Motherhood, mental illness and beyond

Posts tagged ‘SIDS’

When anxiety attacks

It’s Saturday afternoon. I’m pottering about at home with DH and DS, doing odd jobs and housework. DD is out with my parents. This is proving to be a bit of a problem and I’m watching the clock until they get back. Don’t get me wrong, I trust my parents to look after her and I know she’s just as safe with them as she is with me or DH. But I can’t help it.

My head is filled with unpleasant images. I can be reading a story to DS but in my mind I can see DD’s lifeless body lying on a roadside somewhere. I may be sorting the washing but I can see DD trapped injured inside a crumpled car after a high-speed crash. I’m cleaning the bathroom but I’m also seeing DD hurt and terrified.

This is my anxiety. My head is constantly filled with images of my husband and children either seriously ill, hurt, dying or dead. It’s like a film reel constantly playing in the back of my mind. It’s not just when we’re apart either; one of my big problems is with parks, I can see the children falling off something high like a slide, or getting a serious head injury from a flying swing. Yesterday we went to the beach and although I had fun my mind was constantly bombarding me with images of the children drowning in the shallows. I see these vivid and unpleasant images when we go for a walk, cross a road, see dogs – anywhere.

I hate it. I get no respite from it, even when the children are asleep. The spectre of SIDS, of them dying inexplicably in their sleep, haunts me. On social media I have to mute any mention of SIDS or children dying – I have learned that even a mention of the subject results in sleepless nights as I lie awake listening to the children breathe. The same is true for DH; I can still see his lifeless body in my mind and I have to check on him multiple times during the night.

This is torture. This is my anxiety.

When does worry become a mental health issue?

When I was 19 my fiancé died very suddenly. We hadn’t been together long but had discussed marriage and children and all the things that you begin to talk about when a relationship turns serious. We had lots of plans for our future together – and then suddenly that future wasn’t there any more. He was gone and his loss nearly destroyed me.

Of course, I eventually met DH and we married and have children. And while part of me still grieves for my fiancé I realise that I am fortunate to have the life I do, and in a way that stems from his death. However losing him has had a profound effect on my mental health and this manifests as constant anxiety. I worry about something happening to those I love. This is most pronounced with DH and the children of course. Having lost a partner once I know that I could not cope if anything happened to DH; the unimaginable pain of losing a child terrifies me even more.

When DH and I first got together we were students. One night he’d been out and hadn’t let me know he’d got home safely – I was convinced that he was lying dead somewhere. After several panic attacks about this I eventually phoned his (extremely lovely and understanding) housemate who went and checked on him for me and confirmed that he was fine. This was just the first incident of many over the years though, and just the tip of the anxiety iceberg.

When DD and I cross the road I get visions of a car running into her; I see her being thrown into the air by the impact. When she’s playing in the park I see her falling off equipment. When we’re at the beach I see her running into the sea and drowning. When I go in to check on her at night I am always terrified that she’s died in her sleep. I wake at least once an hour to check on DS, who is only 13 months and squarely within the SIDS window; I check on DH too, just in case.

The other night I read about a little boy close to DS’ age who had died in his sleep. His mother had posted a photo on her blog of her cradling his lifeless body in her arms – I sobbed for almost an hour. I barely slept that night for fear of what might happen to the children and I still cannot get the image of that poor woman and her son out of my head.

I’m pretty sure that this level of worry isn’t normal. But at some point it must have been – I mean, it’s natural to worry about those you love isn’t it? But at what point does it stop being a natural concern and start being something that affects your life? I never prevent my children from doing things, I refuse to let my anxiety affect them. But I spend a lot of my time fretting, worrying, panicking and always anticipating the absolute worst. That can’t be normal. And I guess it’s something else that needs to be mentioned to the psychiatrist when I have my assessment on Thursday.

Tag Cloud