You ever wake up with a song in your head? I’ve got one a new one every day. This morning was no exception:
The chorus is what kept replaying over & over in my mind. By the time I started making breakfast I had figured out why: Summer vacation is here and I’ll be home with my boys ALL summer.
With my 4yr old finishing pre-K next week, and my 14mo already having been home with me for the past two weeks, I know that despite my best efforts, being with my boys 24/7 has the potential to make me lose it. Not because I don’t want to spend time with them, not because I don’t love them, not because I don’t want to take care of them, but simply because I have a serious anxiety problem, and just the thought of being with them nonstop makes me edgy. Every time I spend extended periods of time with them, I don’t handle it well. It’s taken me therapy, medication, A LOT of conversations with God, A LOT of crying, some anger, some frustration, talking to my partner, a basic psych class, and reading tons of information about postpartum & perinatal mood disorders to recognize & accept this fact about myself.
It took me realizing that some of the physical symptoms I’ve been having the past few months only happen after certain “triggers” occur, the most difficult one to handle being when my youngest, Alex cries…or voices his frustrations the only way he knows how-screaming, shrieking, throwing things…you know, being a toddler. I know what he’s doing is normal for a widdle person his age, but what I had to realize wasn’t normal is how I respond to it:
Physically, I break out into sweats. I’m talking looking-like-I-just-got-out-of-the-pool sweats. My heart starts racing. Sometimes I shake and my throat feels tight or like something’s stuck in it. After his screaming/crying fit is over I’m tired. Not “oh let me take a power nap” tired, but “I could sleep for 20 years Rip Van Winkle style” tired. I can literally feel the energy draining from me while it’s happening, it’s crazy. Emotionally & mentally I feel drained, my mind feels scattered, and I’m usually so edgy that if you tapped me I’d fall right over. And if my 4 yr old comes along and decides he can’t hear me tell him to put his shoes on because I MUST be talking Greek, asks me to play the Wii when I’ve said no already, or how to spell words like “Timberwolf” ? Forget it. It’s like a solid right hook just landed squarely on my jaw-the Mama in me is knocked out.
On the floor. Done.
And so I break. Snap. Scream. Yell. Get miserably irritable. Cry sometimes. Swim in guilt. Listen to the voices that tell me I’m a bad Mama and I’m ruining the self-esteem & development of my kids. And I go to bed early. Tell myself that when I wake up, tomorrow will be a new day and I can start over. I fall asleep praying & asking God to help me make it, help me to be more patient, less anxious, a better Mama….
While I was in school this mostly only happened in the mornings trying to get out the door, or in the evenings, kicking off as soon as we got back home. I can’t tell you how many nights I rushed the boys through dinner, baths & off to bed, teeth clenched & fighting back tears in an effort to keep my edginess from spilling out of me and sweeping all of us away.
Last summer when Alex was just a few months old and Brennan wasn’t in daycare, I thought what I was feeling was just me trying to adjust to meeting the needs & demands of two kids. My doctor & I both thought maybe it was just depression, so I started taking Zoloft. I even thought it was more of the same when I was feeling burnt out & feeling very low back in February….but the more research I did, the more I talked about my discomfort with motherhood with my therapist, the more convos God & I had, the more I recognized my responses to my boys behaviors, the more I’ve come to realize what I really need help with.
And that’s why this morning, when I came face to face with what this latest round of anxiety is about, I just started singing the chorus to that song….
“I know I’m not stong enough to be everything that I’m supposed to be,
I give up, I’m not strong enough…Lord I’m asking You to be strong enough for the both of us.”
And just told God, “I want this to be a great summer. I want to enjoy my kids. I want to enjoy being a Mama, but God the honest truth is that I’m just not strong enough on my own. I wish I was, but I’m not. I can’t handle this, being with them all the time while (partner’s name) is at work. I know this probably isn’t an issue for other Mamas, but it’s one for me. I know You say not to be anxious about anything…but I am. Okay? I just am. I’m terrified that I’m going to screw this up and let hormones & stress & anxiety just overtake me, allowing whatever’s going on in me to keep me from being the Mama I want to be. Ya know, the one who doesn’t sound like a lunatic? The one who doesn’t cringe or resent her son when he cries? Yea…I would really like to get back to being her. But I can’t do it own my own.”
Right after I said those words (in my head, cuz I didn’t want my boys to think I was talking to myself-I’m sure they already think I’m wacky enough these days) the response came:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” ( 2 Corinth 12:9)
Right then I knew He got “it”, that He understood just where I was, and admitting I can’t do it in & of myself relieved me of the pressure I was putting on myself.. It also activated my faith to help me believe even stronger in the One who I know IS strong enough to handle my weaknesses….and the overwhelming demands of motherhood that make me want to jump off a cliff. I just have to remember to reach out to Him. I knew then that all I have to do is keep working the plan He gave me months ago to deal with my “stuff':
Prayer. Medication. Exercise. Eat healthier. Read the Word. Take Breaks. Self-Care. Repeat
and He’ll take care of the rest, like helping me enjoy Mamahood. Just gotta keep working the plan.
So here’s to a summer vacation not riddled with anxiety but filled with good times spent with my boys. And Yoga…lots of calming, relaxing, deep breathing Yoga…hahahaha.
Got anxiety in the Mama department? How do you cope? I’m taking any & all suggestions!