard the next few months to get on medication that helped me level out.  I made sure to get some sleep.  I meditated.  I went to therapy.  I prayed.  I survived.

My relationship with my baby is better than I ever could have imagined.  She and her brother are the lights of my life.  They are the joy I feel in my heart every single day.  I am so blessed to be their mother.  All of those days I spent worrying about the bond that would be destroyed between my daughter and I were for nothing.  She loves me.  She smiles when I smile.  She laughs when I laugh… she knows my heart.  She knows I always loved her and will always love her, even when my mental health issues overwhelmed me.  Postpartum depression and anxiety are scary, hard and exhausting.  It is so important to see a doctor, build a support system and ask for help.  They say it “takes a village to raise a child.”  My village saved me.  And because I’ve been through such a dark time, the good times are now just a little bit brighter than they would have been.  I can see how fortunate I am and feel that gratitude on a new level.   I experienced postpartum depression and anxiety.  Something I can now say without shame.  I survived postpartum depression and anxiety.  Something I can now say with pride.