Overwhelmed By Motherhood: The Anatomy of An Anxiety Attack

anxiety attack, postpartum anxiety

My husband is not answering his phone.

I know he’s probably in a meeting, but I’m desperate to talk to him. More desperate to talk to my kids, even. To hear their voices, which always sound so much smaller and innocent over the phone. I feel ashamed that daddy took them to work today so mommy could get a break. Grateful, and ashamed.

Last night I had an anxiety attack, a bad one. This one must have been stalking me for a while because it came up behind me when I wasn’t looking and grabbed me around the neck and shook me violently. It took me a good 30 minutes of heaving sobbing before I could even stop enough to form words to explain to my husband what was wrong.

My life is a contradiction. I am a mother. I have anxiety over motherhood.

When I was born my mother placed me for adoption. Perhaps I’ve told you this before, I don’t know. She was 20, in college, and wasn’t interested in having kids which, believe me, I get. I was with another family for several months before I was returned back to her and my father, who ended up getting married on the same day I was baptized. My memory of my life as a small person was that she wasn’t at all happy being a mom. Being my mom. Now that I know the background of her own childhood, which is not my story to tell, I understand why. Still, it stings my soul in an unending way that I can’t describe.

I am very happy being a mom. My kids are—shit, now the tears are streaming down my face again. My kids. They are beauty. They are the swelling of my heart and the joy of my life. They are the manifestation of God for me, with my eyes and their dad’s sense of humor. There is no greater accomplishment in my life than bringing those two people into the world. No awards, or Top 50 this, or Fierce that. Nothing.

When I say I’m overwhelmed by motherhood I suppose that’s a mischaracterization. I am overwhelmed by my childhood. I am overwhelmed by desperately not wanting to have the same relationship with my children that I had with my mom. By wanting them to know and see and viscerally feel how much they are loved and cherished. I’m grateful that I’ve done well in that department. They know. I am solid in my belief that they know.

As someone with anxiety, and an introvert, I do well having many hours of the day on my own. I sit in a quiet house, with only the damn neighbor’s yapping jerk hounds to disturb me here and there, and I write. I answer email. I chat with people on Twitter. It is a comfort for me to have that peace for so long. Then, at 3pm, I eagerly drive off to the bus stop to see the world’s most fantastic faces and spend the rest of the day fortified as I carry out my motherly duties. I generally do not have anxiety attacks.

Only now, it’s summer. They’ve been home for two weeks, and for about 50% of that time my husband has also been traveling. It’s all me, all the time. I have no solitude in which to build myself up. Yesterday, I became overwhelmed. It was nothing they did, I promise you. Ask anyone who knows my children; they are quite something. Smart, well-behaved. Hilarious. Not at all perfect, of course, but pretty damn awesome. My husband and I have had a small hand to play in that, but I also believe it’s just who they are. I lucked out.

This is all on me. 100%.

I look at the moms who celebrate summer. Who have all sorts of plans and activities. Who home school. Who do crafts. They’re like mom rock stars. And I feel ashamed. So ashamed and defective that I’m not them. Why is it so easy for them? Why do all of these things come so naturally? WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH ME?!

And then I have an anxiety attack, and my husband shoos the children off to the playroom and he sits with me and holds my hand and assures me that I’m the most amazing mother and he’s so glad that he married me and we had our two beautiful children together.  He explains to me that I’m looking at motherhood as math — doing x + y = z — when it’s not math. It’s music. There’s no correct equation for doing it right. There are infinite combinations of notes that will lead to an artful outcome. Eventually I calm down. I know he’s right. Not only that, but he’s just offered one of the most lovely explanations of motherhood I’ve ever heard.

Now it’s the day after. My eyes are practically swollen shut and I still feel the remnants of the migraine that was caused by all of this. I woke up at 10am, still exhausted. I’m embarrassed. And ashamed. I know, I know. No one knows better than me that this is not my fault. It’s an illness. There’s no shame. Yet if you’ve ever had one of these, you know what I mean. It feels so ridiculous afterwards. So much energy expended for what feels like stupid reasons.

There’s only one difference between this moment and the time, nine years ago, when I went through postpartum anxiety.

Before, back then, I believed the real me was the person full of anxiety. The person who was and would always be ill. The person who was not and would never be fierce. I was never going to be loved by my children and would never be a good mom. I believed those things.

Now, I’m awaiting the moment when I go back to feeling like the real me.  It might be later today. If not, it will most certainly be tomorrow. I’ll go back to feeling strong and fierce and as though the ground I’m standing on is not buckling. This, right now, is not me. This thing is the thing that tries to deter me. I will allow it a few minutes to do that, but then I will go back to me.

I am a good mother. I am making beautiful music.

About Katherine Stone

is the founder of Postpartum Progress. She has been named a WebMD Health Hero, one of the fiercest women in America by More magazine, and one of the top 20 Social Media Moms by Working Mother magazine. She is a survivor of postpartum OCD.

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  1. facebook_valarie.mil says:

    I could have written this. Well, not that going to the bus stop feeling fortified to fulfill my motherly duties part. That part of the day makes me crazy…that all sounded too perfect for me. I started comparing myself and thought your thoughts. Why don't I feel that way? Why can't I feel "fortified" to feel good about going to the bus stop? And re-read what your husband told you. Amazing man that can encourage you in that way. Good for you you have that support. I don't and didn't. I still get anxiety attacks as well but nowhere near the one you had…at least not anymore. I too had Postpartum Anxiety and lived with the fear that it was who I was. No one should have to live that way. I will remind myself that Motherhood is Music not Math.

    • katstone1 says:

      I do love going to see them at the bus stop. But that's me. My story doesn't have to be your story. That's our problem – we look at the other moms and feel bad because we aren't like they are. Right?

  2. twitter_FeministBree says:

    I am a good mother. I am also overwhelmed by my children – often. I also have introverted tendencies and need a lot of time by myself in quiet rooms with no noise. But my children are incredibly noisy (and intelligent, and full of life, and strong, and courageous.) And I have major anxiety attacks nearly every Sunday night from the thought that I'll be alone the whole week with my kids. My MIL even comes two days a week, but on the days I'm left totally alone, it's hard. I love them, but it's hard. And like you, my biggest fear is becoming the parent that I had, which was a terribly damaging thing. I still haven't found a way to get over my childhood, and the therapists say I developed my anxiety disorder as a coping mechanism to deal with what they put me through. I really pray I'm doing a better job than that for my kids. I really hope they don't end up medicated.

    • katstone1 says:

      It is hard. No doubt about it. But I think there's something in the fact that we recognize where this comes from and why we feel this way and what we need to do to help ourselves. We recognize that. We're doing as much as we can. I need time. I need support. I need to maintain my anxiety medication. I need to take care of myself. I hope in some way that will be a gift I give to my kids — the knowledge that you can be vulnerable and hurt and still live a good life.

      • I love the honesty of your post. I have been scavenging around the internet tonight, because I found myself driving my kids in the car the other day, and I had to pull over because I thought I was having a heart attack-only to figure out “this is what a panic attack must be!” The arguing in the back by my 3-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son was killing me! I could have, at that moment, punched the window completely out. I couldn’t catch my breath. It was the worst feeling. And I can’t even call it “post pardum” because my kids are older. I do mother alone a lot because my husband works at night and sleeps in the day a lot of days of the week. I find myself yelling at them a lot-they can’t keep their hands to themselves and stop hurting each other-and the constant competing over every single little thing is driving me absolutely insane! I was the only child-with a scattered childhood as well (not sure if my mom had anxiety-maybe she did?) But I noticed you mentioned you were taking anxiety medication. I am seriously thinking of asking my doctor about that. As an only child growing up, this sibling fighting is uncharted territory for me. I can’t get a grasp on it. And alone time-what is that??? I don’t usually get that until everyone is in bed and I am so tired, I can’t even do anything that would qualify as quality alone time. I love my kids-as we tried so hard to have them, but I feel like a ticking time bomb-like at any given moment, I will explode. I have been doing it more lately. I need help!!!

        • Amanda – You’re not alone. I definitely think it’s a good idea for you to sit down with your doctor and discuss this. Have you considered talking with a counselor too? A combination of medication and talk therapy are very effective at treating anxiety and depression.

    • Thanks for sharing because I never thought of anxiety as a coping mechanism. I’ve had my share of hardship in my life but never thought maybe those could be effecting me. I def want to get some help.

      I too love my children and want their company BUT I feel worn out by them pretty quickly. I really, really hate to admit it but they wear on me. I’m fortunate to have them in school 3 times a week for full days and I love (and feel guilty) for my time alone. On the other days, after lunch ( or to be honest sometimes earlier) I’ve had it and need space. I don’t always look forward to picking them up…to be honest. These feelings war inside of me and I wonder if I’m alone.

      • Oh please dont! I am a solo mum of two 3 years and 8 months. I work full time and have shared care, i am fine during the week because it is so busy, but come my weekend with my two im a withering mess and can not wait for the working week to start! Its horrible having those feelings! I grew up in foster homes and in a very unstable environments, im going to get help, because i shouldnt feel sick to my stomach about leaving the house with the children when its my weekend.

        • Heather King says:

          It’s hard. I’m sorry you’re feeling this way. So glad to hear you’re getting help. It will get better…

  3. You are brave to stand up to this anxiety and tell it to go to hell as best as you can! Anxiety is a miserable state that I experienced post-partum and I got it honestly… my mom struggles with anxiety too. By talking about your own experiences, you are helping so many people feel that they are not alone. You should not be embarrassed even one iota. Keep the faith, Katherine. You are a great mom.

  4. I love what your husband said about needing to look at motherhood as music rather than math. I think I need to put that up on my fridge.

  5. Beautiful Katherine. To be good mothers we also have to take care of ourselves and that’s what you are doing. There is no shame in that. Take care of yourself, the way you take care of your kids. I’m facing summer here too and I’m piecing together a plan for time alone. I have to. Overnights with Grandma, a little summer camp, sending them outside and even turning the TV on. Protecting the space that you need, to be the best you can be, is important. I know childcare can be expensive, but maybe there are things like swapping afternoons with another mother, or free camps at the school over the summer? I’ve even found that going to the beach or the park, where they can run around or stay occupied, and I can sit on a blanket and read a book really helps. xoxo

  6. Crying. Crying with you. Oh, friend. You speak to me, and that makes me feel comforted and sad all at the same time. Sad that we even have to be connected in this way. I struggle so deeply with why I can’t just be *that* rock star mom who embraces every waking moment with her kids doing the crafts and the fun things. This, I think you know already. I love you for sharing your world both in and out of anxiety. You’re right. This is not you. You’ll get through to the other side. So many hugs.

    • Hugs my dear friend. Sometimes I wish I didn't know anything about how other moms are. Then I wouldn't make these comparisons that make me feel bad about myself. The only feedback I should pay attention to is that of my children and my husband, who think I'm a damn fine mom.
      ~ K

  7. Oh, and the making music bit? Perfect in every way.

  8. My heart, my love, my respect, my admiration… It all goes out to you today. Yes, you will feel yourself again. She is there. She has just written to all of us.

  9. Wow. Powerful words, from both you and your husband. I am nearly speechless. Just want to tell you that I can relate to motherhood anxiety, and anxiety attacks in general. They’re debilitating. But they pass. And you are firm in knowing that anxiety is not the real Katherine. Sending my love.

  10. Brooke M says:

    I remember those days! I understand and I applaud you for letting others know that it is real and that it happens! I am titrating my anti-anxiety medication, in hopes of having another baby and it is scaring me to death.

  11. I’m so sorry this happened. But this is an amazing post. Thank you.

  12. “e explains to me that I’m looking at motherhood as math — doing x + y = z — when it’s not math. It’s music. There’s no correct equation for doing it right. There are infinite combinations of notes that will lead to an artful outcome.”

    That is one of the most amazing parenting quotes I have ever read.

    Thank you for writing this post. I sometimes lie in bed at night and just cry over all the things I think I did wrong that day and will do wrong the next day. We really need to cut ourselves a break. I know my son loves me SO so very much and I’m doing the best I can.

    • I know, right?! I have a great life partner. I’m glad he’s my kids’ father and glad he’s my husband. And so glad you liked it. And YES, cut yourself a break!!!

      • I just want to say thank you for this post! Here it is Christmas Night and I have had the WORST anxiety, pp i believe and trying to cope with it. My baby is 10 MO old and i basically parent alone, my bf works alot and travels. My life is no longer my own. Taking care of myself is a thing of the past, how do i do this without feeling so much guilt! My child is attached me so much its beyond overwhelming. Thank god for people like you, the internet and my damn cell phone late at night. Motherhood is music. Love it. Thank you!!!!! Crying ……

  13. This is beautiful…the real you is standing up and applauding somewhere. Thank you for writing it!

  14. Katie Hoover says:

    So glad I’m not alone… you get me! It will get better, but then again, it won’t be the last time. Thank you for all that you do!

    • You are so not alone Katie. That's why I wrote about this today. Because it feels like the best way to balance out that stupid anxiety attack is to let others who have them too know that it's okay. These feelings happen to many of us.

  15. Oh Katherine, I’m so sorry. In some ways, I can relate to you, if only to say that when my husband is away (which is a lot, like yours), I’ve noticed that my anxiety is MUCH worse, which is manageable when it’s not my “crazy” time of the month, but terrible when I’m in the terror zone.

    Your husband sounds so amazing and you know you can always reach out. xox

    • Thanks Kristen. Terror zone. I love that!

      When my children were little I don't think I could have handled the fact that my husband is gone so often. I don't know that I could have done it. I'm grateful they are older(6 and 10) and cool little people and we can have fascinating conversations and then I can send them off to amuse themselves and they'll actually do it. During the year, we have a pretty good system going and everything's fine. But summer hit and we were all alone together 24/7 and it just got to me. UGH. I wish I was stronger. Or different, sometimes.

      And yes, my husband is awesome.

  16. Sandra Hwang says:

    Oh, Katherine…I have been there. Before I went ‘back to work’ (outside the home), at the beginning of every summer I had these anxiety attacks, provoked primarily by the thought that I would not be able to keep my kids happy and busy enough all summer, and that trying may, in fact, send me over the edge. AND that I was the worst mom ever because I felt this way. But being an introvert myself, I have learned that I have to carve out time for ME, no matter what, and I have to stop apologizing about who I am. I get fuelled by being alone, and I happen to thoroughly enjoy my own company! I love my children, but I also know what I need to do for myself in order to be the best mom I can be. The music I have composed that makes me a good mom for my kids may sound very different than other songs out there, but it is mine, and my children happen to love my songs. Be well; I’m thinking about you 🙂

    • Love your comment. Thank you for saying these things. It's so comforting to hear from someone who has a similar experience. That's when I start feeling like I'm not all Bad Zombie Mom, after all. 😉

  17. facebook_valarie.millercorl says:

    I could have written this. Well, not that going to the bus stop feeling fortified to fulfill my motherly duties part. That part of the day makes me crazy…that all sounded too perfect for me. I started comparing myself and thought your thoughts. Why don’t I feel that way? Why can’t I feel “fortified” to feel good about going to the bus stop? And re-read what your husband told you. Amazing man that can encourage you in that way. Good for you you have that support. I don’t and didn’t. I still get anxiety attacks as well but nowhere near the one you had…at least not anymore. I too had Postpartum Anxiety and lived with the fear that it was who I was. No one should have to live that way. I will remind myself that Motherhood is Music not Math.

    • Valarie, I'm so sorry you don't have that kind of support. I wish it for every mom. Every wife or partner. We all deserve to have people who love us and who can and will say all the right things when we are most vulnerable. I feel very lucky that he said what he did last night. I will remember it forever.

      And please don't compare your bus stop feelings to mine. I'm sure there are things you do or feelings you feel that would make me feel inadequate too. Let's agree to appreciate all of us for who we are as individuals.

  18. Hugs, Katherine. Your husband sounds like a brilliant, lovely man and your entire family is lucky to have you.

  19. Such a wonderful reminder that we do end up coming out of it. In the moment of an anxiety attack, it feels like it may never stop. You are right, it may be today & if not, it definitely will be tomorrow. Thank you for sharing.

  20. What a beautiful explainiation of parenthood. For me, anxiety attacks are still part of the refrain, hopefully one day it’ll be just a verse. Thank you for sharing ur hope.

  21. Stefanie says:

    Your honesty always is refreshing. You speak the thoughts that others have but don’t want to admit out loud. It also helps to remind me how human we all are. Take time for yourself.

  22. Robin | Farewell Stranger says:

    Oh Katherine. This is me. This is me as a mother. You have just put into words what I have struggled with for 4 years and what I have struggled to understand. I need that time to myself, only I generally don’t get enough of it. And it makes me a bad mother. Or at least that’s how it feels most days.

  23. Thank you so much for sharing this. I can’t keep count of all the times I’ve felt so inferior as a mother. I’m nothing like the rock star moms you described. I don’t do arts and crafts or get on the floor and play with kids. But there are other things I do with them that they enjoy. Like you, I hope my children know how much I love them. Unconditionally and with no boundaries. We’re human. We can’t be perfect all the time. We get tired and hungry and cranky. I had a bad day yesterday too. Your story could not have come at a better time. Thank you for the reminder that we’re not alone. I really needed to hear this. Thank you.

  24. I loved this. “I am a good mother. I am making beautiful music.” I need some alone time, some down time or I cannot be the mom that I want to be for my girls.

  25. Brittany says:

    Thank you Katherine for your transparency. I cried as I read this because your experience with anxiety attacks mirrors my own. It is so easy to be shamed into thinking you are the only one who goes through an attack like this. While painful to read, sometimes it helps to know I am not alone.

    • Thank you Brittany. I'm so glad it helped in some way. I like the idea of all of us helping each other experience less shame. I could use a lot less shame in my life.

  26. As hard as this was to read, and to know that you were sitting only a few miles from me feeling this way, it's beautiful that you see it for what it is. And that your husband OMG YOUR HUSBAND brought that wonderful explanation of motherhood to you. It's perfect. It is completely the epitome of motherhood. Music. Here's to today. And tomorrow. And to the rest of the days where you know YOU ARE FIERCE and you are awesome. xoxo

  27. This is how I feel about summer too. Today was my first day home with my boys. I am used to long periods of alone time to rest and rejuvenate myself. I have a list of things for us to do this summer, but in all honesty I am terrified. And I am eating to cover it up. And I am gaining mad amounts of weight. And then Eddie called me fat and I lost it. And now I am losing it again.

    As you always say to me, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

    And also? We will both get past this anxiety. We will. Because it is NOT who we are.

    • katstone1 says:

      Oh gosh honey, I'm sorry. Hugs to you, dear friend. I'm always terrified, too. And then I'm ashamed that I feel terrified. I start thinking about all the women who've lost children. The ones who wanted but were unable to have children. The moms who can't afford to send their kids to camp for even one week during the summer. The ones who are single and have no partner to help them out ever. The ones who have 4 or 5 kids and not two like me. And I think that I have no business having any issues whatsoever. And then I feel even more ashamed. But as my dear friend Erin O'Connor reminded me today, we are each individuals and our feelings are okay. We can't compare ourselves to others. And like you said, Katie, we will get past this. WE WILL.

  28. Thanks for this beautiful post that so perfectly describes, well, me on some days.

  29. Tricia McCarthy Moran says:

    I have been there. Many times. Especially over summer. I teach kids all day, but I have a routine and a structure to my days and that small space to claim as my own before they tumble off the bus, full of love, of noise, of NEEDS. So, it's like you got inside my skin when you wrote this. Anxiety is always on the horizon for me – I'm accepting it more, trying to be aware when it's building and sometimes treating it. But, it does this, Take away my structure, my breath and it comes up behind me like an unwelcome friend and it feels like I'm punched in the gut, every time. I am so happy that you have an understanding and loving and supportive spouse. That is a huge blessing. I am a single Mom and sometimes I even have these anxiety moments over a weekend, when my kids are tired and I am tired and the week has been endlessly long. Thank you for your courage and honesty, it touches me so deeply to know I'm not alone. And neither are you. Breathe deeply. It will pas. Hugs xxxx

    • katstone1 says:

      Thanks Tricia. I love what you said about being "full of love, noise, NEEDS." YES.

      And, like you, structure helps me a lot.

  30. I so understand ALL these feelings. Thank you for writing as you feel it, and being honest with us, yet again.
    Your husband's analogy is beautiful – I'll cling to that, because I was never good at math… but I love the hell out of music.

  31. Jess Herbert says:

    This is the most beautiful thing I have read in a long time. I have been there many, many times as well. Right now, everything inside me is so excited (imagine screaming atoms, and then you’re close) to know that I’m not alone with the guilt and the shame. Thank you for being so brave and fierce.

    And, major kudos to your husband for his explanation of motherhood. It brought tears to my eyes.

  32. Thank you for being real. A lot of us readers might view you like this super women hero who survived the worst, and now is an awesome, strong wonder women (like I do.) But you are just like your readers – we all have bad days – even you. It's nice to know we aren't alone, and thank you fearless leader to lead us, even when you yourself are not fearless. it's an ongoing battle that we all for sure will win! Thank you again!

  33. It is quite amazing how much music you wonderful PPD survivors make in the world with your wise words, your supportiveness and in light of what often seems to be the case a preference for privacy and introversion. You are doing such good out there and I hope you and Yael and Robin and Kristi and so many others are very proud of yourselves, if only privately. Your husband is right. I love the music metaphor. You cannot make sense of anxiety attacks or depression, just look at your “I know, I know” statements; you can only hope that the flip side gives you concertos. Your children will bring music to your years in spite of the sour notes and the minor keys of sadness that are inevitable they will mostly rock your world. I continue to be ashamed that I didn’t recognize PPD and that there is much that I still don’t truly understand viscerally. Hang in there, you are awesome!

  34. katherine this made me cry. in a good way. you are so awesome.

  35. evan marie says:

    My husband travels out of state Monday thru Friday which leaves me home alone with our three month old … Every Sunday evening I get the worst debilitating anxiety knowing I will be solely alone and responsible for our child. It is the most horrific yet embarrassing feel in the world. I can’t sleep, don’t eat properly, and have manifested horrible migraines which make me feel helpless. I never imagined my anxiety would take away so much joy from becoming a parent. I see other mothers juggling so much more and I feel like a fraud!

    • katstone1 says:

      I know that feeling of debilitating anxiety. When my son was a baby and I had postpartum OCD my husband was traveling a lot and the panic it caused inside of me was like nothing I've ever experienced. I understand that it makes you feel like a fraud. I've had the same feelings but we have to fight them. Just keep fighting them. We're wrong to compare ourselves to others.
      ~ K

  36. 49 supportive comments so far? And there you have it. 😉
    love, me

  37. Katherine-

    WOW! This is the most raw, real and touching blog post I have EVER read! Emotionally, this took me to another level. I get this. I REALLY get this. Thank you for laying it all out there and sharing it with the world!

  38. Deborah R says:

    I'm holding you in my thoughts. Love you. Thanks for sharing your bad days as they are my bright spot when I get in a bad place.

  39. Liz Marshall Lauricella says:

    thank you. THANK YOU.
    this was totally me last wednesday. i've only ever had 3 panic attacks in my life, all while i was pregnant with my second child. this one caught me off guard and completely leveled me for a good 48 hours.

  40. This absolutely made me cry. I love it.
    Your music is beautiful. I think it's important to remember that most beautiful pieces of music have rises and falls, allegros and andantes, loudness and quietness. All of these things combine together to create perfection.
    Even at your worst? You are the best mother they could possibly ask for. Because of that combination of beautiful music.

  41. Well done for the openness and the reality. It is so important to talk about how mothers really feel and stop the myth of perfection in motherhood. Mothers need help and sometimes guidance as motherhood brings out all our fears, unresolved issues and difficulties along with our love and hopes. I really enjoyed reading you.

  42. Listening to you read this out loud and loving you more than you know.

  43. This was beautiful, Katherine. Just beautiful.

    If I try to write anymore, I know I'm going to start crying because so much of this resonates with me right now.

    But, beautiful.

  44. Thank you Katherine. I had an anxiety attack like the one you describe a few weeks ago and it was awful. No warning, just there all of a sudden. I get the overwhelmed feelings a lot and may have also been looking at it like Math, like you brilliant husband so eloquently said. I have shared your post and just want to send you a big hug for writing it and for knowing that this too shall pass. Keep on making beautiful music Mama!

  45. Wow. Thank you so much for sharing this. I feel so validated by what you wrote. Our lives have a ridiculous number of parallels, right down to the adoption and being "returned". Sending love and healing energy to you from afar.

  46. wow. thank you so, so much for this. words cannot express.

  47. I've never seen my thoughts put into words by some one else.I feared motherhood, because my mother left me when I was 16 months old. I worried that there was some underlying genetic issue that would cause me to reject my children in turn. After my first son passed away at birth, the anxiety was even worse. Now, my mother, and my child had rejected me . I've had 2 more beautiful boys, and I worry constantly, am I over compensating, am I doing this right, will they love me, do they know I love them, am I like her? I do try and live in the moment, and just go with the flow, and trust that I'm doing a good enough job. I don't want to beat myself up, I mean, nobody is born a perfect mom, and really ,what is a perfect mom anyway? I find myself trying to be the type of mom I wanted and needed, when I just need to be me, because that's what my boys want and need.

  48. I hear you…I homeschool, i plan crafts, host playdates, but i also get frustrated, yell at my kids, have a messy house, and have days where they watch way too much tv. I just try to get through the bad days, not make a big deal out of them, not dwell on me being a ‘bad mom’,, because if i dwell on it, it drags on and on. Focus on the good days and give yourself a break on the bad ones, no one is perfect.

  49. Thank you. From the bottom of my heart. Thank you.

  50. Thank you so much for sharing this. I’m a stay-at-home mom with a two amazing little toddlers, and I’ve been struggling with anxiety attacks as well. It gives me so much comfort and hope to know that I’m not alone in this, and that things will get better.

  51. Hi Kathrine, as a mom who has been there, done that, and made it out the other side (better known as my kids are adults now and we’re all still alive to tell the tale and love each other madly, sounds icky I know LOL) but I understand that feeling overwhelmed, I never had postpartum but did have two disabled kids and a husband who worked all the time, plus I worked both in and outside the home. There were days… and then there were DAYS. Some days I just wanted to escape into a novel where kids were like mine and someone WAS dealing with it, just so I’d have a clue! Today, I’m proud to say we’re close and really care about each other. Some of those moms who were uber organized and had crafts for everyday of the week or had their entire summers organized have kids in therapy! But there’s no right or wrong, just different. All our kids are different, all the moms are different, all the outcomes different. I’m just thankful everything worked out. (Sign of relief! More good luck than good management!)

  52. Oh, mylanta. I read this, bawled, texted it to my husband and said ” this is my life”. But I struggle with giving myself the recovery time. I feel selfish and lazy, like I am not pulling my parental weight. I feel huge amounts of guilt and shame when I keep running away after my husband gets home from work, because I feel like I am dumping my job on him. It’s hard for me to acknowledge who I am and cut myself some slack. But at least I know, after today and this article, that I am not alone, and it has given me some courage to accept and try to love myself. I just wish you women lived nearby.

  53. My husband has been traveling 2-3 days a week for work since Novemberish, and my stress level has gone up 300%. I had a three-hour crying jag on him over Memorial Day weekend. I woke up the next day with my eyes swollen almost shut and had to go to Six Flags. It wore off, he picked up the pace, I stopped feeling quite so alone. Being alone with your anxiety sucks. Having it amped by the chaos of a million things to do to get ready for the next day or the next minute and no other adult to help sucks. It’s fine, you’re fine, I’m fine. I remind myself in those moments all the things you are talking about, and that I’m not alone. Thanks for writing this.

  54. Thank you for sharing this. I have anxiety attacks as well and understand exactly how you feel. Especially the part afterwards when feeling awkward. It not good to go through these things but it helps to know that you are not alone in feeling them. Again, thank you.

  55. Hello from a distant Poland,

    Leigh, you read my mind! The struggle with recovery time…feeling guilty when you leave the child with my parter when he gets home…This is so me! Additionally, I struggle with my own mother’s model of parenting which I’d never want to give to my child and which I’m actually starting to copy. Counless times did I promise myself not to get angry at my child, not to show her the frustration and stress and countless times did I fail. Does the fact I’m not alone in this make me feel better? I don’t know yet.

    • Leigh Ann says:

      Ola, I am trying to escape my parents parenting style as well. But since I was never taught how to deal with my own anger and frustration I am having to reparent myself. It often seems like one step forward two steps back. I have been reading Dr. Laura Markham at Aha! Parenting for a lot of good stuff. But you have started out on the right path by being aware of your feelings and what you don’t want to do. Blessings.

  56. This spoke to me on so many levels. My daughter is almost 15mo old ( beautiful, smart, funny… Perfect!) but my husband has been deployed since she was 8mo old. And had a few months of training before that. It’s all me. ALL the time. And there are some days I just want to cry. But I can’t because I don’t want her to see that. I’m an introvert by nature as well, but also out of stubbornness. I won’t let my daughter see me in any state but happy, and by the time bed time rolls around I’m too exhausted to cry. I feel like a terrible mom sometimes because like you said, there are those moms who have crafts and activities planned all the time. I’m a SAHM and I don’t. Not all the time anyways. And there are days I just want to do nothing and sleep. It is so nice to hear someone say it’s ok.
    I hope I don’t come off as a bad mom, I really do love my daughter more than life. And gladly play, teach, and change diapers. 🙂 some days are just difficult. Dealing with the emotions that come with deployment don’t help either. Anyways, thank you for this.

  57. Stephanie Hawver says:

    Thank you for this beautiful post! I too feel overwhelmed often with my lovely 3 y.o., 1 y.o., and baby on the way. I feel like I’m on a constant rollercoaster. Once a week, I’ll hit the bottom then the next day, I’m on the upswing. I honestly feel so overwhelmed at times that I wonder if some sort of medication would help. And I’m not one to throw pills at a problem.


    • There are all sorts of things you could consider. One is to see your doctor and talk about whether you are suffering from depression or anxiety. Another very effective solution is therapy, which I find helped me even when I wasn’t ill with anxiety but just seeking some discussions and coping tools around parenting. And another is to take a look at how much support you are getting and whether you have a community — like a local moms group or something — that you can share ideas with and vent to when you need it.
      ~ K

  58. Amber Rowden Adil says:

    I just discovered your blog yesterday and can’t tell you how timely it is. Six weeks ago I gave birth to my third child. I suffered severe PPD after the birth of my first child and this pregnancy was unplanned. Needless to say I was sent into a tailspin at the news of it, certain I would have a major breakdown. The good news is that I am doing much better than expected. However I had an overwhelming anxiety attack similar to yours just a few days ago, on my oldest child’s sixth birthday. I felt so terrible afterwards that it had happened on that of all days. But I know I am doing my best despite being overwhelmed with the three kids. I love them fiercely but some days it’s just hard and I have never been a lover of the baby phase. Thank you so much for your blog. It helps so much to know I am not alone.

  59. The mother experiment says:

    Oh my that is quite possibly the most beautiful thing I’ve ever read. As somebody in the midst of postpartum anxiety with a 2 year old and a 9 month old I know too well the feeling that there is no end to this, that it’s never going to get better and there is no end in sight. I just have to trust those who have gone before and are brave enough to share. There is a real me, somewhere, born to shine, who is gonna get through this.

  60. I feel like you all the time. Thank you for speaking my mind.

  61. Thank you. Well said. I think all of us with a less than ideal past worry that we’re messing up our kids. I need to keep the idea of music, not math, with me.

    • Sooooooo many people are affected by a less than ideal past and we don’t like to think we would be, given these are things that likely happened a long time ago. We like to think we’ve “moved on”. Usually, though, whatever happened is still with us in one form or another.
      ~ K

  62. IT is always a blessing to be reminded that when I feel stressed out and anxious and gripped by illogical anxiety and worry that it’s not the real me. I have learned to “feel” the difference between mood changes from hormones and actual problems, and that has been very freeing.

  63. Thank God motherhood is like music and not math- I was always horrible at math. In all seriousness, I hope you’re able to see how amazing it is that you own up to these issues and rise above them. THAT is what makes you an amazing mother. You care so deeply and passionately about your kids that it rocks you to your core. Motherhood is inherently a hugely courageous act. It’s terrifying. Hold on to your husband’s words- the analogy of motherhood and music is so beautiful and true. The irony of your situation is that you’ve already succeeded as a mother. You’ve arrived. Consider how you describe your children- how brilliant and amazing they are. That’s not just luck, my friend. That’s you.

  64. anastasia says:

    Reading this made me sob, so hard, in a way that I haven’t in a long time. I am so overwhelmed, and feel so guilty for it, and so worthless as a mother because of it. My one year old is in her highchair next to me, laughing hysterically at my ugly crying face, and I am so glad the older two are in the playroom and can’t see me.

    Thank you for being strong enough to write what a lot of women are feeling. Thank you for sharing this.

    I am so afriad I am becoming the same kind of mother that mine was, and that my kids will inherit the same horrible sadness that my childhood left me with.

  65. This sounds so much like me. I’m a mom of two boys ages one and six. I also work full time. I’ve gotten better about not expecting perfection when it comes to a clean house, a well rounded home cooked meal 7 nights a week. The demands of work and home life can be overwhelming. I flipped out and had a full blown anxiety attack today over not being able to find an umbrella. It’s embarrassing , overwhelming and oh so depressing when it happens. I too suffer from migraines. I’m hoping to feel like myself tomorrow. Thanks for sharing your story.

  66. It’s so nice to read an honest post about something so many of us moms are going through. I also started a blog (www.findingdorothy.com) about my journey through motherhood, depression, and anxiety in the hopes that other moms will read and know they are not alone.
    Thank you so much for this!

  67. Thank you for your beautiful story. I, too, am an anxious mother, but I find myself more anxious when I am apart from my toddler (thinking about all the myriad things that could happen to him). Plus he has food allergies, which I think compounds it all. i do get overwhelmed when he is around too, since high levels of noise and chaos bother me as well (as another introvert). But I get my highest levels of anxiety when i am not with him (which is awful since I work full time out of the home). A lot of people really don’t understand why I am so anxious, i am probably seen as “over-protective” and “too attached to my child”.
    I also feel the “mommy guilt” over things like his eating habits and other things that really are more a reflection of him and his personality than myself, but it is hard to let go of that.
    Thank you again, and I absolutely love what your husband said about music not math. That is absolutely perfect.
    It is so important for us to share our stories so that we know we are not alone.

  68. I needed exactly this today, and am so incredibly grateful I found it. Thank you for writing it!! As a (hobbyist) musician, I found your husband’s analogy absolutely perfect.

  69. P.S. As a fellow introvert with incredible social anxiety, it is SO. HARD. to force myself to make small talk with the neighbors so my daughter can have the experience of playing outside with her friends.

  70. (After a 10-hour workday filled with pretending to be sociable and cheerful). It all came to a head today and I experienced my first fullon panic attack. 🙁

  71. I have always been an anxious person but after I became a mother it has hit me like a freight train. The first year of my sons life I didn’t feel it like I do now. I was so overwhelmed with love and joy, sleep deprived, and busy with taking care of a new baby that the anxious thoughts just weren’t there like they are now. Now he is 3 and for the past year and half my anxiety is out of control and everything feels like a vicious cycle. I don’t have much support. I’m a single mom but he does go with his dad a lot on the weekends. It has taken over my life. I was working, taking excellent care of him and his development and going to grad school and living on my own. Now I am living with my mom, not working and didn’t finish school. Anxiety is paralyzing. People used to comment on how happy I looked and my smile was infectious and now I feel like a zombie. I cannot control my thoughts. I think that I’m going to get cancer and die and someone else will raise this perfect little being that I have had a hand in creating and the thought of that is debilitating in itself. I used to imagine my son crying for me while I lay in a casket, dead. It is just terrible. For my own reasons, I don’t want to take anti depressants. I did for about 4 months an it was helpful but then the dr just wanted to increase the dosage and I imagine that is a vicious cycle in itself. I don’t want to cover up the symptoms. I want to get to the bottom of this and feel happiness on the inside without medication. I will say I can take pride in knowing that my son is healthy and as happy as he can be but he deserves more from me. I don’t want to project this anxiety on him. Sorry for the long post, I just. Felt the urge to comment to someone who knows the feeling. It’s hard for people to understand when on the outside you are fine.

  72. I can relate 100%. I have 2 children 17 months apart. They’re 11 and 9, are great albeit noisy! Their care falls squarely in me bc my husband works evenings. Most days I can handle it all others (like today) every single noise bothers me and irritates me. I Love my kids but feel overwhelmed at times and have anxiety attacks. We really have no one to help us so that we can go out by ourselves and just recharge..
    I wonder ( and envy) how mothers with 3 or 4 kids that seem put together and happy all the time…While I seem to be irritated often. ..

  73. You are not a bad mother by any means and you need to believe that! And yes this is what motherhood is..I am in the same boat. My children are 11 and 9 and I work and i get home and they’re all over the place. When i feel like im going to scream i count to 10 and if that doesnt help i scream at them. later on i’ll aplogize to them. You need to get out more and stop beating yourself up for not being more patient with the kids or whatever else your beating yourself up about…this is motherhood! and it will get better!!!

  74. Thank you for your story. It is my story and it makes me feel less alone. The summers are so difficult, then the guilt you feel for not doing amazing things with this short time off from school and work. The need to be alone to recharge is so strong and yet in the summer there is the constant static of children. The sound dims, but never goes away. It’s August and I’m holding my breath until school starts. Most of all I hate feeling this way about my children or rather just their presence. They are sweet and funny and more than I deserve. Thank you again for your article. It helps so much.

  75. Sorry to hear about your recent panic attack. i’ve been there too..i suggest one..go to therapy and 2…stop being so damn hard on yourself. no parent is perfect..NONE..just be you…

  76. I’m feeling exactly like this except my husband is gone for the next 6 weeks and left a week ago for recruiting school. I’m overwhelmed and I homeschool and I also go to school online. I feel like I never get a break. I’m also an introvert. And I wish I could have like three whole days to do nothing and talk to nobody. I’m exhausted and pregnant too so my emotions are all over the place. I’m trying to see a counselor and my friends taking all my kids one day this week. But for now I’m just going to cry :(.

  77. Thank you for sharing so openly, knowing I’m not alone in all this makes a big difference, thank you for being brave enough to share 🙂

  78. I am an overwhelmed anxious mother. I have been going through the net for years and years to find an answer for my feelings. Its been 5 years. My doc put me on an antidepressant for 2 years. I am anxiety and depression, I love my kids to death but at times I feel I can’t go on. Motherhood is so difficult. They are difficult kids and I had them one after the other, had no time to rest or to take a break. My strong love for them made me anxious to the extent that I constantly worry what if smthng happens to me , how will they live without me ? I can picture the whole scenario in my head which makes me cry and feel depressed. At times I don’t leave my bed bcos if I do I knkw I will have these worries again. I’m not enjoying my life , I’m wasting days and years worrying about them and myself and diseases . Panic attacks that feel like heart attacks just accompany me every day .

    • Danassa, I’m sorry you’ve been suffering for so long. You’re a wonderful, strong mother and you deserve to feel better. Have you considered working with another doctor or a therapist to address the depression and anxiety? There are effective treatments, but it can take some time and patience to get there. Don’t give up. You are so worth the fight.

  79. mindyourmanners1122 says:

    I cried a little, I’m not going to lie. It’s funny, my whole life I thought I was an extrovert. I can warm up pretty easily, and I’m not usually too uncomfortable with new people. But I RECHARGE when I’m alone. And now that I’m married with a 10 month old, I’m almost never alone. I also always told myself that I was a night person, and it’s true to some extent. But I just started getting up in the mornings, and WOW. Just today, I’ve already had 3 hours to myself to just write and read, and I feel AMAZING. I can’t wait for my husband and daughter to get up, because I actually miss them and can let myself enjoy them the way I want to, without that overwhelming feeling of needing to just GET AWAY, even when there’s absolutely nothing wrong. I definitely thought there was something seriously wrong with me for a long time. I’m so grateful for the wonderful articles like this that show me I’m not crazy. 🙂

  80. Amazing post
    Can totally relate

  81. Absoulty amazing to see that I am not the only who feels this way

  82. Amy Ferguson says:

    You have the most amazing husband ever. “And then I have an anxiety attack, and my husband shoos the children off to the playroom and he sits with me and holds my hand and assures me that I’m the most amazing mother and he’s so glad that he married me and we had our two beautiful children together. ”
    I wish my husband was that kind to me.

  83. Thank you for sharing your testimony with such transparency. As a husband I have been praying to better understand my wife’s heart and what she is going through but not necessarily able to articulate. Your words have given my deeper insight in how to minister to her heart during times of need. As men we sometimes simply don’t understand and end up causing more frustration. Your words have helped me much. May God continue to bless you and your family.

  84. This is hands down one of the best articles on getting a grip on motherhood that I have ever read. Thank you! /’d thanks to your husband. That analogy of motherhood to music is perfect!

  85. Thank you so much for writing this article! I can relate on so many levels just not the supportive husband part( mine rubs it in my face that I cannot take care of my kids too well)There are times when I just want to run away from it all. This is the worst thing that can happen to a mom, it’s awful! I love and adore my kids, but time just does not pass quickly enough when I am with them, I know sounds awful. I feel as if no one understands my pain, and hope and pray that will subside or just go away one day. I do take meds and seek therapy because of my own abusive upbringing I encountered as a child. My son is 9 and daughter’s are 6 and 5 and know that they sense I’m am not fully there. I hate feeling this way, what can I do?

    • Heather King says:

      That feeling that time does not pass quickly enough when you are with them is common and you are not alone. Those of us with anxiety and/or depression, OCD, etc. completely understand. You said you are being treated with medication and therapy. If you are focused on your abusive upbringing in that treatment, maybe it’s time to focus on your current situation as well, about your symptoms since having children and your ongoing struggle with anxiety. It does take professional help, but you can get better, truly. I’m sending you peace, mama.

  86. Athena Del-Valle says:

    I know this comment of yours is old but it was so nice to hear it’s my anxiety not that in my own words “I’m just plain batshit crazy” because the bus stop drop off and pick ups make me sooo anxious all I want to do is get them on and get them off making a mad dash back to my home where I can shut the door behind me.. the other bus stop moms seem so lovely one walks the dog to the bus stop another let’s her child ride her bike all I can seem to do is fidget and constantly saying no don’t do this or that to my son…

  87. I have been going through some real intense anxiety for several years but now i have hit my lowest point. I am tense, so stressed. My kids are beautiful kids but none of them ever just listen to anything I say. I feel totally ignored and helpless. I have no outside help. My husband helps but is not emotionally helpful. I have had horrible bouts of crying when i am alone. And get so angry at my kids after long periods of being ignored, yelled at and called names not to mention being kicked and constantly poked at. I gave up my job and gladly decided to stay home. its been seven years of just absolute stress for me with short moments of joy here and there. I am just worn out to the core and a bunch of nerves. My husband is trying to give me time outs to the gym coffee etc. but it doesn’t help. After school is the absolute worst. It is pure pandemonium. I have done timeouts, taken away privileges and resorted to spanking and scary screaming. Nothing works except the scary screaming and then they are so afraid of me. Was this supposed to be motherhood i dreamt of? Somedays I just want to runaway. Just a barrel of nerves and I don’t want to resort to taking pills to calm down. I am trying so hard, to be the best mom I can be to make sure they lack nothing but I feel like an absolute failure times 10.

  88. Adriana, you are NOT a failure. You sound like someone suffering from depression — you mention depression symptoms like the anger (screaming), the feelings of helplessness and failure, the lack of pleasure in your life. Please reach out for help. Talk to your doctor. Getting help and recovering from this is so important to your health and the health of your children. Things that work include therapy and/or medication — please know that medication isn’t about “taking pills to calm down.” It’s about helping you recover from a real illness, which is what depression is. It’s very real and you don’t have to continue to live this way.


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