A snapshot of what anxiety and parenting looks and feels like to me.
You may see me passing by you in the street, happily pushing my toddler in the pram. I may be smiling and, sometimes, you may even see me laugh with my son as he babbles away. But what you may not see as I am pushing that pram is that I have anxiety, more specifically, Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD). What is Generalised Anxiety Disorder? In short, it basically means that I am in a constant state of worry and feel tense most of the time. Having GAD is harder to spot than, say, if I was walking down the street with a broken arm or leg. On a bad day, I experience other symptoms along with worry and tension, such as heart palpitations, racing thoughts, nausea and throbbing pain in my head, I find it difficult to concentrate, I am fidgety, I struggle to be in the moment and have trouble sleeping.
So, what does parenting with GAD look and feel like to me? Well, there are challenges. For example, on days where I am nauseas and have a throbbing head because I have had trouble sleeping the night before, you will find me on the couch with a heat pack on my forehead because I am in pain. At the same time, my son will climb on top of me and tug at my hair. My son is doing this because he wants to me play with him. Aside from being in pain, I feel guilty, because at that moment of being in pain I just need to feel better and can’t engage with my son, as he would like me to.
Then, there are other times when I miss cues that my son wants my attention because my head is full of worry and racing thoughts. I worry about the well being of my family, finances, the future and then insignificant things such as the weather, grocery shopping, what to cook, the washing and cleaning that hasn’t been done. In that time, whilst my mind is drifting, my son may be have shown me two or three cues that he needs me and then he will start acting out because I have missed them. I also struggle to be in the moment. I could be reading a story to my son and drift off in thought, while my son sits there looking at me waiting for me to finish a simple story I had started 15 minutes ago. I do believe that it must be frustrating for him – another thing to worry about it.
Aside from the challenges there are many big rewards to parenting an active toddler whilst having Generalised Anxiety Disorder. Firstly, when my fearless son jumps off the bed, jumps off slides or fumbles down a flight of stairs then picks himself up and keeps moving, like nothing has happened, then my anxiety starts to wane. My son has shown me through his fearlessness, how to enjoy life and be more carefree. His playful nature and ability to laugh at the silliest things distracts me from my worry and there are many times that I am able to be in the moment with him and delight in him.
Finally, what I have found since being diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder and is extremely important to remember is; self care. Without it, I would not be in a position to be a good mother to my son, not to mention a loving partner to my husband. So what does self care look like for me? Well, there are simple steps I take to ensure I look after myself. Firstly, an uninterrupted shower in the morning and good coffee helps me to start the day. I really enjoy a good coffee so in the morning after I have given my son breakfast, we hop in the car and go to my favourite coffee place and I enjoy my coffee while my son munches on a snack. On other days, I will pick up the phone and chat to my sister or my close friends. I also really enjoy going for walks with my son in the pram. We both love being in the fresh air, enjoying what the world has to offer outside and that is when you may pass me, smiling in the street.