Parenting with anxiety can get extremely difficult. For me, it effects how I respond to my child during a time she really needs me. In the middle of the night, when she’s frustrated, when she’s overwhelmed and erupts into a tantrum, and when she hurts herself. During a time when I need to be calm and appropriately responsive, my anxiety makes me feel overwhelmed, irritable, or panicked. For me, this is the toughest struggle I have while parenting with anxiety. I want to be there for my child, I want to teach her how to respond to her own emotions, and I want to be the one she turns to because she knows I will help her. So, I battle the chaos within my mind as much as I can so that I can be the mother my child needs.
Adjusting to motherhood was difficult for me. I struggled with it. I was a mess that couldn’t quite get it together. The house would go unattended for almost weeks, dishes sat in the sink for days, and showers were few and far in-between. I felt inadequate in my role and I struggled between managing my anxiety and taking care of my baby. My postpartum recovery was long and frustrating. My attempts to exercise would fall flat after just a few days. Discouraged by discomfort and lack of results, I’d give up quickly.
Slowly, I accepted my recovery journey, stopped forcing the mother role I had hoped to be, and I embraced the mess. From pregnancy, to baby’s first year, the journey was difficult. After a year, however, I finally felt like I had found my place as a mother.
Organization, meditation, exercise, sleep, and human interaction are all key ingredients to help manage anxiety and depression. Beyond the care recommended by your doctor, there are countless articles and studies that suggest how to manage your symptoms. You see it everywhere, “Steps to minimize anxiety”, “Natural ways to reduce the effects”, “Reducing Panic Attacks”. In these articles you can find things like yoga, drinking enough water, getting outside, creating a schedule or reducing your schedule, staying organized, and so on. All of these suggestions can be categorized into exercise, organization, interaction, eating healthy, and relaxation.
After a year of trying to be accustomed to all the changes and chaos, I was finally doing it. I bought a planner and scheduled outings with the baby, exercise, and days for cleaning. I even started pre-planning meals that were healthy and easy to make.
I meditate almost every night with a hot cup of lavender tea, and I am even starting to get up with the baby in the middle of the night. I feel like I am finally figuring it all out. I dropped my baby weight, I can fit into my old clothes again, my skin looks better, and I am even getting up early.
I am doing all the right things and I am sticking to it, for the most part. I’m responding to my daughter with calm and control. I can sit with her during her tantrums and calmly talk her through her emotions. In the end, we end with a hug. I have been patient through her frustrations as she tries to figure out her rings and her puzzle. I let her feel her feelings without completing the task for her. “I know you’re frustrated, and that’s ok, but the puzzle piece is not something we throw. Placing the cow in his spot will get easier with practice.” I’ve been nailing it!
So, why am I sitting here today with a twisted chest. Today, why has my mind started to race with all of the old what if’s. Just when I thought the storm was over, here it was again.
Why am I telling my daughter to “Stop it,” because she is whining out of her own frustration. Why do I feel my throat tighten as I work through an on coming panic attack? If I am doing everything right, then why am I sitting here for the second day in a row in the same clothes, with no energy to get outside, and no ambition to roll out the matt. I sip my cold coffee wondering where the hell I went wrong.
It’s not supposed to be like this, all of those articles, and the doctor said it would get better. They all said it would help, so why am I feeling this way today?
The truth is, anxiety doesn’t stop. It doesn’t stop when you are at your best, and it doesn’t take a break when you are at your worst. It doesn’t leave and it’s doesn’t turn off. It is always there, lurking in the dark, waiting for the perfect opportunity to crawl out again. Even when you feel as if you have left it behind; it stays.
In my recovery journey, I have been learning to embrace the struggle, and that includes my anxiety. Acknowledge that I am feeling overwhelmed, panicked, and irritable. Name it as a feeling and not as a place I am stuck in. Embrace it when it comes and take a moment to recover. Just like you would if you were physically sick. Most importantly, don’t give up and don’t get discouraged, but some day’s it’s just not that simple.
Some days you have to skip the to-do list, close up the planner, turn off the notifications, hand your kid a snack and plop them in front of Frozen and just take a moment to catch your breath. When managing anxiety fails, sip coffee in silence and shrug off the dust that settles on the furniture. When managing anxiety fails, call your doctor to set up an appointment. Maybe what you are doing isn’t working and you need to re-evaluate your strategy, or maybe you just need to check in. Maybe you just need a break.
When managing anxiety fails, don’t give up. Don’t get discouraged. When managing anxiety fails, respond to it, don’t ignore it. Acknowledge it and treat it, then keep going. Keep moving, keep opening up that planner, keep getting up and getting dressed, and keep going. When managing your anxiety fails, don’t settle into it and don’t let it consume you. You have come so far, and you have accomplished so much in your journey. It is never ending, and exhausting, I know, but keep fighting. For you, for your family, for your babies. Show them how to embrace their own emotions and show anxiety who the boss is.
When managing anxiety fails, take a break, but then keep fighting.
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