‘Every time my husband asked if I was okay, I’d put a big smile on my face and say, ‘Yes.’: Mom battling anxiety opens up about the importance of vulnerability

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“Why am I not able to transfer what’s going on in my head into words? It’s because I want this to be perfect. If the baby wasn’t crying and asking to get up on my lap for the hundredth time today, and the four-year-old still took a nap, and I didn’t have three loads of laundry to do, then maybe I would have a second to concentrate. I haven’t eaten yet today. Why is my heart starting to race again, and why do I feel like an elephant is sitting on my chest? I just need five minutes to breathe.

One of the most difficult things for a mom to do is let themselves be vulnerable. I’m not sure if it’s society standards, how our brains are hardwired, or hormones (cause we blame everything on hormones, right?). But for some reason, we have the hardest time letting our guards down. We feel like we have to have our sh*t together at all times, and it’s EXHAUSTING. 

Realizing Something Wasn’t Right

For me, anxiety was never something I had ever struggled with before. Sure, I had my moments here and there, but I can pinpoint the exact moment I realized something wasn’t right. It was just about four years ago, and I was pregnant with my daughter. We were in the process of boarding up the windows in anticipation of Hurricane Irma, and preparing to evacuate to a family member’s house, when I had my first panic attack. I remember feeling like I couldn’t catch my breath, and feeling so helpless. I had a million thoughts running through my brain at once, and I couldn’t help but focus on all the things that could go wrong at that exact moment. 

As time went on, I had a few more panic attacks. Once I gave birth to my daughter, I felt those moments of feeling ‘out of control’ becoming more frequent. Naturally, I blamed this on the postpartum hormones, but eventually I realized my anxiety was becoming a problem I could no longer handle on my own. I found myself overwhelmed so easily, and oftentimes, I would be in tears for the dumbest reasons. This feeling of helplessness, of panic, of fear, was affecting my job, my role as a mother, my marriage, and my ability to cope with everyday life. 

tired looking mother lays with her daughter on her chest while the girl is sleeping peacefully
Courtesy of Mari Ebert

Continued Panic Attacks

I can remember one incident so clearly. I was taking my daughter’s ‘monthly’ milestone photo because I HAD to get the perfect shot to post on social media, on the EXACT day she turned five months old because GOD FORBID I was a day late. (This pressure we put on ourselves regarding social media and how we portray our lives is a whole other story for another time. LOL) She wouldn’t sit still or smile, and every shot I was taking was blurry. My son was trying to impede on the photo shoot, and I was yelling at him to back away. It was taking forever, and I knew I had a full day of work ahead of me. I felt like I was spinning out of control and I couldn’t possibly handle one more second of this kind of stress. Finally, I just collapsed in tears, and had a moment of clarity.

I just had a panic attack. Because of a frigging monthly photo I was going to put on Facebook. 

Trust me, I know how ridiculous that sounds. Looking back, what I realize now is it wasn’t about the photo. It was about me trying to figure out how to balance two kids, a full-time job, being a wife, and my own mental health. I would lie awake for HOURS at night while my brain would just race thinking about ALL THE THINGS. I was biting my nails again. I was letting this anxiety rule my life because I was keeping it bottled inside and wasn’t seeking help. The thing is, to admit I needed help meant I had to admit I had a problem. Every time my husband would ask me if I was okay, I would put a big smile on my face and say, ‘Yes, I’m okay.’

Why? Why is it so unbelievably hard to admit we are not okay? Why is it so hard to admit we need help and to let ourselves be vulnerable? I am a perfectionist to my core, and I have a very hard time with letting my imperfections show through. I’m not afraid to reveal I DO CARE what people think of me, and I worry endlessly at night about whether I’m a good teacher, a good mother, a good friend, and a good wife. Sometimes, I think when people say, ‘I don’t care what people think of me,’ it’s straight up bullsh*t. We all care. It’s in our nature. ESPECIALLY moms. 

Being Vulnerable And Getting Help

Once it dawned on me I was letting my own head and fears get in the way of truly being happy with myself, I realized I needed to make some changes. Lemme tell you, that was a HUGE pill for me to swallow. After finally sitting down and REALLY talking to my husband, we made some decisions to explore our options and take control back. 

It’s okay to be vulnerable. It’s okay to go outside without makeup on. It’s okay if your kids stay up past their bedtime. It’s okay if you feed them Easy Mac and Pringles for dinner one night. It’s okay if you don’t check off all the boxes on your to-do list. It’s okay if you haven’t lost the baby weight. It’s okay if you need to get out of the house for a few hours to roam around Marshalls BY YOURSELF. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to seek help.

It’s okay to say, ‘No, I’m not okay.’

Until we start speaking up, we will never be able to remove the stigma of mental health. As moms, we owe it to our kids, our partners, and most importantly, ourselves, to be happy. I will always struggle with anxiety and I will always struggle with my own perfectionism. The thing is, I’ll be damned if I’m going to let them control me anymore. Don’t be afraid. Speak up. You aren’t alone.”

mom takes a selfie with her baby daughter, resting heads together
Courtesy of Mari Ebert

This story was submitted to Love What Matters  by Mari Ebert. You can follow her journey on  InstagramFacebook, and her websiteSubmit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more from Mari here:

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