For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with anxiety. As a kid I remember being super sensitive to my environment and the emotions of others around me. I could instantly feel someone else’s pain or stress by the look on their face, the posture they carried, or by the tension around them. As a child, I didn’t like seeing the people I loved under stress… so I felt I needed to bare that stress myself. When people around me would talk about their fears and worries, those instantly became my fears and worries. Over time as I developed this somewhat unhealthy form of compassion, I ended up creating the thoughts and fears that would forever feed my battle of anxiety.
As an adolescent and teenager, more of my anxiety really took off. In this stage of life their are so many tough choices that need to be made, including making friends, keeping friends, romantic relationships, what you want to be when you grow up, where you want to go to college, how are you going to go to college, getting a job, going to church and so many others. I had come to realize that teenagers become very pressured by the older population about what we want to do with the rest of our life… when in reality, we don’t know and we feel like we can’t make mistakes trying to figure it out. I was overwhelmed constantly by these thoughts. I would wonder everyday how I was going to make these decisions and how I will be a complete fail if I don’t choose wisely.
As I entered adulthood, I guess you could say my anxiety became unmanageable. I am very ashamed of the dark road I took that was led by my anxiety and depression. Inflicting physical pain and committing self harm was a choice I made out of fear, anxiety, depression and anger. I was letting my anxiety take over. I was losing the battle. I was losing myself. When some good friends of mine as well as my mom found out about this behavior, I went through counseling and got the help I needed. When my counseling sessions ended I felt better. I felt hopeful. My anxiety was managed.
After many different life changes including graduating community college, getting married and becoming a lead preschool teacher… my anxiety grew worse. I struggled to find my footing within these new changes and roles I played. How do I be a good wife? How do I be a good teacher? I don’t want to let anyone down. I don’t want to mess up….. These were the thoughts that haunted me every single day.
Once I returned to college in 2017 and finding out I was pregnant in 2019, my anxiety once again became unmanageable. How was I going to balance school, work, a husband, a small income, and a baby? How can I be the best I can be? How am I going to do this? I would lay awake for hours unable to get comfortable, wondering, scared and asking God for guidance. How am I going to keep my baby safe? What if something happens to my baby? What if something happens to Charles? I can’t do this on my own.
One night when I was 10 weeks pregnant, I couldn’t sleep at all. I was super uncomfortable which is weird since I didn’t think that happen until later on. I stayed awake worrying about everything that was out of my control. I worried about my husband’s health. I worried about our baby’s health. I worried about where we were going to live. I worried about if I was doing everything right for our baby. Since I couldn’t sleep, I headed out to the living room, turned on the lamp and sat on the couch staring at my shelf full of children’s books. I had these books on the shelf because they gave me comfort and reminded me of the joys of teaching a preschool classroom from a few years back. As I stared at the books, I decided to take one and read it aloud to baby. I’ve heard that this can not only help with fetal brain and emotional development, but reading in general can also help with anxiety. I read her Llama Llama Red Pajama and My First Bible. Doing this little activity at 3am gave me the peace and happiness I needed to fall back asleep. It helped me gain perspective.
Anxiety is not an easy battle to fight. There are hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. alone who fight this battle everyday, myself included. The stressors and challenges of our lives can feed into our anxieties. There are many moments that anxiety can be managed, while there are other moments it becomes overwhelming. Society teaches us to not worry, shake it off, and to be okay. But sometimes we aren’t okay. Sometimes we can’t shake it off. And sometimes we can’t be strong. There are days in our lives we have to be able to take a step back, and take a mental health day…. and that’s okay. I had come to realize this during my pregnancy. I realized that I was taking care of my husband and my baby, but I wasn’t taking care of me… I’m important too. I needed to take care of me so I could take care of my baby. I needed to go to counseling, develop coping skills and learn to let go of the things I couldn’t control. Like most everything else in life, it was something I needed to work at, because my baby mattered… and because I mattered.