Yesterday, there was an instance that really triggered my anxiety. It happened within my group of friends, within my safe space, and I wanted to share what went through my head as an honest look at what anxiety can do to someone. Hopefully, it will also illustrate to those who don’t understand or relate why it is so hard to parent with these feelings. And for those who have anxiety, or can relate, hopefully this gives you strength and courage.
My friends are also friends with someone who has treated me really poorly in the past, and she actually comes around to some of our group activities now. When they first wanted to introduce her into our ‘group’, I didn’t get the message right away, because I was in the shower. Everyone had chimed in they were fine with it, and I felt like a jerk, because I was the only one who wasn’t. So I let it slide.
Having to be around her for the first group interaction made me severely uncomfortable, and I felt like I was walking on egg shells, like I couldn’t be myself, and like I had to be careful of everything I said and did. This was my safe space, and it had been compromised. I felt so lost, and it took days to regulate that feeling again. I cried that night, and was hoping to never have to feel that way around my friends again.
This morning, I realized that she had become a permanent ‘member’ of the group. I was the only person who had a real problem around her, and she triggers serious feelings of anxiety around me, so I did the only thing I could do. I removed myself from the group messages and group activities. I felt like I had lost the only real safe space I had (aside from being home with my husband), a safe space it had taken me over two years to find and build.
This is what happens when someone with anxiety loses their safe space: I immediately felt myself spiraling. I knew I needed to talk about it, but I couldn’t find the right person to call. I began to shake, and cry, and I clutched my son close to my chest. The only hug that I could get, that I desperately needed. The only thing that made me feel strong.
And it wasn’t working.
I felt guilty – guilty for being unable to control how I felt. Guilty for withdrawing from otherwise good friends. Guilty for not being able to just let go of what had happened, and befriend this other girl. Guilty, because I’m afraid my son will think is a normal reaction, and I cannot show him what a healthy reaction should be.
I felt weak. Weak, for being unable to control my anxiety. Weak, for having such a poor reaction to something that anyone else would be able to deal with and move on from. Weak, for feeling like I needed someone else to help bring me back to a ‘normal’ state – physically and mentally. Weak, because I couldn’t make these feelings go away. Weak, because waiting an hour for a text response brought the worst possible conclusions and horrible thoughts of angering a friend – who was just too busy working to respond right away. Weak, because I needed a safe space in the first place. Weak, because I can’t function without one. Weak, because even though each of my friends individually assured me they understood, I still couldn’t change how I reacted and feel normal again. Weak, because my son can feel my anxiety, but doesn’t understand, and will likely grow up watching me suffer through these anxiety attacks, breaking down. Weak, because I will have to one day explain to my child that mommy isn’t ‘normal’. Weak, because I couldn’t change my thought process, even though I was aware I was in an anxiety spiral. Weak, because I’m afraid that’s what my son will think is a normal emotional reaction to an upsetting situation.
I felt powerless. Powerless, because I am unable to make myself into the strong person that I used to be. Powerless, because I know my son picks up on how I’m feeling and it affects him, and I can’t make it go away, even to protect him from it. Powerless, because I can see it coming, but I can’t avoid it or stop it. Powerless, because it should be under my control.
Anxiety is a horrible, crippling problem to have. Even with the best support system, these feelings just don’t get better, it takes a lot of hard work, and a lot of energy to change a cognitive thought process. And that day, by 10 a.m., I was already out of spoons, and didn’t function properly the rest of the day. (If you don’t understand or haven’t heard of the spoon theory, you can read about it here.)
I am not my anxiety, and yesterday was awful for me. But I made it through. All I can do the next day is move forward, and hope my son sees that strength, and not the weakness that comes with an anxiety attack.
– Monster Mama