Sharing a Chair
The Diary of an Anxious Mother.
There’s nothing like having children to really open yourself up to a whole new world of worries and potential threats. Anxieties can be utterly debilitating and make for an exhausting way of life.
Since becoming a mum it’s like someone collected all my anxieties, threw in a few more child related ones, and then just decided to present them to me on a daily basis. I’ve never been so aware of them before in my life. I know there are others out there suffering the same, and in some cases, much worse than me.
I thought long and hard about writing on this subject, because it felt as though I could never do it justice. But this is a glimpse into my story, and if it resonates with one reader then it will be worth sharing.
10:30 am. Soft Play. There are lots of older children here, I forgot about the school holidays. They’re playing pretty rough on the bouncy castle, having intrusive thoughts of one of them landing on my son’s head and breaking his neck. Visions of me screaming and his lifeless body being bounced by the commotion around him. Sounds so dramatic when I write it down, but this is nothing compared to some of the thoughts I have. I just suppress it. He is having a whale of a time with the older boys, totally in his element. My arms are going a bit numb.
Neala is in the ball pit and there’s an older boy throwing out all the balls. I just want to tidy them up. I resist the urge. Reluctantly.
I’m writing notes for some pieces I’m working on and wondering if people just think I come to soft play so I can be freely on my phone. Almost stop doing work so people won’t think that. I don’t even know these people.
2pm. Earlier got me thinking about when Seth and Neala were babies, I used to have intrusive thoughts about dropping them on their head, onto the concrete. I’d worry that we’d just leave them somewhere and forget them, or that they’d get locked in the car screaming and I wouldn’t be able to get to them. I wonder if everyone experiences this?
12pm. Remember I have a CBT session today and ironically I get anxiety about talking about my anxieties. I spend the whole time leading up to the phone appointment wondering whether I should just cancel it. I do this every week, but I never cancel. I convince myself each time that my anxieties aren’t as bad as others and perhaps I’m wasting time. Then I get talking and I realise it’s a pretty big deal, and that I worry about a lot more than I let myself believe.
3pm. Son can now unlock and open the front door, I have visions of him opening it when I’m in the toilet and my daughter running into the street and getting run over. I check that I’ve locked it quite a few times, then I have a word with myself.
11:30 am. It feels like all I’ve done today is lose my temper with my son. My daughter comes over for a hug, whilst I squidge her I look over to my son and worry that he thinks I love her more. I get up and go give him a huge hug and ask him if he knows I love him more than anything. He’s fine, but I’m not reassured. I know I’ve been unreasonable and I worry that he’ll be scared of me shouting. Or just scared of me.
3pm. I read a news article about someone who’s lost their son, a similar age to my son. They’ve written a list of things we should embrace as parents and one of them is to never be too busy for hugs and kisses. I’ve told my son about 5 times that I’m very busy today, so now I feel like a complete failure on top of the shouting.
10pm. It’s pretty hot. The children have the fan on in their room and I’m unsure if it’s safe to leave it on all night. I google it for the hundredth time (this is a regular worry throughout the summer). I then come across an article about cheap iPhone chargers and leaving your phone charging overnight. Fire. Sleeping babies. Death. I get stressed and very anxious and take it out on my husband because he’s bought cheap chargers in the past. He doesn’t see the thought process, just deals with the anxiety charged anger that I now throw at him. I feel bad about myself, and still feel anxious. Time to sleep with those thoughts and feelings. Not easy. I wake up a lot and just listen.
1:30 pm. Daughter is in bed and son is watching something on TV. Time for reflection, but also riddled with guilt that I’m not playing with my son. I’m thinking about posting this diary and my arms are going numb, my hands shaking and my mind is thinking of all the things people will think of me. What’s worse, I’m thinking about all the people I know that may read it and I wonder what they will think of me now.
I feel the need to convince readers that I don’t shout at my children all day, everyday. I don’t love my daughter more than my son. I’m not over protective. And all the other things they could possibly think that my mind creates. This then continues to swirl and tumble around my thoughts for a good hour or so.
4pm. My son bumps into someone in the supermarket, being a 3 year old bombing about, the victim looks at me funny. Feel angry and upset all at once. What do they think of me? I look down and realise both my children are covered in banana slime and conclude that the onlooker probably thinks I’m a slob. Feel a bit ashamed.
9:30 am. Thinking about all this, I have got better. When my son was a few months old I set about putting him in a routine. I like routine, it helps with my anxieties, but then you could say it makes them worse. I like to know what’s happening and what to expect. The unexpected can make me lose control, and then, in my mind, that’s open for the worst to happen. I then get extremely overwhelmed and stressed.
What happened was success, the routine worked, he slept at nap time and he slept all night. So when something threatened ‘the routine’ I kind of lost it. Like really lost it. My husband and I still recall a road trip where I was completely overcome with anxiety. It was way past bedtime and my son was not yet asleep. I felt sheer panic at the thought of it all unravelling and my husband was on edge because of me. Me, and my anxieties. My arms are numb just remembering it.
When I had my daughter, things were different. She was different. I was different. I had to change, my husband had got anxious about me getting anxious. I’ll take a moment to look at the evidence now, “what’s the worst that could happen?” but instead of allowing myself to list the ‘unravelling opportunities’ as I like to call them, I list the facts and the positives that will come from embracing life instead of restricting it. I’m much better with the children and their routines, but I decided to do CBT because I’m by no means cured.
I worry about my children not liking me, I worry about my husband getting irritated with me, I worry about what I am doing, I worry about what I’m not doing. I overthink about what could happen, what did happen, what I said, that I talked too much about myself, what I did, what I’ve got to do and how I’m going to do things. I worry about getting impatient with my children. I worry that they don’t get the best of me. I worry that I’ll ruin them. My brain is full.
Thankfully I know I’m not alone. I’m currently working on something that I hope may help others to overcome the unexpected parts of becoming a parent. If you think you could benefit from talking to someone then maybe speak to your GP and they can advise you or refer you to someone who can help. In the meantime, talk to other mums and dads, we’re all in it together.
Thank you for reading, please share if you think this will help someone you know who is struggling too.