As I write this, my house is finally quiet. My son has been up sick for a couple of hours and crying inconsolably. In reality, the kid has a cold. Too much ick in his stomach made him sick, and he was both exhausted and too stuffy to sleep. I know this and I know he’ll wake up tomorrow and be fine. My mind, however, has been turning faster than a hamster hopped up on coffee and trapped on a wheel.
He’s fine. He has a cold. He’s gotten them before and he will again. I’ve asked my husband’s opinion on every decision and he’s calmed every voiced concern. But still, I’ve gone through every scenario/problem that I can think of. What if it’s not just a cold? How many colds has he had this year? Is that too many? Will he still be sick on Christmas? Is it okay that he’s breathing through his mouth like that? Will it make his throat hurt? Should I go check on him again? On and on and on. I’ve got a knot in my stomach, my nerves are shot and my brain won’t turn off. Over a four year old with a cold.
Being a mom is hard. Being a mom of a child with special needs is hard. Being a mom with anxiety is hard. But being all three? Well then you’ve got the bases loaded at the bottom of the ninth.
While I’m not new to anxiety, learning to manage it while parenting is a new struggle. I’ve never wanted to exaggerate my emotions or give myself a problem that I don’t really have that severely. But I’m coming to realize that this is a problem for me. I’m not just stressed out and dealing with typical new mom issues. At times it can be ugly and crippling and I need to find a way to deal with it.
So how do we parent our kids when we can barely parent ourselves? When the slightest curveball can completely derail us, how do we keep getting on the field?
Not a clue. But I think the first thing we can do is be honest. The best way to tame the crazy is to own it. I usually know that whatever I’m freaking out about is irrational, so I’m honest about it. Voicing the worry can help release the pressure of panicking alone. Even though he’s not panicking with me, the fact that my husband knows what’s going on in my head is comforting. I no longer have to put on a brave face.
Another thing we can do is ignore all the “helpful” suggestions we get:
“Just don’t stress.”
“You can choose to be happy.”
“Stress is really bad for you.”
“Worrying doesn’t help anything.” (No shit. Thanks for that gem of wisdom)
If you don’t deal with anxiety, these all seem very insightful and helpful. They aren’t. I would love to be able to say to myself “Nope. Not worrying about it” and then be fine. In reality, trying to change my focus is like trying to crawl out of a muddy pit by my tiny bitten fingernails. My chest is tight and I can’t breathe and the only thing I can focus on is whatever I’m worrying about. It’s overwhelming and exhausting and I’ve usually got a little person at my feet who doesn’t give a crap about how I’m feeling. He needs me to dance with him or read him a book or take him for a walk. If I could just shut it off and move on with my day, believe me I would.
The only other thing I can think of is GIVE YOURSELF A DAMN BREAK! Take a minute to be a normal human for once. You don’t have to be a rock All. The. Time. You’re not screwing up your kids if you set them in front of a movie with some pizza (again) while you go take a bath and cry or breathe (or drink, but that’s up to you. Safety first, folks). Go hide in the bathroom with the last several cookies and tell your kids your spouse ate them. That will be fun and get the focus off of you for awhile. Buy a new candle that will be relaxing and make you happy to have. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but it has to be Something. If yoga and meditating are major healers for you, that’s great! I’ve been trying those for about a year and for me, I need to start looking at other options as backup when things get tough. Figure out what type of help you need. And once you find that out, be as selfish as you need to be in getting that help.
I’m no psychologist and this is nothing profound or even new. We’ve all probably read 15 versions of this same post. But these are the tools that are helping me deal right now. If I come up with any more, I’ll let you know. But for now, just hang on as tight as you can. Even if it’s just for one day at a time. And keep on swimming.
UPDATE: This post took me a couple of days to write because, hello, mom life. In case you were as worried as I was, Hayden is fine. One more day of blowing his nose on me and giggling about it and we should be good to go.