I imagined Lucy catching every infection and disease under the sun, or, before social occasions, that someone would drop her or stand on her while I was looking the other way… Although part of me knew these scenarios were far-fetched and unlikely, they left a lingering sense of dread
What is anxiety like as a new mum? How does it show itself, and what are some of the ways it can be treated? One mum shares her story, in the hope that any other parent experiencing anxiety feels less alone. And to know that there is hope of seeing the other side of it.
My Anxiety Started When I Became A New Mum
After my daughter was born in 2019 I suffered from very intrusive and anxious thoughts for over a year. I didn’t particularly recognise these as anything connected with mental health at the time, I just kind of accepted that motherhood had changed me, and that this was ‘who I am now’.
Imagining The Worst Case Scenario
The daytimes were ok, I enjoyed going out with Lucy, doing classes, and caring for my new baby. But in the evenings my brain would start to produce these awful disaster scenarios. If we had a long car journey coming up, I would turn it into a crash. If anyone I knew was getting on a plane, I felt certain it was going to fall out of the sky. I imagined Lucy catching every infection and disease under the sun. Or, before social occasions, that someone would drop her or stand on her while I was looking the other way. (I was a bit obsessed with people dropping her, for some reason).
Although part of me knew these scenarios were far-fetched and unlikely, they left a lingering sense of dread. It was harder to shift than the thoughts themselves. This dread would escalate throughout the evening and I was really scared of going to bed; the closer we got to bedtime, the more sure I became that something terrible would happen while I was asleep. I was staying up later and later, or not going to bed at all – sitting on the sofa watching TV all night while Lucy slept in my arms. Often I was too scared to even put her down.
Seeking Help For Anxiety As A New Mum Doesn’t Always Feel Straight-Forward…
I didn’t seek treatment for quite a while. Looking back, I guess I didn’t think mental health support was ‘for me’. I wasn’t having panic attacks, I wasn’t depressed, I wasn’t staying home all day. I had a very cliched image of what postnatal depression and anxiety looked like, and I didn’t fit the bill.
But then I had a call from our local women’s psychological health unit. I was on their list after mentioning to my midwife that I felt a bit down during pregnancy, and I thought I might as well go in for the screening. To my surprise the psychologist recommended that I have twelve weeks of treatment.
During these sessions I was taught mindfulness and visualisation techniques which did help a bit, although not with the dread. But once I was ‘in treatment’, I felt I had permission to discuss what was going on with my partner. And in a way I hadn’t before! This opening up was actually the thing which had the greatest impact on my recovery. Instead of letting my disasters escalate in my mind, or trying to push them away, I would talk about them. Often we would end up laughing, because they were so outlandish, like soap opera storylines.
There’s No Magical Cure, But It Does Get Easier
The thoughts didn’t go away overnight, and even now I catch myself slipping back into old habits when I’m super tired, or when there’s something big coming up, like a long flight. But understanding these triggers, and being able to vocalise and describe how I’m feeling, even if it’s just to myself, helps me to move past them, rather than getting trapped. Four years on, and with a second child now 15 months old, my feelings about bedtime have completely reversed. I look forward to it all day!
Where You Can Seek Help
Thank you for sharing such a relatable perspective on a subject that’s so sensitive. It can be incredibly difficult to reach out for help, and you are incredibly inspiring for doing so yourself.
If you yourself feel that you need to reach out for help, then we recommend that you contact your GP to tell them how you are feeling. Or, get in touch with charities specifically created to talk to you when you are struggling, such as PANDAS.
Find out more on our Mental Wellness & PND support page.
We’d love to hear from you. This Is Family is all about sharing family stories – especially from families who feel like their voices are not often heard. Every family has a unique story to tell. We’d love to hear yours. Find out how you can feature on our blog and get involved. So that other parents can feel less alone.