It has been over two years now since I first experienced severe anxiety. Every day I was scared, my heart would start pounding for no reason, I would feel like I was going to faint and my mind would be racing so fast I’d sometimes forget to breathe. The only thoughts I had were negative. I would play out worst case scenarios in my mind, a constant loop of ‘what ifs?’ would torment me and intrusive thoughts would flood my vision and leave me feeling terrified. While all of this was going on I was trying to look after a newborn and a toddler, this felt impossible most days when the majority of my anxiety was triggered by worrying about them constantly. When I was experiencing these feelings, I was convinced I was the only mum out there who was going through this. I felt so alone and scared and I truly believed there was no one else who could possibly understand what I was going through. Well, that’s simply not true. Anxiety is really common, especially amongst new mums, it may effect us all in different ways but you are not the only person to experience it. In this post I am sharing the stories of lots of different mums, to help those of you who may be struggling and feel alone but to also help the families of people with anxiety see what it’s like being a parent with this condition and hopefully find ways to support those around them.
What it is really like being a mum with anxiety – stories from real mums
Leaving the house when you have anxiety
Doing something as simple as leaving the house is easy to take for granted when you are feeling mentally well, but when you are struggling with anxiety getting out and about can feel like a massive daunting task. Going to baby groups and soft play when you have anxiety, other things many parents find easy, can feel almost impossible. Many mums feel like they are being judged by others or the fear of what may or may not happen when they go out stops them from going out at all..
I’ve taken my kids to soft play once. My anxiety gets heightened at the thought of the germs that mine will bring home. My husband works at 3am and does 12 hour shifts so the thought of them being poorly and being alone makes me so so anxious to the point of panic attacks. So we avoid altogether. – Zoe www.mylittlewildlings.com
Having anxiety has made it really hard for me to go out on my own with my son, I have ADHD too so it’s always a worry I’ll say something without thinking and embarrass or draw attention to myself. Having an online group of mums to talk to has been my saviour. – Eileen www.2nerdsandababy.com
I find it difficult to take my twins out on my own. Toddler groups and soft play are a nightmare. I get very anxious if I can’t see them both and, of course, they like to run in opposite directions. I worry about them missing out because of my anxiety, because they only really get to leave the house (unless they’re strapped into the car or buggy) when I have another adult with me, but I physically can’t cope with the thoughts of all the things that might happen if one of them gets out of my sight in public. – Rebecca www.beccablogsitout.com
I find leaving the house a battle, unless someone is relying on me to do something I won’t do anything for myself. I always feel like the kids will play up, people will judge, it will be too stressful and so end up not bothering. I have had CBT to try and help but it’s still there. I just know I need to get past that hurdle and it’s not as bad as I thought it was going to be. – Kirsty themoneysavingmum.com
I find it really hard getting ready to leave the house, I am constantly checking if I’ve got everything the girls and I will need. – Lyndsay www.myfamilyofroses.co.uk
I find it really hard to go to baby groups or make ‘mum friends’. I always worry that people will dislike me or that something will go wrong and I won’t manage in a public place. Ridiculously I’m also anxious about not going because I feel like my baby misses out. – Alex www.bettertogetherhome.com
My anxiety stops me from being able to go to baby groups or baby swimming lessons as I feel like all the other mum’s are judging me. – Stacey
Managing daily life when you have anxiety
It is not just getting out to baby groups and soft play that mums with anxiety can find difficult. Doing the school run, looking after the kids and trying the remain calm as a parent can be really difficult when you suffer from anxiety..
I’m much worse when my children are with me, I don’t fear anything in particular but my anxiety goes into over drive and I find external noise unbearable. I try and keep doing normal things like the school run but I really struggle and have got home and been sick before from the anxiety of it. Busy places are really hard especially supermarkets with the people, sounds and lights. I can just about cope if I’m child free but kids plus a crowd and I’m done. – Laura www.wafflemama.uk
I find the school run incredibly difficult because it involves crowds of people, something which triggers my anxiety. – Emma www.evenangelsfall.com
I think the hardest change has been my patience. I find I always have a million things in my mind so when the kids are playing up or refusing to eat a meal Iv spent ages cooking it really tests my patience and I’m far too quick to snap! Iv had to take a step back and almost watch myself from the kids perspective. I still want to be that fun mum that joins in and they can come to about anything and I’m really working on alternative techniques to shouting straight away. – Amy www.livingtheharmonlife.com
Maintaining relationships and friendships when you have anxiety
Anxiety can become all consuming, it can make you constantly question everything around you and this includes your relationships with others. You can feel that others are judging your parenting choices, you can feel bitter and jealous and inadequate towards other parents who you feel ‘have it all together’. Your loved ones may not know how to support you or you may not know how to cope with maintaining strong relationships on top of trying to battle through your anxiety. When anxiety is really bad, many people find themselves pulling away from others and closing themselves off to the people around them. However, parents with anxiety can also often find themselves relying heavily on those around them to help them cope with daily tasks they previously managed to do on their own…
I have suffered from anxiety since the birth of my daughter went a bit wrong 7 years ago and the thing I find most difficult is being relied upon. I am get extremely anxious when I have sole responsibility for something. It’s like the ‘failure’ of her birth has tarnished me with this anxiety that I will fail everyone going forward. The best way I have found to help with this is share tasks. So me and my Husband now share all the mortgage info and household bills etc so I feel I’m not the only one keeping an eye on things. With my friends I have put more emphasis on us making decisions and planning as a group rather than just me deciding what we are doing or me organising the night out. When I feel supported I feel less anxious about failure. – Amy http://www.allaboutamummy.co.uk
My anxiety stems from over thinking and then some of my so called ‘friends’ that turned on me after a disagreement earlier in the year. It’s really affected me as parent as I get upset over little things like when I don’t get invited to play dates. I think “is it me or my kid that they don’t like” and why don’t they like me enough to invite me too. Especially if I have previously invited them. – Louisa
I have suffered with undiagnosed PND as well as anxiety and depression. And more besides. My husband often works away and my anxiety builds in the run up to him leaving and while he is away. I have two sets of twins age 6 and age 1 and I worry and panic that if anything happened to me in the night what would they do. Or if there was a burglar or fire or something how would I keep them safe. I’ve often had my mum stay over as I feel overwhelmed. – Nina www.spencersarc.com
I was diagnosed with PND and anxiety after the birth of my second child. At its worst, I can’t leave the house and I worry about all the bad things that could happen to my husband if he goes anywhere – even just to work. I can’t sit still and often have a need to clean everything and keep busy but rarely seem to get much done. My brain doesn’t switch off and I struggle to sleep. I over think everything and feel convinced that I will be such a burden on people that socialising is impossible and I will do anything I can to avoid having to see people or talk to people. I literally stops me living my life and feels like it suffocates me and leaves me paralysed – unable to physically step foot outside at the worst times. – Sarah www.arthurwears.com
I find it easier not to arrange things with other people because I don’t feel like I can watch my toddler properly and talk to friends at the same time. Although we all find it hard to hold a proper conversation as parents, this goes a bit deeper, I feel as if I’m letting him down or that something bad is going to happen because my attention isn’t 100% on the situation. So although this makes me feel isolated, I take my toddler everywhere by myself and avoid meet ups with other mums. – Kate www.katelili.com
Triggers for anxiety in parents
For me, what triggered my anxiety was the birth of my second son. I had managed to convince myself I couldn’t possibly be capable of looking after a toddler and a newborn and although from everyone else perspective I was doing a great job, on the inside I was terrified that something bad would happen to one of them and I couldn’t stop myself from thinking about them dying. Perinatal anxiety is common, so many new mums suffer from it but don’t feel they can speak out about it. Anxiety can be brought on by a traumatic birth, a hard pregnancy or even irrational fears that have grown too large for our tired brains to cope with. Many different things can trigger anxiety in parents though, it doesn’t always begin with the birth of a child…
Since my son nearly died last year they diagnosed me with anxiety from a traumatic event (I personally feel I had something like PND after max and him nearly dying just made it worse). I always got brushed off by the doctors. The thing I struggle with the most are my thoughts like, for example, the other day my Grampy took max for a walk (a walk which he goes on with max loads of times) but this time I got it into my head that he fell into a canal and my Grampy couldn’t get him out. I don’t know how long he was gone for but I ended up having a panic attack. Then had to get into my car and drive to see if I could find them. Lucky enough when I walked out the door they were walking back. Those type of things happen a lot. Looking in the mirror of my car when I’m driving because I think someone I going to crash into me. I’ve been known to swerve out of sheer panic to save my child’s life when in fact it probably could of put him in more danger. A lot of time I think something will happen like that and I end up in tears. It has other effects on me like I stay awake thinking a lot and I shake too. All down to anxiety. But the bad thoughts are definitely the worst. I’m having counselling now anyway to help me. As a parent I struggle daily to really come to the terms with the fact I nearly lost my baby. – Sam
The death of my mother kickstarted my anxiety. As a parent I’m now super-acute to any dangers at all so tend to quietly freak out if they’re doing anything even remotely risky i.e. eating a boiled sweet or climbing a high slide. I can also get really panicky when taking them to crowded places, especially if I lose sight of them. – Leigh www.dadgeek.co.uk
With my health anxiety I find being a parent really hard. My fear is that I will die and not be here for my children. I have a sore stomach and I instantly convince myself it’s cancer. I find it hard to sleep, I can’t switch off and my mood gets quite low. I can, on occasions, struggle to function. I get very snappy and then I feel really guilty because I’ve snapped at my children. I can’t watch any programmes where somebody is dying as I imagine it’s me and imagine what impact that would have on my children. – Louise
My anxiety came as a result of needing to remortgage my house as it’s adapted for my son. I started to catastrophise everything and started taking valuables to bed fearing that we’d be burgled. I struggled to breathe and sleep. I’m medicated now and it’s just beginning to take the edge off me. I’m proud to have asked for help. It’s never a weakness and my family deserve me at my best. – Charlie www.ouralteredlife.com
I think my anxiety started after I was assaulted a few years back. It was mid morning and in an open area. Couple that with unsuccessful foot operations and two autistic children and I’m a bag of nerves! – Jeannette www.autismmumma.com
As you can see, anxiety is something many parents have to deal with on a daily basis and it impacts each of us in different ways. If you are a mum with anxiety, I hope this post has shown you that you are not alone and there are other parents out there who know exactly what you are going through.
If you found this post helpful, please stop by the mental health section of my blog where you can find lots of posts about life with post natal depression, tips on how to cope and this candid conversation between myself and some other mums talking honestly about our struggles with our mental health.
If you think you have post natal depression, click this link for a list of charities and helpful resources