I recently began to struggle with anxiety due to changes in my health that require medications which can cause side effects like anxiety and mood swings. Some days, I don’t know which is harder to deal with – my mental health or my physical health. I feel trapped in a vicious cycle on my bad days. Both manifest similarly, so it’s hard to pinpoint which of them started my fatigue, anger, and pain: is it my anxiety or my health condition?
On many days, I do what I can to overcome my racing thoughts and physical symptoms. I try to take my kids out for a walk when the weather is good, I practice gratitude and mindfulness, I smile as often as I can, and I try to be present in the moment. On other days, anxiety wins, and I struggle to get motivated. It’s like my mind is stuck in the red-alert phase – I feel overwhelmed and tired, and I just don’t want to adult anymore. Being a mother is challenging and having anxiety on top of it can sometimes be crippling. On those days, I feel frustrated for not being able to do things that I or my kids want to do.
I fully explained my anxiety to my 11-year-old, who’s old enough to understand, but when it came to my 5-year-old twins, it was very hard to get the point across. Saying “Mommy is having a bad day” didn’t really cut it for them. But after watching the movie Christopher Robin with them, I got the idea of using the phrase “an Eeyore Day” as a metaphor for my bad days with anxiety. Although Eeyore is characterized more as being pessimistic and depressed, I found it an approachable way to describe my mental status on my off to my kids.
My son even cheekily asked me, “So Mommy can be Tigger on some days and Eeyore on others?” I felt a mix of emotions that he had noticed the huge difference in my moods. I was relieved to have come up with a way to help them understand my struggles, but so sad that they have to deal with my struggles in the first place.
I know that my kids help me to challenge myself. They encourage me to fight for a better life, a more positive attitude, and a simpler perspective. I believe that when they grow up, they’ll have developed empathy and kindness to others because they know about how their mommy struggled, and know that I tried to overcome it. And hopefully, they’ll be able to help others see their strengths as much as they help me to see mine.
Anxiety often leaves those who suffer from it feeling defeated, hopeless, and desperate, but I’ve come to accept my struggles and use them to become a better person and a better mom. It sounds strange, but anxiety has helped me to understand that I’m stronger than I think I am; it’s helped me realized that we all struggle some way or another and that having anxiety doesn’t define me or label me as weak or crazy. On the contrary, it means I can stand back up again every time I fall. It means that I can help others, because I know firsthand what it’s like to be stuck in your own mindset.