The lies anxiety tells me

I was lucky when my oldest was born. Somehow I managed to not fall victim to the postpartum depression my brain is wired to get. Maybe I did have it, I don’t really know because I was too busy trying to figure out how to be a mama and how to figure out how to be a wife and all these new things that were happening in my life.  I was good at it through with her. I fell into it all fairly easy and even survived a brutal fight with colic which I now realize was likely reflux. Poor baby vomited on everything. But I only remember feeling sad a couple of times. Once when I couldn’t figure out the breast pump and then, as I sat on the floor and watched as everyone passed her around. I hurt, felt overlooked and that was probably the first time anxiety lied to me. I didn’t complain I had to sit on the floor because anxiety told me it was selfish to want a seat and that was rude to expect someone to help me, instead of the fragile baby I was supposed to be taking care.

Yeah, I am pretty sure that was when anxiety and I met for real.

I mean, growing up I struggled with all the what ifs. But what teen doesn’t? And it wasn’t till adulthood that he really came at me. And with a vengeance.

By the time I was pregnant with baby number two, I was fully saturated with motherhood. And I was thrilled he was coming. My big girl would be welcoming a brother and I could not wait. But as the due date approached I would cry, often, in the red bathroom of our tiny, two bedroom condo afraid of what I’d done to her and wondering how I’d ever have enough love or time or energy for two. I’d wake up most mornings around 3 am, run the bathtub and cry. His labor started in the night. I called the midwife who sort of ignored my, “I think this is it” and told me to rest and eat. I took my little girl to breakfast and for a yoga ball and waited, scared I wasn’t really in labor. And I waited too long and sobbed in the hall when I couldn’t walk to the door myself. Never have I been so happy to see my husband walk through the door. I almost had Davis in the hospital hall. The midwife who delivered him had food in her teeth and didn’t know my name. I waited to push till everyone got there, anxious I’d hurt someone’s feelings if I didn’t wait, let people in the room before I was ready and I didn’t keep my little girl with me because my anxiety told me my gut was wrong. They gave him a bottle without my permission and he didn’t latch correctly for weeks but my anxiety told me to be quiet. The doctor knows best. I walked the length of SUPER Target with a three-day old, nipple shields in hand, convinced someone was going to take them away from me because I wasn’t a good enough mother to nurse a baby or stand up for a baby or raise a baby. The day after I brought him home,  I sat on my porch and cried on the phone wishing my mom would get their faster. I was afraid to sleep. Anxiety told me he might die… anxiety told me I might too.

These last two years have been a tough go. If you’ve followed this blog at all you know that there has been this series of events. If I was honest with you all, it’s been more than the two years I have written about it. Moving to Pennsylvania ignited the liar anxiety like nothing I’ve ever seen. Things were supposed to be different here for me. Another lie I told myself thanks to anxiety. I felt like I’d check into our new place and that everything would be different. I neglected to realize that I too would have to change. Anxiety lied though and told me while I was “fine”  nobody would ever like me. Ever. I listened. Especially when my newly found church friendships dissolved over something as ridiculous as who led a mother’s group.

As I added two more children, to the three children I’d moved across the country, anxiety grew and grew. Telling me I shouldn’t have a big family. I didn’t tell anyone about Dexter, my fourth till 12 weeks pregnant and Dixon, baby number five, I waited till almost 22 weeks. And if it were up to me, I would have delivered him before I told a single person about him at all. Lucky for me I was overweight and people mostly ignored me so my pregnancy was easy to hide. I hid that little boy like he was wrong because anxiety told me 5 kids was too many. Anxiety was wrong. He was not wrong. And no one should judge how many children I have. Even when it’s with the best intentions.

And that’s not the first time anxiety was wrong. Two years ago my gut told me something was off and I didn’t listen… it will probably be the biggest regret of my life. Not standing up for myself, because anxiety told me I was overreacting. I wasn’t, and it changed everything.

But now, now I am fighting back.

A little over 18% of the adult population suffers from an anxiety disorder. That’s 40 million adults. FORTY MILLION. Statics shows that while anxiety disorders are very, very treatable only about 36.9% of people are getting treatment. That number is even larger for teens. Only 1 in 5 teenagers that suffer are being treated. And should you suffer from an anxiety disorder you’re also likely to suffer from depression and vice versa. That’s a lot for a brain. A lot.

Women are more commonly affected than men. And anxiety often presents as a debilitating fear. For me, it often came in the shape of losing my children. So much so, I was afraid to seek help because I was so afraid someone would take my kids from me for being “crazy”. And when I finally hit rock bottom, I didn’t seek help until the suicidal ideations got so bad, I wasn’t sure I could stop them anymore. Yet anxiety still told me therapy was wrong and meds would steal my creativity again. I listened because anxiety was right about the creativity once. Only it just wasn’t the right med or meds… I wasn’t patient enough to ride it out and find the right medication for my mental health. Anxiety won, again. But only briefly. I eventually sat, filled with shame, in a chair, waiting to meet my therapist. The shame lifted when her blue hair peaked out through her beanie cap and the tattoos showed through tattered sleeves. It took a couple of sessions to raise my head but eventually, anxiety got its eviction notice.

I will have an anxiety disorder for the rest of my life. Every single day will be a battle to win against it and the abusive bipolar/depression/disorders I fight every single minute of every day. And there will still be moments that the disorders win minutes back in my life. But those minutes are getting fewer and farther apart. I can look at last spring and know someone else’s mental health issues were winning and it wasn’t me but themselves, that they were really talking to.

You probably wonder how you can help someone with an anxiety disorder. I can’t answer for everyone. Honestly, it’s hard to answer for me. But here goes:

  • Remind me that I am okay. There have been days I wasn’t sure and sat and wondered if these things actually were happening or if it was the anxiety telling me they did. So, when I ask you for the 90th time if this is really happening or if it really happened, please tell me it is. And if it isn’t or didn’t, please tell me what actually happened. I want to live in the truth and not what my mental illness painted as the truth. I’ve seen first hand what that looks like and it’s not pretty.
  • Don’t ask me if my period is coming. This isn’t about female hormones. I get weepy all times of the month and not just because my period might be coming. Sometimes I just get slammed with an anniversary or a memory. For example, this Monday, I watched a video of my brother, and I cried all day. It was a deep throat cry I couldn’t explain. He’s been gone over a year but it was as if he’d died that day. That wasn’t my period…. it was my sad.
  • Don’t tell me to choose happy. I don’t have a switch in my brain that goes, “oh you’re right. I am being crazy.” Sometimes I am irrationally sad or anxious and I don’t know why. Come into it with me. You don’t have to fix it. I just need you to make sure the anxiety doesn’t win. Don’t let the sadness take me too.
  • If I am being irrational, be gentle in telling me. There is nothing more embarrassing and hurtful than when someone reacts to me as if I am dumb or well, irrational. Sometimes I don’t know. So tell me, without making me feel stupid. If I react badly, forgive me; help me learn to react better next time. And please, don’t ghost me. Tell me, so I don’t wonder forever what I did wrong. We sometimes have friends for seasons. The truth is easier for me than the what ifs.

I know this is a lot for people. I know *I* am a lot for people but I don’t want to be and I am doing the work. Lots of us are.

Anxiety lies. If you’re listening to it right now, it’s lying. Trust me I know.


To learn more about anxiety disorders, click here.

Also, I feel passionate about education. And really passionate about AFSP. Please take a moment to check out their site. Do it for me and do it for Kevin.

The lies anxiety tells me

Hi! I’m Gail, the voice behind Mimicking Motherhood. I started blogging after the birth of my 2nd child as a way to connect with far away family. Things have definitely changed since then. Now, mama to five, this is a place to help connect with other mothers, who feel like me.I love to make and write all while trying to figure out how to be myself in the world of anxiety and depression. Glad you stopped by.

How to find your very best friend

When my oldest son was in kindergarten he would come home, almost daily with Gabriel on his mind. His family lived in a castle house and apparently was the coolest kid ever.  He was and is the definition of “best friend” material to any 5-year-old boy. Gabe was the coolest friend ever to my little five-year-old.

He wasn’t wrong. Gabe is a cool kid. He’s smart, funny and kind and well, good-looking and if it were my choice, he and my oldest daughter would marry. You know, in ten years.

They’re now 13. Almost 14. That means they’ve been friends for almost 9 years. The rule says if your friends for 8 years, you’ll be friends for life. I’m hoping that’s true because with Gabriel came Chase and Steve and Jill. And they’re my family too.

The first time Gabe’s mom, Jill and I hung out was over some Cricut cutting I believe. I want to say she’d stupidly signed up for some school shenanigans and I had the Cricut to cut all the crap. Her two boys and mine played most of the night. Well past bedtime and we’ve been friends ever since.

She’s my best friend. And I don’t use that lightly. A long time ago someone told me that telling someone they’re your best puts pressure on them. But this isn’t a pressure thing. She’s the best. And she’s mine.

We’ve had a rough few years collectively. There has been an uncountable number of texts that have probably been backed in hidden tears. There has been the announcements of babies and nieces and nephews and raises but also lots of bad news too and never once has there been an ignored text or judgment or anything like that. It’s just been us. Together. Even with weeks of silence. When I got pregnant with my now three-year-old, Dixon, she was the first to throw me a shower. Knowing that I didn’t need or want one but knowing that at that very moment, I really needed someone to be happy for me and not upset I’d gotten pregnant “again” or that it was just another “boy”. And when I got home from that surprise shower and stared at the pile of diapers, I saw nothing but love. It was the first time I didn’t feel embarrassed for getting pregnant again. I am not sure she knows how much I appreciated it. I am not sure I ever thanked her enough.

This last spring she was the lucky recipient of my “worst text ever”. It was so bad I am almost positive she thought I was joking. It was bad. I couldn’t breathe and there was no reason to hide my tears. She showed up hours later with pizza and knew, I just needed her to look at me, right in the eye so that I knew I’d eventually be okay. It was the first breath I took since the text and made the seconds, the minutes, the hours easier. She and the friend who drove hundreds of miles are the reason I am still alive. That’s no lie.

As the bad news came and the temper and sad and emotions flared, she was there and then Steve was there. They were the first people I called when I thought I might need real, professional help and in the moment, she was the only person I wanted to sit by me (not touching of course) when I navigated my first adult call to the area police.

This may be the year I get that text. We’re not there yet. But I will be here, pizza in hand.

She’s my best friend. Davis found her for me.

Thank you, Davis. And Gabe. You found me my “other” family.

I’m lucky though. I have a handful of women in my life who I can call my closest friends. Friends I’ve had for what feels like an eternity and whom I’ve never actually touched but still are the threads of my heart. I have others who haven’t been there as long but who I knew wouldn’t judge my worst thoughts and laughed when I made collages of cartoon characters. I have friends who are low when I am low and high when I am high. Who helped me start my doula training. Who doesn’t tell me I am crazy when I am having the craziest thoughts. My friends who will load their children into their cars from forever away under the guise of a “vacation” but it’s really to keep me alive. I am so lucky.  I will never ever be alone.

And thanks to Davis and Gabe? I have the recipe to find a very best friend.

Two really great kids (or four, but the mediums were forced into it ha ha ha)


I had to add this though. Davis and Gabe made a bet that if there Eagles made it to the Super Bowl, Davis would wear an Eagles jersey. AND THEY DID AND SO DID HE! We are raising them right.

 

 

Hi! I’m Gail, the voice behind Mimicking Motherhood. I started blogging after the birth of my 2nd child as a way to connect with far away family. Things have definitely changed since then. Now, mama to five, this is a place to help connect with other mothers, who feel like me.I love to make and write all while trying to figure out how to be myself in the world of anxiety and depression. Glad you stopped by.

Why I’ve chosen to go back to work, even if it’s part time.

When I was pregnant with Devlynn I had convinced myself that once she arrived I would easily find childcare and march my hiney back to my loved waitressing job. I honestly loved to work before I had her. What I didn’t account for is the fact that this tiny human was about to consume my entire heart and there was no way in hell I was gonna leave her with anyone, ever. Waitressing was not a career and Kevin and I agreed that it was just easier and better for me to stay home.

Through the years we added children. Four to be exact. I stayed home with each of them, picking up odd jobs here and there. Sealing envelopes, making pageant clothes; I even taught myself to code and work various Adobe programs to not have to return to the workforce and be able to stay home with my little guys. I’ve sewn everything under the sun and done so many jobs, if I actually sat down and wrote out a résumé, it would look pretty impressive. Yes, that’s bragging on myself. I’m not even gonna apologize for being proud of that.

My baby turned three this last year. And it was a hard, hard year for me. I wouldn’t be lying if I told you I’d lost myself in the spring of 2017. Not that I was ever really sure of myself. In March, I just totally melted into this puddle of wondering who I’d become and who I was becoming. And I panicked and cried and probably annoyed the hell out of the woman who so bravely and strongly supported me through what was the worst few months of my life. And with that, I started to find me again. Gone were the days of worrying about what people would think of a wild hair color and I finally started my much-wanted sleeve (it’s beautiful btw and I wish I could go more than once every three months). But my biggest change was my weight. Admittedly it was kick-started by stress but as I looked for an outlet for all the anger I felt, I found the gym. I love the gym. I never thought I would ever say that. Ever. It started with hour-long sessions on the elliptical and eventually more planned out workouts thanks to my sister’s ex-husband who also happens to be a kick-ass personal trainer. And I eventually added a nutritionist and then classes. I lost 45 pounds and a lot of shame I felt being a “big” girl. I was able to look at myself in the mirror and not be horrified by what I saw. And I felt good, inside. Which matters so much more than what I saw outside. And I did it at the YMCA.  The YMCA is my happy place. And when I decided it was time to look for a part-time job it only made sense to apply there..

I don’t have any teacher experience and so I applied in childcare. Mom of five? Yup, plenty of experience and the added bonus was I could take my little boys with me to work making my schedule more open. I started in the summer. I have loved almost every moment of it. It has just added to the pieces of missing me. I love to go to work. And there is something about helping other mama’s out that gives me a sense of pride and accomplishment. I remember the first time I handed Dixon over to a smiling Miss Jenn. She took him, played with him and I knew he was safe and when I came back and he’d had an accident, she acted like it was no big deal, smiled and was glad I got to have that hour of time for myself.

The YMCA is a great place. To go to and to work at and I am grateful for everything it’s done for me. My self-esteem isn’t great these days but it’s better than it was.  I still battle with a lot of questions on why and what was wrong with me when everything seemed to fall apart. It’s hard not to wonder why things happen and then to not instantly blame yourself when really it was someone else’s insecurity and selfishness that caused all the pain. Adding a job makes me feel helpful and productive and has helped that terrible esteem greatly. And, I’ve made a few friends along the way… I am hoping that with time I can grow those relationships outside the safe walls of the Y.

Working isn’t for everyone and I will never pretend my 10 hour a week job is anything to compare to a full-time, working mother but it does help my family even if it is simply by helping me grow and feel better inside.

A happy wife is a happy life. I know it’s cliché but it’s not wrong.

 

Hi! I’m Gail, the voice behind Mimicking Motherhood. I started blogging after the birth of my 2nd child as a way to connect with far away family. Things have definitely changed since then. Now, mama to five, this is a place to help connect with other mothers, who feel like me.I love to make and write all while trying to figure out how to be myself in the world of anxiety and depression. Glad you stopped by.