There will be many disclaimers before I write this post because I don't really feel 'qualified' to write it; because my anxiety is only minor, because I had therapy for it when I was sixteen and never again since, because I've never been on medication for it, because I can interact with people on a daily basis and they never know there's anything 'wrong' with me. Because because because. And yet I feel this post needs to be written. No matter how minor, I suffer with social anxiety and it affects my life on a daily basis and I haven't ever really written about that here, mostly because online it's not important. Online I can censor myself before I speak and avoid the endless hours of 'why why why did I say that?' , online I can take my time and mostly - not always- be the best version of myself. Maybe online I can write something that makes sense of the feelings I have.
I've always had problems being in big groups, even big groups of people I know. I never know what to say and I hate that awkward silence thing so I talk a lot to fill the gaps and then spend hours (days, weeks) afterwards totally freaking out that I sounded like a moron or that everyone hated me or thought I was rude because I didn't talk more/ask them more about themselves etc. This may sound familiar to those of you I have met and whose numbers I have (Laura, Hanna) and who I have text after said meetings apologising for some tiny thing I may have done to offend you. Let me be clear - this is not particularly debilitating to my life. Not in the way that it is to some people at least. It doesn't often stop me from doing things I really want to do (anymore), but it does mean that I obsess about them for days before and then afterwards as I've already mentioned. On occassion I will spend an entire trip or meet up worrying and worrying about what people are thinking of me but it's not the regular occurrence it once was. Thanks to a wonderful therapist and very supportive friends I've somehow managed to overcome the worst of it, and yet....
Since having children I've been forced into way more social situations than I'm comfortable with. I know that if I want them to be good with people I have to put them in social situations, be it playgroup, baby rhyme time at the library, or even just trips to the playground. In our local area we have some lovely groups. Today we attended a monthly kids group at our church where we're just starting to get to know people and it was lovely except that Ben shouted 'I don't like it' the whole way through the story and prayer and I felt like everyone was staring at me and judging me for being a horrible mother and unable to make him stop. Probably they were just sitting there sympathising silently, but I always worry. Don't get me wrong, I talk to people at these things and they are generally lovely, but I always feel incredibly awkward and the conversations are almost always very short. I know that two is a difficult age and everything can seem overwhelming but when playing 'What's the Time, Mr Wolf?' Ben continually cried and told me it was scary and I couldn't help but wonder if my tension in new situations and in big groups is somehow feeding through to him in the same way that he's picked up a fear of bees from the way Rhys is around them?
I didn't think that my anxiety was obvious to an outsider but kids are intuitive and it's impossible not to worry about how my behaviour affects my children. Only in this case it's difficult because I don't know what I can do about it. I hope that being around my more confident siblings and their families will help my boys.
It's difficult and I don't have answers, I just needed to write this.
I can sympathize with you and empathize. I'm a lot like that myself. I do worry too much about what people thought about me after an event and I do have a tendency to overtalk and overshare when in a group, because I am uncomfortable. That is something that has come with age. When I was younger, I was just mute - which is a whole other thing. Now, afterwards, I'm beating myself up for the same reasons you mentioned and wondering what people thought. My husband is used to me and is so different. He is not really a people person that much, but he doesn't care what people think and he never has.ReplyDelete
As to being a mother with these issues, well, I hear you there as well. I only had one daughter, but was always afraid I was 'doing it wrong'. And I never had any other kids to compare. That being said, she has grown up fine and is a pretty outgoing person. Which she has to be in her job - she's a labor/delivery nurse. She's cheerful and compassionate and has to talk to mothers in pain and help them through that pain all the time. So she chats and soothes and encourages. I wonder sometimes how she got that way, but it just seems to be her personality. Yours kids will probably be their own selves just like that. Maybe more reserved or maybe not. Seems like you are exposing them to others and encouraging them to take part. They may enjoy that or they may not be that kind of person. One thing I do know about raising kids - you end one stage and move on to the next. Some are easier than others. But everyone and I mean everyone has to deal with something hard, be it when their kids are very young or when they are older.
Good luck and know that you are not alone. At all. :-)
Thank you Kay :-) It's reassuring to hear that you went through a similar thing and your daughter is ok! You comments did make me think that maybe I'm overly worrying about it - maybe they naturally won't be massively social anyway and that's totally ok.Delete
I appreciate the support!
I agree with Kay. We, the anxiety ridden, are never truely alone because we kinda have this elephant in the room called anxiety disorder. I have it "under control" with meds, but upset me, and it blows and then takes 3-5 days to settle back down.ReplyDelete
The world is not nice to people with mental illness. And I hate that's sort of the norm. I couldn't have children, and my grandchildren don't know me too well because in part I can't drive anymore so we don't visit them much. And its hard, and its lonely, and its maddening....but it is what it is and, for today, I'm ok. Bless you
Thanks Andrea. I know what you mean about it taking a while to settle down when you get upset! I'm glad you're coping with it and I so appreciate the support from everyone!Delete
It sounds like you're doing your best, which is all any of us can do! I have to force myself to go out to gatherings/meetings/get togethers sometimes, then sit there mute because I'm too afraid to talk to anyone.ReplyDelete
But Kay is right that children have their own personalities, so don't worry too much about Ben. You're exposing him to social situations, which is awesome!
I'd tell you not to worry too much, but know that we can't seem to help it. Maybe knowing you're not alone helps a little? Because you're not! :)
It really helps thank you! It does seem that anxiety and other mental illness issues are more common among the blogging community, or maybe we're just more willing to talk about them? Either way it's such a great place to be for support with this kind of thing :-)Delete
I have similar social anxiety issues although not to the point where I have ever needed to see anybody about it, but I completely understand the mindset. The internet is a lovely place to be in that regard, isn't it? Apart from when it's awful!ReplyDelete
I think as a parent all you can ever do is your best, and you probably won't ever be perfect but nobody is, but you sound like a really good mum to me! I think you should be proud of yourself for stepping out of your comfort zone, and although I know this probably won't help much, but try to remember that most people are kind of self-obsessed in social situations anyway, and are probably too worried about how stupid they think they look to worry about anybody else around them!
Thanks Jenny, the internet is so great so much of the time. I love that I hear much more about people's problems online than I probably would if I 'knew' everyone on a day to day basis. From my experience it makes it much easier when you do actually meet up with online friends in real life.Delete
I totally get what you mean about people worrying too much about themselves to worry about me, I constantly reassure myself with that thought when I'm out of my comfort zone!
I am glad you have a space here where you can write out your feelings. Writing is sooo much easier, I totally understand.ReplyDelete
The thing is, anxiety is just plain terrible and it takes a long time for people affected by it to be able to "control" it. The truth is though is that it's really out of your control. What I found helps me a lot when I do get anxious is thinking of the other little things, like focusing on the color of my clothes or if I had a kid, my children's details (that nose is cute, they are growing so much, etc.)
But... and this is a big but... like the comment above me, you can only do so much. Keep having your awesome support system! I also think it would help if you did not hide your anxiety to your children - I am not an expert of course, so I'm just talking random advice. Please ask your therapist if this might help. I just feel like if we are open to our children, they would learn that anxiety is normal. It's not something that's weird or odd, or something to be afraid of. That it's just a little something some people like you and so many deal with. They might find strength in that.
All in all, just take it one day at a time.Delete
Jillian, I'd never thought about children learning that anxiety is normal through me not hiding it, that makes total sense. Maybe from now on I'll just try to explain it a little (to Ben at least, 10 months is probably a little young for Sam to understand!) rather than pretending I'm not feeling it. Thanks!Delete
I'm going to echo all the others when I say that you're AWESOME because you are trying your best. You're self-aware, and your transparency/honesty inspires me :)ReplyDelete
Social anxiety is terrible because we're *too* self-aware at times, and our brains tend to over-process the words, body language, and facial expressions of ourselves and others waaaay too much! There are times where I've apologized for things people haven't even caught or remember or even think is a big deal! I think it's great that you've surrounded yourself with caring and understanding friends :) Also, you're such an awesome mama for putting yourself out there so Ben gets more social exposure. High five (and a big hug) for being brave for the both of you!
Thanks Nahree! I'm glad I'm not the only one who apologises for stuff other people have no memory of! :-)Delete
1) NEVER APOLOGISE for talking about mental health-related shizzle, no matter how 'minor' you think it might be. It's the only way people are ever going to understand that just because they can't see a problem, and just because an individual has become an expert at concealing it on a day-to-day basis, doesn't mean it isn't real and valid and debilitating - and exhausting, if you're throwing everything into getting through the day 'normally' until you can get home again.ReplyDelete
2) I space-fill in conversations too. It's like an imperative. If there's a silence I have to fill it, often (for some reason) by suddenly letting my inner Chesterfield girl run riot, earthy humour and all, and then I'm like, "jeez, Ellie, what did you just do?!" It didn't do me any favours in my last job interview, I'll tell you that for nothing. But if you're around us, you're in good company, and chances are we wouldn't bat an eyelid! :P
3) Obviously I have exactly zero experience with kids, but I'll say this - these situations that you're being thrown into while Ben and Sam start to socialise ARE nerve-wracking. Children aside, you're essentially going into a social group just like you would be if you joined a class or something, which is definitely scary for someone dealing with anxiety - but you'll get more comfortable there and familiarity will help HUGELY. You can do this. :D
This is a great post, and I hope from all the comments you get some reassurance that others understand, and ALSO thank you for putting it out there and helping make these things visible. Love to you all. xx
Thanks Ellie, I knew you'd understand :-) Oh and I'm SO glad I'm not the only one who space fills with totally inappropriate stuff, I always feel like such a twat afterwards!Delete
My son was playing this morning a play date and the mother admitted that she and her son suffer from terrible anxiety and it's been very difficult for both of them.ReplyDelete
My son has autism and it's mild so most of the time he just seems like a kid who can't sit still or won't listen. Both of these things make me look like a bad parent and at first I told people he had autism. Then I realized that was my problem and in the past few years I have become better at letting him be who he without worrying about the judgement. It's not always easy though.
That fact that you are being open and honest about your anxiety is key Bekah. You're a great mum and that's all your boys will say when they are old enough to understand. I certainly can relate to starting new groups with children. Somehow all those awkward feelings come back from childhood for me. Will they like me/my child? Will I like them? Etc. that's not to say that I'm down playing real social anxiety with general anxiety when we are exposed to different or new things. Just wanted you to know you're not alone.ReplyDelete