I’ve always been a worrier. A bit of a stress head. At times, a bit anxious. It’s just how I am. Those who love me know it and still love me for it, or despite it.
At school I was the conscientious one, a bit of a geek who never wanted to skip classes or break the rules. As I hit my late teens and A levels, I started to have sleepless nights because I was worried about my exams. It got worse at university. I got by with the odd Nytol and clinky clunky music, yoga, chocolate and wine. My friends and family soon learned what triggered it and whenever I felt worried they would try to calm me down and help me chill out.
As I’ve got older occasionally stress has lead to bouts of anxiety, a general worry that something bad is going to happen. I’ve learned to live with it. Manage it.
But when I had Miss Belle a whole new level of worry engulfed me. It hit me like a bus when she was less than 24 hours old.
We had a hard time feeding and I spent longer in hospital than most of my friends. I remember thinking “why can’t I do this? My baby doesn’t like me. I’m a terrible mum. I can’t even feed my baby.” I was so upset. I was exhausted, frustrated and stressed. Eventually things got better and we got on the roller coaster that is new parenthood, as we thought things were OK, only to be told she had lost more weight. A couple of weeks of continued stress passed until eventually her tongue tie was snipped and our feeding turned a corner.
I sobbed before my husband went back to work after his two weeks of paternity leave. I felt I couldn’t look after her all on my own all day. When my parents left after a visit I sobbed some more. But time ticked by and slowly we found our feet.
So what? You probably think. This all just sounds normal, the feelings that come along with being a new mum.
Well, Miss Belle is now nearly two, and since she was born there have been a few times where anxiety has reared it’s ugly head.
After our tricky start to breastfeeding I was paranoid about her weight gain, so I used an App to record her feeds. I could also record when she napped which quickly helped me notice a bit of a pattern. When we met up with some new parents from our antenatal classes and I told them about this App, some of them found it odd. I left feeling low, again like I was weird and doing it all wrong.
When I was home alone with my newborn baby I had visions of dropping her as I walked up the stairs.
When Miss Belle had had yet another weekend of 40 degree temps, cold hands and feet, and mottled skin, I rushed her to the GP and broke down in tears. I was so worried, so anxious. The GP was kind and told me that these feelings were totally understandable and not unfounded. She saw me two days later to talk about how I was feeling and discuss if I needed help.
On Monday, it was World Mental Health Day. I’ve not written this because I profess in anyway to be an expert on aspects of mental health. I’m not a doctor or a nurse. I’ve written it because I want people to know these feelings are common. It’s just nobody talks about it.
I’ve been thinking about it and I wonder how much of a fine line there is between worry and anxiety. Some people are just more of a worrier than others. Not everyone can be laid back and care free. If it helps you to have a routine or make a note of what time your baby feeds or sleeps, it’s OK. It doesn’t make you a freak and you shouldn’t be mocked by others. You shouldn’t have to apologise for being the way you are.
But, if you start to have constant anxious feelings, then things probably are not OK. If you are having anxious thoughts every day, several times a day, then it’s time to talk. Tell someone close to you, a partner, parent or a close friend. My advice is to speak to your health visitor or GP who can tell you what support is available in your area.
There is help out there. All you have to do is talk.