Do you know the saying, “Don’t sweat the small stuff (and it’s all small stuff.”? The saying is a reminder not to worry about little things that don’t matter (and much of what people worry about consists of little things). Well, I am someone who sweats the small stuff, always. I am someone who suffers from severe anxiety and I have my entire life. When I was a little girl I would stay up until two in the morning organizing my toys and my room, decorating every inch of my space, and from day one I’ve been someone who needs to feel in control of my things and my life, hence my attention to detail. Having anxiety is something that’s incredibly hard to describe to those who don’t suffer from it, because when you have anxiety your mind operates quite differently. Your mind never stops and your emotions are overwhelming.
For me, having anxiety comes in waves. I’m standing on a beautiful beach and some days the waves are calm and steady. I can swim and enjoy the water. But, some days the waves are violent and are crashing all around me. The waves are dark and endless. I cannot keep my footing and I’m drowning under rough water. This week I happened to wake up in turbulent water, drowning. My anxiety has been overwhelming for three days and I’m just now starting to see a calm in the water and I can finally start to plant my feet firmly in the sand. When my anxiety is at a 10 (on a scale from 1-10 and 10 being the highest) I start to feel depressed and fearful. My anxiety has been at a steady 10 the past week. Sometimes, I just need to lay down and cuddle under a comfy blanket and cry. Anxiety is very real and very scary. It can be crippling and I know this better than anyone. It can ruin any day. It can make you feel alone, terrified, and angry. It is also a reminder that despite my weaknesses, I am incredibly strong.
When I was younger I could barely go to school some days because the feeling of being trapped in a building, or in a classroom with a ton of people, is terrifying to me. I’ve never been able to go to concerts or festivals because there’s just too many people and too much unknown (lack of control). I love intimate settings, spending time with my closest friends, being outdoors (the beach, the mountains, on my farm), and I even love New York City, but when I’m in the city the day needs to be on my terms (my plan). I’m also a true homebody and an introvert. I love being home, I don’t enjoy making endless plans, and I don’t need to be surrounded by people constantly. I’m actually okay being alone and I’m very independent. I am happiest when I’m home with Greyson, with no plans. I can cook, read, write, clean, go for a walk, or go to the farm for a couple of hours. I love feeling free.
Anxiety has consumed me for so long that it’s a part of me. It feels like a body part. If I no longer had anxiety I would lose a part of me and what makes me who I am. Nothing makes me more upset than when someone tries to make me feel bad, or crazy for having an anxiety attack, something I literally cannot control. There’s nothing meaner than someone calling you crazy, or telling you to get a grip when you’re in the middle of a complete breakdown. When you’re at your most vulnerable the only people that should be around you are the ones who take the time to understand and be there for you. If someone doesn’t care to understand or to even listen, they don’t deserve to be in your space and that’s the honest truth. I have lost friends, lovers, and acquaintances in my life who didn’t care about my emotions and they didn’t deserve the best parts of me, because they couldn’t handle my worst. We all have dark and light parts to us and that’s what makes us a complete person. I will never leave someone or judge someone based on their dark parts if they’ve shown me the beauty of their light.
As a mom, I am always honest about emotions with Greyson. I don’t believe in lying to my child about how I’m feeling, because they will experience the same emotions at some point. I will always be a safe space for Greyson to feel however he wants to feel. Children are smart and intuitive. They can see us crying, feeling overwhelmed, or getting angry about something. There’s no reason to lie or hide the truth from them. It’s so important to treat our children like real people. Greyson wouldn’t believe me if I’m balling my eyes out but at the same time saying, “I’m fine, I’m not crying.” Well, obviously I’m crying. He has eyes and ears and knows what’s happening. For example, if I’m feeling anxious and I start to cry I tell Greyson, “Baby, I’m okay. I’m just feeling very anxious and a little sad right now, but you make me so happy and my emotions have nothing to do with you.”. He’s my reason for smiling and I always tell him that. I love when I’m stressed and Greyson looks right at me and tells me that it’s okay. He’s so bright and sweet.
He understands. He knows when mommy is having a hard day or when I’m angry about something. I will always be open and honest with him because it will help him learn to express himself and his emotions as he grows up. I always tell him that emotions are big and powerful and it’s okay to be upset, but it’s important to take a breath and move forward. It’s not the way we feel that’s the issue, it’s the way we handle our emotions and move beyond them that’s important. Greyson is almost three so naturally he has tantrums, gets frustrated when something doesn’t work the way he thinks it should, and he gets overly excited from time to time. That’s normal, mamas. I allow him to be upset, but I always remind him to breathe, take a moment, and then talk to me about why he’s feeling the way he’s feeling. I never want him to feel ashamed of his emotions because they’re natural. It’s unnatural to hide your emotions and keep things bottled up. It’s not healthy to pretend everything’s okay when it’s clearly not. I also always tell him that if something makes him upset, it doesn’t have to make sense to other people. Sometimes, we don’t understand why others are upset, but the reasons don’t really matter…what matters is that they’re feeling upset in the moment and we should just respect their space and feelings.
I could write a book about anxiety and how to live with it and learn from it, and maybe one day I will, but for now I will leave you with one more thought…
Life is scary and overwhelming for everyone, so even if you think you’re the only one with anxiety, or the only one whose having an awful week, remember that you’re not alone. So many others are also struggling to stay above water and they too are feeling alone. You’re not crazy for feeling the way you feel. You’re human and you’re so much stronger than your worst days. The waves will always be there but the water won’t be rough forever. There’s always a beautiful calm after a storm. This too shall pass.