I work really hard not to let my anxiety affect our son. It’s not so much that I actively hide it from him, I don’t really believe in doing that (mental illness is not something to be ashamed of or something to be hidden) but he is only five, there are things he just doesn’t need to know yet, things that are too complex for him to understand. I don’t want to expose him to adult problems and I definitely don’t want to put my anxieties on him. I don’t ever want to be the type of mum that stops him from doing things he wants to do because of my own fears. And so, I might tell him I’m scared of doing something, like going on a fast ride or an aeroplane or going to the dentist but then I do it anyway. I hope by doing that I’m showing him it’s ok to be afraid and that sometimes we just need to face our fears and find out that it’s not so scary after all. But sometimes, I’m ashamed to say that my fears get the better of me, my mind takes over my body and I can’t…I just can’t face them those fears.
When he was a baby our son suffered from severe reflux. I’m not talking about a few baby spews after a feed, I’m talking non stop, clothes change inducing, full on vomiting. We were referred to the Royal Children’s Hospital when he was a few months old for some testing. One particular test involved him fasting for what ended up being nearly eight hours…this for a baby who was at that time feeding every three to four hours…well, you can probably imagine what that was like. By the time we got into the x-ray room our poor little man was over tired, starving and screaming. The doctors explained that we would need to hold him down and keep him as still as possible whilst the gave him a small amount of milk with a special dye mixed into it. It was important that he not drink too much, they would take it away, “he won’t be happy” they warned, then they would watch the milk flow through his body and take regular pictures on the x-ray machine as it made its way down. Because of the radiation from the machine hubby and I were required to heavy full lead vests. So, put an already anxious mum together with a hot room, lack of food and a lead vest that weighed a ton and bam, you’ve got yourself a full-blown panic attack. I could feel myself fading, I reached for a nearby chair because I felt like I was going to pass out. The doctors suggested that maybe I wait outside. I looked towards my husband and he nodded; assured me he’d be ok. A nurse escorted me out to a hospital bed where I laid down and she fed me sweet biscuits and cordial. I sat there and cried. I was so embarrassed. I felt like an absolute failure. I had crumbled in the moment when my child needed me the most.
For me, any type of medical environment; being in a hospital, dentist or doctors waiting room causes huge anxiety. Even if I’m only there for something as simple as a prescription refill, just being there or even thinking about being there is enough to make me anxious. I know now that this is due to PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) something which I am only now really coming to understand. So when our son needed to go into hospital for an operation at the age of two it was my husband who held him whilst him was put under. And just this week when our son had a bad fall which resulted in him losing half his front tooth it was my husband who took him to the dentist. And I hate that. Not that I hate my husband being there, my god I’m so grateful he was, that he is, but I hate myself for not being strong enough to be there for my son when he needs me the most. Because there is nowhere else that a mothers wants to be when her child is in trouble than by their side.
Last night I thanked my husband, as I often do, for being there when I couldn’t, for being the strong one when I can’t be. And I promised him and myself, as I often do, that I will continue to fight my anxiety and face my fears not only for myself but also for our son because the thing I am most afraid of all is letting him down.
Are you an anxious mother? Ever felt like you at letting your child down?