I Finally Got My Anxiety Under Control, And I’m A Better Mom For It
I look back now and realize I have been dealing with it my whole life.
When I was around the age of 7, the end of the day reliably brought me to tears. I remember standing in the hallway of our house, looking out our picture window with its view to the west, watching the sun dip lower in the sky and feeling this profound sense of sadness and loss. As if the day’s closing brought me closer to the inevitable, the end that we all fear. The emotions welled up inside of me and came out as tears. The fall and winter still have that effect on me all these years later. When I think about this as an adult, I realize how long I have been dealing with anxiety. I often wished someone would validated my fears or gotten me help.
In second grade I stopped eating foods that I thought I could choke on, so I only ate mashed potatoes and ice cream. In fifth grade, I flew with my family for the first time and cried the whole plane ride out of fear that we’d crash. I feared dying constantly. I worried that my actions could have catastrophic effects. I excessively worried I had fatally injured my friend after I tossed a football at recess and it hit her head. I feared our gas stove was slowly poisoning our family so I would constantly check to make sure it was off. I woke up at night worried our house would somehow catch fire after learning about fire safety at school. I’ve always feared contracting a sudden, fatal illness. I worried that headaches must always have a fatal cause like an aneurysm or a brain tumor. After a while, the fears and worries were too numerous to count. It was almost like collecting seashells. After a while, you’ve collected so many without hardly realizing your pocket is full of shells weighing you down.
As an adult, I desperately wanted relief from the fears, the worries, the obsessions, the cyclical thinking of my anxiety. But for years, I brushed off the question I’d inevitably get after describing my symptoms to a therapist: “Have you thought about medication?” The anxieties shushed those words out. I wasn’t ready to listen to that advice. After all, everyone in my family denied our shared history of anxiety. Taking medication would let our secret out. It felt like admitting that I needed help was somehow betraying my family. But eventually I discovered that reaching out for help wasn’t a form of weakness but a source of empowerment.
As I got older, some of my fears grew unmanageable. Plane rides were tear streaked and white knuckled because I was sure each plane I was on would meet a fatal demise. Finally, enough was enough: I started getting panic attacks randomly while driving, and I decided it was time. I’d give medication a try.
The medication my doctor prescribed for my anxiety made my stomach hurt. I felt tired and dizzy a lot of the time — but after a while, these side effects subsided. I became more focused on life and less afraid of it. The noise of cyclical worries in my head were dampened and things I normally worried about seemed less catastrophic. I gained more confidence in my abilities.
I fully believe that I would have never married my husband if I hadn’t been on medication. Before medication I was fearful of social interaction, especially with men. When going out with friends, I’d fight with myself because my natural inclination was to stay home. Part of me wanted to go out and socialize, but a bigger part made me nervous around small talk and conversations because I worried I’d say the wrong things. With medication, I was no longer fearful of social interaction. I no longer feared that every eye was focused on me, waiting for a misstep. I could finally talk to men. I was renewed, I felt confident, I worried less.
It was crucial for me to get my anxiety under control before I had kids. I can’t imagine what motherhood would have been like if I had not been taking medication or in therapy. I believe that while my anxiety isn’t gone, it is manageable and that has allowed me to be a better parent than I would have been if my anxiety wasn’t under control.
I love that I can now take a plane ride and enjoy it, instead of fearfully gripping the arm rests or the arm of a fellow passenger. I can enjoy the view from above, the clouds and where they meet the horizon, the colorful patterns of lights below on an evening flight. I no longer have to constantly pray in my head to keep the thoughts of all the things that could go wrong with a plane at bay. For me medication doesn’t have a major dampening effect on my personality, it softens my mood. It makes me capable. It lowers the noise of my fears. It makes life manageable. For me the fearful noise of anxiety will always be in my head but with medication and therapy, I’ve learned to tame that beast and go on with life. I am the first in my family to name what many of us suffer from. I named my condition and now I have ownership over it. And I’ve found there’s power in that.
Jami Demuth is a freelance writer based in the Midwest because she likes a challenge and who doesn’t love extreme temperatures? She’s a mom to three teenagers and two fur babies who all think she takes too many pictures of them. She enjoys writing about the joys of parenting, relationships, and health. In her free time, she marvels in the evocative power of the written word and its ability to move the soul. She’s been published in the Huff Post, The Mighty, Motherly, and Attention magazine. Jami has a Master of Arts in Teaching and a Bachelor of Arts in English and History, both from Drake University. You can follow her at webfreelancewriter.com.