Anxiety is Real & We are Tired of Lying

Anxiety, a term tossed around frequently but rarely discussed. I am a raging extrovert; I find ease in social situations, thoroughly enjoy public speaking, and love meeting new people. I can quite literally talk to a brick wall and I suffer from anxiety. Surprised? Yeah me too.

Anxiety comes in all different forms, social, panic attacks, phobias, or generalized. The symptoms can include but are not limited to: difficult concentrating, sleeplessness, muscle tension, shortness of breath, periods of intense fear, sweating, anger outbursts, lack of patience, and pounding heart.

My own anxiety came on strongest after the birth of my first child, Lucy. The sun would set and I’d panic. I’d close my eyes dreading the sleepless night ahead. Ludicrous dreams had me scared to death. The most common being that I had accidentally left her somewhere, or that she would stop breathing in the middle of the night. Some of the strangest dreams included me saving her off the top of high buildings, airplane wings, our television, you name it I dreamed it. Car rides, family outings, and social encounters all fed the anxiety. 

Looking back I wished I could have recognized my irrational fears, the sleeplessness and my fear to go anywhere as red anxiety flags. It’s unfortunate how ill prepared us new moms can be once this anxiety slaps us silly. Not exactly baby shower friendly info however I do wish someone would have delicately versed me about just how panicked I may feel; a little insight into the rollercoaster of emotions after baby comes. 

Feelings of isolation paired with bountiful adoration, extreme elation mixed with fear of incompetency, overwhelming love dashed with debilitating uneasiness, obscure anger combined with sleep deprivation, self-doubt, sadness, or even depression.

Through newborn fog, we walk blindly but all have one thing in common, a feeling of isolation. I can’t be the only one wondering where those parenting books reside. Possibly entitled: “You aren’t insane, you just had a baby.” Then tack on first birthday feels, introduction of a sibling struggles, or school beginnings. The dozens of unforeseen moments when our anxiety digs its claws in. I would have devoured any literature based on a realistic take on anxiety and motherhood, leaving out the fluff of “cute” baby chaos.

Two babies under two, my anxiety didn’t exactly let up. New anxiety flags waved. Unmerited anger, impatience and a feeling of impending doom. I felt anger towards myself for not doing a better job, anger towards my husband for not knowing what I was thinking! I wanted to be the best mother, I wanted to be the best friend, I wanted to be the best wife. Unfortunately, my anxiety was leading the parade. I found myself apologizing to the people I loved the most for suddenly losing my temper. Why did I have this? I have no reason to be feeling this way; I had everything I ever wanted: a beautiful family, a supportive husband, a flexible photography job, and a rocking friend group. I wanted solid justification for my anxiety; the worst part about anxiety is sometimes there is NO reason for it. It's beyond infuriating and seems to make no sense. It took me years to give myself the grace I deserved in realizing that the reason behind my anxiety is a non-factor. However, the emotions I'm feeling are real and the panic attacks are real. I stopped beating myself up over the fact that I felt these emotions; instead I acknowledged them and to be honest, the anxiety got worse for a while. This new identity forming was a little unrecognizable. Instead of brushing my emotions under the rug I was inviting them in and really feeling their effects deep in my heart. Emotions that I thought kept me stronger if hidden were now out and surprising not just me but also those around me.

The funny thing about growing up is realizing the attributes you've developed because they are true to who you are, compared to the qualities you cling onto because someone applauds you for them, even if those complimentary qualities are inauthentic. For much of my younger years I was applauded for being easy-going, or likable. I viewed my identity in what others thought of me, or the consistency in which I could keep relationships and situations fun, happy, or stable. I should have seen it coming a mile away, this charade could only go on for a brief time before I'd self-combust. Panic attacks: full blown, heart racing, lying on the ground, gasping for breath, panic attack is how I combusted.

Anxiety had grown into a beast of a thing and even my rational side couldn't get a handle on it. I deserved better and I finally admitted to myself that feeling this way, wasn't a reflection of failure. Feeling these anxiety attacks was my inner self speaking, admitting to a deep desire for change, and deserving to feel better.

May I introduce you to Vitamin Z. Zoloft. Yup I said it. This anti-anxiety medication that I so fiercely denied for years because I didn't feel as if I was "bad enough" to need it. Why is it that so many of us feel as if we have to hit complete rock bottom to turn for help. Becoming a mother seemed to crank my anxiety up to a level I had never knew existed and for some strange reason being a mother made me resist medication even more. My internal dialogue: "I should be able to handle more, do more, have more patience, overcome this." The judgment surrounding my anxiety that I clung onto for so long was an awful catalyst in perpetuating the anxiety spiral. With months of therapy and discussions with my husband I reluctantly began a teeny tiny dose of Zoloft. 

Long story short, I ended up increasing my dose a small amount bit by bit until I found a balance. I also delved deeply into essential oils, specifically the mood balancing oils, as well as frequent yoga. I've found what works for me. The judgment still lingers but I quickly squash it, reminding myself how hard I'm working to be a good example for my children. I replace that judgment with the insurmountable love I have for my three beautiful babies and the gratitude I feel for God, my husband, my life, my family and my friends.

Do I still have anxiety? Yes occasionally, but it has become manageable. Do I still feel like "myself"? Certainly. Have the panic attacks stopped? Not completely, but they are a very rare occurrence. I decided to be open about my experience with an anti-anxiety medication because so many of us view anxiety as a shameful attribute that we should just get a handle on. The judgment stops here for me and I hope for you too. You aren’t just surviving, you are thriving. So take care of yourself, we only get this one life, and remember you aren’t doing it alone.

"To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance." -Oscar Wilde

**disclaimer :I am not a licensed professional, nor do I have a medical background. I am an Communication major with a minor in English :)


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