Postpartum Anxiety: A Fear of Dying & What Helped
I have had anxiety since middle school, I had my first panic attack in 8th grade and they would come and go throughout the years. Then I became a mom, and a whole new set of anxiety triggers emerged the second I saw those two pink lines.
The thing about anxiety is that it doesn't look the same on everyone. When I had my first baby, my anxiety showed up as separation anxiety. Sure, there were the rather common anxieties about SIDS and I would wake up constantly checking her breathing. But those fears subsided (at least a little bit) the older she got. But my separation anxiety lasted for a long time.
When she was 6-months-old we left her for the first time to go to a wedding. I constantly checked my phone to make sure I didn't miss an emergency call from my parents who were watching her. And then when she was 1-year-old, my husband won a trip to Mexico; 4 days and all-inclusive. I said "Hell no".
The two of us on a plane together? Flying was already an anxiety trigger for me, throw in there that I'd be leaving my baby behind if the plane went down and I could not fathom making the trip. The idea terrified me.
So I lived with this severe separation anxiety for a while, and then when our baby was 18-months-old, we decided to take a trip to Lake Tahoe for my brother-in-law's birthday. I didn't want to leave my baby, but I knew I couldn't let this fear control my life, and hubby and I could use some couple time. So I committed and we booked our flight.
The month before we left I had a panic attack every week. I can remember calling my mom while crying from my car. I cried when we dropped off our daughter at her house. I cried the second day there after Facetiming with them, and I cried out of happiness on the flight back when the pilot said we'd land earlier than expected.
This fear of leaving her was fueled by one thought: death. The idea of me dying and leaving her here petrified me enough that it restricted my activity. It took me a while and I finally realized why I was afraid of dying; it wasn't just because she'd be here alone. Really she wouldn't be, my daughter has aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents, all who love her to the moon. I knew that if something happened to me that she would be okay in life, she would prosper because she has a family to support her. But where would she go to live?
The other reason I was afraid was because it killed me to think that she'd never know how much I love her. Sure, I had told her a million times a day but at 18-months there was only so much comprehension. Family would tell her, but I wanted her to hear it from me.
She is almost 4 years old now and has a little sister. The separation anxiety has been much better, but I truly attribute that to the act of creating a Will and Trust. It was therapeutic for me to sit down and face the possibility that I could die tomorrow. It helps to know that if hubby and I are on date night and don't make it home, my girls have Guardians who they love and who I trust. It helps to know they both have journals that I have been writing in since they were born where I tell them how much I love them and talk about all the life lessons I want them to know.
Don't get me wrong, I am not ready to go quite yet. But I am no longer living in fear of death, and because of that I am living so much more. Because of my experience as not only parent but a parent with anxiety, I created The Guardian Package to include Wills and journals, in hopes that I can help ease the anxiety of another parent out there. Because I know how you feel.