*UPDATED: August 22, 2018*
Last night, while I was trying to fall asleep, I began to cry uncontrollably. I am currently beginning my search for a preschool for my daughter and these are some of the thoughts that began to consume my brain as I laid in bed – Will she be safe? Will the teachers care for her as much as I do? How do I know I can trust the school and the teachers? What if she gets bullied? What if she gets kidnapped while playing outside? What if there is an earthquake and I can’t get to her?
Unfortunately, thoughts like these run through my head ALL THE TIME.
While some days are better than others, most are filled with conscious efforts on my part to recognize when these paralyzing thoughts are starting and to try my best to escape them. This in turn, is exhausting and I’m left feeling constantly drained.
About fifteen years ago, I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and depression. At first, I didn’t understand what that meant. I associated anxiety with the word “worry” and thought, doesn’t everyone worry?
What I’ve learned over the years is there’s a normal amount of worrying that everyone experiences in life and in some situations, this can actually help enhance a person’s performance or outcome. Then, there is the worrying and overthinking associated with GAD; the kind of worrying that affects day-to-day life, worrying about unrealistic situations or scenarios, worrying that is downright debilitating.
Not only was I an adult struggling to deal with my anxiety every day, but now I am a mom to a toddler and a baby. While I am absolutely in love with my girls and wouldn’t change anything, becoming a mom is one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. A big part of this is due to my anxiety and the amount of new irrational and overwhelming thoughts that now consume me.
Related Post: A Mom’s Battle with Anxiety – Wearing Two Masks
Here is a peek inside my brain as I share a few common thoughts/fears that race through my head at any given time.
If someone else is going to drive my child, they are going to crash and get in a horrible accident.
I know how ridiculous this may seem to some people. I mean, driving is a huge part of everyday life that most people don’t think twice about. However, I cannot tell you how many times I have felt the need to go over the right way to put my daughter in her car seat and properly buckle her seat belt with anyone that just might have to drive her somewhere. And if I know about the trip in advance, forget about it. I am worrying the entire time until she is back home safe.
Texting = Panic and Stress
If someone takes too long to respond to a text, they must be mad at me. Or maybe they think I’m mad at them? Maybe the last message I sent was worded too harshly? Or maybe something happened to them? Are they ok, are they safe? Texting is a nightmare for me. I find myself constantly using exclamation points and being overly expressive with punctuation for fear of coming across as rude or short. I will also reread a text over and over before hitting send and I can’t even count the number of times that I misinterpreted a text to mean much worse than the actual truth.
A large crowd must mean that something bad is going to happen. (The anxiety is even more magnified if my girls are with me.)
In my mind, large crowds equal disaster. What if today is the day that someone decides to sneak in a bomb? What if there is a natural disaster and we can’t get out of here? Or what if a crazy person decides to start stabbing random people?
Recently, we bought annual passes to Disneyland for our family. Now, trips to Disneyland may be a dream for most people but to me they are huge triggers for my anxiety. Especially at places as large as Disneyland, I feel like I can’t enjoy myself. I am constantly worried about where my kid is and would absolutely call myself a “helicopter parent.” I envy those parents that can just relax and let their kids run around freely without a care in the world.
Large crowds anywhere are hard for me which seems a little ironic since one of the things I love most is attending festivals and concerts. Currently, I can face these situations but that doesn’t mean that I am enjoying the event as much as I could be. I usually plan my exit in advance and I always need my family or friends to understand and support me when I say it’s time to go.
I need Waze (or any GPS) to go everywhere, even if it’s a place I’ve been hundreds of times.
This goes hand in hand with my constant fear of being late. Not only do I use Waze to make sure I will arrive on time (which my definition of on time means at least ten minutes early), but I also use it to help me make sure I am taking the easiest route. I’ll start opening the app hours before I have to be somewhere just to keep an eye on traffic and to see what way it’s suggesting I take. I must admit, living in Los Angeles has made my anxiety related to driving much worse than it used to be and it gets worse every day.
Getting stuck under a freeway overpass is terrifying.
I get tense and start planning an emergency exit the second I get stuck under an overpass because of course, there is about to be an earthquake and I might get crushed to death. I start looking around me to see where I can try and run or drive to if something were to happen. My foot is hovering over the accelerator ready to gas it just in case. My body is completely tense and I feel numb until the light turns green or traffic begins to move again.
These are just a few of the thoughts that cross my mind in a day. Living with anxiety is challenging but not impossible. If you know or love someone that suffers from anxiety, avoid telling them things like “there’s nothing to worry about” or “everything will be fine.” If it were that easy, we would’ve stopped worrying a long time ago. Just know that we don’t enjoy living like this, it isn’t a choice. We also aren’t weak – in fact, we are probably some of the strongest people you may know.
What you can do to help is simply be there. Make sure the person you care about knows that they can count on you to support them. Simply letting someone voice their concerns or worries and having someone to talk things out with can be a big help.
Try your best not to judge. The safer you can make them feel, the easier it is for them to come to you when things are rough. This disorder can make us feel incredibly alone and knowing someone is there for us can make all the difference in the world.
Currently, I am trying my best to manage my anxiety with prayer, faith, professional help and medication. While having two girls has brought on new fears and anxieties, I am determined to manage this as best as possible and do everything I can to make sure I don’t pass on my fears and worries to them. I still have hope and look forward to a future with less worrying and with more being present in the moment with my family.
How do you manage your anxiety? What helps you balance being a parent while trying to live with your anxiety at the same time? Let me know in the comments. I would love to hear from you!