I have anxiety.
Looking back, I suppose I always have.
The tightening in my chest. Irritability over little things. Unfounded worries. And at its worst, the impossible feeling of wanting to crawl right out of my skin . . . these woes have been my constant companions. For most of my life, I assumed all of it was just a normal part of the human experience, so I brushed the anxious feelings off as best I could.
Then I became a mom. Times three.
Suddenly, my anxiety intensified to the point where it was impossible to ignore.
Because while motherhood is challenging for everyone, it can be downright daunting to those of us who suffer from anxiety.
Every day, I find myself face-to-face with situations that are perfectly normal to the outside eye, but are impossibly overwhelming to me. It seems all of the things that set my anxiety off are the exact things that go hand-in-hand with parenting.
Kids are loud. Excessive noise makes me crumble.
Kids are needy and hands-on at all times. I can’t function without alone time to recharge.
Kids are messy. I struggle to focus in clutter and chaos.
Kids are reckless and impulsive. I have a stream of fear-filled what ifs running through my mind at all times.
Kids are unpredictable. I feel helpless when I’m not in control of a situation.
In short, kids are my trigger. Especially my own kids.
It’s hard for me to even type those words because the guilt that comes with the admission is HEAVY. How is it that the humans I adore most in this world—the three precious littles I would do literally anything for—also break me on a daily basis?
But it’s true.
In 99% of moments when I feel anxious, my kids are somehow involved.
When I’m spinning my wheels trying to accomplish something but keep getting interrupted by tattling or requests for snacks.
When I can’t think clearly because the sound of their playful squeals in the next room is too overpowering.
When it takes everything in me not to push their little hands away as they reach for me at the end of the day because I am just so. darn. touched. out.
In my younger years, I could cope with my anxiety because when it came knocking I could take the moment of peace needed to calm it.
But once I became a mom—especially a stay-at-home mom—I discovered I no longer had that luxury. All of my triggers are constant bits of my surroundings and—for the most part—the only time I’m able to shut them out is late at night when everyone is asleep, or on the rare occasion I have a break from all three kids.
I can try to steal away to my bedroom to regroup during the day, sure, but you can bet tiny footsteps are never too far behind and stubby little fingers always seem to find their way through the crack under the door. More often than not, I end up with an oblivious little one in my lap and am forced to navigate my way through a panic attack while the toddler jabbers on about dinosaurs.
There is no calm to be found to soothe my inner storm.
Being a mom who suffers from anxiety is no joke, but I’ve realized in order to make the most of motherhood and be everything my babies deserve, I must do everything I can to tame the beast.
So I battle every day.
I take medication. I practice coping skills. I drink less caffeine and I take lots of deep breaths. I do everything I can to minimize the triggers in my environment. I actively fight the voice in my head that tells me I’m unfit to be my kids’ mother.
And above all, I’m learning to give myself heaps and heaps of grace and allow myself a clean slate each morning—even after the days when my anxiety gets the best of me.
I love my babies. My babies love me. Together, we’re working through this. This struggle is a part of our story, but I sure as heck won’t let it define the relationship we share.
The anxiety my kids trigger within me is big, but my love for them will always be so, so much bigger.