“Often times, when these feelings of uncertainty begin to overtake me, I remind myself that I have to be strong for my daughter. I don’t want her to see me in this state. I use all the strength within so that my mind does not fill up with the constant fear that pursues me. I am in a battle with something that is much bigger than myself.”
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States of America, affecting 40 million adults age 18 and older, or 18% of the population. Women are twice as likely to be affected as men.
Occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. You might feel anxious when faced with a problem at work, before taking a test, or making an important decision. However, anxiety disorders involve more than temporary worry or fear. For a person with an anxiety disorder, the anxiety does not go away and can get worst over time. The feelings can interfere with daily activities such as job performance, school, work, and relationships. There are several different types of anxiety disorders. Some examples include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder. (National Institute of Mental Health)
Due to the misconception that anxiety is something that is “just in your mind”, most women who suffer from these disorders try their best to keep it hidden. Fear of judgement and lack of support are the key factors.
Tania is a person who is near and dear to my heart. She is my sister in law who I have known for over a decade. I asked if she would be willing to share her story of anxiety to possibly encourage other women/mothers who are walking in a similar journey of life.
I wanted to empower Tania by giving her a voice, a purpose to her silent struggle with this disorder. She is not just another statistic, she is the definition of strength and resilience in the face of adversity.
This is her story.
“Since I was a little girl, I was very timid. In fact, many things would frighten me. I had a hard time with the concept of friendships because I could not relate. I felt different from others. I honestly think I have always suffered from anxiety.”
Tania is a 28 year old working mom. She has a 19 month old daughter who is the joy and light of her life.
When you first meet Tania, she appears shy and is quite reserved. It takes time and trust for her to truly open up and let you in. However, these walls of insecurity and doubt are all but a coping mechanism from her emotional childhood scars. Tania lost her father to leukemia, a form of cancer, when she was only 4 years old.
*Anxiety disorders develop from a complex set of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events. (National Institute of Mental Health)
When did anxiety begin for you? Do you suspect there was a specific trigger that initiated it?
“I believe that my father’s death was the crucial factor that influenced my anxiety. The absence of a paternal figure has left devastating effects. I longed for that father daughter relationship and bond. At times, it has negatively impacted my relationship with my spouse. I long for that protection and love that only a father can provide.”
“Back in 2010, my relationship with my spouse was not in a good state. I was feeling an enormous emptiness and I shifted my focus to excessive physical exercise. I also began to consume energy drinks and ate very little. This caused me to constantly feel mentally and physically weak. Ultimately, it all lead to the cause of my first panic attack. Since that moment, my life has never been the same.”
How has anxiety impacted your journey of motherhood?
“From the moment I found out I was expecting a child, I felt this overwhelming sense of worry. The simple fact that I was carrying a life inside of me would put me in such a state of nervousness that I felt like I could not breath. Throughout all my pregnancy I lived in fear of losing my baby. The fear was more than I could bear. I would cry endlessly thinking something would happen to my child because of my anxiety. I would pay such close attention to simple things such as the heartbeat and her daily movements. If I noticed something different, that fear would overtake me. Living with anxiety is constant desperation of things that you cannot control.”
How does it affect your ability to parent on a daily basis?
“Every single day is a struggle when it comes to parenting and having anxiety. I am constantly worried about my daughter’s well being, especially because she depends on me. Often times, when these feelings of uncertainty begin to overtake me, I remind myself that I have to be strong for my daughter. I don’t want her to see me in this state. I use all the strength within so that my mind does not fill up with the constant fear that pursues me. I am in a battle with something that is much bigger than myself.”
Describe your most difficult struggles with anxiety while being a mom?
“When children get sick, a mom will always naturally worry, but for a mom with anxiety, worry becomes fear, then the panic sets in. The most difficult part of motherhood is when anxiety causes physical symptoms such as nausea, feeling light headed or even a a state of confusion.
There were many times when I was at home alone with my daughter, and just the thought of no one being there with me would bring insecurities, especially when my daughter was asleep. I would be laying down next to her and suddenly, I would begin to feel as if I was unable to breath. The fear of a panic attack, loosing physical control, and even fainting, made me feel mentally trapped.
The thought of something happening to me and leaving my daughter all alone, would overwhelm me. When something like this happens, I usually call my mom or my brother. I stay talking to one of them until I feel better.”
Do you take any medication and if so, how does it help you?
“I take 150mg of Sertraline (Zoloft) every night. It helps to control my anxiety symptoms such as dizziness, blurred vision, nausea, rapid heart palpations, and inability to breath. The medication also helps to control my mind, making me feel more secure. However, throughout my daughter’s pregnancy, I did not take any medication.”
Have you ever reached out for help, such as talking to a licensed professional? Do you believe this is important to do?
“Since anxiety is one of the most difficult mental disorders to control, I have always turned to professional help. I began by going to therapy with a psychologist once a week. According to how I felt and the occurrence of my symptoms, my visits would diminish. I also see a psychiatrist once every two months to evaluate my condition and see if medication for treatment is needed.
It is easier for me to open up and talk about my feelings to a licensed professional because he/she makes me feel comfortable in understanding my disorder. They have the knowledge and education in what people with anxiety go through and need on a daily basis.
I believe it is important to seek professional help because anxiety disorders often lead to depression and in severe cases, even suicide.”
Why do you think anxiety is greatly misunderstood by others?
“I think the greatest misconception people have of anxiety is that it is not an actual mental disorder. People tend to think that a person who suffers from panic disorders like myself, can just control it. They lack the understanding that these mental disorders bring on physical symptoms. The mind is so powerful, and only people who have anxiety know how easily it can overtake you.”
What advice would you give another mom who is dealing with anxiety?
“The very first thing I would tell another mom with anxiety is that you are not alone, and I understand this giant you are facing. I would also tell them to seek professional help if you have not already. Having a support circle is important, even if it is a small one that consists of family members.
Do not be so tough on yourself. For example, there are many times I am feeling anxious and I ask someone in my support circle for help with my daughter. That person might think I should try harder, do better when it comes to taking care of her, but I am pushing myself.
Not everyone will completely understand how these mental thoughts turn into physical symptoms. It’s irrational and at times unexplainable. The inability to concentrate and blurred vision make it hard to multi task and parent. I too am in the process of learning to not judge my incapabilities and do my best as a mom with anxiety.”
Before this interview with Tania, I myself did not fully understand anxiety. Reading her answers and researching more about it has opened not only my eyes to this mental disorder, but my heart.
“The worst thing you can do to a person with an invisible illness is make them feel like they need to prove how sick they are.”
We often forget how important the mental and emotional well being of a mother is to the foundation of her family.
Why not offer more love, kindness, and a listening heart full of compassion. We could certainly all use more of that!
Before judging another person’s journey, be gentle in how you try to step into their shoes.
Tania, I am so proud of you for sharing your story. Thank you for allowing me to write about your journey. I feel honored and privileged.
You are one of the strongest women I know. Don’t ever forget how AMAZING you are. Keep fighting for your RISE and TRANSFORMATION. One day you will have the victory.
“You are so brave and quiet, I often forget you are suffering.” ~Ernest Hemingway