There’s a lot to worry about when you’ve got children. You’ve got to worry about how they’re doing when you’re pregnant and how you’re going to cope with the birth. You’ve got to worry about whether you’ll be able to feed the way you want and whether the baby will put on enough weight when you leave the hospital. Whether they’ll react to the vaccinations and if that weird thing they’re doing is something wrong or just a normal developmental stage. When to start swimming lessons, music lessons, sky diving lessons . . . it’s easy for it to all build up.
So how does that affect you when you have anxiety?
I have Generalised Anxiety Disorder with a healthy dose of Social Anxiety. I was diagnosed with this about 7 years ago, although I’ve probably had it most my life, and I went through cognitive behaviour therapy to deal with it. I’m not on any medications, and I look after myself through relaxation and mind exercises, being aware of when things are building up, and trying to keep in general good health. There have been periods which have been very dark, when anxiety slips into depression, but probably 90% of the time, things are very manageable.
But how does it affect me as a mother?
Well in some ways, not as much as I thought it would. Some of that has to do with the parenting style Mr Pilot and I have chosen to get us through Squirm’s infant years. We don’t fuss about sleep or routines (partly because we haven’t needed to and partly because we’re aware that babies march to their own little drum corp). We’ve tried to simplify our lives as we’ve become parents and that’s contributed to a bit more calm. It’s also easier because we’ve been very blessed to have a healthy child, who is generally pretty happy.
But there are some times when the anxiety makes things very hard. I worry myself into a state at times, and need to check immediately that Squirm is ok. I had horrific nightmares that I’d lost him in the early days and would wake up searching for him. I get overly worked up over things which do not impact directly on me – debates like cry it out and breastfeeding. I also have a lot of trouble driving to new places – which has definitely been challenged by the library tour!
Then there’s my little strain of social anxiety which makes it very hard to interact with people and to use the telephone. I worry a lot about what people are thinking about me, so I’ll put off making connections with other people in case I look stupid. I hate the telephone because I think I sound stupid, which makes it very hard to make appointments or set up things like lessons. And then, if I feel something has gone wrong I worry over it again and again.
I don’t want my son to see me as an anxious person. I want to be brave, to try new things, to be willing to set out and make things happen. I need to live in the moment, rather than worrying over what happened or what might happen in the future. It’s difficult, it takes a lot of brain work, and a lot of inspiration – sometimes from the strangest places. But I’m going to do my very best not to let the worries take control of my parenting.
Have you experienced anxiety as a parent? How do you deal with it?