Today’s guest blog post is from Paulette Parker from the blog Socially Awkward Mom. While she has experienced anxiety and depression for her whole life, she was only recently officially diagnosed. Her blog explores her struggles in dealing with mental illness and aims to smash the stigma around it. Thanks for reading today’s post and let us know what you think in the comments below.
I’ve battled anxiety for as long as I can remember. And although I don’t know what it feels like to live without it, I feel like I’ve mastered the art of disguise.
I’ve learned to present the world with a calm and confident exterior while I’m falling apart inside. Some days I hide it so well, even I wonder if my anxiety actually exists. But there are other days when it shows itself in ways that remind me it’s there.
I’ve always had a Type A personality. I like to do things right. No, I NEED to do them right. I practice and practice and practice every task until I perfect it. This has served me well in my life. I’ve excelled at most things I’ve attempted. I’ve impressed teachers and bosses and colleagues with my skills. And my need to do things perfectly has gotten me where I want to be academically and professionally.
But behind my perfectionism is a person that is too afraid to fail. Because of my anxiety disorder the thought of doing something wrong…of people SEEING me do something wrong…is terrifying. Will I look incompetent? Will they laugh at me or judge me? I’m often afraid that my credibility will be based on that one moment where I screwed something up.
So, sometimes I won’t do something at all if there’s even the slightest chance that I’ll fail. This doesn’t become a problem until it stops me from doing something I really want to do – and later regretting it. I resentfully look back and realize I once again allowed my anxiety to trick me into believing that mistakes aren’t part of growing, part of learning and aren’t perfectly normal.
I nag my husband a lot. Go ahead, ask him. I like the floor swept a certain way. I can’t sleep knowing there’s a sink full of dishes in the kitchen. I feel like I’m going to malfunction if the paper towel is on the holder the wrong way.
I don’t know why. I just need things a certain way. My husband will often try to tell me to relax; that everything is going to be okay. And part of me knows what he’s saying is true. But the irrational mind that my anxiety has created doesn’t listen.
So, I find myself nagging – again. And being someone I hate. And worrying about so many things at once that I get overstretched and overwhelmed and overworked. And it’s like an endless cycle of worrying, nagging and stress. I’m constantly working on telling myself that it’s okay to delegate some of my tasks, even if they aren’t done exactly as I’d do them. I’m not there yet.
When someone asks how I’m doing, my answer is typically: tired. I feel like no amount of sleep is enough. My mind and body are in a daily fight that leaves me spent. Couple that with taking care of my family and there are days I feel I have nothing left to give anyone – not even myself.
This impacts my ability to be the wife and mother I want to be. Like on beautiful days when I would love to take my kids to the park but I just can’t peel myself off the couch. Or when I’m neglecting to give my husband the attention he needs, but my senses are overloaded and I don’t want to talk or be touched.
Sometimes I worry that people think I’m using tiredness as an excuse. That they’ll wonder why I don’t just go to bed earlier. Or rest on my days off. Or drink some coffee. I wish it were that easy. The exhaustion I feel due to trying to cope with anxiety can only be described as all-consuming.
You know those jokes people make about helicopter parents? The ones who hover over their kids’ every move? Yeah…they’re talking about me.
The impending doom I feel on tough mental health days takes all the bad things that could happen and multiplies them by 1,000. My mind lingers in a land of catastrophe and I’m in a constant state of fight-or-flight.
If my kids spend the night away from home, I worry that there will be a fire where they are. Or if my husband and kids go somewhere without me, I’m certain I’ll get a knock at the door and learn they were in a horrific accident.
I know the chances are slim to none, but tell that to my brain. I try and hide my worry from my children because I don’t want them to become burdened by my own cataclysmic thoughts. I don’t want them to be anxious like me.
Committing to scheduling a lunch date or buying a new house sound equally as stressful to me. I’m typically hesitant to commit to social plans and even once I do, there’s still a chance I may cancel. This is hard because my aversion to people is at usually odds with my love for people.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy spending time with friends. It’s just that social interactions wipe me out. It’s just that I usually don’t know what to say because I’m too busy worrying about sounding stupid or being unfunny. It’s just that I know that five years from now I may still dwell on that one thing I said.
I’m afraid that this will be the downfall of my relationships. I worry that people will only invite me places for so long until they just stop inviting. I just wish I wasn’t too embarrassed to beg them not to give up on me.
There are many, many days when my anxiety disorder gets the best of me. But now that I’ve started on my road to recovery I am finally looking forward to the day when I’ll feel a new normal.