My anxiety has been a constant issue throughout my life, impacting me in ways both small and large. It has prevented me from trying new, exciting things, from getting to know awesome people, and from letting those same awesome people get to know me. And now that I'm a mom to two children, I know that I have to confront my social anxiety if I'm going to give my kids the lives they deserve. That doesn't mean parenthood is a cure-all, of course, but more of a motivator that keeps my anxiety in check and things in perspective.
Social anxiety is a difficult thing to explain, especially to people who've never experienced it. I could be going about my day as carefree as any other mom, only to be stopped in my tracks by severe anxiety, panic, and fatigue. And while I could remove myself from certain situations, or avoid them altogether, when I was a kid-free adult, now that I'm a mom it's impossible to constantly control every environment I might find myself in. My babies made me realize that something had to change, not just for their sake but for mine as well.
So while it may have taken me years to get the help I deserve — and while I still struggle to gain control of my social anxiety 100 percent of the time — I know my kids, and myself, are better when I'm working and focusing on my mental health. So with that in mind, and because us moms deserve to put ourselves and our wellbeing first, here's how my babies forced me to confront my social anxiety head-on:
I'm Forced To Interact With People
When I was kid-free I didn't have to make plans with people if I didn't want to. I could hide out at home until the anxiety passed, and if it didn't pass in a "timely manner" I didn't feel the same amount of pressure to essentially "suck it up" and push through.
Now that I have kids, of course, the pressure is on. My children, rightfully so, want to go places and see people. They have after-school activities to attend and weekend sporting events to enjoy. And they absolutely do not understand, let alone care, that mom has social anxiety.
I want to be there for my children, and in a healthy way that doesn't put me at risk for anxiety attacks or other symptoms of my diagnosis. That means putting myself first, acknowledging my needs, seeking treatment and continued care, and being honest and truthful about my anxiety and how it impacts my life. I can't hide it anymore, and really, I never should have felt as though I had to.
I Have To Rely On A Schedule
Keeping a schedule is difficult for me to do, especially when my social anxiety can show up at anytime. But motherhood requires a set schedule, and kids thrive when they can rely on a consistent timetable.
I can't skip out on a scheduled doctor's appointment for my son or choose not to take my daughter to a school function last-minute, which means I have to stay on top of my social anxiety and mental health at all times. I have to focus on me, so I can focus on my kids and their schedule, too.
I Have To Make Phone Calls
I hate making phone calls. Hate it. Maybe it's because I can't hide behind clever editing that text messages or emails provide me, so my nerves get the best of me. When I'm on the phone I'm afraid, honestly, that the person on the other end simply won't like me.
But when you're a mom you often have to hop on the phone to talk to this person or that administrator, regardless of how how anxious it might make you feel.
I Have To Leave The House
For the most part I'm content to stay at home, where I don't have to wear pants or interact with actual people. But the older my kids get the more I'm pressed to leave our home, whether I like it or not. If I hadn't confronted my social anxiety, I'd never leave the house and I know my kids deserve better than that.
I Have To Provide For My Kids
While I don't believe a mom needs to sacrifice every single part of her life in order to be a good mom, parenthood does require a good deal of sacrifice. And in order to make that sacrifice, willingly and in a way that will not hurt me or my mental health, I have to focus on my wellbeing and face my social anxiety head on. Taking back control of my social life and managing my anxiety isn't easy, especially when it's had such a strong hold on me for most of my life, but as a mom I want to be there for my kids. Always.