This post was inspired on our trip from many moments. It’s not exactly one whole day, but rather experiences from different days. These are real scenarios, however.
I’m not quite sure why I feel the need to share this. It’s probably because I’m trying to make sense of it myself. Maybe you know someone with anxiety, but don’t quite understand it, or you don’t get your own anxiety. I hope somehow this perspective will help.
I wake up and things are hazy at first. I’m hanging onto a dream, and slowly coming back to reality. But as reality clears, it sharpens; too sharp. Needs and wants and worries prick and poke especially hard at this time of the night. It makes me want to stay awake and solve all the problems, but I know I can’t. It’s keeping me awake. If I can dull my mind back into that haze, I fall asleep easily. If not, it feels impossible. I grab my phone, which can cause more anxiety, or lull me into another world via TV show or movie until I fall asleep.
Again I wake up. My thoughts start slow, which lasts for about 30 seconds, until I gather where I am and what day it is. Suddenly they’re racing, flying by, and I can’t catch up. Things to do, where to start, worries from the night before. My whole body feels tense, and the day hasn’t even really started yet. It takes effort to get out of bed.
My kids are up, toddling around, probably in a screeching match over a push or a pull. I’m agitated and I can feel it. But looking at the clock – it isn’t even nine yet?! What are we going to do today? I’m going to lose my mind. How long before my husband gets home? My head is spinning, my heart beating faster. I yell for the yelling to stop, and my face falls into my hands.
We get ourselves together and go out of the house. We go to a museum, and everything is smooth until one of my kids stands straight up under an iron railing. Sobbing, he rushes to me for comfort. Panic sets into my bones, and my stomach twists. How hard did he hit the bar? Why did I let him play over there? Is that a bump, or is that just his normal head shape? I’m googling symptoms of head injuries and every possible symptom seems likely to me. I keep him up an hour past nap time, just to be sure, and even then, I’m worrying about when he wakes up.
It’s important to note that kids get hurt. They bump their heads. Often it turns out okay. I’m terrified, though, that ours will be that “one case in a million” where I should have rushed my kid to the hospital and didn’t, and I lose him. I’m already at losing him in my mind.
The lunch rush is over, one child is napping, the other playing with a sticker book. I sit down to do a little blog work, and draw a total blank. No writing inspiration whatsoever. I check my email, and suddenly fall into the rabbit hole. Applying for campaigns, looking up social media stats, wow, that person is doing so much better on Instagram than me. Why do I even think I can do this? Not good enough. Not good enough. The chant rings in my ears. I can’t focus. I close my laptop and try to find something else to do.
It’s time for dinner, but the day has weighed on me. (Maybe it was being up in the middle of the night?) I’m stuck in a familiar conundrum – run around the kitchen whipping something up while trying to feed my kids at the same time, which sounds like torture, or call my husband, already on his way home, and ask him to pick up something for dinner. Again. My thoughts turn to accusations. You are a horrible stay-at-home mom. Most women can handle dinner at least. Your husband is going to be so annoyed. Why do you make it so hard on him, when he’s out taking care of the family? Can we even afford dinner out tonight? That kicks off a whole bunch of scary thoughts on the category of money. Finally, I call my husband, and he casually responds that it’s no problem to pick something up.
Yoga class. I love it and look forward to it, but also dread it. It means I have to talk to people, when all I want to do after a long day is go inward. Someone at the front desk says, “hi,” and whatever comes out of my mouth sounds completely wrong. I cower a little, check into class, and find a spot. Again, people politely chatter. I say something else that sounds foolish to me, and I wish I could disappear. Now everyone is talking around me, and I feel like the only one who doesn’t fit.
I see a missed call from my dad. Usually my mom is the one who calls, so immediately, I panic. Did something happen? Why would he be calling otherwise? I’m thinking through who might be hurt or sick or dying. I call him back, and he just wants to talk about our next travel plans together as a family.
I constantly get caught up in the “what ifs”. I overthink actions and words, others’ and even my own. Discouraging circumstances lead to worst-case scenarios in my head. Again, it’s not like this all day and every day. But these things have and do happen without warning, at least once a day.
Friends, if you’re going through this, you’re not alone, and you’re not crazy. It may be your own personal struggle, and I might not understand every aspect of it, but it is real and it stinks to go through. Don’t try to wrestle your way through it alone.
Friends who don’t struggle with anxiety – these are the kinds of thoughts the people you know might struggle with. I know some of the things might sound funny (like, surely your child is not going to die after bumping his head). In the moment, though, it feels so real. I wrote a post on how you can help someone with social anxiety, but with general anxiety, be there for them. Ask them what they need. Be a listening ear. Gently point out the good, and feel free to distract with other good things if it just isn’t going anywhere.
What things help with your anxiety, if you have it?