Moms spill the tea #2
Let’s Talk About Anxiety as A Mom
Worrying is a natural part of being a mom. It’s how we keep our kids safe, by following that maternal instinct which tells us when danger is ahead.
But what happens when our instinct becomes skewed?
What happens when we become anxious about everything, regardless of whether it’s a real concern or a hypothetical one?
A Jumpy Start
When I fell pregnant, I started becoming a bit jumpy. I’m sure most moms are like that, especially if you have been trying to conceive for a while. I became protective of that little being growing inside me. I followed the pregnancy rule book to the letter. No soft cheese. No paté. No hot baths. DEFINITELY NO BOOZE. I didn’t want to take the chance.
I became responsible for another life and that’s scary shit!
When my son was born, the anxiety grew. I didn’t realise at the time that it was part of the Postnatal Depression I was experiencing. My normal motherly concerns about his feeding, weight gain and safety were unbearably over the top. I became obsessed.
No one else could feed the baby. “What if he chokes? What if he gets sick? What if he doesn’t eat enough?”
No one else could help when he was crying. “I can’t comfort him. What if I can never comfort him? I’m a terrible mother who can’t settle her own child!”
He couldn’t get dirty either. “Quick, wipe his hands. Don’t let him in that mud, it’s dirty. The clothes have stains, quick change him.”
It was exhausting. And it got worse.
As the months went on and I became more ill, the panic attacks started. I had no idea what was going on. I became too nervous to go shopping. I’d abandon my trolley in the middle of an aisle because the noise, people and florescent lighting were too overwhelming. I felt like I couldn’t breathe, I would sweat incessantly, and I believed I was dying.
It took many months of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to overcome the panic attacks but I finally got rid of them.
They didn’t even return when I had my second son 18 months ago. No postnatal depression, no anxiety. “At last,” I thought. “I can enjoy being a mom without being so bloody nervous.”
When my second son was a few months old my life was turned upside down. I was made redundant from my job, I discovered that my husband had been hiding a secret depression (along with other secrets) and my marriage went down the pan. All at once, the anxiety returned. But the symptoms were different. I had major headaches, I was physically frightened, I had terrible nightmares which I woke up crying from. The negative thinking was overwhelming too.
“What if I can’t support my kids? What if I have another breakdown? What if my kids are taken away from me? What if I’m alone forever?”
Generalised Anxiety Disorder
I was diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Now let me tell you something about GAD, there’s nothing GENERAL about it.
It’s not just a case of worrying a lot. It’s a debilitating condition that affects every aspect of my life. Making the kids lunches, taking them to school and day care, walking the dog, doing the washing, paying the bills, even going on holiday, every moment of every day I’m living on high alert. It’s exhausting.
I’m always tense. I just can’t physically or mentally relax. That’s so hard with children. When it’s bed time and I should be lying there calmly chatting to them or reading stories until they are asleep, my mind won’t switch off. Lists of worries and tasks bombard my brain.
I tried to start a full-time job a few months after my diagnosis. Big mistake for me and my family. All it did was add even more worries to my already bamboozled brain. I became a shouty mom. When something triggered my anxiety, I’d lose my shit and scream at anything in my path. I didn’t realise, until recently, that anger was a symptom of anxiety. The fight part of our fight-or-flight instinct.
Time for Change
The new job and its extra responsibilities became too much. I cracked inside and had to resign for my own sanity and for the happiness of my family.
I don’t want to be like this. I don’t want my kids to grow up with a mom who can’t deal with making an extra sandwich for the lunchbox or mud stains on a school top.
I don’t want my kids to see me crying every day from exhaustion and feeling like their mom doesn’t care because she shouts a lot. I love my babies more than life itself. But being a mom with anxiety is hard work. I am trying everything I can to relieve the anxiety. I can’t take antidepressants because of a bad previous reaction. I can’t take Valium because I become too dependant on it. I’ve tried vitamin B drops, writing, exercise and talking. Tricks help for a short amount of time, but there is no cure.
GAD has hardwired my brain into believing that behaving in a certain way will somehow protect me from a perceived negative outcome. I was told by a CBT therapist that changing this thought pattern is like trying to change the direction of deep tractor tyre tracks in a muddy field, using only a go-kart.
It feels like an impossible task.
Fight the Fight.
All I can do is keep trying though. Keep pushing through every day trying my hardest to think before I automatically shout, challenge my negative thinking, make time for self-care and force myself to relax. I’m trying to talk to my eldest child about my struggles. He’s surprisingly understanding and helpful for a 9-year-old.
I said to him the other day, have you noticed anything different about Mommy since she stopped her full-time job. “You’re not so stressed out. You don’t shout as much, and you seem much calmer. You’re a nicer Mommy.”
Wow. Their little eyes see it all. That is enough to motivate me to keep fighting the anxiety.
Nikki is a 38-year-old mom originally from Durban. She now lives in England with her husband and children aged 9 and 18 months. Nikki is a Mental Health Advocate and freelance writer. She blogs about her experiences with anxiety, depression and other mental health topics on
Thank you Nikki for sharing your experience with us and for giving me and many others a better understanding. This might just help a mom out there, who might think something is wrong with her get the neccessary help and support she needs.
Thank you for using your experience to now help and inform other moms. You are a beacon of hope.
From one mom to another, I salute you for standing strong.
Lets continue to Inspire, Impact and give hope to someone.