When someone tells me not to worry about something I can’t. Honestly, I really wish that I could. I might even pretend that I have in order to avoid an awkward conversation, but secretly I’ll still be thinking about it. Because I do worry.
Not knowing makes me feel like I can’t breathe, like I’m paralyzed. My chest gets all tight, I get dizzy, I get a headache and my mind will continue to spin and spin until I have the answer or the situation has passed. Do you know what I’m talking about? If you guessed anxiety you’re absolutely right.
I’ve suffered from mild anxiety my entire life. When I was younger I would get anxious if my Dad was home later from work or if I thought one of my school friends was mad at me. As I got older my anxieties became more work and relationship focused. However, my feelings were always manageable and the really intense anxiety would always pass.
It wasn’t until after my son was born that I realized I might have more than an average amount of anxiety. Going into Motherhood I assumed I would have all the normal worries regarding the health of the baby, nursing, sleeping etc. What I didn’t expect was to have a complicated delivery, a baby in the NICU for 3 weeks and my son home on oxygen for the first 4 months of his life. Seriously, talk about throwing your plans for a loop!
I became obsessed with my son’s health. I would set my alarm every hour to check his breathing, I would take his temperature 8+ times a day and I would record every other aspect of his daily life in meticulous detail. If anything was different from what I considered ‘ideal’ or from what Google told me was ‘normal’ I would panic. As any parent reading this will know, babies are strange little creatures who basically change their routines on a daily basis. For someone who suffers from anxiety, though, this is pretty much worst case scenario.
I can’t remember what exactly triggered me on the night I realized I might need professional help (foggy thinking is a symptom of anxiety), however, I do know I was sitting in bed, feeling like I couldn’t breathe while madly googling some baby related ailment. At this point my son was almost 4 months old and so this extreme behavior had been going on for a few months. My husband read me out a quiz about postpartum anxiety and suggested that perhaps it was time I talked to someone other than him as, regardless of what he told me, I couldn’t stop worrying.
Going to see a psychologist was scary, but it was also life changing. I was finally able to talk to someone who understood what was happening to me and could explain all the random physical symptoms I was having. Prior to going to see my psychologist, I didn’t realize how much my anxiety was hurting me physically as well as emotionally. My headaches, muscle aches, stomach upset…. yep, all anxiety. Through our sessions, I was able to learn to recognize when my anxiety was starting to reach an unhealthy level and I developed a toolbox of skills to help combat it. I also gained some insight into why my brain reacts to situations in that way and how, through retraining it, I can learn to react differently.
So why have I written this all down? My hope is that through reading this I might be able to encourage someone in a similar situation to seek out help as well. In general, women are twice as likely as men to suffer from some sort of anxiety disorder. Postpartum anxiety is believed to be even more prevalent than postpartum depression with about 10% of new Mom’s suffering from it. However, since it isn’t talked about as openly many women don’t know what the symptoms are or assume that their level of worry is ‘normal’. If you have any inkling that you could benefit from talking to someone I urge you to do it. Getting your anxiety under control will help you be the healthiest version of yourself who will also be the best Mama to you kids!
Each province has different mental health support available however if you are stuck on where to start you can check out www.anxietycanada.ca for a list of resources.
Guesblogger: Belinda Macneil, Hot Mama & Franchise Owner
Hot Mama Health & Fitness – Calgary – Symons Valley
To connect with Belinda, please email firstname.lastname@example.org