When I decided I wanted to be a mother, I knew there were certain sacrifices I would not only be willing to make, but would have to make. I knew sleep was going to be a distance dream for the foreseeable future; I knew nights out with friends would be few and far between; I knew body autonomy wouldn't be as easy to own when I was co-sleeping or breastfeeding. One thing I wasn't willing to sacrifice, however, was my mental health. Sadly, there are things a mom suffering form anxiety would love to never hear again because our society has convinced mothers (and everyone else) that being a good mom means you do sacrifice absolutely everything. Yes, mental health and all.
After my son made his way into the world, I found myself suffering from postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety. I had a very traumatic pregnancy, labor and delivery, which resulted in one baby dying 19 weeks into my pregnancy and my labor ending in the birth of a baby that was alive, and the birth of a baby that wasn't. I had a difficult time automatically bonding with my son, for fear that — like his twin — he would die and I would be left with another devastating heartbreak I wouldn't know how to (or be able to) handle. So, in rolled the depression and the horrific anxiety and I was afraid or unwilling to leave the house, I couldn't sleep, I didn't want to eat (even though I was breastfeeding) and I was constantly crying.
I stayed silent for far too long because I was convinced that being a "good mother" meant not needing anything anymore. I had a son now, and he needed me so I shouldn't be the one asking for help or support or anything of the sort. I was so, so wrong. Thankfully, my partner reminded me that being a mother doesn't mean I am no longer a human being with very human needs, and I received the help I so desperately needed and deserved. I started speaking out about postpartum depression and anxiety which, while empowering and fulfilling and beneficial, also left me open to hearing the following things. If we truly care about mothers as much as we claim we do on Mother's Day, we need to support mothers in every aspect of their lives. We need to remind them that motherhood does not mean constant self-sacrifice. Instead, it means constant self-care.
"I Get Worried, Too"
Being "worried" is not the same as suffering from anxiety or postpartum anxiety. Nope. Not even remotely. Everyone gets worried, but not everyone deals with intrusive thoughts and panic attacks and anxiety so severe that it keeps someone from sleeping, eating, and leaving their home.
While I think it's kind that someone wants to understand and show solidarity (if that's really what they're doing, and not just trying to make a conversation about them), it's not helpful to compare two things that are in no way the same.
"Being Anxious Is Just Part Of Parenthood"
Worrying is just part of parenthood. There, I fixed it for you.
I think it's pretty normal to, as a parent, worry about your child. After all, they're a piece of your heart walking outside of your body and we're all acutely aware of all the ways that piece of your heart could be hurt. Suffering from anxiety is not, however, a "normal" part of parenthood, and you shouldn't be suffering in the name of motherhood or as a way to somehow prove you're a good mother who worries and cares about her children.
Never, in the history of any language that has ever been written or spoken, has the words "calm down" actually calmed someone down. Nope.
Not only is the phrase "calm down" insensitive, it's essentially an attempt to police someone else's feelings or emotions. Furthermore, if I could calm down, I would calm down. It's not like anyone who is suffering from anxiety chooses to suffer from anxiety. Nope. Not how it works.
"You're Just Overthinking Things"
And the award for most obvious statement of the year goes to...
As someone who suffered from postpartum anxiety for so very, very long, I can tell you that I was well aware that I was "overthinking things." I couldn't turn my brain off from thinking, no matter how hard I tried or how much I wanted to. I would stay up at night, staring at my son to make sure he kept breathing, thinking of all the ways he might be hurt or killed. I'd run through horrifying scenarios anytime I left the house, especially if it meant putting my child in a car, paralyzing myself with fear. Telling me what I already know just isn't helpful, you guys.
"Take A Pill Already"
Saying something insensitive like, "Pop a Xanax," or, "Take your medication," furthers the mental illness stigma. Should someone feel empowered to use medication as a form of treatment? Absolutely. For example, I have to credit depression medication for helping me through postpartum depression, and anti-anxiety medication for helping me through postpartum anxiety.
However, someone's pharmaceutical regiment is none of your business, and simply telling someone to "pop a pill," is like telling someone to "go calm down." Hard pass on both.
"You're Just Looking For Attention"
Yes, because the attention anyone gets (especially a mother, who society automatically assumes doesn't and shouldn't think about herself anymore) from speaking out about a certain mental illness is always, always good.
I don't think there's a single person suffering from anxiety or postpartum anxiety that want that kind of attention. What they want is to not suffer from anxiety.
"Your Problems Aren't Real Problems"
Ah, yes. This is my personal favorite, if I have to be honest. The #FirstWorldProblems people who like to diminish your life experiences by equating them to the experiences of others.
Am I ridiculously lucky to live in a country where I can get mental health treatment if I want and need it? Yes. Do I know that, even in this country, people aren't as lucky and can't receive treatment, and so many people are suffering from more "life and death" situations? You bet. However, that doesn't mean mothers suffering from anxiety or postpartum anxiety should just "suck it up" because people in other countries (and our own country) are suffering, too. Our experiences are not negated by the experiences of others.
"Well, I Had A Friend With Anxiety And She Just Got Over It"
Good for, um, your friend? Everyone is different, and while I definitely wish I could have simply "got over it," I can't.
"A Friend Of A Friend's Sister's Mom Tried [Insert Obscure 'Quick Fix' Here]"
It's always mildly amusing that, when sharing something about your health (mental or physical) so many people become medical professionals. Honestly, I had no idea most internet commenters (and even some of my friends) had medical degrees or attended medical school. It's astounding.
"Are You Going To A Psychologist?"
None of your business.
If you feel comfortable talking about seeing a mental health professional (I do, because I think they're wonderful and I think everyone should see a psychologist) then have at it. However, this is your medical history someone is legitimately asking you, so if you don't feel like divulging, don't. You're under no obligation to tell someone what you're doing to treat your anxiety.