My struggle with anxiety
Updated: Jul 2
I have suffered from anxiety since Grad School. It was my first year in a PhD program and I was taking Historiography which documents the theoretical methods of gathering and reporting historical data. I was out of my element. I would have panic attacks in class, on the way home, doing the assignments; it was such a struggle. I had entered college and grad school with confidence in my intellect and abilities. It was in grad school surrounded by gifted historians in the making, that my confidence wavered. I questioned my purpose and my abilities daily, hourly. I got to a point where my mission was get a degree and exit with my head held high. I dropped the PhD goal and completed my masters in US History and walked away. I did the right thing for myself and my mental health, but it is still a decision I often think about. If I had been more in tune with my mental health, would I have persevered?
My anxiety was improved with therapy, which being a student was free and readily available through my university. It was a gift, I desperately needed during that time. I spent many years after this with my anxiety under control. However, with the birth of my first child it returned with a vengeance. I was 25 single and having a baby on my own. Add on postpartum hormonal imbalances and it was not pretty. During this time I opted to seek medical treatment through my mid-wife to help. It really did alleviate the constant fear, worry and inability to sleep due to a racing mind. I later weaned myself off of the medication with the support of a doctor and felt good for a while. It was after the birth of my next two children that it returned. I know now that I suffered from postpartum anxiety which was simply elevated due to sleeplessness. I am a person that NEEDS sleep to function and when you are nursing every two hours, its not possible to feel rested - for a very long time. We do not live near family and I've never been good at asking for help. I had a hard time admitting how I was feeling and turned inward. I would put on a good mask and present myself as a mom who was doing fine. There were moments when it showed. I recall a time when I was trying to help the elementary school PTA with a 2 month old baby in tow and I snapped at the secretary and burst into tears in the hallway. The other mom I was working with just hugged me and I knew she knew what I was going through. That night she dropped off a lasagna at my door and it was moments like that that helped me through. If you know someone suffering I swear the best thing I can recommend is a hug, a show of support that requires nothing in return and to just listen. No one could have "fixed" what I was feeling, but knowing I had someone in my corner always made life just a little easier.
While I feel that I'm in a place now where I rarely suffer panic attacks and I've learned the tools to help me control my anxiety, it is and I think will always be a part of me. I am more aware of my triggers. For example, if I am over-tired I'm more vulnerable to letting small moments become hurdles. I don't handle change well and when something new is coming up I can dwell on the what-ifs and dream up every possible negative scenario. My own struggles with self-confidence are a big part of that. I have to practice a lot of mindful affirmations in order to tackle changes. Something that I truly wish for is the ability to work with a therapist or counselor, just to talk through the emotions and the roots of my self-sabotage and worries. It infuriates me that there is such a greater acceptance and recognition of mental-health issues in our society but the insurance companies have not followed suit in their coverage. In order to seek help from a therapist, the costs are well over $100 per session. When will that change?
Do you suffer from anxiety or have you experienced postpartum anxiety? Have you sought therapy? What strategies have helped you through?