Anxiety, Depression, and Motherhood Mental Health - OC87 Recovery Diaries

motherhood mental health

As I lie in bed, my thoughts spiral and my body turns, trying to find a better position; my mind trying to find a better location to settle. I attempt to find a voice that isn’t screaming at me.

“You’re a horrible mother.

You’re a horrible writer.

You’re a horrible person because you were rude to that insurance representative on the phone today, and you can’t cross a single item off from your to-do list at work. Each time a new item is added, your anxiety grows.”

Why can’t I ever finish anything I start?  As I fight sleep, or as sleep fights me, I attempt to find a ​different​ voice. A voice that isn’t shrieking to let itself out and tell the world how bad of a job I’ve been doing; especially at motherhood. Especially at dealing with the anxiety that has been kicking my ass lately. I have not been playing with my kids enough, I tell them I have a stomach ache every time they ask me to play outside. All I can do is lie on the couch.

I don’t want to face the fact that this is what I am today, what I’ve been several times before, and what I know I will be again. Even after this episode of anxiety and depression goes away, I know it will come back. I’ve been too tired to do bath time as often as I should because I am covering for someone at work right now, working overtime, and writing on the side. Sometimes, like right now, I just don’t feel like being a mother or a daughter or a partner or an employee or a friend. I feel like hiding in a hole and staying there until these feelings pass. But I know it isn’t as simple as that.

motherhood mental health

These feelings started when I was in my late teens. I began to notice that I was different. Often, I became sad without reason. I was terrified to do thrilling things like ride in a fast car or be alone with my boyfriend. As I got older and moved out, my anxiety ballooned. Everyday things– like keeping a simple budget to pay rent– made me anxious so I said to hell with it, and had to ask my parents for money more than once. Once I became a mother, I thought it would get better; the sadness would lift, the lack of motivation would no longer exist. But it never got better. When my first child was a baby, he would throw up (a simple case of reflux) but I would spend hours​  researching on the internet different reasons why this may occur and different things that ​could​ be wrong with him. When he got older, I could barely leave him with a sitter to go to Target by myself without my anxiety taking over. Obsessive thoughts controlled me. I went to the doctor on several occasions: antidepressants, diet change, exercise, change of sleep schedule and talk therapy were all parts of my journey. Sometimes some of these suggestions worked and sometimes they didn’t; I never knew which it would be.

When these interventions would fail, I would revert back to my old ways. I returned to the negativity I promised myself I would forfeit for the sake of my two kids, and for my own sake. When the antidepressants made me a feel like a zombie, I stopped taking them. When the therapist told me that, if I just focused on being the kind of mother she knew I could be, I felt worse.

I’m a shitty mom, a horrible cook, I hate to clean, I hate to organize, I don’t like to play Pokémon, I’m not a strong writer, I’m not good enough at my job, not good enough at my life. I repeat these things to myself, I can’t share them with friends and family. It’s like a virus I cannot shake. I want to get it off of me, to kick this fog away and get up, but I don’t know how. When you are a mother you have to find a way, and this isn’t the first time I’ve had to find a way to drag myself out from the darkness for my children even when I’m convinced I just ​can’t​ this time. I can for them. ​So I do the only thing I know how to do, the only other option besides staying in bed and waiting for sleep to come. I get up. I write in my journal because my thoughts always come out more clearly through my pen to the paper than they do racing in my head. I read. I read about mother’s before me who thought they couldn’t do it, but did. I call my own mother,​ ​the only person in whom I can confide. She’s the only person who I feel accepts me for the real me, the me that lays in bed with horrible thoughts in my head. She tells me I don’t have a choice but to get up, to get better, because I have two little boys counting on me, and no matter how horrible I think I am, I am everything to them and they need me.

I know my thoughts are irrational, I have seen horrible parenting first-hand, and I have experienced what it’s like to have screaming and yelling, and uncertainty all around you. I experienced it with my own parents enough so I know what that chaos feels like. On my good days, I know I am capable but I can’t see this on my worst days. On my worst days, I am filled with self-loathing that beats me down. I feel it all over me, I feel it when I am tucking my kids into bed and all I want to do is hurry so I can go to bed and feel the release that sleep provides. I feel it when I can’t write because I have been so depressed that I have blocked any thoughtful ideas that typically fill my mind.   

In motherhood, in writing, in my career in healthcare, I feel like I am expected to be my best at all times, to give my best.​ ​Society makes us feel like we are failures if we can’t juggle motherhood, careers, our kids’ social lives, our husbands’ social lives, our own social lives perfectly. So when I fail, it makes ​me​ a failure. Just when I think I’m doing a pretty good job, suddenly I’m at work and I receive a call and am told my son has a double ear infection ​again​, and then I’m down the hall at work away from my desk, ​when I’m already busy as hell, calling every ENT available so I can to get him in as fast as I can. It’s my fault; I h​ave been putting it off for a year. A ​year. What kind of mother does that?

As soon as I feel like I am doing well in my writing career, my deepest passion, it seems as though acceptances stop coming and I begin to receive rejections. The feelings that I am not good enough begin to arise. I start telling myself to quit acting like I am better than I really am.

I remind myself, I may not have a book published, but I have several articles published and I’m working on an idea for a book. I need to recognize my accomplishments and have pride. I do not have an advanced medical degree, but I work in the medical field, speaking with physicians every day to clear patients for serious surgery that they desperately need. I may not have a Ph.D. in child psychology, but I don’t think my kids are too fucked up, and as long as I can pull myself out of this pit of anxiety I’m feeling tonight which, somehow, some way, I always do sometimes by myself and sometimes, with help, I can do all these things.

I can only enter a battle with myself to be better than I was yesterday, rather than battle with myself that I can’t be better, can’t even be good enough. For my kids, for my passion of writing, for my career. If I can fight that fight, then I have done enough.  

I have the choice to flee from my life and my kids and my passions, and just give up​. ​I could stop trying and let the bad days trample all over the good ones. I could dissociate from my feelings of guilt on the days I am not the kind of mother my kids deserve.​ ​I can’t be perfect right away. But I also have the choice to work at it every day. Each day, I can spend some time writing down what makes me happy and what I can do to work towards greater happiness. My journal is always a good place to start if I can make myself write. When I’m suffering from depression or anxiety it’s a challenge to get out of be, let alone focus on writing out my feelings. But, when I do, it never fails; writing my thoughts down stops them from racing and helps with my anxiety.  

motherhood mental health

I’m ready to fight the fight and, in order to win this fight, I have to ​believe​ in myself– that I am good, I love my kids with all my heart– my kids love me despite my imperfections. I love to stand outside in the morning in the quiet and look out at my world. I may not be be a supermodel but I have known how it feels to feel beautiful to someone else. I may not treat myself the way I should at all times, but I always treat others well, I always think of others people’s feelings. And this very fact that I care for others proves to me that I am a good mom. I have goals, I have aspirations, I have dreams, and of course, I also have doubts. Sometimes they trick me into thinking that I am worthless. But as long as I continue to get up after I fall, I know this isn’t true.  

Is anyone ever truly happy or content? Am I the only one who lays in bed at night agonizing about the kind of parent I am, and about the feelings I do not speak aloud?  I don’t want to just barely live. I don’t want to clock in and clock out and go home and make dinner and break up fights between my kids and avoid fighting with my partner. I know I am not the only one, I am not alone in these feelings. I’m going to start taking more deep breaths when I feel like snapping and give my kids my undivided attention even if only for twenty minutes. I am going to write more because it’s what I love, and it makes me feel alive. When I’m lying in bed at night, I don’t want to wait for sleep to come and wipe out my thoughts, I want to be a person I am proud to recognize. I want to find myself in bed at night knowing that, just because I have horrible days, I am still capable of pulling myself out of the depression and anxiety to be there for those that love and need me most.

motherhood mental health

EDITOR IN CHIEF: Gabriel Nathan | EDITOR: Laura Farrell | DESIGN: Leah Alexandra Goldstein | PUBLISHER: Bud Clayman

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