I remember the first time I experienced really bad anxiety. We were going down the escalator in Macy’s at Lenox Mall. Anyone in Georgia will know that Lenox is the busiest mall in Atlanta.
Nothing specific really happened to trigger my anxiety, other than the store being really crowded.
The details are kind of a blur. But I remember feeling this overwhelming sense of panic covering me like a blanket. I started feeling like I was in another place- like I was about to pass out.
It was like I was outside of my body physically, but I fully knew where I was in my head.
I remember saying something to my husband about how I didn’t feel right and that I started to get really upset. He looked at me like I was crazy, but once he realized I wasn’t joking he said something that made me snap out of it. I don’t remember what that was either, but I think it had something to do with reminding me to breath.
It wasn’t until a few years later that I realized I had a mini panic attack that day. I think I’ve always had some form anxiety, but it’s changed as I’ve gotten older.
As long as I can remember, there have been periods where I’ve had trouble sleeping. As a little girl, everything had to be just right in my room in order for me to fall asleep. My stuffed animals had to be in a specific spot and the bathroom light in the hallway had to be on with the door opened just a crack.
When I was 8 or 9 I would sneak into my parents bedroom and fall asleep on the floor in front of their bed. For some reason I just felt safer there.
Something was different about me.
I had plenty of friends back then, but I was always a little awkward physically. I had frizzy curly hair that I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to brush out.
My growth spurt hit at 12 or 13 and I shot up taller than a lot of the boys in my grade. Along with that came huge hips and what I then called “thunder thighs.”
I wasn’t like the other girls in my grade- the ones that boys paid attention to. Those girls had straight hair and they were super skinny. I know now that the things I was ashamed of back then are what makes me who I am.
I’m still working on my self-confidence, but I’m able to recognize that my thighs are strong, and my curly hair makes me unique.
But I also think that feeling so strongly about being different made me nervous. I remember lying awake late at night replaying all the conversations I’d had that day, obsessing over what I said or didn’t say. I’d stay up so late worrying that I couldn’t wake up on time for school the next day.
Once I got closer to graduating, I had more important things to worry about. I stressed over where I was going to college, what I wanted to be, and getting a perfect 4.0.
I know it’s not that abnormal to worry about those things, but I remember the only B I got in high school like it just happened yesterday. I’ll never forget how devastated I was! I think I took the obsessing and worrying a little too far.
Maybe I had anxiety back then and just didn’t know it yet.
What Is Anxiety Anyway?
The American Psychological Association defines anxiety as an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.
I can definitely say I’ve been able to check all of those boxes at some point in my life. But now that I’m a mom, anxiety has taken on a whole new meaning.
What Anxiety Looks Like For Moms
It’s worrying that I yelled too much last night and I didn’t play enough. And falling asleep wondering if my kids know how much I love them.
It’s hearing a siren and hoping it’s not someone I love. This feels even worse if it happens when my kids are at school!
It’s thinking that my friends don’t like me anymore when I haven’t heard from them in a while. Then it’s checking my phone every 5 minutes to see if they texted me back when I ask them if they want to meet up.
It’s walking into a party praying that I don’t look ridiculously out of style in my jeans that never fit right after I had kids and my sweater from last season.
It’s hoping that my child isn’t being a mean kid on the playground, but being too scared that he is to intervene and find out. And if he is, it’s being too uncertain of my parenting style to know what to do or the right words to say.
It’s worrying that my son’s going to fall off the monkey bars and break his arm again. Or that my other son’s getting too close to the edge and will fall off too. Then he’ll end up needing surgery again and he’ll be so scared because of what he’s already been through.
It’s lying awake at night thinking of all the things I need to do, worrying that I’m going to forget one of them. Then finally getting up to make lunches at midnight or sign my child’s permission slip, because I don’t trust myself to remember.
It’s making my kids hold my hands extra tight in every parking lot and losing my cool when they don’t listen and run off.
It’s worrying that the car in front of me is going to slam on the breaks. Sometimes, when it’s raining really hard and I’m driving in it, it’s worrying that I’m going to start skidding across four lanes of traffic and end up in the median. And if I do end up dying, what will happen to my kids? Who will take care of them? Who will they live with? Who will be there to see them graduate and help them plan their future weddings?
Sometimes, it’s not wanting to get out of bed.
All the time, it’s second guessing myself as a mom. Wondering if I’m doing the right thing. Questioning if I’m feeding my kids the right thing- if I should be giving them more veggies and less candy.
Are these things all normal? Does every mom feel this way sometimes about their kids? I don’t know, but what I do know is that if you’re out there feeling this way, you’re not alone.
There Is Help
If you’re feeling anxious or worried enough that you feel like it’s stopping you from doing your job as a mom, please reach out for help. Find someone you feel safe talking to. It can make a big difference! Psychology today is a great place to start.
Some other things that help me are:
- Deep Breathing
- Regular Exercise
Check out my previous blog on Self Care For Busy Moms, for more tips on managing anxiety as a mom.