Last week, I confessed to my husband that I have been keeping a secret from him for three years.
Since I became a mom, I have been in a near constant state of anxiety, and it peaked earlier that day when we were taking a family walk together.
Despite the new time freedom entrepreneurship has given me, I never go out with our two kids on my own. I tried once. It did not go well.
The first week after I left my Corporate 9-5 job, I took the kids to our favorite bike path. It was a sunny 60-degree day, unlike any we had seen to that point in the early and rainy New England spring season.
My three-year-old son, rocking his spiderman helmet, rode his big wheeler and earned chuckles from the few others who passed by. My one-year-old daughter, sat reluctantly in the front seat of our double stroller, wishing she was walking alongside big brother.
The path was not as crowded as usual because most people were at work or school. And there I was, outwardly loving my newfound flexibility to be with my kids on such a gorgeous afternoon.
Except, I wasn’t loving it.
I was actually horrified, and trying to hide it from them. Toddlers pick up on everything, and the last thing I want them to learn from me is to be afraid of the world.
But the fact is, I was afraid. As we walked down the path, I gave myself whiplash looking over my shoulder so often. My hand was sweaty from clutching my pepper spray so tight. With each passing stranger, I took mental notes of what they were wearing, in case I needed to recall later. And when my son wheeled past that area of the path where one wrong move could send him tumbling down a hill and into the river, I had to hold my breath.
How would I get down the slope quickly enough to pull him out of the water without falling and breaking my neck, and where will I leave my daughter in the meantime?!
That was the last time I took the kids for a walk by myself.
Fast forward to last week, and this time, we went for a walk as a family after Daddy came home from work. This time would be different because He was with us to protect us.
Only it wasn’t different.
Despite having Daddy there, I couldn’t be present. I couldn’t enjoy our special family time, because all I could think about was that article that I foolishly opened the other day about child trafficking being on the rise. I know better than to read those things…
As I stared at another man walking towards us, memorizing what he looked like and feeling completely inadequate to fight him off if I needed to, I had to fight back the tears.
I was afraid.
I am afraid because my anxiety has become so intense, so ever-present, that I worry this is my new normal.
I had been thinking about confessing this to my husband for some time. I don’t know what was holding me back. I’ve seen a mental health counselor before, and he always was and is very supportive of that.
Why didn’t I tell him?
Was it shame? Or guilt? Fear of his reaction?
No, it was disappointment. I am disappointed that I did not trust him to protect my heart with this confession, as he always does.
I am disappointed in myself for neglecting my mental health for such a long time and letting it get this bad.
Fortunately, the moment the secret escaped my lips, his response was everything I could have hoped for.
He said to me, “Amy, why don’t you go talk to somebody? You don’t have to live this way, you deserve to be happy, and you should get help.”
It was hard not to ugly cry at that moment. The kids were nearby, and I try to spare them my ugly cries.
As someone who has been suffering silently for years, it’s time for me to talk about this; with my husband, with my mom, with a mental health counselor, and with you, as scary as it feels to open myself up to the world’s judgment.
According to this Thrive Global article, “20-25% of women in the U.S. experience perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, and yet, up to 50% of these women will not seek mental health treatment.
Husbands, please do your wife a favor this Mother’s Day and encourage her to see a therapist for her postpartum anxiety.
Moms, you are seen and heard. You are not alone.
You don’t have to live this way, you deserve to be happy, and you are brave to seek help.
Which is why, my gift this Mother’s Day, is a date with a new therapist.