By: Emily Hammer
Today I would like to talk about a realization that has completely changed my perspective. I am coming up on my 2-year anniversary of having an anxiety disorder. While I have been someone with high stress my whole life, when I got pregnant a switch flipped and it turned into full-blown anxiety (thanks hormones)! After the birth of my son, I was hospitalized because my anxiety had gotten so bad. The birth was fairly traumatic and at just a few days old he was put in a TLC nursery due to an on and off again fever. I barely slept and while I felt an all-consuming love for my child, I also felt an incredible amount of fear. I literally could not fall asleep without waking up gasping seconds later.
The hospitalization was just four days after my son’s birth and lasted less than 24 hours, but when I got home I had completely changed. I was so ashamed. I felt like I could never watch my son by myself because in my mind I had already failed at motherhood. I felt uncomfortable holding my baby and so ashamed that he had me as his mother. How could I have left him just a few days into his life? How could I not handle motherhood? It was supposed to be a joyous and magical time. Sure, everyone talks about how hard motherhood was, but they also talk about how incredibly beautiful it was and that it outweighs all the bad.
For the first few months I felt incredibly fragile. The smallest things made me feel like I would break (and on my bad days I still feel this way). I didn’t want to be around people because I didn’t want them to see me like that. I also wasn’t sure what all my anxiety triggers were and that scared me. Not to mention the fact that I was a brand new mom. I wasn’t necessarily afraid of being judged by others though; it just felt overwhelming to try to deal with others outside my little boy and myself. I shut people out and turned down invite after invite. I was afraid of going out and facing the world.
Well, fast forward to now, nearly two years later. I have been feeling immense loneliness for months, but today I realized that it happened because I let anxiety rule me. I let that shame change and rule me. I let the fear of being heard and seen dictate me. Yes, anxiety has changed me. I am more uncomfortable in social situations than I used to be, but that is because I let anxiety take over. Today, I realized this and so I decided to reach out. I realized that to many I have given off the vibe “don’t touch me,” because that is how I felt initially. I didn’t want to be around people. I didn’t know how to socialize because I didn’t know myself. I was different. I was changed. Who was this girl with anxiety?
Well I’m still figuring that out, but I know that I am “worthy of love and belonging “ (check out Brene Brown’s work). I am worthy of having friends. I am worthy of living a life that I love. My anxiety cannot rule me anymore and shame especially can’t. I am a fighter and I am more than my anxiety. So for those of you on this journey of anxiety or any mental illness, know that while you may not be the socialite that you used to be, that person is still in you. You can still be that bubbly person inside you. Whatever your mental illness is holding you back from, it may take initiative on your part, but don’t let anxiety bury you. It isn’t worth it.
BE A FIGHTER!