“Don’t worry” they say. “Just forget about it” “Why are you worrying about that?!”Often you can’t see what’s going on on the inside. Every single one of these photo’s are me whilst I’ve had anxiety- that doesn’t mean my expressions are fake, it means even though I’m enjoying myself there are always worries behind the fun. Sometimes it’s a brave face, a mask simply because no-one gets it and sometimes behind it is nothing, just an emptiness.
I’ve always just thought of it as having anxiety… Then I realised I was classed as having a mental health problem. A MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEM. That echoes round my head when I say it … It sounds weird. Me, mental health problem? I’m just Emma, but Emma that worries. Constantly. I don’t have a mental health problem.
I can’t even remember when I first realised my thoughts were past the point of being ‘normal’. When my anxiety is flared up, everything is blurry. I struggle to concentrate and life in general just becomes hard work. Even more so than normal.
The simplest tasks become mountains to climb and the fight in my head between my anxious thoughts and my logical ones is exhausting.
I struggle to make decisions because I’m scared of making the wrong one- even if it’s just what to have for my tea or what clothes to dress the kids in- and I overthink pretty much every situation in my life.
Last year when I was pregnant with my youngest daughter, my midwife ticked the box on my notes for having a mental health problem. That’s when it really struck home to me that what I’m dealing with on a daily basis, what I have and live with (and no I’m not talking about my husband!) is actually a thing- a serious issue.
I think when you hear Mental Health issue you think of the old age stigma that goes with it. Not a ‘normal’ person like me.
Sometimes I don’t even know my anxiety has flared up- I’ll just feel stressed, like really stressed, and it wont be until later on when whatever has been making me anxious has passed and the feeling eases that I’ll realise.
Because that’s the thing with anxiety. It has a mind of it’s own. Or should I say, it is a mind of it’s own.
There are different levels to it. It comes in different shapes and forms where sometimes you know your triggers and expect it and sometimes you have no idea.
When my anxiety is flared up, I already struggle with low self-esteem just from the nature of anxiety but it makes it increasingly difficult as a parent.
Obviously there’s not just me to think about. I have to go on and plough through regardless of how I’m feeling. You can’t just switch it on and off because you’re a parent.
The main thing for me is not letting the girls see the true face of my anxiety. I don’t want my worries to become their worries. So I secure my brave face and hide the emotions. I focus a lot on their emotional health BUT I try not to let mine impair it.
I struggle to go new places because I don’t know where to park or how I get in. I might not know where to go once I’m inside. Sometimes I struggle to go to somewhere I’ve been before because I’m not quite sure what to expect on that day. Sometimes it’s just too much for me to cope with.
Some days I have to tell my eldest of our plans so that I have to go through with them. So I can’t just stay at home all day or decide not to go because it’s making me anxious- I can’t let her down or go back on something I’ve said. Therefore if I tell her, we HAVE to do it. And when we do, I can’t stress about where to park or where we go in at because I don’t want her to see this. Obviously I do still get worked up about it but I keep it hidden from the girls- that in itself is exhausting.
I struggle if we have to be somewhere for a certain time. (We all know how stressful it is trying to leave the house with kids anyway) Well my anxiety takes the stress up to the next level. I can’t stay calm in this situation. Imagine how our school run plays out every morning.
I struggle if things don’t go to plan- but what does go to plan when you have kids?!
I worry that I’ve not cooked their food enough and I’m going to make them ill. I worry when there are bugs going round in case they catch them and then if they do get ill I worry even more. I worry that they might need to go to hospital and I’m petrified of hospitals. You name it, I worry about it.
It sounds exhausting doesn’t it. It is.
Even I know reading this back that it sounds completely irrational, but when you’re there in that moment you can’t stop the doubt. That battle between the thoughts is overwhelming- the anxious thoughts are overwhelming.
I worry if I send a message- text, Facebook, email- and I don’t get a reply. Have I said something to upset them? Did I say something wrong? Maybe they don’t like me.
When I’m around people I’m unfamiliar with, I’m quite shy anyway but when my anxiety is flared up I struggle to have a proper conversation. I clam up and can’t think of anything to say. I stutter and get my words muddled and then inside feel completely stupid.
If I don’t get invited to something the doubts creep in. Telling me I’m not liked and I’m a horrible person.
I’m not a weak person- far from it. A lot of the time I will throw myself into situations or arrange them so that I can’t back out, just so that I have to make myself go through with them. At the time, if I’m having a ‘bad’ day, it will be exhausting but if I’m having a ‘good day’ I’ll just think to myself lets do this and wing my way through.
Sometimes I’ll get ‘panicky’, you know- racing heart, stomach churning like a washing machine or struggling to catch my breath and sometimes I’ll just feel numb.
I’ll constantly forget things people have told me and become consumed by my own struggle so that I’ll forget to ask about other people. Then when I realise I’ll feel even worse and think I’ve turned every conversation to be about myself.
Anxiety is totally unpredictable and you don’t always know what to expect.
But despite the constant battle and feeling like I can’t cope, one thing I do know is that I do cope. Every single day. For my kids.
I wont be defeated by my anxious mind.
Because that’s exactly what it is- in my mind.