I consume a ridiculous amount of blog posts and articles that are shared to Facebook each day. I always tell people I like Facebook and Twitter so much more than Instagram because I greatly prefer words over pictures. Give me all the words. I learn a lot and am challenged a lot by what I read online, but rarely does a piece change my life. But on Saturday, one did.
I was scrolling Facebook and came across this article on Scary Mommy: I Thought I was Turning into a Rage Monster. Then I was Diagnosed with Anxiety.
Never has another person’s words about their personal experience so closely mirrored my own experience, literally down to the details. I almost couldn’t breathe as I read the article 3-4 more times. Everything she describes is exactly what I go through every second of the day.
I thought, like many of you, that I had suddenly developed an anger problem. I thought, just like you, that I was a terrible person. I also thought I was alone. Who treats their kids like this, except bad people? Who feels like this? I had no idea that, like so many moms, my anxiety disorder was manifesting as anger.
I wasn’t mad. I was actually terrified.
I knew that anger was a symptom of anxiety, but never really made the connection that my own personal anger could actually be major anxiety. But now, I believe it is. Every day, I find myself losing patience with my family, the people who I love most in the world. I have been rationalizing it because right now, life is really hard. Objectively, on their own, toddlers, preschoolers, and special needs children are a tough bunch. And I have all three, at the same time, constantly needing me. They all need me SO MUCH. It’s overwhelming. And terrifying, because I feel so inadequate and not enough for all three of them.
Then you hate yourself for being mean. Your heart hurts because you love these kids so much, and you never want to hurt their feelings. But the yelling comes again, and again, and again.
I have been powering through, apologizing to my kids for yelling, and obsessively cleaning the mess in the house, that always seems to reappear seconds later.
And what do kids do but makes messes? We all know this. We all objectively accept that kids will destroy a room in 15 minutes and then absolutely refuse to clean it. It doesn’t matter that we know it. It enrages us. And this rage stems not from their behavior (expected), but from our own terror.
I actually had a blog post planned about the mess in my house. How no matter how much I clean, it’s never clean. There’s always toys, dishes, scraps of paper, cups, and unidentified stickiness everywhere. How it makes me feel like a complete failure, and so embarrassed. And angry. I walk in the kitchen and all I see is crumbs on the floor, and dirty dishes on the counter. And now I’m wondering if the mess really isn’t all that bad- if I’m like a person with an eating disorder who looks in the mirror and sees a distorted image of herself.
This is what it means to live with an anxiety disorder that manifests as stress and anger. Every single day, you try your damnedest to keep a lid on your emotions, try not to mind the clutter or being late, try to stay on top of yourself and ask, “What am I really feeling?” That takes a heck of a lot of effort and a hell of a lot of metacognition. It’s exhausting. Sometimes you’re too far gone to manage it. And you yell, and you lose your cool. You yell at the ones you love the most. The ones you would literally do anything for.
I spend a lot of mental and physical energy trying to keep my kids safe and healthy. I realize now that I am constantly on edge, both at home and out in the world. I’m tense about their behavior and their safety. The world feels hostile and unsafe, even in places that are supposed to be fun. Just last week, I had to call the police because a group of teenagers were harassing me at the neighborhood playground after I asked them to watch their language in front of my children. I pray that the words and phrases those little ones heard directed at their mother have since vanished from their memory. There are also scary accidents and near misses all the time, like this incident that happened at the very same playground (maybe we should stay away from the playground for awhile). And of course, the mass shootings that seem to be happening every other week now. I wrote a piece for Houston Moms Blog about not parenting with fear, but geez, it seems easier said than done these days.
I’m never, ever relaxed with my kids. With Grayson, I always feel like I’m shortchanging him on attention, and that I should be holding him more, or stimulating him more. And of course I worry about his health, and what his future looks like. He’s such a mystery, and while that’s a beautiful thing in some ways, it’s also terrifying.
With Charlotte, I’m always stressed about her behavior and how I am/am going to raise her. One one hand, I love that she is stubborn, feisty, and speaks her mind about everything (everything!) but I feel enormous pressure to teach her to channel her personality appropriately, and I often feel like I’m completely failing.
With Nolan, most of my anxiety comes from worrying about his physical safety (running into traffic, being too ambitious in his climbing on the playground) and getting mad at him for his messes and his screaming. This morning, he would NOT stop turning on one of Grayson’s medical machines- it was absolutely maddening.
Saturday night, I started reading more about anxiety, and realized a lot of physical symptoms I’m having are also signs of anxiety. I took several online quizzes, which all diagnosed me as having major anxiety. So obviously, I need to do something about this, because this is no way to continue to live.
I immediately began taking my prescribed medication again; I had stopped taking it months ago for the absolutely stupid reason that I can’t remember to take it. Hopefully, I will see some changes quickly from that. And I need to look for a therapist- therapy has helped me so much in the past, and I realize now that I need someone objective to talk to.
I’m really hopeful that very soon, I can get this anxiety under control and stop being the angry mom all the time. My kids deserve better, and I deserve better too.