I'd be lying if I didn't admit the current political climate changed my outlook on a lot of things. Everywhere I look, it's hard to escape all the current conflicts of our world. This, of course, has taken its toll on my mental health more than anything, leaving me with an abysmal feeling nearly every morning I wake. Having children, along with this never-ending, seemingly worse-by-the-day stream of stress, is even more challenging. I'm sure I'm not alone in noticing things moms do because of their anxiety, especially with all we're stressed about these days.
Though arguably worse, my anxiety isn't the result of this past election cycle. As long as I can remember, I've been anxious. That anxiety, along social avoidance and my obsession compulsion disorder (OCD), make most decisions for me and before I ever get the chance to think something through. While some say, "I'm so stressed" as a way of communicating their feelings, it's a whole other beast to live with the diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Regardless of symptom management via medications, therapies, and other various techniques, at my core I'm anxiety-ridden. There's no shortcut around it. I wish it were minimized to just "a stressful day." Sadly, it's so much more than that.
My two kids know that I love them. They also know our days typically revolve around certain routines and schedules to alleviate some of my anxiety. They know no other way for me to be but at the same time, I wish I did. Having to constantly revolve my life around the anxiety is tiresome and yet, I wake up day after day to do it all over again. Being a mom means rearranging things to suit my nerves, not the other way around. Here are just some of those things I've done — that I'm sure other have as well — because of anxiety.
Hide From People
If we see a fellow parent acquaintance outside of my safe zone (also known as my house), I will probably hide. If I miss the opportunity to do so, I'll hope the conversation passes quickly, that I don't say anything awkward, and, mostly, that I don't make a fool out of myself in those brief moments. I don't always dodge out of the way into a display of cereal but when I do, it's because I'm hiding from people.
Lie About Schedules
If you'd like to schedule a play date with one of my kids, I'm booked now through infinity. Even if I'm not, I may tell you I am to avoid the drop-off/pick-up small talk. I don't mean anything by, it except that my anxious brain can't handle more than my own responsibilities.
If we do schedule something, can we please strictly adhere to the times we set forth so I can be anxious in peace?
Avoid School Functions
When my daughter was in preschool, she tried everything — t-ball, karate, soccer, dance, gymnastics — but that didn't teach my brain to enjoy going to every game, performance, and session. There were times I'd send my partner or family friend instead, so I didn't have to be in public with, you know, people. I always want to be there to support my children, but the act of doing so is almost too much at times.
Sometimes I don't want to cook, but I don't want to go through the motions of eating out, either. Anxiety is complicated that way. I don't always get to choose when I can venture out. Even when I really need to, the anxiety doesn't care. This is why the drive-thru was invented: so I don't have to leave the car to eat and minimal conversations and exchanges are had.
Scan The Parking Lots
If you've ever scanned the parking lot before deciding whether to go in a place or not, you might be a mom with anxiety. I do this with almost everywhere I go (except when it involves getting my daily coffee) because if the lot is too full, I'll have to rearrange my plans to go back another time.
Close The Blinds
I love an unannounced visit as much as the next gal, but those days I'm really struggling to be around anyone I shut my blinds, send calls to voicemail, and pretend I don't exist. When it comes to my kids, if a friend knocks for them to play I didn't hear it maybe, sort of, on purpose. It's not you, it's my anxiety.
Pretend To Forget
Did I forget to volunteer for the class party again? That doesn't sound like me. Or maybe I forgot to make those phone calls to the school about something important. I'll get to it. I will. Just, you know, probably not today.
I don't want to be the mom who doesn't let their kids do usual childhood things, like play outside or go to the park, but sometimes I can't restrain my stress-level over it. Even the times I say yes, I feel so anxious about it it overshadows any joy my kids might've felt from doing the thing. Anxiety is a terrible thief of joy even when I try my hardest to take the power back.
Ask For Help
I'll be honest. Sometimes, no matter what I do, I can't fight the anxious feelings that invade me. Those are the days I recruit my partner or another family member to take my place because it's too much. I don't want to miss out on my children's lives, and I know I've missed out on so much of mine already. Still, I continue fighting through it. And on those days I fail, I hope my kids know I tried.
Having anxiety means living by a different set of standards. It's not because we want to live in a tightly-wound ball of stress, but because we have to. My greatest wish is that despite all of this, my kids don't realize everything the anxiety's stolen, but maybe, the shining moments I've replaced them with instead.