“Get your mind right,” “It’s all in your head,” “You need to pray more,” “What do you have to be sad about?” “At least it wasn’t a death sentence…” I’ve heard it all in regards to admitting out loud, that I suffer from anxiety, and panic attacks.
I first noticed a change in my psyche not long after my son was born in December 2014. I was assured by my OBGYN and southern mama that this was just my body adjusting to having a baby via cesarean. “Your hormones are getting back to normal from all the medicine that was given to you in the hospital.” Normal? I didn’t even remember what that felt like after having a baby. What I did know was that my mind and thoughts didn’t seem to be “on point” anymore. I was in charge of this new little person, and the world as I once knew it, was gone. I wrote it off as just being tired- sleep deprived, new mom stuff, right? I buried that feeling of being lost, anxious, and emotional deep down into my stomach, and never brought it up, for fear of embarrassment and not being considered a “good mother.”
As time went on, more and more things started to pile on top of my shoulders. I had started to notice the lack of milestones my son was meeting, his tantrums/meltdowns were becoming more severe, and to top it off, I could add cold-night sweats as the cherry to my evening for myself. It’s all apart of motherhood right? Again, I dug deep and didn’t say anything. I took some deep breaths and eventually my body temperature felt normal again, I was okay.
We welcomed our second child in December 2016. Another cesarean, another round of medicine, another round of the newborn phase, along with a two year old son, whom wasn’t speaking. The morning my water broke we had to get our son ready to stay with my mother, the plan was for her to keep him throughout our hospital stay. She refused to miss the birth of her granddaughter and decided to bring my son up to the hospital once I was wheeled into recovery. The meltdown was so bad I remember hearing my son screaming across the hallway, behind a door. For what? Who knows. At this time I had no idea about sensory overload, but boy would I learn.
I started to become more of an introvert. I blamed being tired and nursing for not wanting to jump in the car and just go somewhere. I started making excuses for not meeting friends, anything to put it all on me, and not the fact that I was so worried how my son may react to a certain type of setting. Or worried how someone may perceive him, glare at him, glare at me for not “doing anything.” Again, the heaviness lay upon my shoulders, and I couldn’t breathe. Once we finally had our verdict, our autism diagnosis, I lost it.
I sobbed the entire way home. I couldn’t sleep that night- I lay there thinking about the future, my son’s future. What’s going to happen to him? Is he going to be able to do things on his own? What about bullies? Still, the tears fell, the cold sweats began again, and for the first time I literally started to shake. I felt tingly all over- a heart attack or stroke was coming, I was sure of it- I was in a full blown panic attack. I couldn’t catch my breath, my heart was racing, why was this happening to me? I managed to get to the floor and curled into the fetal position, trying to listen to my breath, feel my breath, anything. I remember praying to God, “please don’t take me yet, the kids need me, and I need them. Please God.” What felt like 45 minutes, was over and done with within 10, claims my husband. I had survived my first full blown panic attack. That’s it right? One and done? No.
Things I used to find such joy in; amusement parks, late night runs, spontaneity, traveling, wine Wednesdays, all of it fell by the wayside. I was convinced I would die in all of those things and never see my family again. One by one, I permanently crossed things off my list that I would never do again. I created scenarios in my mind that crippled me from moving forward with plans. Any pain I felt, was life ending, and the internet was no help- with it’s back and forth symptoms that made absolutely no sense. It was time to go see a doctor, only this time, it was for myself, not my son.
The doctor had literally been in the room 2 minutes, had asked what brings me in today, and I was in tears. I told him everything- it felt like a therapy session, which he ultimately recommended. After hearing me out about my episodes, my fears, and emotions, I was clinically diagnosed with anxiety. He started me out with a low dose anti-depressant, and recommended a good therapist which I speak to bi-weekly. I also check in with him every 3 months just to see if I need a tweak.
I am holistic as they come. I always try and rub some essential oils on it, meditate, do some yoga and just stretch it out. I do not like taking medicine. However, my anxiety was bigger than that, I recognized that I needed help, and took the necessary steps to talk to someone about it. I am not weak for admitting I needed help. I still need help. What slapped me right in the face was when my doctor responded to my protest in regards to medicine and said; “your kids need the best version of yourself. They need you happy, and healthy, you can practice all the self-care in the world, but your mental stability works different than that.” He was right- I would be doing myself such a disservice if I continued ignoring the signs.
I am still taking things day by day. My anti-depressant is working and calms me down when I start to get anxious. Much like my new normal, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. I encourage you to seek help if you need it, talk to someone, don’t let it get to the point of no return. You are not less of a human being for admitting something may be wrong. Parents/Caregivers of children with disabilities don’t get enough credit- I FEEL YOU! You are amazing and you are enough! I’m here if anyone ever wants to chat ❤
“Mothers of children with autism have stress levels comparable to combat veterans.”
– University of Wisconsin