How anxiety affects me as a parent.
Updated: Jan 31
You know that mum on the school run?, the one who stands at the back of the crowd, the one pretending to gaze at her phone all to avoid eye contact, well that's me.
I seem bubbly and chatty online, but I suffer from anxiety, mainly social anxiety. I thought this was a well known mental health condition, however I have recently realised that not a lot of people actually understand it, and how it affects every aspect of that persons daily life.
What is social anxiety?
In short it is the fear of social interaction, Social anxiety is the fear of being judged and evaluated negatively by other people. In my case social interaction leads me to feeling self-consciousness, embarrassment and often feelings of inferiority. Most people would think of social anxiety and think of having to speak in front of large groups, however this is a specific type of social anxiety.
For me I suffer with general social anxiety, When anxiety, indecision, panic, worry, embarrassment, feelings of inferiority, and self-blame are involved in most life situations.
These feelings are very often for no reason, I could be standing at the school gates and another parent smiles at me, I feel a rush of panic. Is that parent judging me, do I look a mess, are they whispering something about me in their popular mum groups, did I do something wrong? etc.
Very often these thoughts are all made up scenarios in my head, but it is all based on social anxiety, fear of judgement from other people.
Living with social anxiety means my group of friends is very slim, I would say I have around 3 friends that I speak to on a regular basis. A few parents from the children's school have tried to chat to me, however as soon as they start to invite me to coffee, or to come over for a play date I will panic and shut them out. I don't do this to be hurtful or to come across as mean, I do this to protect myself.
Imagine you are in your house, there is a huge flood outside, you can see the flood waters rising outside your window, as if you are in a huge aquarium. Inside my house, alone, with my family I am safe, I know I wont be hurt. But as soon as I go outside into those flood waters I feel like I am drowning, the panic overwhelms me.
The physical signs of Anxiety.
When I feel anxious there are a few things that will typically happen alongside the mental panic.
My heart will race, my palms will sweat and I will feel extremely hot, dry throat and mouth, my hands will shake and my muscles twitch, particularly around the face and neck.
If I am in a situation that I can not get out of I will also have a feeling up my spine, the way I describe it is almost like a snake, I can feel it creep up my spine and along my neck, it feels like I want to scream and let the anxiety out but I cant.
If I have these anxious feelings for a prolonged time they will often lead on to a panic attack.
Parenting alongside anxiety
Anxiety can be controlled using medications, or with therapy, unfortunately for me because I chose to breastfeed I can not take any medications, this also means I am too anxious to go along to therapy classes.
So I deal with anxiety the best I can, some days I can push myself, I can be brave and say hi to that mum on the school run, or I can make a phone call that needed to be done weeks ago.
On other days I will choose to pick up my children at the very last minute so I can avoid other parents, I will make excuses not to meet up for a chat and a coffee, the children will very often miss parties with their school friends as the thought of taking them and having to make small talk with the other parents is terrifying.
I am trying my best to not let my anxiety get in the way of the children living normal lives, however I know I need to push myself, be that brave person more often, step out of my comfort zone, because sometimes I will push myself and I will enjoy that coffee, I will drop my children at a party and their smiles fill me with joy, I would love that to be my normal.
So if you speak to me and I avoid eye contact, or I make up an excuse that I can't come along please know I do not mean it in a bad way, I am trying my best every day, but some days my all is not enough.
Give me time, please don't avoid me because I said no yesterday, try again, say hi to me, because today might just be that day when I am brave enough.
And for those other parents out there who are feeling this way, know you are not alone.
Not every day is a bad day, there are so many of us all feeling this way and it DOES get better. Believe it or not talking to family or friends really helps, even if that friend is online and miles away a listening ear can be very calming.
If you feel that you need help with mental health please book a g.p appointment, your doctor will not judge you, they are always there to help.