I’m a lucky mom. I have a loving family. So why am I on anti-anxiety meds?
The hardest part of motherhood is finding the courage to ask for help.
Some days start at 10,000 per cent. Today was one of those days.
My three-year-old woke up manifesting pure rage, while also demanding I feed her breakfast. My head was still on the pillow while I was barraged with demands. Every gentle suggestion I prised out of my exhausted brain — it was 5am — was shouted down by a tiny and furious little body.
Yoghurt? NO, MOMMY. Corn flakes? NO CEREAL! How about some toast, my angel? MOMMY, I SAID GIVE ME FOOD NOW! And then the twins woke up in the next room.
From there the day smashed, like a runaway express train, through school drop off, a series of meetings that added a hefty toll to my to-do list, lunchtime with the three toddlers, extracurriculars, cooking supper, the madness of the bedtime routine, special time with my husband, and finally – around 10pm – I had a moment to breathe, by myself.
I put on my TV show, served myself my guilty pleasure (Rice Krispies), and settled down to pause before going to sleep. And then the lights went off.
There are two things I want to say here.
- This was a good day, a normal day, dare I say a happy day.
- Maternal mental health stats are dire. Worldwide, the WHO estimates that around 13% of new moms face depression and twice as many women as men have panic attacks.
I’m a lucky mom. I work part-time. I have an amazing nanny. I have a supportive husband the kids adore. And guess what — I’m on anti-anxiety meds.
Transitioning into matrescence turned my garden-variety depression into a new shiny problem: post-partum anxiety. A challenge so common that 1 in 5 mothers have it.
Heart racing, ears ringing, room spinning. I thought I was having a heart attack. It turned out my “episodes” as I started to call them privately (I kept them secret from my family) had no physical cause.
The doctor confirmed my stats were good. Instead, these terrifying minutes where I’d be finding something, anything, to hold onto — a kitchen counter, the floor, a chair — were panic attacks.
One minute I’d be kissing my babies while grabbing a cup of tea between meetings, the next I’d be trying to find the door so I could escape and sit on the floor, alone, until I could breathe again.
This description of a panic attack really resonated with me: “The physical symptoms are unlike anything else I’ve felt: a tightness in my chest so pronounced it actually feels like choking, dizziness like I’ve been hanging upside down for hours, tingling legs and numb hands. The exhaustion the next day is also uncanny. Your brain really makes your body pay for it.”
Scratching my way out of that dark, scary hole was hard. A doctor helped me realise I needed meds.
My husband corralled the three little dinosaurs so I could find some time to go on walks, alone. I had to carve some time out in my evenings to do things for me, like journaling and sorting out my photos.
Doesn’t that seem a little too neat? Of course it does.
Problems don’t vanish when you get some alone time, despite what the internet encourages you to believe.
Some women’s mental health deteriorates so rapidly and scarily it leads to post-partum psychosis, like the recent and terrifying story of Lindsay Clancy.
Careers are made out of maternal mental health: Genevieve Putter carved herself a niche as a post-partum doula, to help women navigate the world after baby.
I have so many resources for moms. Links, advice, thoughts, help I’m willing to give. The trick though, the really hard part, is to ask for it.
Motherhood can be lonely and overwhelming. It doesn’t have to be. Even if you start your day with a rage-filled toddler.