If you have anxiety, you know that sometimes, anxiety wins. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try to keep it at bay, that tightness, tension, and self-doubt that bubbles beneath the surface gets the best of us. And when it does, it can be all-consuming.
Blogger and Emmy-winning television reporter Kristen Hewitt, who went viral earlier this year for declaring that she and her two daughters would spend their summer doing “literally nothing,” knows a little something about this. To the outside world, Hewitt presents herself as a down-to-earth and self-assured woman and mother. She’s someone who seems like she has it all together, although not so much so that you don’t want to like her. She’s someone that you’d want to have brunch with or share a laugh with.
But on Saturday, Hewitt revealed another side of herself, as she took to Facebook to share the story of how anxiety had gotten the best of her.
“Today has been a rough day,” she wrote in the post, which has resonated with thousands (including yours truly) since the weekend. “I’ve been feeling well lately, taking care of myself, and been relatively calm. But today anxiety won.”
“Today anxiety told me I couldn’t leave my kids to go on vacation with my husband because the plane might crash.
Today anxiety brought me to my knees in tears that wouldn’t stop for hours.
Today anxiety had me hiding in my room, afraid for my kids to see me so upset.
Today anxiety made me believe I wasn’t good enough.”
“I never suffered from anxiety until after the birth of our first daughter eight years ago,” Hewitt tells Babble. “We did multiple fertility treatments and ultimately, IVF. Her birth was an emergency. I also had pregnancy induced hypertension and the doctors were afraid she wasn’t getting oxygen, so they induced her five weeks early. Off to the NICU she went and I was left with a nicked spinal column from my epidural. After all that trauma, including a spinal procedure called a blood patch, it’s no wonder I ended up with postpartum anxiety disorder.”
In her Facebook post, Hewitt talks about how motherhood changes us all, and how for many of us, that emotional process can take its toll.
“Women — we change after having kids,” she writes. “Sometimes it’s depression, sometimes anxiety, sometimes both. But we need to confide in others and get help. Process what’s happening. Find the root and try to heal.”
The comments that soon began to flow all showed a common theme: There were a lot of “me too’s” and much gratitude and admiration for speaking up. Clearly, Hewitt voiced what many of us think and feel on a regular basis, and the fact that she publicly spoke up gives a voice and validation to the rest of us who suffer with anxiety and struggle with self-care, as well as the reactions of those close to us who experience the ripple effects.
Hewitt tells Babble that she quickly sought help after her postpartum anxiety surfaced, sharing that she realized something was wrong one day “when I was sitting on the bathroom floor wondering if it would be easier if I was dead.”
“I was waiting up all night for her to feed and I was so anxious and frightened,” she continues. “I asked my husband for help. I saw a therapist and also returned to acupuncture and took herbs to help. At around eight months postpartum, I felt better. But, I was never the same. Now I have travel anxiety and I feel it at the strangest times.”
We might not understand how or why anxiety can sneak up and grab us, disrupting our lives when things seem to be humming along nicely, but Hewitt’s Facebook post has opened a much-needed dialog and reinforced the fact that talking about the inner demons we battle is helpful. Necessary, even.
Humans need to connect with other humans over our struggles. It helps us feel less alone and powerless, and sometimes, it helps us to help each other.
We don’t need to understand anxiety. It doesn’t need to make sense and we don’t need to fit it in to a nice, neat little box. What we do need to do is to nurture ourselves and to ask for help when we need help. Speaking out publicly about our anxiety, just as Hewitt did, might seem like a small thing. But providing validation for others struggling to cope with the same issues is having some pretty big ripple effects today. Her candid moment on Facebook offers hope and healing.
“My hope in sharing this is to let anyone who may suffer from depression, anxiety, or some other illness know — you are not alone,” she writes. “You are not broken.”
Hewitt may have begun her Facebook post with the admission that “today anxiety won.” But after reading through all the responses from the women Hewitt reached with her words, I’m going to have to disagree with that statement. Anxiety didn’t win. Not today.