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Challenge: Back to School 2021

Back to school anxiety for teens — and moms too

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The clock casually flipping its numbers, no care in the world, is driving me crazy.

I'm having trouble sleeping again.

Most nights I lie awake thinking about everything and nothing until I fall into a restless sleep. Or I doze off early, only to wake at 2 a.m. and start making lists in my head of all the things I need to spend time obsessively worrying about.
Insomnia has plagued me since childhood. I always knew I had trouble sleeping. I just didn't know until adulthood that it is caused by anxiety.
One thing I never worried about was my future children having anxiety, too.

Maybe I should've.

Because they do.

My son puts a lot of pressure on himself and mostly gets anxious about grades. He never wanted to know his grades. How he did on a test. What, if any, honor roll he made. What his ACT score was. What place he got. Now he's in college and the worries only get magnified more. The stakes are higher. The Future hangs in the balance.

My daughter was not at all used to girl drama and was pulverized by it when she started high school, during a pandemic, last year. I would often get calls from her saying she couldn't make it through the school day and I needed to pick her up. She spent countless nights awake, crying and having panic attacks, and would be unable to go to school in the morning.

My kids were in school all of last year, in masks, worrying about quarantines and keeping up on assignments and sports seasons being delayed and friends getting sick and just being so DONE with all of it.

I spent all of last year worrying that they would get quarantined, that they would fall behind in their classes, that they wouldn't be able to do their after-school activities, that they would get sick, and I was just so DONE with all of it.
We all thought this year would be better but already teachers and kids are getting quarantined. And they worry. And I worry.

Turns out a pandemic, funnily enough, magnifies anxiety in people who struggle with anxiety. Who would've guessed.

As a mom of big kids, I don't hide my mental health struggles from them. I talk about it, even when my state of mind tries to convince me not to.
I know it tries to convince them the same thing.

Hide it. Shove it down. Pretend. Put on a smile. Say you're okay.

Isn't that what we are supposed to do? That's what I did as a teen and I refuse to have my kids suffer like I did. I talk about it and encourage them to, too.
Even if it means waking up with one of them at 3:36 a.m. to smooth back hair and lay my hand on their back to help calm them. Even if it means putting my to-do list down and listening to their worries without judgment or a quick fix. Even if it means losing sleep myself to try to help them get back to sleep.

The clock is not kind to those of us with anxiety.

Walking through a pandemic with anxiety, with kids who have anxiety, isn't nice either.

But as long as we walk it out together, as long as we keep talking about it, as long as we keep holding each other up and singing loud enough to drown out the lies that anxiety shouts at us, then...

...I believe we will be just fine.

(Now, if I can just get the numbers, or my head, to stop spinning.)

Follow me on Facebook at Never Empty Nest.

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