I’ve struggled with anxiety for most of my life. While it’s never been an easy battle, it’s one I’ve grown accustomed to and have been able to plan for.
I know I experience anxiety attacks, so I’m not caught off guard and convinced I’m dying whenever one hits.
I’m very self-aware, well-versed, and experienced when it comes to my own personal anxiety, knowing just what to do when I need to feel better and just what to avoid to keep it from getting worse.
The problem is that my kids make it worse.
Like, way worse.
I love my kids, I promise I do. I don’t blame them for my struggles with anxiety, I’m not resentful towards them, and I know they don’t trigger me on purpose. But boy oh boy do they trigger me.
They trigger me when I wake up for the day and they descend upon me with a million requests and complaints and ideas and snack requests.
They trigger me when they argue and scream and fight, usually over something as ridiculous as who has more subscribers on their non-existent, imaginary YouTube channels.
I have trouble breathing deeply when they sit so close to me that I can hear their food digesting, when they sit on me, when they lay across me while I’m working like some kind of giant, lanky cat.
My heart races when I worry about them, when I let my imagination get the best of me, when anxiety kicks in and convinces me that their headaches are tumors and their moodiness is a disorder.
But mostly it’s them just being kids that triggers me, puts me on edge.
Normal, loud, active, clingy, incessantly-hungry kids who don’t give me a moment of silence or rest. Kids who ask a million questions and make a million sounds and fight a million times a day while always being one millionth of a centimeter away from me.
I know they can’t help it, that it’s not their fault.
They didn’t make me anxious, and they don’t fully understand how difficult it is for me when they make all that noise.
They don’t understand, not totally, that I’m on edge because my body is in fight or flight mode, not because I don’t like them.
They don’t dismiss my short fuse as a biological response, they think it’s because I’m mad at them. And I hate it.
I hate it that too much sensory input makes me need to pull away from them.
I hate it that I need medication to make it through the morning with them.
I hate that I tense up when they snuggle next to me, rather than wrap my arms around them.
It’s not always like this. I really do love my kids, and I’m not always shaking with overwhelming anxiety. I do enjoy their company, make memories with them that don’t include me popping pills or losing my cool.
But it happens often enough that I feel guilty.
Guilty that they see me this way.
Guilty that they don’t have a “normal” mom.
Guilty that I have so many limits on what I can take.
Guilty that I snap, yell, react.
Guilty that I know my kids, my beautiful and beloved children, the very fruit of my womb and dreams come true, make me feel worse.
Guilty that my kids may be anxious, too.
Because I’m so aware and in-tune with this monster called anxiety, I am very open about it and do receive care from therapists and doctors.
I’m not just sitting and stewing in it, I’m actively seeking to treat my anxiety. I’m open with my children (and now the internet) that I take medication to help, that my body betrays me so I use all resources available to keep it in check.
But what the heck am I supposed to do when my doctor asks if I have any stressors in my life – lie? Laugh? Of COURSE I have sources of stress in my life, and they’re all of my own making.
Of COURSE I have triggers in my life, but I can’t avoid them, and don’t really want to.
Of COURSE I’m aware of what makes me feel worse, but it doesn’t feel as bad as the guilt that comes with the realization that I’m a better mom when my kids aren’t around.
I cannot stress enough how much I love my kids, how they amaze and inspire me, how cool I think their personalities are and how much I want to create memories, traditions, and legacies with them.
But I also cannot stress enough how stressed they make me.
My kids are my biggest triggers, and some days I feel like the smallest human because of it.