Right now. I know it’s happening soon because all of my warning signs are present. My muscles are tight, my heart is beating faster than usual, and I am completely on edge. My head is – just – loud. There is so much noise that if someone started talking to me, I likely would not notice right away. It is almost like a white noise machine or a static television channel turned all the way up. When the noise really gets loud, I know I have to get out. If I am in, I need to be out. I need to be breathing fresh air because when everything is reeling out of control, there is something about being as close to nature as humanly possible that is necessary for me to endure what’s coming.
Right now, my mind is a very loud and terrifying place to be. My imagination is not submissive to my will, and unspeakable, horrific thoughts quickly come and go. It is almost like flipping through slide show, until I stumble on a “good slide” to stop and study. Once a thought sticks, I cannot get it out. I say things to myself like “this is not true, this is not real, this is completely implausible,” even though I can see the event unfolding right before my eyes. Sometimes my real voice is louder than my thoughts, but most of the time my thoughts win and the next few minutes are pure hell on earth (and I do not say that lightly).
The time after this is a complete blur, and I honestly do not know what it looks like from the perspective of an outsider. All I know is I think I am going to die. I don’t know if I am screaming or talking or rocking back and forth or what. When it’s over, my eyes are swollen and my face is wet with a mixture of tears and sweat. My breathing is labored and my muscles are very sore. All I want to do is crawl in to bed and sleep.
This is my battle with anxiety.
On good days, I am usually laid back and jovial. Laughter comes easily. I enjoy my children and my family. I am able to home school with enthusiasm and gratitude.
When I’m struggling, I spend my days calculating worst case scenarios and my nights checking and rechecking our locks. If my husband does not answer the phone or call me back within a half-hour, I am fully convinced he is dead somewhere. I easily convince myself of realities that do not exist. I blame myself for things I did not do. The way I talk to myself is extremely negative. I am constantly calling myself stupid, dumb, ridiculous, fat, ugly, worthless, gross, incapable, psycho. In my right mind, I know I am not these things, but I am not in my right mind all the time.
Thankfully, even though I do experience a few anxiety attacks and some tough days, the good days have been a more frequent occurrence than the hard days.
Here is why.
My anxiety level skyrocketed when I was pregnant with my fourth child. I am so thankful for my midwife who asked me at every check ho5w I was doing mentally, and I am so grateful that I was honest with her about it. She referred me to a wonderful psychiatrist and I started taking medication and saw improvement almost immediately.
I also let my friends, family, and church family know about my struggle with anxiety. Because they are most important people in my life, I knew their support and prayers were essential to focus my mind and soul on truth.
Here is the thing: post-partum anxiety affects about 15-17% of women. It is very possibly even more common that post-partum depression. If you are experiencing any concerning symptoms, please consult your doctor. There is no reason you have to suffer through this in isolation when there are so many of us who are fighting the same battle. You are not alone, and you can manage this.