mental health

Anxiety of New Parenthood

I’m lying in bed wide awake again.  It’s partially to do with the coffee my husband made me tonight, but mainly to do with the scenario that’s running through my mind like an out of control train.  It starts with my husband’s grandmother offering Rose my 9 month old a Peanut M&M.  I naturally reply that she can’t eat that and it’s a choking hazard.  My brain skips along and we’re at home and Rose is choking.  I’m furiously trying to remove Rose from her high chair, she’s going blue, I don’t have any spare hands to call an ambulance, I’m home alone and I’m feebly attempting to administer back blows while my daughter is dying in front of me.  I finally manage to rein in my over active imagination as my brain has me meeting an ambulance at the street with a blue child, but it’s too late.  My heart is pumping, my limbs are tingling with anticipation and for the third time this week, I’m awake past 11pm imagining another way my daughter could die. Anxiety sits in the base of your throat, it rattles your heart while strumming those important strings connected to the ones that you love.

I’m no stranger to anxiety I’ve struggled with driving since I was 18, a few bad experiences when I was learning and I’m now terrified to drive a car more than a few kilometers from home.  Honestly I’ll avoid it at any cost, often missing out on events and making new friends because the fear is over whelming, suffocating.  I’ve had people suggest all sorts of solutions, however they don’t quite understand how over whelming the fear can be.  An overactive imagination, sweaty palms, pounding heart, and so many uncomfortable feelings. It’s too hard to just burry it.  Fear is a rational response to a real threat, however anxiety is an irrational response to an imagined threat.   This definition only really became clear to me when I started studying psychology and it took me a few years to finally realize that what I was experiencing was in fact anxiety.

I grew up in a religious home, and often trudged begrudgingly off to church each Sunday not because I wanted to but because of the fear.  I can still feel it now, I’d lie in bed thinking about the age old line of spending eternity in hell, and I could literally feel the adrenaline spreading to the point it was painful in my arms and hands.  I had never felt this feeling in any other facet of my life until I had a baby.  The thoughts I experience around Rose being fatally injured are irrational and terrifying.  When she was a baby I used to imagine spinning around too fast and impaling her on a sharp objects… like this would ever happen.  I tripped once when she was a baby with her in my arms, and since then I haven’t ever been able to shake the fear of tripping with her.  I walk a little slower, I step a little more careful.  Rose sleeps in our room as I haven’t quite been able to shift her to her own.  I know if she’s in our room I can hear her in an instant.  I can check her without getting out of bed but the anxiety never quiet leaves.  Even though she’s just there, is she breathing?  Did I actually check her or did I imagine it?  Should I check her again? I just checked her 5 minutes ago maybe I should check her now? It’s exhausting and relentless.

They caution us at Uni not to self-diagnose mental health issues and to be completely honest I don’t know where the line between post-natal anxiety and just being a new parent sits.  To me some of the anxious thoughts I have about my child make me a better parent.  I’m more aware of her surroundings I remove choking hazards, I’m more careful when walking because if I do trip again with her in my arms it’s not just skinned wrists, its potentially a concussion and a trip to emergency.  At the same time I want to live without fear, I want to be able to enjoy my daughter and not constantly be scanning a room for potential dangers.  I know how to deal with anxious thoughts and I try not to dwell on them, I thank my brain for that thought and move it on.  What I don’t know how to do is stop them from occurring in the first place, or how to reign them in before I see my child’s body broken on our home stairs because she’s gone over the railing (really I have an endless list of these thoughts).  I will keep trying, I’ll keep pushing them out, I’ll keep changing my train of thought and hopefully some day with a little more sleep and less coffee after 5pm they’ll stop happening.  I will also seek help if it doesn’t continue to improve, I am training to be a mental health professional and I strong advocate seeking help for any struggle you’re experiencing.  Sometimes someone else’s perspective and support is all we need to put our own lives in perspective.

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