When this mum’s anxiety started impacting the experiences her kids were able to have, she found the courage to reach out – and a village responded.
“Anxiety holds hands with fear”
Mum-of-triplets Desiree Fortin opened up about the crippling anxiety she was enduring, and her concerns that her condition was affecting her children.
“A close friend told me once, “Anxiety holds hands with fear.” And the fear of losing one of my children at a park, or the zoo, or even the grocery store, has paralysed me at times,” an emotional Desiree wrote on Instagram.
“I feel like I have held my kids back from incredible adventures,” Desiree explained because it’s “safer to just stay at home.”
Desiree’s not alone in her battle with anxiety. Mental health support organisation PANDA tell us that in Australia, “up to 1 in 10 women and 1 in 20 men experience antenatal depression. Anxiety is just as common, and many parents experience anxiety and depression at the same time.”
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A close friend told me once, "Anxiety holds hands with fear." And the fear of losing one of my children at a park, or the zoo, or even the grocery store, has paralyzed me at times. I feel like I have held my kids back from incredible adventures. It’s like I’m keeping them from experiencing things I know they would love because the fear of someone taking one of them is so overwhelming that it is often easier and safer to just stay at home. In the last several months I have taken steps to help me with my anxiety struggles. I am apart of an amazing moms group called MOPS. This was essential in helping me make friends in my area and walk through some of my daily challenges with moms who offer no judgement or criticism, just love. Recently, our MOPS group held an Easter Egg Hunt at a large park in our city. I knew we would not attend this event-not because we were busy or out of town; but because this park is a panic attack waiting to happen. The special day was upon us I told one of the other moms in my group the truth about my recent panic attacks and that I would be skipping the egg hunt due to my anxiety. I felt ashamed. I knew how magical this celebration would be for the triplets, but I also knew the kind of anxiety it would bring me. My friend asked me if she could reach out to a few of our "Mentor Moms" to see if any of them could help me with my kids, so I would be able to join in the special day. Initially, I was embarrassed and felt like a burden, but I know that was not the case. My friend found two mentor moms willing to help me with my kids that day. And it turned out to be an amazing time. The joy I got to share with my kids was so fulfilling and rewarding. I felt, although this type of adventure is a still a major struggle for me, it was a huge step forward in asking for help. I think, as Moms, it is important to be honest and vocal about our needs. Expressing your needs helps those around you understand what you are going through and be there for you in ways you may need them. I choose things that I know I can handle, but what this experience taught me is that it is okay to ask for help in things I think I cannot handle.
“Love each other like family”
Desiree reached out to a brilliant local MOPS mother’s group, summoning the courage to talk about her mental anguish. Desiree hoped to extend her social circle and mobilise some support.
It turns out that MOPS were the exact right people to connect with. MOPS say their mission is to “build circles of mums who love each other like family” and that through their groups “profound things are taking place.” They’re not wrong, because the impact their kindness and compassion had on Desiree was obviously immense – even life-changing.
“In the last several months I have taken steps to help me with my anxiety struggles. I am a part of an amazing moms group,” Desiree writes. “This was essential in helping me make friends in my area and walk through some of my daily challenges with moms who offer no judgement or criticism, just love.”
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“I felt ashamed”
Desiree explains, “Recently, our MOPS group held an Easter Egg Hunt at a large park in our city. I knew we would not attend this event — not because we were busy or out of town; but because this park is a panic attack waiting to happen.”
While Desiree knew her kids would love the egg hunt, she realised her anxiety would make participation a real challenge – and she was mortified.
“The special day was upon us I told one of the other moms in my group the truth about my recent panic attacks and that I would be skipping the egg hunt due to my anxiety. I felt ashamed. I knew how magical this celebration would be for the triplets, but I also knew the kind of anxiety it would bring me.”
“Initially I was embarrassed”
Desiree’s MOPS friend was keen to help and suggested they take her dilemma further – and find a way through.
“My friend asked me if she could reach out to a few of our “Mentor Moms” to see if any of them could help me with my kids, so I would be able to join in the special day. Initially, I was embarrassed and felt like a burden, but I know that was not the case. My friend found two mentor moms willing to help me with my kids that day,” Desiree explains.
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#ConfessionsOfTheAnxiousMama: Me My Trio And Xanax "I got this."-my daily mantra Nearly every day this week I feel like I have gone to bed and woken up with an already empty bucket of patience, which kind of feels like a horrible way to start your day with three toddlers. I also haven't been sleeping great because my brain feels like it won't stop thinking. There are some things that I'm working through in my heart and there are also some incredibly exciting things happening that just have put my mind into whirlwind causing me to feel stressed and overwhelmed. I even got a cold sore. The lack of patience and exhaustion are the worst combination, and then add stress and I turn into a ticking time bomb. I think you could say this week I was an anxiety attack waiting to happen. And it happened. Twice. I haven't had an anxiety attack in 8 months and then all of the sudden I have 2 in one week. It feels frustrating. These moments are hard. The moments where my body is suddenly heating up and my heart racing. The moments where panic begins to fuel my heart with fear. The moments where my husband is late for work because he can see the panic setting in. The moments where I know I need a xanax. The moments where my kids see me on the brink of losing it and the fear of what they think of me implodes my heart. Those are the hardest moments. It is amazing how much anxiety and fear can captivate your mind in those moments!! When I'm in the thick of an anxiety attack I have a very hard time seeing a brave, strong, great mom. And instead, I see weakness and disappointment. Then after some time passes and my heart has calmed down the confident, continually growing me kicks into gear and I realize that the only way I'm going to do this mom job well, is with grace. It is okay that I need to have xanax every now and then. It is okay that I need daily anxiety medication right now. It is okay to be open, honest, and vulnerable about this season. It is okay to focus a lot on self love and self care. "I got this" means waking up, knowing however the day turns out that you are a great Mom. It means choosing grace and self love. It means believing in yourself!
Despite her reservations, being open about her mental health paid off.
“It turned out to be an amazing time. The joy I got to share with my kids was so fulfilling and rewarding. I felt, although this type of adventure is still a major struggle for me, it was a huge step forward in asking for help.”
“We are not alone”
Many, many mums struggle with anxiety, and the kind of fears Desiree raised in her post. They were quick to sympathise and share their own secret struggles.
“This is EXACTLY where I’m at with my 2.5 yr old twin boys. I feel like my boys miss out on so much, because I’m simply trying to keep them safe,” one mum wrote.
“Oh my gosh yes mama!!! Me too!! Once the babies came my anxiety went through the roof. Thank you for the encouraging words and support!!! And yes—rally the troops!” another posted.
“This is seriously my life! I’ve had so many dreams about losing a child and I wake up in a panic. But I feel this way when I’m not dreaming too. We are not alone. And we will all get through this,” an emotional mum commented.
“It is okay to ask for help”
Desiree urges other mums to be brave enough to ask for help and step out of their comfort zone with some compassionate buddies, now and again.
“As Moms, it is important to be honest and vocal about our needs. Expressing your needs helps those around you understand what you are going through and be there for you in ways you may need them,” she says.
“I choose things that I know I can handle, but what this experience taught me is that it is okay to ask for help in things I think I cannot handle.”
Since then, Desiree has given birth to another baby – Cambria, a girl, born in 2020. And those triplets are now in kindergarten. She still has her bad days, (like everyone), but says that Cambria has brought ‘healing’ to her journey. A journey that could not have ended so well if she didn’t first seek support.
If you or someone you know are suffering from anxiety – during pregnancy or after having a baby – PANDA are at the ready to provide support and advice.
PANDA National Helpline – Mon to Fri, 9am – 7.30pm AEST – 1300 726 306
Your Maternal and Child Health Nurse can connect you to a mother’s group in your area.
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I remember my first panic attack like it was yesterday. The triplets were 3 months old and the sleep deprivation was sucking the life out of me. I was so ashamed of myself for not loving this new season of motherhood, something I desired and longed for so deeply. If you have experienced a panic attack before you know it can onset pretty quickly. I laid sobbing on my bathroom floor, trembling and sweating all over. Tears uncontrollably flowing down my cheeks while my husband cradled me in his arms. I could barely breathe. I felt like a failure. My postpartum anxiety and depression was crippling me. I had no clue what I was doing with my 3 tiny infants (for the record, I still don't have a clue what I am doing). I knew I needed help. I knew I needed to make a change. The months went by and we made the changes needed to help me through the season. I went on medication and hired a mommy helper. You do what you need to do. I was eventually able to go off the medication I was prescribed… Until my kids turned 2 and I found myself spiraling down the whole again. I was so frustrated to see myself falling into this season of anxiety again. But I knew the steps I needed to take in order to help me face my anxiety struggles and be a good mom at the same time. I went back on my meds. Fast forward to January 2018. New year, new me. I felt like I had been doing so much better with my anxiety. I felt more calm and collected and hadn't had an anxiety attack in months. For now, I will spare you with the details, but I made the choice to go off my anxiety meds. In so many words, it was a bad idea. I was a loose cannon with very little patients. I felt so ashamed of myself. I realized I made a premature decision to go off my meds. I just wasn't ready. Embarrassed. Frustrated. Disappointed. I can see now that I'm just a Mom trying to be healthy for her family. Being on anxiety meds doesn't make you a failure. It makes you a human being who is trying to be the best she can be. Being a Mom is so hard. Sometimes you have to do hard things to be a better you. We have to stick together Mamas and know we aren't alone. New series: #ConfessionsoftheAnxiousMama