When I first became a mom, I did what most millennial moms do to find friends.
I hopped on Facebook and joined some local mom groups.
After a couple of awkward posts that sounded like something from the romance section of craigslist, I landed a few promising playdates and meetups. But most of these plans would never actually come to fruition.
The first several months of my daughter’s life were absolute hell. She was moody, didn’t like sleep, and had a bad case of gerd. She cried ALL. THE. TIME. I barely got any rest – much less time to myself, and every time my husband left for work I had to stop myself from begging him to stay. There wasn’t a single part of motherhood that I enjoyed.
I was nervous about how the world would be different with a baby. How I would be different. What if I’ve turned into someone I don’t like?
I was worried about driving. I was worried about food. I was worried about germs and sharp corners and crazy people. I’d be up all hours of the night thinking of ways my baby could die, and all of the horrible things that could happen, only to have nightmares about them once I actually fell asleep (this still happens). I worried so damn hard that I would frequently break into sweats, hyperventilate, and get stomach aches. I definitely did my fair share of cancelling plans last minute because I didn’t want to go anywhere, and I used my kid as an excuse to get out of MANY things.
But I chalked all that up to being a new mom, and assumed that it sort of just came with the territory. I coped in my own way by forcing myself to do the things that made me stress/worry. To really feel everything, the good and the bad, and question it all. I gave myself space and grace, while learning how to push past these feelings and move forward.
A few months ago I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed when I came across a mom group post that asked who there had anxiety and how were they coping. There were hundreds upon hundreds of comments. Many of the moms said they were medically diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and on meds, while others said they “hadn’t yet” been diagnosed. As I read some of their stories, I noticed that their experience with anxiety was quite similar to mine. I reached out to several of these moms to understand what our differences were. And that’s when I was told that I too had an anxiety disorder.
It really got me thinking about how Millennials and Gen-Zers view things like anxiety. There are dozens of news articles on how it has somehow become “trendy” over the last decade to have a behavioral disorder or mental illness. Young people are now thinking it’s “cool” to be on medication or to be helpless.
How is this even happening?
I personally know a few people like this, so I SEE it happening.
Mental illness is not cool, nor something anyone should try to imitate or aspire to. I certainly don’t. I’ll leave the diagnosis and medication to those who truly need it.
A big part of my journey over the last few years has been learning how to take control of my life by taking control of my mind & learning how to process my thoughts and feelings in a way that benefits me.
This IS possible.
Mental and emotional growth is extremely important to me. I believe that evolving through self-awareness and psychological development is imperative for those who want to find happiness and fulfillment in their lives.
To put this into practice, oftentimes I will intentionally put myself in situations that make me uncomfortable, or scared even. I remind myself – when my heart is racing and my stomach is turning – to stop and breathe. To look around and really soak up the experience. To learn something from it. ANYTHING. To know that I will come out the other side… and be better and stronger because of it.
An example of one of these “uncomfortable situations” is this 10-day cleanse I do a couple of times a year, where you consume ONLY a specific lemon water concoction for 10 full days, and then slowly ease back into solid foods over a period of 3 days. No exceptions. You’re not to eat a single spinach leaf (and believe me, after day 3, spinach looks pretty good). Not a sip of coffee. Not even gum.
Sounds terrible, right?
My first go around was mainly to lose weight. And I did. I lost 20lbs in 10 days (for real – I have the pictures to prove it!). But surprisingly, the most rewarding part of the cleanse was mental. It was making it through the entire two weeks without giving in to temptation or coming up with an excuse to quit. I PUSHED HARD through the physical withdrawals and cravings and impulses. It was really, really hard. It downright sucked. But I did it. My mind won. And I was so empowered that I did it again. And again. And again.
This cleanse catalyzed a MASSIVE shift in my life and the way I viewed myself.
In a weird, unexpected way, it showed me that I had control over my thoughts and feelings. It made me feel powerful, and in some ways, invincible.
And 5 years later, my confidence is sky high because I know that if I put my mind to something, I can do it and I will do it.
So regardless of whether or not someone tells me why THEY think I might feel a certain way (by labeling me)… they are MY feelings. I can decide what to do with them, how I will let them affect me, and how they will shape me as a person. I can CHALLENGE them. I can DEFY them. And I am grateful every single day that I have the ability to do so.
IMPORTANT: Please note that I am not minimizing anxiety in any way, and if you are questioning whether you may have an anxiety disorder – PLEASE seek help immediately.