It never fails.
The start of the school year always seems to send my anxiety into overdrive, as I try to manage the flurry of back-to-school events, jam-packed schedules, and a whole new season of sports and after school activities.
And yet, I know I’m not alone. While many moms seem to handle the craziness of busy days with a sense of calmness and ease, there’s a whole group of us who find ourselves laying awake at night, reviewing that never-ending list of sh* we need to do over and over and over again — and worrying about it far more than we should.
Now I’ll be the first to admit that I do a pretty good job of hiding the fact that I’ve got the World’s Fastest Gerbil running around in my head. But what I haven’t yet figured out is how to serve that creature his eviction notice, once and for all. And what most people don’t see, as I’m silently panicking inside, is the turmoil and struggle that fills every space of my body.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety impacts over 40 million people in the U.S. alone, with women being twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with general anxiety disorder and panic disorder. And for many women, postpartum anxiety heightens this already complex condition.
But here’s the really scary part: Anxiety is actually under diagnosed among women, despite the fact that we’re the ones who are more often afflicted. The average length of time between the onset of symptoms and when a woman gets an actual diagnosis is between 9 and 12 years.
Nine and twelve years. Why are we waiting more than a decade to ask for help?
Part of the problem is that while there are a million little things anxiety sufferers have in common, we don’t often talk about them. Fear, shame, and vulnerability often prevent us from reaching out to others for support or seeking help.
But many of these things are truths we wish so badly the rest of the world knew.
1. Our anxiety isn’t “just stress.”
Stress is temporary; anxiety is forever. However, our brains are more sensitive to stress hormones and we’re less able to adapt to them. And my fellow moms know what it feels like to live with this beast day in and day out.
2. Daily tasks are a challenge because we overthink and worry about accomplishing them.
A toxic cycle of our thoughts becoming worries and worries becoming our thoughts is our way of living. We live in a constant state of “what if?”
3. People often see our way of thinking as irrational, illogical, emotional, and straight-up crazy.
There’s a mental exhaustion weighing heavy on us because our mind never. stops. going. And it takes a lot of energy to battle thoughts of everything that could go wrong, has gone wrong, or may go wrong in the far future.
4. We struggle more in private than you realize.
We may look put together out in public, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we have it all figured out. Moms are experts at a lot of things, and for many of us, masking our struggles with anxiety often tops the list. We’re the first to acknowledge that our anxiety is an internal struggle that is so often only seen and felt by us.
5. It can be unpredictable.
The most unsettling part is, we’re never quite sure when our anxiety is going to strike next, and that uncertainty is what scares us the most.
6. When we’re experiencing anxiety, it’s not just mental and emotional; we feel it all over our body.
Anxiety has a funny way of showing up in a person’s body, and becoming an all-consuming thing. Since the mind and body are intricately connected, whenever one is facing difficulties, the other will visibly suffer. Make no mistake: The physical toll it can take is very real.
7. We are fully aware that we worry a lot and that our worries make little sense to others.
Things that don’t necessarily affect you, bother us. We don’t know how to explain it or why we are so deeply impacted by the “little things,” but we are. Please try to understand that we don’t intentionally make a mountain out of a mole hill. For better or worse, we sweat the small stuff.
8. Social gatherings are hard.
Having anxiety doesn’t always mean we’re shy or introverted. Sometimes, it’s just so much easier to be on the outside of a group or to say “no” to repeated invitations than it is to join in or show up. That’s just the honest truth.
9. Anxiety can be treated; but not cured.
This is the reality we live with every single day, and trust me — we don’t ever forget it. We wish we could just snap our fingers or flip a switch, and watch all our symptoms melt away. But the truth is, even with medication, we still have to manage our anxieties on a daily basis; it doesn’t just all magically go away.
But above all, here’s what we really want you to know:
10. We appreciate the love and support of the people around us more than they could ever know.
We may not always show it; and that’s only because we get so caught up in trying to make sense of the chaotic, demanding world around us. But we take comfort in knowing that we’ve got you by our side (even in our darkest moments), and continue to show us grace with your empathy and compassion.
And above all else, you hold our hands and help us be the best moms we could ever hope to be by granting us patience, love, and kindness. And for that, we are forever thankful and grateful to have you in our lives.