I’m naturally a very anxious person – the type of person who replays scenes in my head from ten years ago and re-dies with embarrassment. I imagine the worst possible scenario in everything. I walk around with a constant worry-knot in the pit of my stomach. Job interviews. My wedding. A girls’ night out. Traveling. Running out of breastmilk in my freezer. Leaving my daughter at daycare. A normal Monday morning before work. Folks, I’ve had violent dry heaves and/or hives before all of these things. Unknowns terrify me, and it’s been a struggle to fight past the voices of doubt in my head. I am learning to try to stay afloat with anxiety.
So, not surprisingly, when I was pregnant with my daughter, it was suggested that I watch for an increase in my anxiety, as well as postpartum depression. When Kate was ten weeks old, I returned to my full time job in business development/project management in the construction industry. This return brought with it a 3-hour roundtrip commute 5 days a week, multiple breastmilk pumping sessions a day between meetings and networking events, and a massive lack of sleep.
I had no time for myself. My marriage was in shambles. My horses went unridden. I stopped papercrafting – something that I had dearly loved before becoming a mother. Being a mother was the greatest gift I had ever been given, but I was drowning. For me, asking for help was like admitting defeat – admitting that I couldn’t handle motherhood and a career and everything else that I loved before Kate was born.
Instead, I lived in denial about how I really felt and ended up spending the first fifteen months of her life completely run down and in a perpetual state of tear stains and eye-bags and too much/not enough coffee.
When she was 7 months old, we decided to add a little more chaos into our lives by putting our house on the market and moving closer to our jobs. By the time she was a year old, I found myself weighing in at a mere 95 pounds (at 5’-6”) with permanent dark circles under my eyes. I felt like walking death and for months, I had been sobbing every single day on my way home from work – the only way I knew how to release my anxiety, fears, and stress.
During a tear-filled visit to my doctor in early 2013, I finally relented and agreed to try an antidepressant. Within a few weeks, everyone was starting to see a difference in me. But, within a few months, I dropped my dosage. A few months later, I dropped it again. By early 2014, I was back where I had started: quickly losing weight, crying at the drop of a hat, and worrying about everything. I struggled through 2014 with mounting work stress, an increasingly active toddler, and a lot of guilt that I obviously couldn’t be ‘normal’ without medication.
At the end of this past December, my daughter now three years old, I once again found myself sitting in my doctor’s office, quietly discussing a substantial increase in my medication, along with a change in my diet and an increase in exercise to help with energy levels. So far, this treatment is working, and I have no plans to stop it.
During this last visit, my doctor told me that I’m not weak because I need the help; I’m strong because I’ve recognized the need for it. I’ve kept this thought with me every day since that appointment. I hope I can someday wean myself off the medication – to learn to control the doubting voices in my head. But, until then, I’m going to take it. And I’m not going to be ashamed. For me, being a good role model for my daughter is the most important thing in my life. I want my sweet, precocious little girl to grow up to be a strong, fearless woman. I know I can’t be that type of person for her if I’m in a constant state of angst. So for now, the medicine is a part of me, and I’m finally okay with that.
THANK YOU for sharing this. I just started medication for anxiety last week, after two years of trying to “do it myself.” I avoided taking anything in the past because it made me feel broken, or like a failure. I am glad to know I am not alone, and I, too, am choosing to focusing on being healthy, happy and present for my family.
You are so not alone, Jessa. Many many moms are in the exact same position- it’s time we start talking openly about it so that we can support one another!
I, too, feel frustration with medication to counter anxiety. Although I can say that the biggest comfort to me was when my childhood psychologist told me I had a chemical imbalance. Like any other physical circumstance, my anxiety was rooted to something concrete. So I stopped feeling like I was crazy and something was wrong with my brain. Instead I view it the same as anything else physical, like a random leg cramp…sometimes chemicals go wild in my body, and I just have to power through until things calm down. For me the best thing was to learn what my body was doing when I felt anxious. I know it’s not who I am…it’s just how I am…sometimes. Maybe you find comfort in that too.
i feel exactly the same and want to try an antidepressant but don’t know which one, do you recommend a certain one? Thx, gina
Hi Gina! Thanks so much for your comment. It’s definitely something to be discussed with your doctor, as they will figure out the best medication and dosage for you. Making that first appointment can be difficult, but you will be so glad you did!
I’ve been shamed, pressured, and made to feel like a failure for having to use medication to deal with the depression and anxiety. But I like your way of looking at it and that your doctor was able to make you see it in a different light. I’ve been told (many times) – if you were diabetic, would you feel like a failure for taking your medication? No? Then why would you feel like that for this, when it’s just as much of a disease. That also helps me when I’m feeling like a failure.
Although, I do wish I could weigh 95!
Good luck and enjoy your little girl 🙂
What a great post! I have struggled with anxiety and panic attack my whole life. I have been on and off medication for at least 10 years. I wasn’t even sure I would even make it through my pregnancy! I was so sick and depressed, my health was diminishing along with my marriage. After giving birth I thought the worst was over, boy was I wrong! The anxiety that I had was disabling, I was over whelmed with terrible thoughts and worries! I thought pregnancy and birth was supposed to be a beautiful thing, the best time off my life.. Every second was a struggle for me and my husband. The best thing to do is talk about it and except it.. It is a daily challenge for me but I now have alot more Good days then bad!!
Your opening paragraph describes my life 100%. I am 39 years old and have 2 kids (3.5 and 6 months). I struggled with PPD after my first (my Dad died just before I had my first child) and assumed my increased stress(over the past 3+ years) was baby and depression related. It hasn’t been until the past couple weeks that I have realized that this isn’t specifically depression…it is anxiety. Thanks to your post, I realize now that this is indeed something that I need help with. Thank you!
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