Everybody gets anxious, especially those with children in their care. You might get anxious about starting a new job, or your child starting a new school. Maybe you get anxious in certain situations, or around certain people. Living with anxiety, though, is far more than just getting anxious about things. It can be completely debilitating, and can take over your entire life.
It is with me 24/7.
On a good day, my anxiety takes a back seat and is reasonably controllable. It’s like having kids chatting away in the back seat of the car – it’s there, and it’s a slight distraction, but you find ways to block it out so you can focus on driving.
On these days, I might just picture myself falling down the stairs whilst carrying my daughter, stumbling and dropping her over the side of the balcony (we live in a maisonette), or maybe my son stumbling into the road into the path of oncoming traffic. All these things happen on pretty much a daily basis, but I’m used to it. I picture them vividly for a split second, my heart stops, and then I return to myself and resume what I’m doing.
That is on a good day.
On a bad day, it becomes unbearable. A bad day means I might not be able to leave the house, because I don’t know what could go wrong – everything is out of my control. It is overwhelming. My brain won’t stop screaming at me, my eyes hurt from darting all over the place, my body hurts from the sheer tension, and I have a stress headache.
“Just go for a walk or pop down to the park for a bit, it will do you good!”
Will it though?
I can be walking down the street, in broad daylight, pushing the buggy and holding my son’s hand. There will be nobody in sight. And yet I know that there is someone hiding somewhere out of my line of sight, waiting to snatch my son and run away with him. In that moment, it is not just a possibility – it is a fact. I know it’s going to happen, and that there’s nothing I can do about it. I play it over and over again, trying to think of ways to stop them – should I ram him with the pushchair? But that might hurt my daughter! Should I scream for help? But nobody will come! I am filled with sheer terror, and every part of my being hurts. That moment passes, as it always does, but I am still left with the ghost of that feeling in the pit of my stomach. I still replay it in the back of my mind. What if? This is just one example
Moving away from me in my role as Mother, there are many other aspects of my life that are deeply affected. I struggle with relationships for example, and even find it difficult to talk to my closest friends – I am constantly second guessing what they are saying…or rather what I think they are saying. I have a form of selective mutism too, which can make it physically impossible to talk in or about certain situations.
My writing is another example. I have always wanted to be a writer; it just feels right to me. I have a BA(Hons) in Creative Writing with Law, I did a stint as a freelancer, and even had an incredibly short lived job in content marketing at a big firm in London. The job was perfect for me, and yet with everything I’m desperate for (except my degree) I set myself up to fail. I think oh this can’t possibly last, and so I find ways to fail it on my own terms – I am the queen of self sabotage. And for what purpose? The next time an opportunity comes around, I just tell myself that I failed the last time so what’s the point? It all comes back to worrying too much about what others think, and second guessing everything. It all comes back to anxiety.
I could give so many other examples of how it affects me and my daily life, but there’s just too many to mention. Plus a lot of them are hard to actually put into words. Half the time it is only with hindsight that I can see the actual cause.
So next time someone says they suffer from anxiety, don’t just shrug it off and tell them that it will be okay or they will get over it. Stop and think about what it could potentially mean for them, and if there’s anything you can do to make things a little easier.
If you or someone you know suffer with mental health, please seek help! Whether you speak to friends and family, visit a GP, or join one of the many online forums and live chats. There are so many resources out there.