I am often a put it out there kind of person so that others don't feel they have to hide from the struggles they may endure themselves. I have learned over many years that controlling ones life and the things you wish could or couldn't happen isn't reality. At this point in time I feel I need to be real again with myself to help the healing process within.
I've struggled now through postpartum anxiety with two children, while this time around it became a little more depressed moods mixed with it. I am writing this post today for myself and other moms who need support from their partners, family members and friends, with the hopes I can help someone who may be in the midst of the hard times after having a baby. I want to focus on embracing the joys of what mothering can bring for ME as an individual, instead of being consumed by the constant worries and negative thoughts of how mothering is SUPPOSED to be.
This go around after having my daughter, all I wanted to do was hide that once again, I was plagued by thoughts that would just continue to swirl around in my head often times leaving me paralyzed in moving forward with any decisions. To my close family and some friends they saw it, they saw the swirl, the stress of wanting everything to flow and go as planned, the pain that comes with the anxious days and all the tears. The tears because you can't get your own thoughts together enough to even express what you need/feel/want and don't even know where to begin.
I've had to spend some time looking into what my anxiety actually looks like and what it is that I want others to understand in order to help. There was no real easy way to explain to others what the daily struggles were with this awful inability to think straight, often times leaving myself and family and friends at a loss some days on how to help. I have identified some of the basics, the basics I am becoming aware I struggle with still, in hopes that some of you won't feel alone in those lonely, yet not always alone, moments motherhood brings. I continue daily to use coping skills I've learned to lessen the anxious feelings, but I understand now that it may always be there when all I've wanted is for it to go away and just let me relax!
#1 The simplest of tasks become nearly impossible since it feels like you are doing them while walking through thick mud, in heavy fog sometimes. The thought of any seemingly insignificant change to your "carefully crafted schedule" is completely overwhelming and sends me into the negative swirling thoughts in my own mind.
#2 The papers and clutter on top of the counters and toys on the floor, along with the spills/messes, make me cranky! I often times in my head hear that it's me causing the mess. I then think my spouse is out to show me I can't handle it all, "You and your mess you create all day while you're home, why can't you keep it together?!" Is that really legit that he's thinking that? No. Not at all. But my anxiety and mind will make me believe that and so the day goes.
#3 I dread doing those messy "projects” with my son because I just can’t deal with the mess and extra time it takes to clean it up. Hence adding to the mounds of clutter and mess that piles and piles when we do actually do these projects because I don't clean it up, haha! But let's be real, the life of a toddler and kid stuff anyways just is what it is, MESSY, ans I try hard to continue to keep it looking "decent enough" in my own head which becomes exhausting.
#4 While I play with my kids, my mind is a million miles away. I am at times not engaged with them because I'm obsessing over the never ending list of tasks for that day or the next. I desperately want to abandon that to-do list, and just be able to give all of myself to them, to be truly free to live in the moment. It’s tempting, but that list keeps sucking me back in telling me "things are not done yet lady, keep going!"
#5 You obsess over whether you’re feeding your kids enough, if they’re getting enough sleep, is this reflux again with my daughter, did she poop today or is that maybe why she's fussy, or whether you’re spending enough time with them. You worry all the time that you’re not a good mother, and believe there is no way to really know whether you are doing anything right.
Whew! That was a lot to actually sit down and identify that I constantly think about! I just drained myself writing it all out even. Now, how can some of you help those of us through these struggling times....
Support system ROCK STARS and how you can help us:
-Be there physically, and be there mentally when we are struggling. Offer words of support like "I know this has to be hard for you right now" "I can't imagine it being easy with what you are going through. You are doing a great job though" "I am here for you and always will be, to just sit next to you if you need". It isn't always easy seeing the tears day in and day out, but we like to feel they aren't looked at as someone who is breaking, sad, upset, emotional every time they come swirling down. Sometimes it simply is that our own mind hasn't turned off in hours, days, and we're just tired of that.
-Don't take things personally in the moments when she explodes with anger (this may be the hardest one for you, I know!). Most of the time it's many irrational thoughts coming together at once that if you ever try to piece them together and what they really mean, you'll entangle yourself in more confusion for you and your partner in those moments.
-When you come home, or when you come over, ask what things you could do that would help her for THAT DAY. Sometimes all were thinking about is how to get through hour by hour. It's nice to offer to bring a coffee, do the dishes sitting in the sink, fold the laundry in the dryer, get some food for her, and just sit on the couch with us and watch tv.
To wrap this one up I'll leave all of you who are still reading with this.....I’m finally starting to realize (4 months after having my 2nd child) that there is no such thing as perfect, even as much as I try to keep it perfect in my own head. Teaching my son and daughter to look adversity in the eye and stand back up when things get hard or feel out of control, is so much more important than teaching them to strive for the impossible ideal of perfection. I've been at this parenting gig now for almost 3 years and I will probably spend the rest of my parenting career working through anxiety and what moods come with it. They won’t go away just because I want them to. But I now am finding that perhaps I don't need to let them define me anymore.... perhaps I can choose to accept them as I have with all other challenges and take them on head on. My children will never face a life free of trials and they will find their struggles come from both the inside and the outside. I’m just hoping that my struggles will at least provide in them a little hope that they can live with them even if they don’t necessarily want to.