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what it’s like to be a mom with generalized anxiety disorder

June 8, 2018

Trista Peterson June 2018Constant worrying.

Obsessing over a sad story on the news… so much so that it keeps you awake until 4am. 

Feeling too nervous to ask for help… thinking if someone else helps care for your baby or child, something bad will happen to them. 

Cosleeping because you’re too worried about your children’s safety to let them sleep in a different room. 

Avoiding busy public places because you’re scared something bad might happen. 

Feeling too overwhelmed and exhausted to function.

Feeling so stressed out and nervous that you find yourself yelling and losing your temper over the smallest of things.

My entire life I’ve dealt with anxiety. It’s gotten progressively worse as I’ve gotten older. The thing is, I never realized I had anxiety. Sure, I thought I was a worrier. But that’s where it stopped. I simply thought there were people who worried about things and the people in their lives and there are people who don’t. I was just one of the unlucky ones who worried. A lot.

I’ll never forget the first time I heard of “Generalized Anxiety Disorder” (GAD). I was reading an article about Kristen Bell’s battle with anxiety on ScaryMommy.com. It explained that Bell battles with GAD and it explained what GAD is. When I read their definition, something inside me clicked.

The article said, Generalized anxiety disorder is the persistent and unrealistic worry about everyday things. So even though there isn’t a reason to worry, the excessive feelings still show up.

I finally felt like I knew what was “wrong” with me. I have anxiety. Identifying the problem made me feel a bit better. But I was too nervous to seek treatment for my anxiety. I thought knowing what I was up against was the battle. I thought I’d be able to fight it on my own.

But as the months passed it would get worse and worse. I would lay awake for hours upon hours every night.

Terrified that every sound I heard was someone inside our house. At first I was so scared I would wake Jason… but then he would offer to get up and walk through the house. And to me, it was SO real to me that someone was in our home that I absolutely couldn’t let him leave our locked room.

Replaying every scary thing I heard on the news that day… every sad post I saw on Facebook.

I was exhausted. But then after a few months of rough days, it would get better. The constant worries in my brain would slow down. I would get more sleep. I was able to more easily let go of things that normally worried me.

After Ben was born, it got worse and worse. Still, I did nothing. I was worried medication would make me feel different. Make me feel “not myself.” I was worried I couldn’t nurse while on medication. I was too nervous to even say “yes” when the nurse asked me at my postpartum visit if I was experiencing any anxiety.

Months went by and my anxiety only continued to get worse. Then, one day, my friend Jen shared her battle with anxiety in a blog post. She shared that she had started medication and it had changed her life. I messaged her to thank her for sharing her story because it changed my view on seeking treatment and the thought of taking daily medication for anxiety. I just didn’t understand how medicine could make me “worry” less. I didn’t realize it could change my life. And hearing Jen say it had changed her life, I called my doctor that day and scheduled an appointment.

I started with counseling and an as-needed medication. In my first counseling appointment, she identified my issues and officially diagnosed me with GAD and called out the way I was using OCD to help myself cope with them. After a month of counseling, I began the daily medication. I still see a counselor and am learning techniques to cope with my anxiety and the obsessive compulsive tendencies I have developed.

The medicine hasn’t changed “me.” The simplest way I can explain the effect of my medication is that it allows me to differentiate between rational and irrational thoughts. Not only that, it helps me to talk myself down from the irrational fears, most of the time. The anxiety isn’t completely gone and it never will be. But I am able to sleep at night again. I no longer feel irritable, exhausted and frustrated (most of the time). I do still have bad days. Days when my worries take over my brain. Days when I feel down or on edge. But I remind myself to take it one day at a time. That’s all anyone can do.

While I have come so far in the past five months, I know I definitely have work to do. I still have some irrational fears I am not able to talk myself through.

Letting someone else drive my children somewhere for fear of them being in a car accident.

Ben sleeping in his own room.

Shootings in crowded buildings, such as the movie theatre, the mall and concerts.

If you are feeling this way, I want you to know you’re not alone. There is treatment out there to help you live your life. You don’t have to spend your life in a haze of worry and fear. You deserve to make your health and well-being a priority. You deserve to get help. You deserve to talk with someone who “gets” it and can help you treat it.

I am such an open book when it comes to anxiety and my struggle. I decided to get help because of a blog post I read. So I want to speak about my experiences and about this mental illness that is a part of me. Please, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me however you feel comfortable. Comments, DMs or emails. I am here for you and would love to answer any questions you may have or just to be a (digital) shoulder for you to cry on and ear to listen to you. 

You are not alone.

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