Guest Post: I'm Stronger Than My Anxiety

Kayla Caw lives in Maryland with her husband, Mat; her 17-month-old daughter, Elizabeth; and her darling "fur-kid," Tucker the dog. Kayla gave us the inspiration behind our Assume Positive Intent mug. She also understands the critical importance of ending mental health stigma, and that talking about mental disorders as a method of coping is a powerful means to that end. We're grateful for the story below, which she recently shared on Instagram (@kcmcaw).

Kayla Caw with her Mental Health MugA few weeks ago, I got mad at Mat. Elizabeth was climbing up and down on a kid-sized rocking chair, which was on a carpet floor. When I tagged him in to watch her, he kept having conversations. He didn't give her 100% of his attention. He didn't keep his hand on her back to make sure she didn't fall. Later that night, he mentioned that my worries may have transgressed past normal levels and gone to anxiety that might need some sort of help.

He's normally really good at noticing when I'm starting to slip into a depression, so while I didn't really believe him, I thought it was worth discussing with my mom tribe. So I write a long post about that day and what Mat thinks and my thought process, which was, "If you can prevent your baby from falling, WHY WOULDN'T YOU DO IT?" Yup, even with the capitals. And I asked them if they thought it was just a normal difference in parental worry levels, or if maybe Mat was on to something

And all the mamas who have gotten help for anxiety said, lovingly, that it might be time to go to a doctor. To at least talk about it. Some other mamas shared their experience of growing up with an anxious parent. A few quite lovingly pointed out the flaw in my logic--if I don't ever let Elizabeth fall, how will she know that she can rise again? How else will she learn about her body, about gravity, about spatial awareness?

I think I waited about a week and a half. I let it simmer. I talked to another awesome group of moms I know. And they told me their experiences--how they toughed it out, and they wished they hadn't. I started sobbing at the dinner table as I talked about it. A few days later, my lovely doula posted a check list of symptoms of postpartum anxiety and postpartum depression. I could check every box for postpartum anxiety.

I decided I needed to make the appointment. I had to call. I felt simultaneously like I wanted to puke and I wanted to cry as I waited on hold. But, I made the appointment for the following Monday. I called Mat and asked him to come with me because I was afraid I wasn't going to be taken seriously, that I was going to be told that every mom worries. Worry is a sign of a good mom, after all.

I ordered myself this mug from Mental Health Mugs as a reward for making the appointment. Because there was no part of me that wanted to make that phone call. But I kept telling myself that I wanted Elizabeth to be strong. That I wanted her to know that she could fall and she could pick herself back up. I wanted to show her that sometimes being strong means getting help. And I want to be able to enjoy her childhood without looking at every aspect of the world outside of our little home as a place where Bad Things happen. I wanted to be able to give her the opportunity to run, jump, explore, and yes, hurt herself, without a mom who is constantly standing there worrying about every little thing that could go wrong. So I had to be stronger than my anxiety.

We went. I got about halfway through telling my primary care provider some of recent times I felt anxious, and what my train of thought was in those moments, when he said, 'Oh, so we're dealing with a lot of anxiety here." I kind of laughed. We talked about options. He talked about the two-pronged approach--CBT coupled with medicine. I decided to think about the medicine and reminded myself that therapy had helped with my depressions, so it would probably help with my anxiety.

I took the unfilled prescription home. Mat and I talked about it. I thought about it. I talked to friends about it. Finally, I decided to fill it and start taking it. It's been one week since I filled and started the prescription. It will take time to build up, but I'm already reaping the benefits of the drowsiness side effect--I've been able to fall asleep multiple nights without reading until my eyes can't physically stay open anymore. I don't have to quiet the thoughts that normally force me to distract myself with a book so I can fall asleep--I can just go to sleep.

I'm still searching for a therapist. I've reached out to a few, but the hours weren't right. I need for it to work in my life, so I'm really trying to find the right one. My goal is to have a therapist lined up before I go back for my one-month med check.

But, I've made progress. I'm stronger than my anxiety.

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