As a society we don’t rate anxious parents. Terms like ‘helicopter parents’ or ‘wrapping children in cotton wool’ imply that to be overly anxious about your kids is damaging. They need to be out there, dealing with the bumps and scratches life inevitably brings, becoming tough enough to survive the world we live in. Of course it’s important for children to grow up with a sense of independence, but how does this play out for parents with an anxiety disorder?
Throughout my teenage years I struggled with my mental health. When I had my eldest daughter, at the age of 19, it got a whole lot worse. I took one look at her beautiful little face and was terrified of losing her. As a single parent, it was down to me to keep this tiny person alive. I slept with a lamp on for the first few months, so I could immediately see if she was alive when I woke up. I’d pick her up while she was asleep in her sling, and kiss her cheek, just to hear her breathe. I’d imagine cups of tea leaping from my hand and scalding her. I saw danger everywhere, and kept her close to me all the time.
When I had my second daughter I was even more unwell. During the pregnancy I had been abandoned by the father, and suffered two bereavements within the space of a few weeks. Our bedroom overlooked a graveyard – it felt like death was all around us. This baby, unlike my first, was tiny and often ill. Every time she had a cold I thought she might die. It was the same with my youngest daughter, whose father died a month before her birth. For me, loving a child equals being filled with fear.