By Jordan Corcoran
I locked the bathroom door and crumbled to the ground. My mind raced faster than a train going full throttle. I tried to think about what my therapist and I discussed in case of this emergency. Tears poured as I harshly coughed, gasped for air, and dry heaved. I knew where my medication was, but I’d hate myself for giving in.
I did my breathing techniques, trying to stop the chaos that could lead to the hospital. It took about 25 agonizing minutes, but I could finally feel the tension in my chest subsiding.
Then, tears flowed again as I touched my stomach and thought about how my panic attack could impact my baby.
I’m pregnant and I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder.
All of my life, I have wanted to be a mom. When my husband and I discussed starting a family, brand new fears and obstacles regarding my anxiety consumed me. While I’ve battled for 12 years and have worked unbelievably hard to overcome these issues, a brand new set of issues popped up. That’s the thing with mental illness. As your life changes, so does the illness, and you have to adapt.
Every week, I sit with my therapist and we plan how to handle the panic. While I don’t want to feed my anxiety, planning for it taking over is as important as anything else I’m doing to prepare. When I have the honest discussion of what it may be like for my child to grow up with a parent who has a mental illness, I cry. I fear that I’m going to mess up my kid simply because of who I am. It’s hard to admit. It’s even harder to write out, but it’s the truth.
Mental illness leaves people feeling alone and like no one could possibly understand. But 1 in 4 people have a diagnosable mental illness in the United States. I am a mental health advocate and created a mental health organization, Listen, Lucy. I talk to people of all ages about this topic and, still, I need this reminder. 1 in 4 people. I’m not alone.
Since the panic attack I had at 12 weeks, I’ve been fighting every instinct I have that makes me live in fear of what could happen. I ignore the screaming alarm that goes off as my chest tightens. I shut out everything that tells me I won’t be a good parent. I’ve been working out regularly, eating healthy, taking my sleep and work schedule seriously, and checking in with my mental health every single day. I work tirelessly and uncomfortably to make sure that the fear of my mental illness does not steal every minute of this special time.
It’s working. I’m in control.
The truth is, I have been fighting for this child as far back as when they were just a discussion. I cried over my shortcomings before I ever heard their heartbeat. I have loved this baby with every breath since I dreamt of holding them against my chest. I had no idea that all of these years I have fought to get healthy were not for me, but for the child I haven’t met yet but who I already know. I have survived every minute of this pregnancy so far and, as of now, my baby is healthy and bouncing around without fear of who their mother is.
Here’s what I’ve learned during my pregnancy and over the years.
Mental illness isn’t a character flaw. 25 percent of people have a mental illness and every single person in the world has mental health. This issue does not leave me a step behind, it is common and it can be endured.
It doesn’t make me a bad parent. I’m starting to understand that all parents fear negatively impacting their child. The passion I feel for creating a safe and healthy environment for my child is going to make me a good parent, not one that is ruining anyone’s life.
I can challenge negative, all consuming thoughts. This is the hardest one for me to swallow. When I am healthy and seeing clearly, I know my value and my worth. Dealing with these issues can make me feel defeated and like a failure, but it is my responsibility to make sure I challenge those awful thoughts. I bring so much to my world and I need to always know that.
My journey gives me strength. So often, I focus on what my anxiety has taken from me — my peace, my confidence, the end of my childhood — but what I really need to focus on is the person I have become through fighting this. I’m a warrior. I won’t give in. I’ll overcome anything that is put in front of me. I’ll never give up on myself — and I have the past record to prove it.
The good outweighs the bad. My child will learn the importance of empathy and being open minded. My kid will know perseverance, tenacity and that its mother is a fighter. Mental health will always be a conversation in my household and, because of that, my child may be a step ahead.
My best is enough. I can’t promise that I’m going to nail parenting, but I’ll keep my health a priority and that I will love this person deeper than I have ever loved. For now, and I hope for always, that will be enough.
We’re enough — exactly how we are. How do you plan on reminding yourself today?
As a nationally recognized motivational speaker, mental health advocate, and author, Jordan created Listen, Lucy, an outlet where people can openly and candidly share their own personal challenges and struggles. Jordan’s time is spent touring around the country speaking to students about her story and the importance of acceptance. She is the author of Listen Lucy Volume 1 and Write It Out, has been featured on Today.com and UpWorthy for her self-love campaigns. Her mission is simple: she wants to create a less judgmental and more accepting world.