Being anxious comes with a whole other subset of issues when you're a mother. And by issues, I mean issues. These days, you'd be hard-pressed to find someone not dealing with some sort of anxiety because, well, life is hard. However, my particular type, Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), is a very real, very present part of my daily life. This is why I think it's really important others are made aware of the cruelest things anyone could do to an anxious mom, to avoid doing them altogether. I mean, the more you know, right? Honestly, the more you know, right?
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is described by The Mayo Clinic as, "excessive, ongoing anxiety and worry that interferes with day-to-day activities." While you may not have anxiety so severe it changes the way you live life, just being anxious as a mother is hard enough. You have responsibilities and little humans looking to you for guidance which, let's face it, is a lot of pressure.
My anxiety rules all parts of my day. From the moment I open my eyes in the morning, I think of all the things I have to accomplish before I can close them again. Like most, there are some things I'm excited to do (write!) and others I dread (everything else!). Being a mother with anxiety, I've endured a steep learning curve. While my children don't know me any other way, I've had to bend and flex around their needs so much, it makes my anxiety multiply in ways I couldn't anticipate. Between last minute schedule change-ups, cranky kids, and more errands than one person can possibly accomplish in a day, I often wonder how much easier things would be if I weren't carrying so much anxiety around.
If you're feeling what I'm feeling, you'll know all about the cruel things people can do to those of us battling this crippling disorder. Maybe if we shout it loud and proud, some of that anxiety will begin to melt away or, at the very least, people will stop and think about their actions and words before adding to that anxiety in the first place.
They Tell Her To "Relax"
In my entire life, hearing the words "relax" has never, ever made me actually relax. If anything, it makes me more anxious. Hearing that word is the equivalent of telling me you hear nothing I've said, you don't know me at all, and that you're basically soulless.
To relax would be fantastic, obviously, but how does one learn how to do it? If it involves hypnotherapy, chances are I've already tried it (because I've tried it all). Please realize that "trying to relax" is a state of mind I'm perpetually living in. It doesn't work. So if you're around an anxious mother and feel these words on the tip of your tongue, do us all a favor and swallow them back down. Thanks.
They Reschedule At The Last Minute
Thanks to my GAD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) , and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), not only am I am ball of fun at holiday parties, I also have a rigid schedule I stick to that helps ease some of my worry. If you're on that list and you change plans at the last minute, you're probably going on another list, forever. The stress of being cancelled is, all on its own, enough to infuriate me. My time is important, too. If you must reschedule on an anxious mom, please be kind and do so with adequate advance and/or at your own risk.
They Drop By Unannounced
The only people who knock on my door without an invitation are my daughter's friends and the mailman. Anyone else I'm not expecting will send me into a full-blown panic attack. What if I'm not dressed? What if I am? What if I'm in the middle of something weird? Not only is this a cruel and unusual act towards an anxious mom, but really it's just rude. Text, email, and Tweets are my preferred methods of contact. Always.
They Call Her (Repeatedly)
There are few things in life I hate more than talking on the phone. Something about holding a receiver to my ear, not seeing the person's face as they speak to me, and the feeling of the phone in my palm all stresses me the hell out. I hate it. There, I said it.
Most people who know me will contact me with one of the above preferred methods, but there are still a few outliers who rebel. If my phone buzzes with a call, and it's not anyone involved with my writing career or anyone who take care of my children and it's not an emergency, I'm not answering. That's what voicemail is for.
They Make Her Feel Guilty
If you've ever had those "friends" who say things like, "What do you have to be anxious about?" with that tone and that condescending face, it's time to re-think your friends circle. Even if there aren't any major markers of obvious stressors in your life, no one can tell you how you're "allowed" to feel or how you're "supposed" to deal with life. If cleaning the countertops twelve times in a row makes you feel better, so be it. You don't need anyone's judgement.
They Refuse To Help Her
Not everyone knows the exact right way to help someone in need, but I've found the kindest souls are the ones who don't try to diagnose me or offer useless suggestions like "relax." They're the ones who jump in and help with whatever is overwhelming me. If it's my kids, they ask to take them out for a bit so I can re-center. If it's chores, they offer to start a load of laundry or cook dinner. It isn't always about how to fix the anxiety in someone — it's about taking some of the pre-existing anxiety off their plate.
They Joke About Her Mental Health
Under no circumstance do I assume anyone completely understands the way my brain works, especially when I'm still learning myself. And if I crack jokes about my mental health, it's really just my way of coping with how others might perceive me. Of course, I want to be accepted and understood and it's difficult when I'm so anxious all the time. So, unless you're coming from a place of understanding and empathy, then keep your GAD, OCD, PTSD jokes to your freakin' self.
Having anxiety is hard enough, so if you're lucky enough to be on the opposing end, have a heart. We're doing the best we can, so even little compassion actually goes a long, long way.