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Challenge: Walking the Talk

'It doesn't let me stop': What it's like to be a mom with anxiety

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If we are together, and you notice me wiggling my leg, it’s my anxiety. If you are scrolling through Facebook, and you happen to see that I commented on your family picture at 3 a.m., it’s my anxiety.

It doesn’t let me stop. Ever.

Once a worry has made its way inside my mind, it’s trapped there. It lives there. It takes up permanent residence there. It comes on fast and sometimes, it comes on strong like a wave crashing down over my head in the middle of an otherwise peaceful ocean.

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And as it gets comfortable in my mind, it starts destroying everything around. It starts throwing around towels in the bathroom. It starts breaking furniture in the living room. It starts letting the dishes pile up in the kitchen. It starts drawing on the walls with a Sharpie marker until everything has turned to black scribbles.

And so I forget things that matter.

I slip up and mess up and lose track of things that are important.

And so I sit alone in my closet holding my knees because that’s the one place my anxiety has yet to sabotage. I say “no” to girls nights. I decline invitations to play dates and work parties and couples vacations.

Because if I go, I know I’ll just stay up all night obsessing over things I’ve said. I’ll wake up in the middle of the night worrying I’ve talked too much. I’ll climb into my husband’s truck afterwards and wonder why we don’t get invited places more often.

And I’ll assume it’s because of me.

I’ll reason it’s because I’m too much.

I’ll convince myself it’s because they just don’t like me.

And then I won’t stop running through these made-up scenarios just because the night is over. I won’t stop playing back the stupid things I said just because nobody heard them. I won’t stop letting myself become consumed with my own insecurity, or with beating myself up, or with self-doubt. My thoughts, about myself, about how others view me, about my place in society aren’t controlled by reality. They’re controlled by anxiety in some kind of upside-down world where my reflection is blurry and bent and backwards.

It doesn’t let me stop.

It doesn’t let me be logical.
It’s doesn’t let me be sensible.
It’s doesn’t let me listen to reason.

It goes to the worst place time and time again.

And so, I take my kids to the doctor more often than I should. I have complete meltdowns anytime anything is wrong with me. I mull over simple decisions like which sports to let them play, where to sign them up for Mother’s Day Out, how to appropriately discipline them for fighting with each other over the Nerf guns.

And then I worry we have too many Nerf guns. Then I stress about them becoming spoiled brats. Then, my thoughts spiral out of control, and I become tormented with the idea that I’m not doing an inadequate job of teaching them to become grateful and responsible and hard-working people.

It doesn’t let me stop.

It keeps my brain going and going and going.

Nothing is easy. Nothing is simple. Nothing just is.

A trip to the grocery store with my kids becomes a magnet for oppression: Did I buy the right bananas? Do those Froot Loops have too many grams of sugar? Did I spend too much money? Do we have enough in our checking account for this Blue Bell ice cream? Will my husband get mad if i buy this bottle of Cabernet? Is that guy following us? I read that Facebook status the other day about men wanting blonde-headed children for sex trafficking. I have blonde-headed children. I think he’s lurking. Maybe we should just leave. This was such a bad idea.

Watching the news is a recipe for uncontrolled torment. Scrolling through CNN.com is an invitation for stress to sit on the throne in my mind and dictate every decision I make for days, weeks, years to come. Are we safe in this movie theater? Did they lock the doors to my children’s school? Are we on the verge of the next world war? Should we take that trip to California later in the month? It’s so crowded there. It’s so busy there. It’s so unsafe there.

But to a brain that never stops, to a mind that never settles, nothing is ever really safe.

Nothing is ever really certain.

Nothing is ever really the right decision.

To a brain that never stops, molehills become mountains. A handful becomes a heap. Whispers become a whole lot of screaming and shouting.

Small things become huge things

And eventually, it all made me tired. Even a hamster will get to the point where he will either collapse, or make a conscience decision to step off of the wheel and rest for a while.

I felt like I could deal with the tired for a while, but when my anxiety began to make me angry. When my anxiety began to make me lash out. When my anxiety kept me huddled up in a ball on my bed. When my anxiety began to stand in the way of my friendships, my marriage, and my motherhood, I knew something had to change. When my anxiety made me someone I didn’t know and didn’t want to know, I knew I needed something new. I knew I needed a break, or I was going to break.

1. I got help from a professional. I got a counselor. I saw a doctor. I did not mess around with this one.

2. I wrote out a paragraph of positive affirmations about myself. And I repeat them out loud, even to this day, before I walk into any situation that gets my heart racing, any situation that gets my social anxiety spinning.

3. I made peace a priority. I paused. I prayed. Before I close my eyes to go to sleep every night, I push every thought out of my head and focus, really focus, on being grateful. On being content. On slowing down. On being still.

4. I got it out. I talked. I wrote. I did anything to make sure I took over my anxiety before my anxiety completely took over my life, which is a life I love.

5. I got off social media when things were at their worst. I got off webmd. I got off any and every news station. No good can come from reading every bad thing that’s ever happened in the world.

6. I let myself feel, but I refuse to let my feelings and my fears become reality.

7. I stopped trying to do it on my own and I let people help.

l don’t know if I will ever be able to conquer my anxiety. I don’t know if I’ll ever really be able to climb that snowy, rocky Everest and plant my flag at the very top. I don’t know if I’ll ever be ever to throw my hands in the air and chant that I have won the war.

But I do know that I am strong. I do know that I am capable. I do know that I am in charge of my feelings, and God is in charge of every situation.

I do know that I’ll wake up tomorrow, get out of bed, put a smile on my face and face the day with grit and with grace. I do know that I’ll fill my heart with positivity and purity and thoughts of peace. I do know that I’ll let my heart keep trying to convince my head that everything is better than it seems.

My anxiety won’t let me stop. But neither will my heart, and thank goodness, the heart always wins.

***This Post originally appeared on Perfection Pending by Meredith Ethington at https://www.perfectionpending....

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