The goal of the Mental Health Mom Series is for Moms and Moms-to-be to share their stories to be used to help inspire, uplift and spread awareness about mental health and motherhood.
Whether you suffer from depression, PPD, PTSD, anxiety, ADHD, bipolar disorder or something else your story may help change the life of another mom reader and that’s important to me!
A submission by Tiffany of Savvy Mocha Mama
It’s been around 5 years since I was first diagnosed with anxiety.
My first “diagnosis” was an informal one given by my husband during a disagreement. As you can imagine, I wasn’t receptive to his input.
How dare he tell me I have a problem! Does he think he’s a saint?
Well, it turns out my dear husband was right – I did have anxiety.
After a formal diagnosis and hours of talk therapy, I could finally accept that there was an issue and I owed it to myself to deal with it.
I’ve spoken of the root cause of my anxiety before: witnessing domestic violence between my parents, the people who were supposed to make me feel safe as a child.
That emotionally charged, stressful environment made a deep impression upon my psyche. It transformed me into a fearful person.
Though I’ve grown leaps and bounds thanks to therapy, self-care, and a fantastic support network, I still struggle with fears.
Today, my main fears are based on my desire to keep my children safe, happy, and healthy.
Like most parents, I would give my life to keep my children safe. And, like most mothers, I have given up many things to make my children the center of my world.
I thought that if I did this, I would be doing well by them.
In time, I discovered that there is a difference between being highly invested as a mother and erasing one’s identity in the name of motherhood.
The latter is a setup for living without boundaries, an unhealthy and potentially dangerous decision.
Maintaining strong boundaries has been instrumental in my journey to gain control of my life and to break free of the prison of anxiety.
But somewhere along the way, I started to let my boundaries go a little lax.
Things started to fall apart after we made a major move for my husband’s job.
Moving always leads to some stress because of how it upsets established routines, so I wasn’t completely surprised by how much it affected our family.
With my husband busy adjusting to a demanding new position in a new city, I resolved to do whatever was necessary to make our new lives run smoothly. After all, it was just a temporary measure until we were settled in.
My son was still an infant when we moved and sleeping in a new place frightened him. He screamed at the top of his lungs whenever he didn’t feel me next to him. I began spending less time in my own bed and more on the floor of my kids’ room to get him to sleep through the night. After doing this for weeks, I injured my arm so badly, I had to get physical therapy.
My very social preschooler wanted to make friends quickly and there weren’t many good options for meeting other families in our neighborhood. We’d downsized to one car, so going out in the city to meet other families meant waking up as early to drop my husband at work then picking him up after a long day of running around with little kids (and timing it so that dinner was ready once we arrived home!)
I once drove 22 miles north of our place just to take my daughter to a French language playgroup then back towards home to go to a library event. I still needed to go grocery shopping after that, then I needed to make sure we arrived to my husband’s office in time for the pickup. Would you believe that after all that adventure, my little girl was sad because she still wanted to be playing with friends instead of going to get daddy?!
My husband was working hard to prove himself in his new position. Sometimes this meant working 13+ hour days while I did my best to manage the children and the home with no break and virtually no support network.
With all the time spent caring for my loved ones, I had little time to care for myself. I didn’t work out as much, I was eating lower quality foods, I was missing out on sleep, my spiritual life was less vibrant, and I was having a hard time making friends and staying connected with existing friends.
The changes were gradual, but over time, these choices significantly eroded my quality of life.
As a result, anxiety came roaring back into existence.
I was becoming easily frustrated with situations that I would’ve simply let roll off my back months before. I felt angry with myself and I struggled with feelings of hopelessness. Worst of all, I began to suffer from insomnia almost every night.
I’m almost ashamed to say I didn’t instantly recognize how anxiety had reared its ugly head in my life again.
But when it finally dawned on me what was happening, I was grateful that I knew better this time around how to deal with it. I made the decision to course correct before things became too much for me.
First, I confided in my closest friends, starting with my husband. We worked together to make some changes in his schedule and in our household schedule to give me more breaks.
Next, I implemented a biweekly mom’s night out schedule for myself. Whether or not I planned to meet up with friends, I had to get out of the house and just breathe. I was never gone for too long – I don’t actually enjoy being out at nighttime – and most times, I only ever went to Bible study or to have a coffee and read. But it was just enough time to enjoy my own thoughts and to make me look forward to being at home
Finally, I began to focus more on building my business. Building a home business has been incredibly helpful for my mental health. My business is an outlet for my creativity that has not only helped me to feel great, it’s helped other women and benefitted my family financially. It’s challenging at times, but it’s also deeply rewarding.
Since making these changes, I have found myself speaking more openly about the importance of self-care with my children. It’s been great because they are more understanding when I’m feeling overwhelmed and they are learning to manage their own emotions better. It’s not uncommon now for my children to say they’re going to spend some time alone or to pour their hearts out about how they’re feeling. It feels wonderful to see my children following my lead and being active in their own self-care at such a young age.
The most important thing I’ve learned following this resurgence of anxiety is I won’t ever be able to get rid of it completely. I don’t think that’s possible for me considering how I developed it in the first place.
I’ll always be reminded of those painful aspects of my childhood that negatively impacted my mental health. It is those experiences drive me to do better by my own children.
But the anxiety that is tied to those memories can be managed. Not only do I have the tools to keep myself from becoming overwhelmed by anxiety again, but I have also seen what happens when I fail to prioritize my mental health. This experience has motivated me to never to neglect myself like that again. Self-care is a part of my mental health journey for life.
Meet the Author
Tiffany A. Ingle is the writer behind Savvy Mocha Mama, a WAHM Entrepreneurship blog, and a Digital Marketing Consultant who partners with busy women entrepreneurs. She lives in Seattle where she loves to spend time on the beach with her husband and children. If you’d like to connect with her, start a conversation on Twitter or send an email.
For mental health resources and where to look for help visit our Mental Health Resource Page.
Related: My Depression Isn’t cookie cutter
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All Mental Health Mom Stories can be found on this page.