Mom Gets Real About Managing Anxiety Attack While Breastfeeding in the Middle of Target

Sarah Mills breastfeeding in Target
Amongst the Stars/Facebook

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, nearly 40 million American adults in the US (or 18% of the population) live with some form of an anxiety disorder. In Australia, anxiety is "the most common mental health condition," according to Beyond Blue Support Service. When you add a couple of kids into the mix, managing the daily stress that comes with it can often feel insurmountable. That's something Aussie mom Sarah Mills knows well. Mills recently shared a story on Facebook about a time she was so overcome by the onset of an anxiety attack  that she sat down in the middle of a Target aisle -- and breastfed her toddler. (Yes, you read that right.)

  • At first read, the mom explains how it all went down.

    "Anxiety attacks aren’t always crying, shaking, or falling apart," she wrote in her January 28 post. "Sometimes they are barely noticeable to the outside world at all."

    Mills, a single mom of three from Australia, explained that last week in particular, she had a couple of days that really threw her for a loop. They were days where she looked "peachy on the outside," but inside, she was slowly unraveling. (So much so, in fact, that she was Googling things like, “Can you admit yourself to a mental home for one weeks holiday?")

  • Advertisement
  • "I have been unwell on and off for several months," she admitted, "and I had some pretty confusing things going on around me."

    More than anything, Mills said she just wanted to be in bed, buried under a blanket. But life with three kids doesn't stop -- even if you so desperately need it to -- and knowing that her kids needed school supplies, Mills set out on a trip to Target to get them what they needed.

    Once there, she found herself overwhelmed by her own thoughts and unable to focus.

    "Usually on days like those, I try to structure a plan, work out small steps and take it moment by moment," she explained. "But by midday I couldn’t even think of the next step or the next moment.

    "When you have so much noise in your head," Mills said, "sometimes it’s just too d--n hard to stop and be rational."

  • Making the day even more stressful was the fact that her three kids kept changing their minds about what they wanted, and were fighting nonstop.

    Plus, her toddler was in full-blown "threenager" mode. 

    Altogether, it was a recipe for disaster, and before she knew it, Mills was experiencing that all too familiar feeling of a racing heart and encroaching panic.

    "Oh heeeere we go, I thought to myself," she wrote. "Over the years I have learnt to recognize when a massive anxiety attack is about to hit. I needed a moment."

    But with three kids in tow in the middle of a store, where do you have that moment?

  • It turned out, that "moment" to herself would come right on the floor in the middle of Target - surrounded by children's backpacks and shoes.

    "I am too deep into single parenting to give a s--t about what others might think and only do what’s 'socially acceptable,'" she explained, adding that while there she "breathed through the techniques I’ve learnt over the years of battling my sh--y friend anxiety." 

    But while there, her son Morrison wandered over and asked for a drink.

    His mom obliged, and the next thing she knew, she was breastfeeding right there in the middle of the floor of Women's Intimates.

  • While her other children occupied themselves nearby, Mills sat quietly, counting in her mind and breathing deeply, in and out.

    She was trying to center herself, in a moment of pure panic and internal chaos, as best she could.

    Of course, her private moment of self-care didn't go unnoticed -- or judged.

    "I had a woman look at me in disgust," she recalled. "I don’t know if it’s because I was on the ground with no f--ks to give, because I was breastfeeding in public, or because I was feeding a giant toddler -- but in that moment nothing could bother me."

    "For my own sanity I needed that moment," she declared.

  • All told, Mills sat on that floor for 15 minutes. And when she stood up, she was ready to carry on with their trip.

    "[I was] still a little rattled, but strong enough to carry on with the day," she shared. "I fell into my bed that night and finally broke down ... One thing I’ve learnt is the importance of a good cry."

    It didn't mean she was all better or that she'd wake up the next day like nothing had ever happened. But her 15 minutes of "silence" on the floor at Target that day was the time she needed to process her emotions, calm herself, and carry on. That isn't something we all know how to do.

    "For many years my answer was either falling apart, numbing it all with alcohol or simply stumbling through life feeling like something was wrong with me," Mills wrote. "Personally, I’d rather take the seat in [T]arget any day."

  • "Sometimes, no matter where we are, we just need to stop, forget what others are thinking, and do whatever it takes to get us through that moment."

    Her hope in sharing the post was to remind others that it's OK to sometimes feel like you're falling apart -- after all, with so many people walking around each day struggling to manage mental health problems, we are far from alone.

    But knowing how to work through them -- even if we look weird or silly or "different" in the process -- can make all the difference. Not just for ourselves, but for our kids.

    "You’re not broken," Mills wrote. "You’re human."

  • Such a simple reminder -- and yet, it's one so many of us need to hear. 

    On Facebook, hundreds of readers applauded the mom for sharing her story.

    "Good on you mumma!!!" wrote one woman. "You do what YOU need to do to keep yourself sane and your kids happy."

    "Thank you so much for sharing your story," wrote another. "I suffer anxiety to the point I can't get out of bed some days. All through the 6 weeks of school holidays I was lucky to get dressed. I feel such a failure, because my daughters (8 and 11) basically did nothing all holidays."

  • Others admitted that her story opened their eyes to something they weren't expecting.

    "I LOVE this," one user shared. "I know now if I saw a woman sitting on the floor like you are in the photo, I would go up and ask that woman if she were ok. I would ask if she needed anything. I would tell her I thought she was doing a great job."

    "We are all human and at times," the commenter continued, "[and] it’s hard to keep our s--t together. I love that you recognized you needed to take a moment for yourself and just breathe."

    So do we.