At night, when I finally lay my head on the pillow, the stifling inner monologue begins. Did I remember to lock the front door? The baby is coughing again. I should probably Google it because I’m sure she’s got some life-threatening disease. Well, if I Google the cough, then I should probably go on Amazon and order some elderberry because ’tis the season. I think I spend too much money on Amazon. I need to put the phone down so I can go to sleep. I just want to sleep.
You guys, one of the most difficult things for a mom to do is let themselves be vulnerable. I’m not sure if it’s society’s standards, how our brains are hardwired, or hormones (because we blame everything on hormones, amirite?), but for some reason, we have the hardest time letting our guards down. We feel like we always have to have our shit together, and it’s exhausting.
Anxiety was never something I had ever struggled with before, but I can pinpoint the exact moment I realized that something wasn’t right. It was just about two years ago, and I was pregnant with my daughter. We were in the process of boarding up the windows in anticipation of a hurricane, and preparing to evacuate, when I had my first real panic attack. I remember feeling like I couldn’t catch my breath — completely out of control. It was like I had weights sitting on my chest, and all the things that could go wrong were racing through my mind. It was literally terrifying.
As the months went on, I had a few more panic attacks, and once I gave birth to my daughter, I felt those out of control moments becoming more frequent. Naturally, I blamed this on the postpartum hormones, but eventually I realized that my anxiety was becoming a problem that I could no longer handle on my own. I found myself overwhelmed so easily, and often times, I would be in tears for the most ridiculous reasons. This feeling of helplessness, of panic, of fear was affecting my job, my role as a mother, my marriage, and my ability to cope with everyday life.
Finally, I just collapsed in tears, but I had a moment of clarity.
I can remember one incident so clearly. I was taking my daughter’s “monthly” milestone photo because I had to get the perfect shot to post on social media, on the exact day she turned five months old because surely I would be mom shamed if I was even one day late. She wouldn’t sit still, or smile, and every shot I was taking was blurry. My son was distracting her on purpose, and I was yelling at him to back away. It was taking forever, and I knew I had a million other things to do that day. Finally, I just collapsed in tears, but I had a moment of clarity.
I just had a panic attack. Because of an f-ing monthly photo I was going to post on Facebook.
Trust me, I know how ridiculous that sounds. Looking back, what I realize now is that it wasn’t about the photo. It was about me trying to figure out how to balance two kids, a full-time job, being a wife, and my own mental health. I would lie awake for hours at night while my brain would just race thinking about ALL THE THINGS. I was biting my nails again. I was letting this anxiety rule my life because I was keeping it bottled inside and wasn’t seeking help. The thing is, to admit I needed help meant that I had to admit I had a problem. Every time my husband would ask me if I was okay, I would plaster a big smile on my face and say, “Yes, I’m okay.”
I lied. All the time. Why is it so unbelievably hard to admit that we are not okay? Why is it so hard to admit that we can’t do it alone, and to let ourselves be vulnerable? I am a perfectionist to my core, and I have a very hard time admitting my imperfections. I’m not afraid to reveal that I do care what people think of me, and I worry endlessly at night about whether I’m a good teacher, a good mother, a good friend, a good wife. Sometimes, I think that when people say “I don’t care what people think of me,” it’s straight up bullshit. We all care. It’s in our nature. Especially moms.
Every time my husband would ask me if I was okay, I would plaster a big smile on my face and say, “Yes, I’m okay.” I lied. All the time.
Once it dawned on me that I was letting my own head and fears get in the way of truly being happy with myself, I realized that I needed to make some changes. Lemme tell you, that was a HUGE pill for me to swallow. After finally sitting down and really talking to my husband, we made some decisions to explore our options with treating my anxiety, and take control back.
Listen. It’s okay to be vulnerable. It’s okay to go outside without makeup on. It’s okay if your kids stay up past their bedtime. It’s okay if you feed them Easy Mac and Pringles for dinner one night. It’s okay if the to-do list isn’t finished. It’s okay if you haven’t lost the baby weight. It’s okay if you need to get out of the house for a few hours to wander Target alone. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to seek help.
It’s okay to say, “No, I’m not Okay.”
There is a huge stigma attached to mental health, and it’s up to us to remove it and spread awareness. As moms, we owe it to our kids, our partners, and most importantly ourselves, to be happy. I will always struggle with anxiety, and I will always struggle with my own perfectionism. The thing is, I’ll be damned if I’m going to let them control me anymore.