I developed postpartum anxiety shortly after having my son and have been living through anxiety ever since. I see a counselor and am on medication, but that can only do so much.
One of my biggest support systems is my friends, particularly those who have kids and can understand the day-to-day struggles children can bring.
But as I’ve tried to become more open about my anxiety, I feel like some friends or acquaintances don’t always know what to say or how to act. It can sometimes feel like the word ANXIETY is written on my forehead and they don’t want to offend or say something that would make me upset.
Here are five ways you can help a mom with anxiety:
- Listen. You don’t always have to know what to say. I don’t know what I’m saying most of the time to be honest. When I’m anxious or in a situation where I don’t feel comfortable, I either ramble (and regret everything I say) or am on mute (and regret not saying anything). But when I do talk, and we’re having a real conversation, please listen because if I’m talking, that means I trust you.
- Have Patience. I don’t know how I’m going to feel one day from the next. I don’t know how my kids are going to make me feel on a minute-by-minute basis. If I’m reaching out because I would like to talk to you, or if I’m ignoring you because I can’t handle one more thing right now, please be understanding. I admit I feel like I’m more on the reaching out end, and then get nervous when I don’t hear back from someone. This is something I’m working on, and am so thankful for the friends who understand I’m like this.
- Don’t say, “This will pass,” or, “You’ll get better” – or even worse, “You’re fine.” Nope, not fine. That’s why I’m working on me and getting the help I need as best as I can. There is already a lot of stigma in the world about those who are getting help for their mental health, and if I’m sharing something that’s making me nervous or anxious, I’m looking for a friend, not someone who thinks that this is a phase.
- If you ask how you can help – make me give you an answer on what you can do. Empty promises are the worst. If you’re asking to help, give me a specific way you can help me rather than the, “Let me know if you need anything.” Can you take my kids to the park for an hour so I can straighten up the house? Can you bring me dinner so I don’t have to try to cook and keep kids out of the kitchen? Granted, I would never straight out ask someone to do those things, but if you’re offering — and really do want to give me a break so I can clear my head and focus on other things — then please tell me something specific you would like to do. It’ll make it harder for me to say no this way, and in the end, I know I will feel better and so grateful for your help and friendship.
- Be honest with me. Going back to #4, I don’t expect someone to be helping me all the time. We as moms each have our own life and are trying to manage our homes. If you know that you can be someone who can chat every once in a while, but doesn’t have time to get together, that’s OK. Don’t drag me along like I am a friend and then when I need you, I find you’re not there.
I can count on one hand how many good friends I have, who I know will be there for me no matter my highs or lows. I know that these friends, too, are ones who have helped me cope with my anxiety and will continue to be there for me, no matter what. In the end, having these special friends is one thing I know I don’t have to worry about.