3 Tips to Living a Less Anxious Motherhood

I’m not great at being present. I used to think I was, but I am not really a moment liver in a sense I hadn’t discovered yet.

I’m speaking in relation to my kids mostly, but I guess in my marriage and all relationships too really; I think I could pinpoint my anxiety massively to the fact that I am worried about what will happen “when”.

When I said to my husband that thing in the moment, will he be mad? Focus and worry about it for hours, ask 100x if he’s mad at me. Apologize for random nothingness out of feeling bad for the wrong I did that I’m not even sure if he’s mad at, even though he’s said no 100x.

When I talked that way to my kiddo as he grabbed the jello packet, will he remember his mom as someone who never trusted him to do things? Let this thought sit in my head all day.

When I got mad at my youngest, newly nicknamed Bam Bam, will he grow up remembering his mom giving the oldest brother more attention than him and that mom gets angry when he needs something? Spend too much time with youngest so make up for it, totally alienating oldest, feeling guilty about both, cry later.

When I spend the day cleaning and still am left with a dirty kitchen at the end of the day, we’ve forgotten to do our school work and my kids are clearly deeply needing connection with me but it’s bedtime and I’ve got nothing left, are they going to grow up thinking I never prioritized them and that mom was always busy getting nothing done and ignoring them?

When I get angry and retreat to my cell phone, will they remember a mom who was never really there and that her phone was more important than them?

These are the thoughts that plague my daily existence. There are millions more, all future focused. None here, none now.

And I realized tonight that a future with teenage boys is not a guarantee. What if I lose one? What if they lose me?

Anxiety exists in the future, it doesn’t exist in the now.

It can’t, because there’s nothing to be anxious about if it’s already happened, right?

I told my husband the other day that everything I do as a parent revolves around my relationship with each of them, and what that will evolve to as we grow as a family.

Will they come to me if they want to have sex with a girl but don’t know if they should because they aren’t really sure about the whole God thing and waiting?

Will they come to me if they tried drugs? Will they call me in a bad situation to get them out of it because they trust me?

And if they don’t, it’s because I failed them as a mom right now, in this moment. High stress right?

You see, anxiety is ignorant of people’s ability to make their own choices and the fact that they will struggle with their own things regardless of me.

Anxiety believes everything is the fault of the one feeling it.

Anxiety constantly asks me to relive every conversation, every fight, every moment, every post on social media or blog post because someone out there might be mad at something I’ve said and maybe that’s why no one I love has talked to me in a bit.

I don’t see anxiety often, it can honestly be really difficult to pinpoint and identify. I was not aware of my constant worry of someone being mad at me until recently, yet I recall a situation where the boy I liked in grade 8 and how sick I felt because I thought he was mad at me.

I see depression less. It’s even trickier for me to see. I mean … so I’m sleepy a lot, right? So what if some days I just want to cry. Isn’t that just motherhood? That’s what people tell me. PS you’re not helping.

Maybe that’s why anxiety and depression are so hard for people without them to understand, because those of us who have it often don’t see it either. It takes a lot of work to become aware, stay aware and make the necessary changes on our own.

And really, how can you share something in a way that is understood, when it hides from your own awareness? How do you ask for help with something like that?

And so I find myself in these situations where I’m upset, crying on the kitchen floor at 11:48 PM on  Monday night *ahem current sitch* because it pounces on me every now and again and suddenly I see how it’s been there all along.

If depression were a dark cloud in your heart leaving you sad and heavy, anxiety would be the bug in your ear whispering “what if…” with the worst possible scenario tied to it.

So when I realized that I’m not as present as I thought I was as a parent, or even a partner, this rocked my senses a bit. Parenting is my single greatest joy and challenge; Marriage is hard and beautiful and ever changing. And here I am faced with this reality that the two things I hold dearest in my life, I’m not even really here for.

Part of my morning routine is that I write down my intentions of how I want to show up for my family that day. How can I serve each soul at their highest level by showing up in mine? I am re training my brain to be present focused. Because when we take care of the present, the future comes into focus on it’s own.

The whispers of anxiety are truths, shown as they really happened, but they’re tainted with regret. With guilt. With shame. With snapshots of my future with kids who hate me for the awful things I said / did / made them feel, so my intentions take those truths and align them properly again.

I know rationally speaking, I’m doing great. My kids are well loved. I’m attentive and when I think of it from the standpoint of all I do, I’m a damn good mother and I know I should be proud.  I mean the average parent spends 20 minutes a day playing with their kids and I thought 4 hours of my undivided attention was not enough. So yea, I’m doing ok.

But anxiety doesn’t give a damn about truth.

And anxiety tells me every day that I will never be enough.

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Any other mommas out there feel this way?

No wonder I’m so tired all the time! I’m exhausted thinking about what I just wrote!

And for my lovely friends and followers who will come in and encourage me or their friends feeling this way, know that no amount of kind words, encouragements or incredibly kind words of truth will make this go away. They will be received warmly, probably with tears and immense gratitude, but you cannot compliment away anxiety.

What we have to understand is that if these are not rational thoughts, normal rational advice will never be good enough.

So after all that has been said, here’s my 3 best tips that have nothing to do with encouraging you, for living with mom guilt from anxiety and how to rise above water sometimes just enough, because when you’re having a bad day sometimes that’s all we want. Is a breath. I hope I can offer you that, but in a proactive way. There’s enough out there telling you how to get through the moment, I’m here to help you create a lifestyle around it.

**Please note that I always recommend you speak to your Dr, naturopath, shaman, healer, BFF or the gal doing your hair, WHOEVER, about your struggles. It doesn’t serve you to stay silent. The more you speak up, the stronger you will feel in order to conquer it and the better help you will get**

3 STEPS TO CREATING A LIFESTYLE THAT MINIMIZES ANXIETY

  1. Thank you Jesus can I get an amen for some gratitude! Every morning I sit down and write out at least three thing I am grateful for. I keep going as long as I am moved to and I get my kids on it too. Sometimes they are simple, sometimes they are not, and with the kids we usually end up laughing. I never spend too much time thinking about it and it is the bestway to start the day. If you sit there for 20 minutes just trying to find something to be grateful for, you’re trying to hard. Start with being grateful for the pen to write with and go from there.  This will start to retrain your brain to start looking for the positive things in your day and it might sound small, but the reaction deep within the cells of your body that shift when you start to think positively I swear have the power to cure diseases. Gratitude is medicine. Stop reading and think of 3 things you’re grateful for. Go. Faster.
  2. Get outside and spend some quiet time in your own mind. This is kind of two birds one stone. Every morning I get up and go for a walk with my giant, dog aggressive on leash German Shepherd. I can only walk her in the morning before my husband goes to work, I cannot take her out with the kids, and she must be walked and worked daily. This is a giant time suck of my day, and yet something I have become deeply grateful for. This time alone time is the best dang part of my day. I pop in a podcast for some ofit but I make sure to spend at least 15 minutes listening to just nature. The snow crunching beneath my feet. The leaves crackling with each step. You may not have a dog, you may not have a husband or wife to give you that free time outside alone, but you can find time. I swear your kids will be OK if you step outside your front door by yourself (yes in winter too) in all your jammie glory and just take 3 slow, deep intentional breaths by yourself. Jump up and down a few times and smile. You’d never believe changing your life and mindset was so simple. And trust me, 10 minutes is all I used to get too. It’s been a year and a half of determination to get this sorted for myself, so be patient. It will come.
  3. To do lists. Maybe this won’t help you, but dang it helps me. It gives me clarity on what I need to do in a day and also helps me feel hella accomplished. I put do one load of dishes, start one load of laundry, fold one load of laundry, get groceries, things I have to do and know will get done because it feels so good to cross things off the list because with kids you just don’t know what the day will really turn out like. I also put on my to do list read with kids, uninterrupted for 45 minutes, yoga and go outside along side toilets, scrub bathtub and book dental appointments . I don’t know about you, but mental illness makes me damn forgetful. I used to write brush teeth on my list at the start of this journey. Ask me how my teeth are right now *hint, not awesome*
    I’m not a big fan of putting a lot on my list that I know will be difficult to accomplish in a day. I’m like a 4 task max kinda gal. But I use my lists as a way to take the jumbled mess in my mind and settle it down. It’s like the words are pricked from floating around in my mind and flow out of my pencil onto paper, and there they rest for the rest of the day. If you’re just starting out and you’re like me, go ahead and put everything down on the list that is just self care.My sample list from a year ago was something like shower, brush teeth, put on nice clothes, listen to music I like not just kids music, eat breakfast sitting down. True story. I had to remind myself to do all those things in one morning because it was all just too damn much. So it’s ok if your list starts off that way, it’s a great place to being.

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WOW. So, I could go on obviously because it’s me, but I think that’s enough for now.

I hope if you don’t understand anxiety or depression that you have a deeper grasp on it and that if you have anxiety, I pray my tips help you, because they’ve sure helped me.

Feel free to repeat each step throughout the day as you learn to cope and manage these feelings, and it’s taken me over a year and a half to sit down and write this blog post as I feel freer than ever before. Panic attack free, clean home, having sex again with my husband *we’ll talk more about that later* and doing things I love every day like singing, learning to play guitar and blogging. What is my life that I have so much time to do all these things as a mom who could barely clean a toilet before? My life is damn good. Damn good.

A while ago I started a hashtag on instagram called #unlearninganxiety, because anxiety is learned; we weren’t born this way. Yes, it can run in families, but that is through learned behaviours, not genetics. Genetics are not destiny.

Maybe you’ve had it since you were little, but I promise youit’s not how you have to live for the rest of your life. There is help for you. Medication helps, yes, but I truly believe we should be prescribed the things I’ve listed above as well when talking about anxiety. There are so many more things I could add here but I’ll end with this;

An anxious free life is not only possible, but available to you.

And even though I know words won’t cure it, momma, you’re doing great. And the kids will be OK.IMG-7696

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I said yes, while my whole being said no…

 

I said yes. I gave my full consent. As the needle went in, as I was cut open and unknown hands entered my body, I felt completely violated even though I said yes.

I’m talking about my c-section on July 30, 2014 when my first son was born. It was to be a day I recalled as the most joyful day of my life, and one day I will not only say it was, I will feel it.

But today is not that day.

Today is my first step towards that goal, by speaking out what I’ve hidden so long in my own heart that it remained a mystery even to me.

I wanted a natural birth. Not for the glory or accolades that come with it from other so called birth hero’s, but simply because I believed it to be the first gift I could give my child; life born uninterrupted.

I was OK with the thought of a life saving c-section. I knew it would devastate me, but not more so than the loss of my son. I had no grand illusions of fighting for an ideal, but what I didn’t expect was to be pressured by those deemed more powerful than myself.

I was told my son was SGA (small for gestational size) and that at 40 weeks it looked like there was low fluid in the womb and I was told he had to come that day by emergency C-Section.

As long as I go into labour, the outcome doesn’t matter.

Understand that I love and respect so much of the medical community, and I believe they had the best intentions for me and my son, but our beliefs on what that looked like differed greatly.

I knew in my heart he was fine. I knew he could stay. He was reading perfect on all NST’s (non stress tests). I could feel my intuition kicking in, my fight. I would not be pushed into this.

My Dr, God bless her, stayed and talked with me for 2 hours. She gave me all her information from her side. Numbers. Statistics. Tests that aren’t proven accurate.

I was set on no. We were headed that way, and then they said something to me that stopped me in my tracks.

He’s fine now, but he could be dead in 24 hours.

Now looking back, I see what that was. Their fear. Not fact, fear.

I was a scared new mom who only wanted my child’s life, and I felt that I no longer had a decision, for if I didn’t do what they said I would be held responsible for the death of my baby boy.

I didn’t have the resolve, the nerve and the self trust I have no to say no.

So I did what I can only describe as complete and total sacrifice of my body, my choice and my rights, for my son.

You see, the entire thought of being cut into and having my baby removed from me was a terrifying thought, and one my entire being screamed no to, and so while I was saying no, I said yes.

I cried for 4 hours leading up to the surgery.

I cried walking down the stairs, into the elevator, sitting in the chair waiting and finally walking into that sterile lonely room alone.

I couldn’t describe it then but I can now; I didn’t cry out of fear … I was crying because what was about to happen to my body was not my choice.

I know that seems contradictory, and consent is a funny thing that way. I signed the papers, I nodded my head, but the answer was no the entire time.

I can only call it sacrifice.

I was willing to let someone violate my body for fear of my son’s life.

I use the term violate because that is completely the feeling I have to this day. I am repulsed at the thought of “a little pressure and tugging”. I was open. My insides were on the outside. If it’s no big deal to you, that’s fine, but to me it is nothing short of violating.

I’m sure had I had a week to really sit with it and make a yes and let that settle in my heart, I wouldn’t have felt this way. But I had 2 hours. I had no time to research.

I had fear.

And then it was over, and as my body recovered, my mind deteriorated. I know now that this was the cause of my anxiety, my spiral into depression. In pictures I smiled, love was there, joy was there, but so was something darker.

It’s why I now (among other things) can’t handle a loss of control; a crying baby I can’t stop and why cutting my finger open 3 days ago and having a Doctor aggressively and against my hearts will dig into my cut sent me hurdling backwards to that sensation of being “done to”.

Because my ‘no’ was perceived as a momentary lapse in courage, not a cry for a discussion of my options.

Because my choice wasn’t real to me.

The only reason I have the courage to write this, is because my husband who sat beside me the entire time for both occasions, who saw me say yes, who held my hand as I cried, completely and entirely validated my hurt. I could never say this without that support.

And after it all, going back to that day almost 3 years ago, I can say truly that I would give myself up to it again and knowingly go through the same demons I fought for a long, dark two years.

And that, according to my husband, is what makes me the bravest woman he knows.

And he is proud of me.

And now I can heal.

I can be proud of me too … because I can look back on it as a mark of courage. I can look at my boy and tell him of the day I gave up my own perceived safety for his.

And that my friends, is a beautiful day indeed.

 

 

**I was able to give birth to my second vaginally on July 8th, 2016; I fought through very similar circumstances which helped form and confirm my feelings on my csection; if you’d like to read the birth story of my second, visit here **