So, I have anxiety. I’ve anxious phases on and off since I was ten years old. Most of the time, the anxiety simmers away in the background for me, but when I’m tired or stressed, the worry pan tends to boil over and make a hot mess of things.
Now, obviously, what with the baby teething and all, I am tired at the moment. And sometimes quite stressed. So my worry pan has been bubbling away like the dickens, and I have got myself worked up about a whole load of shit that I know full well that normal people wouldn’t give a flip about.
Unfortunately, knowing that other people wouldn’t give a flip about my worries doesn’t make them less worrying to me. When I am in the midst of an anxiety spell, all I can think is that other people clearly aren’t worrying enough. That I am right to worry, and that if I try to stop worrying and relax then something awful might happen and it will all be my fault.
Also unfortunately, because I have a scrumptious and delightful little baby, I am focusing my worry in his direction, and all the something-awfuls I’m imagining are things which might happen to him. Which makes it even more difficult to set the worries aside, because my instinct is to protect him as fiercely as I can from any possible danger, and I am seeing danger every damn where at the moment.
Here are some of the things I have worried about during the last six weeks or so:
- Could Squidge have somehow eaten a tiny chip of glass from my phone screen?
- Could loose wires from the Brillo pad in the kitchen sink have got transferred to my breast pump and ended up in my expressed milk?
- Could I have given Squidge too much dinner and stretched his stomach?
- Could solvent from the superglue I used to fix an airbed have ended up in my bloodstream and be in my breastmilk?
- Could there have been pesticide sprayed on the bouquet of flowers that I let Squidge touch?
- Could a bit of the food Squidge ate for dinner be hiding in his cheeks and might he therefore choke on it later?
With each of these worries, I have found myself paralysed by imagining the worst possible scenario. The lacerated intestines from the glass or the wire, the brain damage from the solvent, the death by choking. I can’t dismiss the worry because I feel like I’d be a neglectful mother if I did not give the potential danger my full and undivided attention.
I spent a whole evening researching solvent abuse and breastfeeding. Solvent abuse. I then made the decision to pump and dump my breast milk until I was twelve hours past my (minimal) exposure to the superglue. This was a colossal suck of of my time and a royal pain in the ass because it meant I had to use up precious frozen milk (which I had been saving for a hen weekend) – but I had to do it. I had to do it because if I hadn’t done it, I would have made myself sick worrying about whether or not I had exposed Squidge to solvents through my breastmilk.
I am working on this. I’m practising mindfulness with the Headspace app, and I’m attending a perinatal course for mothers with anxiety. I know that I need to get past this to be a good mum, because I do NOT want to pass on my irrational fears to Squidge. But I also know it’s not something I’m going to fix in five minutes – indeed, I am probably never going to get rid of my worry pan entirely. It’s always going to be there; it’s my nature. I just need it to be simmering on low rather than being a fucking volcanic, hob-encrusting nightmare.
I’m hoping to chart my progress here, a bit. To use this blog to reflect on my anxiety, and hopefully also to connect with other parents with anxiety – or just other people with anxiety, full stop. So if you’ve read this and any of it’s rung a bell with you, please do leave a comment or point me towards your own blog!