Gals, I didn’t want to write this. I knew I had to, but I didn’t want to. I’ve been procrastinating, but I took a poll yesterday and realized that many of you wanted me to write about it. So here we are. I think I have anxiety. Ok, there. It’s out. I will correct myself. I know I have anxiety. I’ll explain.
The other week I started feeling entirely overwhelmed. I felt like I had a million things to do, and I couldn’t get started on them. I felt like my to do list was so long that even looking at it had my heart beating faster. I felt so overwhelmed that when Charlotte went down for a nap, I wanted to avoid everything and just go to sleep myself.
When I lay down to sleep, I couldn’t lower my heart rate in order to fall asleep. Yes, I know about breathing, and meditation. I tried. I really did !!! My heart would not slow down.
I finally texted David saying “I think I have anxiety”. I felt so silly. I’m a therapist. How could I not know I have anxiety? I’ve lived with these feelings for a long time. How did it never occur to me?
I looked back to the time when Charlotte was little, and I remember having a hard time leaving the house with her. It would take so long to get out of the house, and if it then got too close to the next feeding, I would forgo it altogether. The first time we finally got out of the house, I felt more confident that we could do it. But, it was hard.
I remember leading up to every feeding feeling worried. Was she going to latch on? Was she going to get anything? Was I going to feel frustrated? Would she get frustrated? Would I cry? Would that ruin the feeding session?
I remember times I would “forget” to weigh her before a feeding so that I didn’t have to weigh her after and feel like I had “failed” if she didn’t eat enough. I knew if she hadn’t gotten enough milk, the anxiety would come back again. (If you guys want me to, I’ll do a longer post on Charlotte’s first few months and our struggles with breastfeeding).
Looking back, I can now see that was all anxiety. I chalked it all up to being a new Mom and feeling: “Of course, I’m nervous. This is all new to me.”
When I was growing up, worry was normalized. If you were worried about something, it meant you cared.
The feelings we find ourselves in should definitely be normalized and validated, but, I also believe that we shouldn’t stay there. It’s true I was feeling anxious. It is also true that my anxiety was taking me out of the present moment. I was both stuck in the past, angry with myself for things I didn’t do, and living in the future feeling anxious about all the things I hadn’t yet done.
The other day, I heard Dan Allender speak on our body’s response to trauma, and it definitely put this into perspective for me. He discussed homeostasis and allostasis states and how our body attempts to protect itself
Homeostasis is what our body does to stabilize itself against environmental changes (outside stressors). Allostasis is our body trying to achieve homeostasis under chronic stress. What this means is that our body decides, “this is our new normal and we just have to deal with it”. The allostatic load that follows is the “wear and tear on our body”. It builds up over time due to chronic stress. This is when we start to see pain, illness, and fatigue.
I think this is where a lot of us Moms live, in this state of stress that has become our new normal. Yes, being a Mom is stressful, yet I don’t believe we should succumb to this state of stress for the next 18 years. If we do this, our bodies will literally start breaking down. It is not normal for our bodies to be in allostasis for a period of time and we need to address that. While it is completely normal to feel stress and to even feel anxiety, it’s not okay to live there.
I reached out to several women and shared my worries and they gave wonderful suggestions on things to do. One of those suggestions was to ask for help. It is true that my to do list is extremely long, and it is also true that I can’t do it alone. Dave and I then sat down, brainstormed, and budgeted ways to take things off my plate. He helped structure my days with daily tasks rather than a million tasks for the week. When I saw what needed to get done, I would feel paralyzed with what to do first. By breaking it down to daily tasks, it seemed less daunting.
In all of this, the main theme was letting someone into my head. In my case, it was David. He helped me listen to what I was saying to myself, and after some clarifying, we were able to come up with solutions. For you, it might be your spouse, a best friend, a therapist, or someone at church.
My prayer is that you find someone you can talk to, to speak truth into you. While my feelings were valid, the thoughts I was telling myself were just not true. I needed to let someone in to ground me, and to just get out of my own head! Please reach out if this is something you’re going through. It’s so much more common than we think and it can happen to anyone.