This is going to be one of those times when I tell you “It’s easier said than done.” I often tell myself I should take my own advice.
I suffer from chronic anxiety. Some people may think it’s odd that I am so open about it, but I am a firm believer in normalizing mental health and the stigma around it. My brain rarely shuts off. It goes from one thing to the other, but I am really good at multitasking. Not sure if that is a strength or a weakness.
I am about to let you inside my brain. Buckle up. It is going to be a very bumpy ride.
Here is my brain, on a daily basis: “Am I raising my children appropriately? Will they choke on that? Did I cut up their food small enough? Will they fall out of bed and hurt themselves? What if they sleep all night – are they still alive? How will they react when they start school? I really hope they don’t cry. If they cry, I will cry, and then it will be more of a scene. What if the school thinks I am crazy? Will they treat my child differently? What if my kid is different? Will kids be kind to them?” And on and on and on.
Before I share everything that has worked for me, I want to share what caused me to seek treatment. I never spoke about the things that I worried about or feared. I kept it all inside. It manifested into so much more. So many out-of-control behaviors. Let’s go back to 2011. Pre-Children.
On a daily basis, I would get dressed for work in the morning, check my straightener to make sure it was unplugged, lock up the house, and head to work. And on a daily basis, halfway there or even already sitting at my desk, I would start panicking that I left my straightener plugged in. Another journey into my head: “it may fall off the counter, and land on the carpet. My whole house may catch on fire. It may even stretch to a neighbor.” So, I would turn around or if needed, tell my boss I needed to go home because I forgot something. Some days, I would be in the zone driving to a friend’s house, or to an appointment, and I would hit a bump and start to panic. I would keep driving, but think “Oh my, what if I hit someone? What if I hit something? I need to go back and check.” And here we go again, I would circle around to make sure everything was ok.
I finally told my boyfriend of 3 months (who is now my husband – which means he must really love me even when I do things like this) that I did these “rituals” or behaviors but they were okay because I was being cautious. At that moment he gave me the best advice, and then my life changed. I sought out therapy. I spoke to someone monthly. After some time, we realized cognitive therapy was helping, but not completely. I got on a low-dose anti-anxiety medicine and those odd, irrational behaviors ceased. Now, I check my straightener once and know that it is off. I do not rewind. I do not dwell. Without speaking to someone I trust, without admitting that my behaviors were not rational, and finally going to therapy and working on myself, I truly don’t think I would be the awesome mom I am today. Now, I won’t lie. Becoming a parent brought on a whole new level of anxiety. Baby Blues were so bad for me after my first (I will write about that at another time). Queue a therapy session. While I have my “moments,” I strive hard on a daily basis to raise my kids to be strong, confident, and have a normal amount of cautiousness.
Here is my advice:
(I am not a professional. But as someone who lived with anxiety her whole life, I have begun to figure out what helps me – whether I listen to myself or not, is another story).
Don’t pretend everything is fine. Try to figure out the best way to deal with it, FOR YOU. But it is important to recognize these behaviors and make a change for the better.
Seek out advice from other parents. Chances are they have anxious moments even if they are not diagnosed with anxiety.
Now keep in mind that seeking advice is important. But another piece of advice, don’t OVER ASK or OVER TALK about it. Once you have discussed it, researched it, understand it … STOP. Reading, listening, and talking about it over and over can increase anxiety, fear, and the cycle of emotions. I have found that sometimes others’ opinions can actually make my anxiety worse – while there are some that do help.
Let It Go
Letting go. I have control issues, obviously, which stem from my anxiety. There are things out of my control – as scary as it is – that I just must let go of. For me, I pray. This is therapeutic in and of itself and my way of letting go and giving it all to God (everyone has their own higher power that they choose, He just happens to be mine).
Take 1 hour a week and do something for you. Something that you enjoy. For me, it’s either a massage or watching an episode of ANYTHING reality TV. Give yourself a break. We all deserve it and more.
I have gone to therapy for many, many years. I am also on medication. Some people only need one, but some people need both. Reach out to the appropriate professional to figure out what is best for you. Even if just to have a third party to vent to, discuss things with, ask for cognitive therapies if you are not interested in medication.
Mantra, Mantra, Mantra
Some of my favorite ways to tell myself I am either being irrational, or overbearing are as follows: Let Go and Let God. Facts over Fears.
Thank you for reading. Thank you for not judging. Thank you for helping me work to remove the stigma around mental health issues, one parent at a time.