Parenting with an {Anxiety} Disorder | {Guest Post by Ashleigh}

I’ve been engaging with Ashleigh from thestevensonlife.co.uk on Instagram for quite some time now. Ashleigh is married to my friend Mark who I met at University many moons ago and together they have a gorgeous little boy, Grayson. I love following their adverntures on their blog and Instagram account and Ashleigh kindly agreed to write a guest post for me on something very close to my heart and I know a lot of us can relate to – anxiety. {You can also check out the guest post I wrote for The Stevenson Life about my battle with Dermatillomania here}.


Hi Everyone, before I get into things, I thought I should offer some background. I’ve suffered with anxiety since my early teens, by the time I reached 19 it reached a point where I had to see a doctor because I could no longer control the problem by myself. I was eventually diagnosed with having a generalised anxiety disorder.

Ashleigh with her son {Grayson}

I recently touched on living with my anxiety in a post over on The Stevenson Life, but I didn’t really explain how it can affect me as a parent. I remember when I found out that I was pregnant, I was happy but the other main emotion that was at the front of my mind was pure fear. Childbirth had always been a big fear of mine, so the fact that I was going to be birthing a baby in the near future made my sense of fight or flight go into overdrive.

I’d feel physically sick before every appointment, because the anxiety of it all was just too much to handle. I also spent a lot of my pregnancy just lying on the floor, holding on, because that was the only way I could still the thoughts in my mind. Every hospital appointment and blood test left me wanting to cry because I couldn’t handle my fear of hospitals.

I did hypnobirthing in the hopes that I could minimise some of the anxiety that I had for labour, and while it did help, unfortunately my anxiety was just too much to handle. I ended up having a traumatic birth, which had just made the anxiety of ever having another child even worse.

In terms of the actual parenting side of things, it’s always been very important to me that Grayson understands mental health – so he knows all about feelings like happy, sad, angry and so on. However, I won’t mention anxiety to him until he is old enough to fully understand because one of my biggest forms of anxiety now is passing this anxiety on to Grayson.

I have days where I struggle to eat or go outside because of the anxiety that’s sitting on my chest making my breathing shallow, or the knot in my stomach that’s making me feel sick. However, Grayson doesn’t know about this because I want him to just see me as ‘mummy’ for the mean time. Grayson went through a spell of anxiety when he was around 10 Months old and I had such a fear that I had caused this anxiety in him that I felt so awful I didn’t think I deserved to be a parent (obviously
separation anxiety is a very normal thing for children, so if this sounds like your child please don’t think it’s anything you’ve done).

I worry about Grayson on a daily basis, is he eating enough? Is he drinking enough? What happens if he gets unwell because of something I’ve done? What happens if he gets hurt, what do I do? What happens if someone thinks I’m a bad parent and I don’t deserve Grayson? I constantly have a cycle of thoughts going through my mind, sometimes those thoughts are quiet enough that I can go about my day normal
and other days the thoughts are so loud that I just have to hold Grayson close and use some of the coping mechanisms I’ve learnt through years of CBT and therapy.

So far, Grayson hasn’t showed any signs of anxiety but that still doesn’t stop the fear that he’ll sob to me one day that the anxiety is all too much and I’ll have caused that. I’m very careful to push any of my anxiety to one side until Grayson’s in bed, when I can decompress and work through the anxiety. I try not to let my anxiety stop Grayson from doing anything, I don’t want to wrap him in bubble wrap because I feel like that will make him start to fear things. I try to encourage him to do everything (within reason of course).

Living with anxiety is a constant battle, because every positive thought you have is counteracted with a “what if” or “no, you’re wrong” it can turn every positive into a negative. Parenting with anxiety is just as bad because you question your natural parenting instincts, but if you suffer with anxiety the most important advice, I can offer is:

  • Talk to your loved ones: tell those that you trust and love how you are feeling, because they will no doubt help you understand you are doing a great job as a parent.
  • Seek medical help: I’m currently on no medication for personal reasons, but I’ve benefited from both medication and seeing a registered therapist in the past and thing that these things are a great way to help you cope if you are otherwise struggling.
  • Find coping mechanisms that work for you: different strategies work for different people, something I learned at hypnobirthing is actually something I’ve carried over for my anxiety (I close my eyes and I imagine a red light as I breathe in and a blue light as I breathe put – so all the negative thoughts are disappearing and the outcome is peace). I also find it helpful that with every anxious thought I try to think rationally and break that thought down so that I can see how wrong my anxiety is.
  • Try not to be so hard on yourself: this goes for all parents. Parenting is hard, one of the hardest things. Raising little individuals who are constantly learning, and adapting was never going to be easy, but as long as your children are safe, happy and healthy then you’re doing a pretty good job!

Parenting with anxiety or any mental illness makes things that bit harder, so be kind to yourself.


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One thought on “Parenting with an {Anxiety} Disorder | {Guest Post by Ashleigh}

  1. A great post Ashleigh. Some good tips for other parents struggling with anxiety. From personal experience parenting with any form of anxiety disorder is crippling but your doing an amazing job and a fab mummy.

    Like

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