Please let me preface that this is unbelievably hard for me to write about and admit. Anxiety is real and terrible and it affects more people than you could ever imagine. Some of what I’m about to say is going to sound ridiculous, but I know there are some of you out there who can relate which is why I’m willing to share part of my journey.
I haven’t always struggled with anxiety. I’ve always been kind of shy and introverted, but I used to be extremely carefree. Things didn’t bother me. I could drive without breaking into a sweat. Pretty much do anything. But something over the last 5 years completely changed me. I’m not the same person I used to be. Let me tell you a few things that anxiety has done to me.
– Led me to question my marriage and if I should even be married to my husband.
– Made me question if I was a good mother.
– Made me wonder if I could ever snap and hurt my children.
– Caused me (in the past) to be an extreme people pleaser.
– Made me question if my own parents and husband even liked me.
– Made me wonder if this world would be a better place if I wasn’t in it.
– Made me think I’m stupid and incompetent.
– Never allowed me to completely let my guard down in relationships.
– Never allowed me to completely be myself in any situation.
– Made me be on guard no matter where I am — anyone who walks in the park or by my house is out to get me or my kids.
– Caused me to lose friendships.
– Caused many fights and arguments.
– Caused me to question if God really exists and why He would put me on this earth just to fail.
– Made me question if being a wife and mom is truly what I’m meant to do.
This is a really short list compared to what all I’ve dealt with. If you’ve never struggled with anxiety, this probably seems absolutely ridiculous to you. But if you have, then you probably know exactly what I’m talking about.
Anxiety is ugly and mean, and it brings out the worst versions of us.
This is a topic I’ve never really talked about. I finally found the courage to talk to my husband about it a couple of years ago. I struggle with intrusive thoughts. Thoughts that I never would’ve imagined I’d be capable of thinking. If I’m carrying my baby, I’ll have a vision of me falling with her. If I’m driving, I’ll imagine what it’d be like to get into a car accident.
There have been times that I’ve been so unhappy with the way things were, I wondered how everyone would handle it if I just ran away. Now, let me be perfectly clear here – I’ve never felt capable of ever actually running away, but there are many times that I can’t control my thoughts. They creep in and consume me. I have to completely shift my mind and not think about them and even then they still loom.
I’ve questioned if being married is truly what I want. I’ve questioned if my girls would be better off without me. There have been times where my brain is telling me, “That person doesn’t like you.” And I believe it even if there isn’t any proof or reason to believe that to be truth. I’ve thought it about my husband and even my own parents. I always think people are mad at me and I read way too much into little things.
I have made myself literally physically ill over things completely out of my control. And anxiety is to blame. It’s caused crippling fear and terrible thoughts. It’s caused me to lash out over minute things that nobody would ever understand. And as the rage is happening, I can feel it not being me but I can’t stop it. I can’t control it.
Over the past year, I decided to face my anxiety head on. I was done. It had consumed me for so long, and I wanted my life back. It has taken me many steps and lots of prayer and conversations, but I feel more like myself every day.
I still have days that are very tough, but I have some days that don’t consume me. I can finally drive without feeling sick to my stomach constantly. I can take my kids to the park or go for a walk without constantly looking over my shoulder for a serial killer. I now greet at church without breaking a sweat – BIG step, but I’m doing it.
I can leave my kiddos with grandparents and other family without leaving a schedule or a huge long list and without feeling guilty. We go to the store without my husband regularly. My husband and I fight a lot less and I’m able to let more things go. The past year has been a complete rollercoaster of emotions and working through this. I’m nowhere near close to overcoming anxiety and I honestly don’t think I ever will, but it’s gotten better.
I know exactly what you’re feeling. Whether you suffer from depression, anxiety, OCD or some other form of mental illness, I want you to know you’re not alone. It’s common for anxiety and OCD to be linked, and sometimes depression can sneak in there, especially postpartum. I’ve dealt with all of those. I had severe postpartum anxiety (PPA) after my three year old was born and mild postpartum depression (PPD). I’ve always struggled with OCD but that’s a topic for another time. I want to urge you to seek help if you’ve been dealing with any of these feelings.
There are healthy ways to deal with them and while they may not be curable, they can be manageable. Whether it’s PPD or PPA or even just anxiety/depression you’ve always dealt with, please seek a healthcare professional. Definitely talk to a doctor. You could also take to a pastor or a friend, or message/email me. Seek help. You’re not alone in this journey. You are seen and loved, even if your anxiety is telling you otherwise.
If you think you might be suffering from postpartum depression or anxiety, or need some extra support, call womenshealth.gov at 1-800-994-9662. Check out the womenshealth.gov website for more information and resources.
If you or a loved one is having a mental health crisis, visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), or call the NAMI Help Line at 1-800-950-6264.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).