“Anxiety is what we feel when we are worried, tense or afraid – particularly about things that are about to happen, or which we think could happen in the future.
Anxiety is a natural human response when we perceive that we are under threat. It can be experienced through our thoughts, feelings and physical sensations.”
It took me so long to accept that I was suffering from a mental illness. The word ‘mental’ alone was so triggering to me. I struggled to come to terms with it at first. I didn’t understand the real meaning of Anxiety and I was in denial, convincing myself that I was fine. That it hadn’t affected me and the way I lived my life.
This all changed though when I found myself unable to leave the house alone, almost every time I tried. I find it hard talk about anxiety sometimes because to an extent I do still suffer from it. I’m at a stage where I can now push through my anxiety and get things done.
♡Lets talk about my journey through it all.
Throughout my younger years, I never experienced anxiety to the point that it would stop me from doing anything I set out to.
The first real experience where I felt anxiety, quite intensely was when I was at the hospital. I remember between contractions I would get this sense of worry that would momentarily creep up on me.
My dream of becoming a mum was about to come true.
Yet I was here freaking out about everything. I thought about what my husband would do if died while giving birth. Or after.
Would my baby be breathing once he came into the world?
What if I can’t cope?
I was consumed with worry and feeling pretty overwhelmed.
Luckily I was able to shake it off.
Well, I was in active labour and the pain pretty much took over any thoughts at this point.
I gave birth and was healing well, I was fine and most importantly my baby was healthy Thank God! Now, it was time to go home with my little family and continue on with our lives.
Sergio and I didn’t even consider taking into account any hormonal changes that could and would take place and how they might affect me.
Being at home with baby was everything I ever imagined it to be. My little boy, was finally here.
I would sit and stare at him in all of his perfection for such long periods of time. Loving how he would snuggle up in my neck and OH, how amazing is that new baby smell! I felt so blessed to be able to experience motherhood. I was in love with this baby.
So in love that it overwhelmed me. I felt as though I loved him too much (if that was possible).
I was so happy to have him, but my happiness turned into sadness as anxiety crept in once again.
Every time I looked at Maalik I would feel so tearful. (Have you ever loved someone so much that it makes your heart ache?) I would worry excessively about his future. (He was only 2 weeks old) but already I was panicking about his teenage years.
My brain was wrecked, I couldn’t stop obsessing over things that were completely out of my control.
We were home and got settled in to our new routine fine. I was so happy to be home. I didn’t leave the house for a few days due to not wanting to take baby out too soon. Pretty quickly, those few days of being at home, had turned into weeks. I needed to get out.
I decided I wanted to attend a baby group. The health visitor recommended it on a couple of occasions and I’d refused near enough every time. Wouldn’t it be so awkward?
I didn’t know what we would talk about other than the obvious ‘How old is yours’ ‘Natural birth?’.
I’d hate to have to sit through any awkward silences which I’m sure there would be plenty of.
And would I be able to just stand up in front of everyone without explaining why I’m leaving – Absolutely not!
Also I doubted that there would be any other Muslims attending and what if the other mums didn’t think I belonged there or they felt uncomfortable with me being there and didn’t want to speak to me.
Everything about the idea of it terrified me. I didn’t want to go, at all.
I hated being part of a big group. Bearing in mind a big group to me is anything more than 4 people. I wondered how many people would be there, Would it be a small room with a lot of people?
That would definitely make me feel claustrophobic.
What if Maalik started crying and I wasn’t able to console him. I feared that everyone would look at me as if I wasn’t capable of being a mum.
I reverted back to how I felt about needing to get out of the house for a little while and arranged to attend, regardless of everything within me telling me not to.
That morning I woke up in a great mood and was feeling really positive.
I got baby and his things together, but as I was getting myself ready I started to feel tearful. What had upset me? What was I feeling? I didn’t know.
I just knew that I was worrying about something.
(Obviously now, I know it was all the thoughts above playing over and over in my head subconsciously)
Sergio came over and asked me what was wrong. “I don’t know” I replied.
My heart was heavy and beating fast, my palms began to get sweaty and I burst into tears.
I didn’t feel like going anymore but I wanted to, for Maalik. Sergio tried to encourage me but everything he said was irritating me and I found myself snapping at him.
He told me it was fine and that we could try again next week. He took the baby to the garden, I got undressed and climbed into bed. I was so frustrated with myself for feeling this way. I wanted to get out, I needed to, but I couldn’t.
It was only a little while before baby needed feeding and to be quite honest with you, I was dreading it. Breast feeding was such an ordeal, a nightmare actually. I couldn’t get him to latch on properly or for long enough, no matter how much I tried.
The midwife showed me a ton of different techniques. None of them felt comfortable for me and baby wasn’t into it either. After a few weeks I was absolutely fed up!
My breasts were sore and swollen and Maalik was constantly crying.
I couldn’t keep up with the demand so we switched to formula, which made me feel like such a failure. Of course no one is any less of a parent for choosing formula for their child.
Although, I told myself I was the worst parent for doing so. I felt depression creeping up on me as I began to feel like I wasn’t good enough.
As time went on, I would push myself to go out for walks with my family. It felt really good to get out of the house. Sergio was busy one morning when I wanted to go but I thought I still would.
I didn’t even think about it being a problem, I always enjoyed being out with my boys so why would it be any different without one of them there. I could go alone. Why not?
I got Maalik dressed, but as I was getting myself ready I began to feel tearful, just like before. I tried to shake it off as I did my make up, I couldn’t understand what was happening. I’d managed to stop crying long enough to get ready and I headed to the front door with baby.
I stopped before opening it and turned to the mirror. I made sure my hijab was okay and that my hoodie was oversized enough to cover my mum tum.
As I stepped out, I felt completely vulnerable. It was as though everyone was standing at their windows pointing and laughing at me.
I had become so insecure. Everything in me was begging to step back inside but I had to do this. I needed to overcome what ever it was that I feared.
The feeling was so strong, but I persisted. I walked with tears running down my cheeks, as quickly as I dried them, new ones appeared. I felt so self conscious. Maybe I wasn’t being looked at before but now that I was crying – I was giving people a reason to look.
Have you ever felt fearful of something but you can’t explain what it is that you fear exactly? Its a horrible feeling and even worse to try to explain to someone!
I felt panicked and confused, stressed and irritated. All I wanted was to be back at home in my safe place.
But I was out, on my way to the pocket park which was only a short walk from home. I wasn’t coping well, avoiding eye contact at all costs and flinching if anyone got too close to me.
I’d be looking back every few steps, scared that someone would come up and attack me. I was constantly on edge. My heart would race so fast that I felt like I was about to pass out.
I got back home that day and said to my husband that I’d had a really hard time. He looked at me as if he was thinking ‘What’s so hard about walking?’. Even though he was supportive of me I would still feel like no one really understood me.
Well I couldn’t even understand myself I just knew that I felt sad and alone.
I kept most of my thoughts and feelings to myself. My family would think I was ‘losing the plot’ if I expressed every wild thought I had.
I knew that I was allowing my thoughts to go off on a tangent but it was so hard to stop.
As I sat on the sofa I cried and cried. I felt so stupid.
How was it possible to be scared of the outside!
No one had been nasty to me. Nothing bad had happened.
Yet I was constantly living and acting in a state of ‘What If’
I’m a revert to Islam of about 16 years, since becoming a muslim I had never felt any anxiety regarding it at all really. Up until this point.
After having baby I seemed to have developed this
fear of being confronted based on my beliefs, feeling scared that I would be attacked because of it. That I would be blamed or ‘associated’ with terrorism.
That’s nothing that I stand for or agree with. I pride myself on being a good person, regardless of religion.
My hijab apparently, is a symbol of terrorism. That now seemed to be a highlight of my worry whenever I needed to leave my house. I would feel so safe inside but once I opened my door I felt as though I would be walking into a warzone. For a long time I didn’t, not alone anyway.
I wanted to, for myself and for Maalik but I was fighting a battle and I was losing big time!
How could I teach my son how to be strong when I was so weak. I couldn’t let him grow up and see me in that way. I wanted him to think of his mama as a woman who never let anything get in her way. It was so hard when all I wanted to do was lay in bed and cry.
I couldn’t understand why I felt so depressed. All of my dreams had come true.
My husband is the best man I’ve ever known. He treats me like a literal queen and I repaid him by being miserable and having an attitude.
I had my perfect baby boy who had grown and developed just as god intended. A perfect human being. Yet here I was, Depressed!
I was so sick of feeling this way. Sick and tired of having zero desire to go out or do anything. I contacted my midwife and asked to attend the therapy sessions she had suggested I try.
I would normally have Sergio or Maalik with me.
However for therapy, I chose to do it alone. My boys are my safety blanket but by going without them I felt like I was actively fighting my anxiety.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy. It can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave.
I really recommend therapy as it gives you an understanding into what you’re really feeling. Before doing my sessions I had no idea. I just felt fear. My therapist really helped me to come to terms with those thoughts exactly.
I recommend anyone suffering from anxiety and depression to first pray if you’re religious at all and secondly seek help with a professional. This helped me a lot.
Do I still feel anxiety today? Absolutely.
However, I’m able to push through it now, I’m at the point now where I don’t allow it to stop me from living anymore. I deserve to do things that make me happy.
If you’re going through it right now, It will get better.
If you have family or friends – Talk to them.
I kept my feelings to myself for so long because I didn’t want people to judge me or think I was weird or crazy. I felt like no one would understand me.
To be honest, I still don’t think my family and friends do but they listen!
If you have people around you who are willing to hear you and will try their best to be supportive, then let them.
It can make a big difference simply just to talk about it.
So many people take their own lives because they feel isolated but you’re never really alone.
There is always help out there, you just have to find it.
Don’t allow anxiety to stop you from living.
We have to actively fight it so that you can live your best life and be the best version of yourself.