15 Things My Children Taught Me About Anxiety
While I had planned on writing this post no matter what, I am proud to partner with Huddle and Cuddle to raise more awareness for mental health and mental illness. Ending the stigma around mental illness isn’t possible without the help of many passionate people. If you’d like to connect with them and find out more about the project you can also visit them on Twitter.
Set up by Sophie over at One Unique, Huddle and Cuddle is a campaign to help raise awareness of mental health issues by using the means of social media. Influencers have teamed up to help this campaign and to spread the word, allowing people to never feel alone by sharing their experiences with you. Huddle and Cuddle wants people to get involved by talking to people, whether it be an influencer, family member or a helpline about their thoughts and challenges they may come across.
When you think of anxiety, I picture you thinking of someone with a racing heart, short of breath, in a full-blown panic. But that isn’t always what anxiety looks like. Sometimes anxiety looks like nothing. No, seriously, nothing. For some people, anxiety occurs 100% internally. Especially when we hold a role that expects us to be strong and resilient. But when you’re parenting with anxiety, this is even more so.
Parenting with anxiety is difficult, to say the very least. We, as mommy’s, are expected to kiss the boo-boos and tell them everything will be okay. And while that very well may be true, I don’t quite believe it. I have heard myself saying, many times, to my children that I would never let anything bad happen to them.
But as I hear it, my mind spins into a tornado of things that I really cannot protect them from. No matter how hard I try. And then my anxiety tells me that I’m a horrible parent. I can’t truly protect them from everything, and I’m lying to their faces.
You see, living with anxiety is a constant battle between reason and irrational thoughts. Logically, I know that I’m doing everything I can to protect them. Emotionally though, I know nothing. I don’t know how I’m surviving, I don’t know how I’m allowed to have these beautiful children, and I don’t know why I haven’t wrapped them in flame-retardant bubble wrap and stuck them in a flame-retardant room made of clouds that is sterilized every thirty seconds and monitored for every possible danger.
This is what parenting with anxiety feels like.
It’s a trip to the grocery store in a snowstorm, and you see the car coming toward you. Your eye catches its tires slip on the ice and next thing you know you’re hearing sirens. There’s nothing you can do to stop it, it’s going to happen if it happens. But that dreadful feeling you got when you knew you couldn’t prevent the crash…that’s the feeling I get about 100 times a day (and that’s probably under-exaggerating).
I share these feelings with you in hopes that you recognize these behaviors in yourself or your family and friends before they take over a life. Anxiety can be difficult to live with, especially when it’s held inside. But there is hope and counseling and therapy are a great way to treat and manage anxiety.
And for the busy mom, there are plenty of alternatives to making regular appointments at a clinic or doctor’s office. BetterHelp is a great online counseling site that offers therapy from real, qualified therapists. Think recovery from the comfort of your couch.
What I Learned From Parenting with Anxiety
The world isn’t always so scary.
Okay, it’s scary for me. But that is only because of the anxiety. It’s one of the reasons I try not to watch the news. But these boys, they’ll do things that terrify me and I try to let them have their fun without being too overly cautious for them. We all have to fall to learn some lessons, right?
My kids are smarter than I allow them to be.
There are times that I stop my children from doing things, or don’t allow them to do things, just because I’m afraid they don’t know what could happen. But many times they’ve shown me that they do know, and they do know how to protect themselves. At least a little bit.
I cannot prevent every tragic possibility.
It’s just a fact of life. None of us can. But I so wish I could. Parenting with anxiety has taught me that I can prepare for tragedies, but I cannot prevent them. No matter how hard I try.
Not everything will have a tragic ending.
This one speaks for itself, but it’s something that I had to learn by letting my boys be, well, careless boys. They’re wild and crazy, and I can’t stop them from jumping and climbing and running just because I’m terrified of the worst possible outcome.
They’re learning about emotions too, and how to handle them.
This one is extremely hard, and a lesson that I still struggle with. It’s a statistical fact that children with parents with anxiety have a higher likelihood of developing the disorder as well. But the only way I can prevent this is to allow them to discover their own fears, and not instill my own in them.
They love me even when I’m not “okay.”
This is something we all want, right? To be loved even when we’re at our worst. Well, parenting with anxiety has taught me that I am still loved, even when I turn into “mommy hulk” in the middle of an anxiety breakdown.
It’s okay not to be okay all the time.
Watching these kids throw their own fits of rage at the silliest of things makes me realize that it’s okay to get upset. Even if there’s no logical reason for me to be angry or sad, it’s okay. As long as I pick up the pieces when I’m done.
The to-do list will pile up, and I’ll still be a great parent.
The kids don’t care if I have a million things to do. What matters is that I’m there for them when they need me. And the same goes in return. Anytime I need them, they’re right there to help, hug, or just snuggle. The chores can be put off, but loving each other shouldn’t be.
My house doesn’t always have to be spotless.
Let’s be real here for a minute. They made half (if not more) of the mess. They can walk past it as if it doesn’t exist, and it’s okay that I do too sometimes.
I can’t force myself to not be “shy.”
This is something I think a lot of parents struggle with. I wouldn’t want someone to force me to greet people or “use my manners” when I’m extremely uncomfortable. I don’t want my children to feel like they have to do things that make them nervous and you’re nuts if you think I’m going to.
Sometimes a hug is all you need.
Oh goodness, how great a hug feels from one of my boys when I’m at a low point. It really does give you a boost, and they just seem to know when you need it.
Pets make some great friends.
Pets can be a lot of work. But no one knows better than children, how awesome it is to have a pet. My boys now have a dog and a kitten and they are the most loving creatures. No one is ever going to be that happy that you’re home. (Okay, cats don’t get that excited. Yes, I’m a dog person.)
Not everyone is afraid of the same thing.
Laugh if you want. I’m terrified of clowns. Terrified. But I know plenty of people who aren’t. Most of whom don’t taunt me for my fears. Why should I question the fears of other people when I have my own?
A fear may seem silly to you, but that doesn’t make it go away.
This goes hand-in-hand with the last lesson. But I can’t judge my children for being afraid of snakes or bugs. I may not be. (Okay, spiders are a huge fear of mine.) But that doesn’t mean it’s wrong for them to be afraid of them. It also doesn’t mean that I can tell them it’s not scary and it will go away.
I’m their best shot at learning about mental health.
As someone who has grown up with mental illness, I am the one person they should be able to get factual answers from. If I shield them from my own mental illnesses, how will they ever learn to treat or care for people with mental illness? The biggest factor in ending the stigma around mental illness is educating the younger generations. I’m starting with my children. Where are you starting?
Have you experienced parenting with anxiety or any other mental illness? I’d love to hear your story.