One of the worst things that ever happened to me as a mother didn’t actually happen to me. I’d just had my second son when I saw I had seen a news segment about cars exploding into flames while fueling at the gas station. Suddenly, all I could think about was the possibility of my car bursting into flames. I’d cry and beg my husband to fill up the car for me and when I had to do it myself I’d unbuckle both kids as a precautionary measure because I didn’t know how I’d get them both out in time and couldn’t bear to choose between them. This constant worry about fiery death wasn’t my first brush with mommy anxiety, unfortunately.
You know how some moms get postpartum depression? Well, I get crippling postpartum anxiety. I worry about everything – SIDS, meningitis, choking, the weird man at the park – to the point where I stop eating and sleeping. With my first son, I sat by his crib to watch him breathe, only sleeping in fits which I’d wake up from in a total panic, sure that he’d died. It was hard to enjoy my infants because I was consumed with worry. Thankfully, my doctor caught on to what was happening and when I had my third son, they put me on anti-anxiety medication the second he was born.
I’m not alone. Anxiety is the second most common mental illness in America, and women are twice as likely to be affected, according to the American Psychological Association. And 10 to 15% of women suffer from postpartum mood disorders (PPMDs), which can include postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, and postpartum psychosis. One of the hardest parts of dealing with anxiety as a mom is that people assume it’s normal for you to worry about your kids and so they brush off your fears as no big deal. But there’s anxiety and then there’s anxiety.
So for all the moms who worry too much, you’re so not alone! I understand you, and I’ll never laugh when you confess you stayed up all night Googling fetal alcohol syndrome after taking a dose of NyQuil. In fact, I’ll see your crazy and raise you one. Here are some of the biggest fears anxious moms face:
1. How stressful the everyday school drop-off can be. “My biggest struggle is leaving Riley at school. Of course I have the little fears every child deals with, like bullying and academic troubles, but my real fear – that I worry about every single day – is kidnapping and school shootings. I do realize that these are less likely to happen then the other problems, and yet every time I drop him off at school it’s all I can think about.” -Lia F., 26, Denver, CO
2. Worrying that you’ll pass your anxiety on to your kids. “I’ve lived with anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder almost my whole life so I know how incredibly painful and debilitating it can be. Sometimes I see my kids doing things or worrying like I do and it scares me. I have anxiety that I’m giving my kids anxiety!” –Cassie S., 31, Sacramento, CA
3. Not being able to enjoy it when your kids sleep in. “Whenever my kids take longer than normal…