A few months ago, I started experiencing slight chest pain. I attributed it to running. My husband kept insisting I go to the doctor. My attitude toward doctor’s visits is usually: “I’ll go in and they'll say it’s nothing and it will be a waste of time and money.” My husband’s counter is also consistent: “But if it’s serious, you’ll be glad you went.”
So, I made the appointment, arranged childcare for my older two kids, and headed to the doctor. I sat on the table, shirtless with an array of wires zigzagging across my chest, trying desperately to keep my baby from ripping them off (How many ruined EKGs will insurance cover?)
Once the doctor came in, the questions started: “Are you getting enough rest?”
“Well, I have three small children!” I joked.
“Ok… do you get time for yourself?”
Once again… “I have three small children!”
“How’s your caffeine intake?” I’m sure you can imagine my response.
After a barrage of tests, the doctor returned. She was direct: “You have anxiety.”
“But I don’t feel anxious!” I protested, slightly insulted…was she stereotyping me as a stay-at-home mom? Oh, you have three small children and chest pain? It must be anxiety. Thanks for your hundreds of dollars. Come back in four weeks!
“What do you think anxiety feels like?”
I couldn’t formulate a response. It’s true that my stress had always manifested itself in a myriad of ways…from acute gingivitis to nausea. Was my chest pain a result of my inability to parent? I’m the laid-back mom! I go with the flow!
“A majority of stay-at-home moms suffer from anxiety or depression. It’s common, just not publicized. It doesn’t reflect your abilities. It’s a stressful season. Moms are always taking care of someone else, meeting needs, and there isn’t time to think about your own needs. You aren’t failing. It’s okay that you feel anxious. Most, if not all, mothers do.”
I wanted what she said to be true… but I couldn’t help but feel as if this “diagnosis” reflected my mothering capabilities. Wasn’t anxiety born out of an inability to control situations?
And then, it hit me, yes. I can’t control anything. Try as I may, these little humans have wills of their own and rarely comply to my agenda. Anxiety is a natural ramification. I do, at times, feel overwhelmed and out of control. Maybe calling it anxiety isn’t a concession but, rather, a definition. And now I can take steps to combat the anxiety. I don’t have to stay here; I can get better. Today, I have anxiety. Tomorrow, I can take one small step toward health.
Kara Garis is a cloth diapering, baby wearing, semi-crunchy mama to two active boys and a baby girl. She lives with her husband in Oklahoma and loves running, cooking, traveling, reading and teaching herself how to braid. She blogs at karagaris.com.