I wasn't always socially awkward. In high school, way before I became a mom, I was something of an extrovert. I could be outgoing and hold my own at parties, work functions, and in casual conversations with relative strangers. "Putting myself out there" wasn't as draining or emotionally taxing as it is now. But being a mom means having to overcome some anxiety-inducing obstacles and for the benefit of my children. That's why, in my opinion, my social anxiety has made me a stronger mom.
I've struggled with various mental health disorders since elementary school, but the manifestation of my anxiety, depression, and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) came in the middle of my parents' bitter divorce and custody battle. I managed to suppress my anxieties to an extent, so no one around me knew there was a problem, but that meant I felt somewhat disconnected from my life and the lives of people around me. It wasn't until my first pregnancy — when my life suddenly wasn't all about me — that my anxiety peaked in a way that I could no longer hide.
Now, more often than not, my anxiety works against me. It makes me worry about things I shouldn't, and has me obsessing over certain things to and the point of insanity. But there are moments when I can pinpoint a voice of reason and am capable of staying vigilant and focusing on what really matters. Motherhood is an anxiety-filled whirlwind, to be sure, and usually feelings of joy and pain co-exist on any given day. But if there's anything good to come from my anxiety disorder, it's that it has forced me to be a stronger mom. Here's how:
It Forces Me To Confront My Fears
I can't possibly be a good mom without confronting my fears. And if I didn't have my two kids I'm not sure I'd face the things that have caused me so much pain. While I can't say I'm 100 percent better or magically healed from the trauma I've endured, that I can say, without a doubt, I'm a stronger mom for taking a step back and facing that trauma.
It Teaches My Kids About Adversity
My kids are aware of my anxiety and the situations that can make it worse. As a result, I talk to my kids about mental health and the importance of self-care. We speak about being kind to those who might be suffering in silence, and I teach my children to not only treat people the way they'd like to be treated, but the way I'd like to be treated.
It Encourages My Kids To Think Outside The Box
Having social anxiety means I have to, for the most part, plan my life around it. Having kids makes that really difficult, though. Thankfully, I'm learning that showing my kids how to adapt, how to think outside the box, and how to overcome obstacles is a powerful learning tool.
It Reminds Me To Practice Self-Care
If mental illness continues to teach me anything, it's that proper self-care isn't a luxury — it's a necessity. I'm useless when I put myself first, but if I prioritize my mental, emotional, and physical health I am a better mother to my children.
It Makes Me Reevaluate What Matters Most
Anxiety lies to you. It tells you that everything is terrifying; that you're not important and you don't matter; that people don't like you or care about you; that you're constantly failing. But those are lies, and having children who look up to me, rely on me, and love me remind me that I am far more capable than my anxiety would have me believe.
My anxiety gets in the way, to be sure, but it also forces me to constantly be evaluating what truly matters to me. I don't consider that to be a bad thing... at all.