Today I’m getting deeply personal and writing about something that has plagued me for as long as I can remember, but has become even worse since I became a mother: Anxiety.
It’s something that I struggle with on a daily basis but am also really good at hiding from friends, family, and you guys. Anel often tells me that he can’t even tell when I’m feeling anxious until I tell him or until it bubbles over into a full blown panic attack. Hiding it from the world is kind of my specialty which probably makes it worse, TBH.
A few years ago I shared my tips on overcoming anxiety and then what to do if you’re having a panic attack. But sometimes it’s not that easy. Sometimes all the yoga and meditation and acupuncture and smudge sticks and mantras in the world can’t help.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had anxiety in one form or another. As a kid it manifested in fears of everything from dogs to the dark. As an adult, it goes in waves from being really intense to completely livable. On my worst days, I’ll have a panic attack and pretty much can’t function, and on my best days, I’m anxiety-free.
After I had the baby, however, it’s been pretty much constant. Not panic attack constant, but constant. Because of my history, I feared that I would have post-partum depression or post-partum anxiety, incredibly crippling disorders that I’ve seen a few of my friends go through. To my surprise, I didn’t have either and although those first few months were tough, they were manageable.
But even though I wasn’t that bad, I was still bad. When I had to put her down at night, I’d get so nervous that she wouldn’t sleep that I would cry. When we would take her for walks in the stroller, my heart would beat so fast I thought it would pop out of my chest. Why? No idea.
Today, I’ve calmed down about a lot of things in regards to Amalia. What’s crazy is that while I’m physically with her or when we’re in a sticky situation like when she was puking and dehydrated, I can turn it off. Something that’s always been important to me is raising a daughter in a calm and happy environment and somehow that desire gives me the power to stay calm in times when I normally couldn’t.
Other things I get anxious about? I literally don’t even know where to start! From my social media engagement (I swear Instagram is the root of all my problems) to finances (like many people) to sleep (hello insomnia), anything can set me off. And the funny thing is that on certain days I can brush something off and on others it will shake me to my core. It has no pattern which is one of the hardest parts.
Although I’m calmer with the baby, the extra work that comes with having a child (extra work is the understatement of the century) has me feeling like I’m constantly treading water to stay afloat and I think that feeling is what brings on that feeling of being overwhelmed which is a major trigger for me.
What’s interesting to me is how my anxiety manifests itself physically.
Generally: My shoulders tense up, my heart beats really fast and I get kind of a buzzing in my head. This can last a few minutes or a few days depending on the intensity.
Insomnia: The worst physical aspect for me is insomnia. When I’m feeling anxious, I don’t sleep. And not like it takes an hour to fall asleep, more like I sleep for an hour or less all night. After weeks of that in a row, I feel like a complete zombie.
Back pain: I get terrible lower back pain when I’m stressed and have thrown my back out multiple times which is not a joke. If you’ve ever had a back spasm, you can relate. Usually now I can feel it coming on and lay down with a heating pad (when possible) to prevent it from fully spasming.
So what am I doing about it?
Anel and I have talked about my anxiety at length over the last few weeks. We’ve tried everything and finally agreed that I’m at a place where a therapist can probably help more than anyone else. I haven’t been to therapy in years (since my parents’ divorce), but I’m hopeful about the outcome! Every time I’ve tried conventional therapy in the past, it has made a world of difference. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes after a few months.
The reason I’m posting this is because I want people to know that what is posted online and on Instagram isn’t always indicative of what is going on in real life. I want anyone who has anxiety to know that you’re not alone.
I get messages all the time asking how I do everything I do so “gracefully”, but the reality is I’m completely overwhelmed. Like every new mom, it’s a daily struggle to balance work and motherhood, add anxiety on top of that and you have a seriously strong cocktail! I’m hoping that the steps I’m taking now will move me toward an anxiety free future.
If you struggle with anxiety, I’d love to hear what you do to combat it!