There’s Nothing to Worry About

Anyone who knows me knows my love for the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I don’t watch it that often now, but when I was a teenager I watched it probably 100,000 times. Besides my love for the beautiful and wonderful Audrey Hepburn, there’s just something so earthy and real about the story, and aside from the whole Mickey-Rooney-playing-a-Japanese-guy thing, it’s a perfect movie.

There are so many great lines from that movie, I quote it all the time. Like this little scene,

Holly: What do you do, anyway?

Paul: I’m a writer, I guess.

Holly: You guess? Don’t you know?

Paul: Ok, positive statement, ringing affirmative, I’m a writer.

I like that because it’s basically the same conversation I have with anyone who asks me what I do. I don’t feel so phony and useless knowing every other writer has the same insecurities. I have titled my writing Pinterest board, “I’m a writer, I guess.”

Oh, and:

Holly: It should take you exactly four seconds to cross from here to that door. I’ll give you two.

BAM. Do you know how many times I’ve wanted to say that to someone, but didn’t have the courage? I love it.

Anyway, there’s one bit of dialogue that sticks with me always.

Holly: You know those days when you get the mean reds?

Paul: The mean reds, you mean like the blues?

Holly: No, the blues are because you’re getting fat, and maybe it’s been raining too long. You’re just sad, that’s all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you’re very afraid, and you don’t know what you’re afraid of. Do you ever get that feeling?

The first time I ever heard that dialogue I was like, “YES! Yes, Holly GoLightly, I get that feeling. I know EXACTLY what you mean!”

It just occurred to me that what she is talking about is anxiety. The kind of gripping and terrifying anxiety that I face, and many other people face, on a daily basis. The kind of anxiety that stops you in your tracks and makes you forget all about whatever it is you were doing. The kind that fills your head with panicky thoughts and makes you want to hide under the covers. Suddenly you’re afraid, and you don’t know what you’re afraid of.

And the worst thing a person can say is, “There’s nothing to worry about.” God, I hate that. I want to slap people when they say that to me. I know there’s nothing to worry about. That’s why I can’t pinpoint exactly what it is that’s making me anxious, because it’s nothing. If I knew what it was, I could deal with it and move on. But that’s the ugly blackness of anxiety. You’re just anxious. No rhyme, no reason, just sweaty palms, a fluttering heart, and the feeling that something, something is about to go wrong. The mean reds.

I wish I had known 20 years ago all the things I’ve learned about my anxiety in the past year. For one thing, that I have an anxiety disorder. Because I wouldn’t have spent so many years hating myself for feeling panicky and off all the time. I’d have given myself a damn break on those days I didn’t want to leave the house, but forced myself to anyway. I would have given myself more permission to be a little irrational. I would have stood up for myself to all the “There’s nothing to worry about.” and “You’re just too sensitive.” No, shut up, I have a real disorder. This is real. Why don’t you try helping me instead?

Anxiety is a monster. And I let it run my life for way too long. It’s better now because I have a better picture of what I’m really dealing with, but I’m still not in control. I still don’t know fully how to prevent a panic attack, or really proactively deal with one when it comes. I’m still full of what ifs. They can be small, like what if I don’t have fun? What if no one talks to me? What if I leave the oven on? What if I have to pee and there’s no bathroom? Sometimes they’re big, like what if I get hurt? What if the kids get hurt? What if the house burns down? What if there’s an earthquake? What if something happens to Brien? What if we lose all of our money? What if what if what if. I can’t turn them off, they have a lot of power.

But I try. I try to get through the day, and it’s better because I’m armed with a lot more tools than I had when I was 20. But it still sucks. It sucks feeling like such a weirdo for being so worried, and it sucks feeling like your chest could explode from the worry and it sucks holding yourself back from things because you’re too afraid of all the what ifs. Anxiety is real, and it has a grip on me, and others like me, and you just can’t understand unless you live it. If you know someone (besides me) who suffers from anxiety, give them a little hug today. Tell them you’re there for them. Ask them to talk out their worries. But, please oh please oh please don’t tell them, “There’s nothing to worry about.”

 

 

“Worry is literally betting against yourself.”

Before I even had children, I was worried about how I would pay for their college education.

I’m serious.

I’ve always been a worrier. I worry about pretty much everything. Like, all the time. And, despite helpful tidbits of advice from non-worriers, such as “just stop worrying!” I still do. I can’t help it.

I’ve received a lot of help over the years for my worrying, really my anxiety, but I still tend to worry. A lot.

When I did have my first child, I was told by someone, or I read somewhere, that as a mother, “It’s your job to worry.”

But, I’m here to tell you that’s not true. It’s your job to enjoy their childhood before it’s gone. It’s your job to feed and clothe them, and provide for them. It’s your job to provide them with emotional support. But, it is not your job to worry. If you don’t worry, you’re not being a bad mother (or parent). You’re just a heck of a lot better at dealing with reality than us worriers.

Where did we get it in our heads that it was not only our responsibility to worry, but our job?! As if we were getting paid to be worried. If that were true, I’d be the richest woman on planet earth.

This is where helicopter parenting comes from: worry. Worry that they will fall down and get hurt. Even though when we fell down as children, our parents were like, “Are you bleeding? Don’t get it on the carpet.” Kids get hurt, it just happens. No amount of worrying will prevent it.

And we worry they won’t do well in school. When in reality, all kids do well in some subjects, and not so well in others, and it’s up to us to find the weaknesses and help our children in those areas. Not to accost the teacher and demand that they raise our child’s grades just because. We can help our children, but we cannot learn for them, and no amount of worrying will help us in that area either.

We worry about their health. But this too is pretty pointless. All we can do is take the proper precautionary methods, and the rest is up to the environment. We can try to shield them from germs, inoculate them against diseases, get regular check ups, watch for early signs of trouble. But, they will still get sick, regardless of our worry.

And of course we worry about providing for them. In a world where resources are growing scarce, and money isn’t always there when we need it, we worry that we can’t get what we need. But, there are resources if we really fall into trouble. All we can do is get through one day at a time, making sure we have what we need, and hoping for the best tomorrow.

Me telling someone not to worry is the very definition of the pot calling the kettle black. But I’m going to tell you anyway: stop the madness, stop worrying yourself sick. We can’t sit back and enjoy their babyhood and childhood while it’s here if we’re busy looking at what might or might not happen to them in the future. And we worry ourselves into a tailspin of negative emotions. We get so caught up in fear and worry that we start to be worried for other people’s kids too. And then it’s just too much.

Don’t let fear take over your life, especially not where your kids are concerned. Your job is to love them. That’s it, really.

worry

Trust

I worry. I’m a worrier. I mean, I WORRY. To say I kind a fret about stuff is an understatement. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been tightly wound. Very anxious. Just pretty tense, for the bulk of my existence.

It’s a problem that has come to a real climax lately in my life, and I’ve finally reached out for some help, and some relief. It’s slow going. I mean, after white-knuckling it for 36 years, the habit can be hard to break.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have a new part-time job. As it goes with most part-time positions, the schedule varies. And with school being out and all, sometimes it’s hard to finagle the whole child care thing. Sometimes my husband can be around, sometimes my sister-in-law can watch them, sometimes a fellow school parent can have a playdate. But, there are those days I need a sitter. And I’m shopping around for a regular one that we can afford.

In the meantime, I’m using one of those online services to book a sitter when I need one. Generally this has worked out well. But I always get that familiar worried gut, heart palpitating, can’t breathe feeling when I sign on to bring a stranger into our home and trust them to keep my kids safe and alive while I’m away.

The old me would have just said, “F it. I’ll just quit my job.” But, the new me, embracing life, working through my anxiety, relying on other people for help, I now say, ok let’s think about the reality of this.

On the site, you can see how many families this sitter has worked for. And how many of them really liked him/her. How many of them rehired him/her. You can choose one in your price range. You can ask the sitter questions before hiring them for the job. There have been safeguards put in place for me, I don’t need to worry about this to the extent that I am.

The other day, the sweetest most amazing gal showed up right on time (early, actually), learned my boys’ names right away and even started breaking up their brotherly-love scuffles before I’d even left the house. She was perfect. I asked her if I could hire her on as our regular, which she declined (dammit). But, it was such a relief. I went to work that afternoon walking on air, I was just so relieved that I could leave them in her care and focus on my own stuff.

I still worry like crazy when I have to leave them with anyone. But these sitters are actually better for my kids than I am. I mean, I sit at the park on my smartphone and lose Ferris half of the time. Sometimes I forget to cook them lunch until they ask for it. Some days we laze around the house instead of going to the park or the beach and blowing off some of their inexplicable energy. Sitters are great for all of that. They’re getting paid to look after your littles, and look after them they shall.

What about you? Do you get nervous about it or are you totally chill? Are you one of the types that didn’t hire a sitter until your child was like, 5? Are you a full-time working mom that relies on a nanny? I’d love to hear your childcare experiences, and if you can relate to my worrying.

Anyone Have a Pattern for a Suit Made of Bubble Wrap?

One of the hardest parts of motherhood for me is dealing with my anxiety, and trying to raise a child that’s not as anxious as me. It’s a constant struggle for me, trying to find balance between encouraging Bowie to spread his wings and try new things, and holding him back from potential dangers. And if I feel this way when he’s only 3 1/2, I don’t want to think about how difficult it will be when he’s 13 1/2.

The world is a big, wide, scary place with so many scary, scary things lurking around. But, it’s also a big, wide, beautiful, wonderful place bursting with new experiences, waiting to be had.

Kids have to go out into the world and experience life. But, they will inevitably get hurt, scared and disappointed. This is essential in the learning and growing-up process, but it’s hard for a mama to see her babies going through that. That quote that gets tossed around (and I’ve seen attributed to 3 different people, INTERNET. Ahem.) about parenthood being similar to having your heart on the outside of your body is no more true than when you talk about this. Your kid is sad, you are sad. Your kid is disappointed, you are disappointed. They hurt, you hurt. All parents know what I mean.

I know I should be nudging him forward, but my instincts, paired with my sometimes-crippling anxiety, brings out the protective mama bear in me, and I just want to be by his side, deflecting sadness and danger.

But I can’t! Not only is it impossible (we can’t possibly be everywhere at once) but it’s also not healthy. I don’t want to raise a nervous, clingy, anxious child. I really don’t want that for him.

Right now, I’m still working on finding the balance. REALLY working on it. But, the steps I’m taking are 1) letting him take more safe and calculated risks, which I know sounds like an oxymoron, but there is a way to do it; and 2) trying to teach him to think through his actions and imagine the possible consequences. He’s so young yet, but we talk through it. “If you ride your bike down the steps, what do you think might happen?”

Do you struggle with this too? What have you done to help find balance?

Turning Off the White Noise

My brain decided it was time to be awake at about 4:30 a.m. this morning. I often wake up one or two times during the night, so it wasn’t a big surprise. What really surprised me though, was how awake I was.

I tried and tried to fall back asleep, because I was still very tired physically. But I could not turn off my brain! My mind was bouncing around like a ping pong ball.

Part of this is from my famous excessive worrying problem, and it’s not the first time I haven’t been able to fall asleep because I was worried about something. But this IS the first time I couldn’t fall back asleep at 4:30 a.m. and I didn’t have a specific worry item keeping me up. Just basic worry.

I wasn’t worried about a biggie like a job interview or paying a bill or a sick kid or anything worthy of staying awake at that ungodly hour. I was worried I’d forget to thaw meat for tonight’s dinner. And had I forgotten to sweep the living room? And I wonder how I should dress Bowie for preschool today. THIS is what my mind wanted to do at 4:30 this morning.

What strategies do you use to calm the worries, shut off your brain for the night, and fall asleep (or back to sleep)?


Photo credit: mconnors from morguefile.com

Group Therapy: The Other Shoe

Some of you may remember my epic post a while back about the issues I have with worry and anxiety. And I was doing REALLY well for a while there, getting good amounts of sleep, not worrying at all about kiddo while he’s at preschool, I mean phenomenally good for me.

But, we’ve had several close friends suffer some heavy stuff lately. No details, because that’s not the point. The point of me telling you that is…I am back to my old ways of sitting around, waiting for the next bad thing to happen, which I’m always certain will happen to me.

My mind is swirling these days with worst-case-scenario junk, and I can’t for the life of me shut it off. Poor sleep, constant worrying about the kiddo, worrying about money, the future, LIFE. So worried, that I’m having trouble actually living that life that I’m so worried about.

So, basically, I’m relapsing. HOWEVER, I think I’m handling things better than I would have before. Before I read that amazing article and had a real personal transformation. I’m still a basket case some days. But not quite the basket case I would have been had I not forced myself to sit down and confront these worrying and anxiety demons.

So, that’s progress, right?

Taking a deep breath. Re-reading the article. Thanks for listening.

Group Therapy: The Worrying

I am a habitual worrier. I always have been. I’m constantly in worst-case-scenario mode, and always waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’ve struggled with this as far back as I can remember, but becoming a parent has made it engulf my very existence. And living in this modern media age where you are bombarded with reasons to worry, I am frazzled.

Everyone worries about their kids. I don’t want to make it sound like I think I care about my kid more than you care about yours, that’s not what I mean at all. What I mean is, imagine going through life where every second you are thinking something will go wrong like:

What if those strawberries are bad and make us really sick?

What if that homeless guy attacks us?

What if he darts out in front of the train at the last second?

What if someone comes in and holds up this store?

What if some wild animal comes into our yard and bites him?

What if he falls out the front window?

What if he’s ‘dry drowning’ from the water he swallowed in the bath last night?

This list could go on and on. And it’s crazy, right? I know that I sound crazy and rationally I know none of that stuff is likely to happen, but I can’t help it. My husband is often reminding me, “Just don’t worry about it.” And I wish so much it were that simple. It’s such a part of my being that I cannot control my mind and keep it from thinking those horrible thoughts. This is especially bothersome while lying in bed late at night (and my insomnia more than likely caused by my high stress level). I recently admitted to my husband that in any give situation, I take a moment to form a game plan in case anyone tries to snatch my son. (Yes, I really do that.) He was floored. I know that my level of worry is not normal, but sometimes I forget.

However, I recently read an amazing article written by Deepak Chopra for the Huffington Post that has changed how I look at the world. I am still a massive worrier, but it is getting better every day. Once in a while, I re-read the article to remind myself what I have to do. Here is the article for you to read.

He spoke to every part of my worrying. Stuff like this:

Since [worriers’] minds are filled with every conceivable risk, worriers wind up being right some of the time. They are like hoarders who never throw anything out. If one hoarded item proves useful, it justifies keeping a hundred that aren’t.

I often justify my worry to myself by thinking, in an emergency, I will be prepared. I am simply preparing myself for what might happen. But really, this kind of behavior does a lot more harm than good, as Chopra explains. And worriers end up alienating themselves from family and friends with their excessive need to control every situation and examine all the risks.

One of my other main worry issues is that I need to always expect the unexpected. Something horrible and life altering could happen at any moment. I hate when people say “live every day like it’s your last; you could go at anytime!” That kind of talk makes me lightheaded. Literally. My head spins with what could happen, and I’d just as soon never leave home again when I’m in that kind of mood. Chopra speaks to this behavior too:

Worried belief: Life is full of accidents and random bad things. I have to be on the lookout for them.

Better belief: Accidents can be prevented with useful measures like wearing a seat belt and not living in a flood zone. Once they are in place, there’s nothing more to do. By definition, unpredictable things cannot be foreseen.

That last part has been my mantra for the past week now, ever since I first read the article. It rang so true with me. There’s just no sense in worrying about the unexpected, because it is just that: unexpected. We can’t see what’s coming, and worrying about it is useless.

And the most true of all for me:

Worriers feel that they need to worry. If this need isn’t fulfilled, they fear calamity. Who will keep things in one piece if they aren’t doing the worrying that is so desperately needed?

I worry about everyone, and everything. Things that have nothing to do with me. People who are adults and fully capable of worrying about themselves. I just worry all the time about everything. Obviously, the world will not be any worse off than it already is if I stop worrying about things I have no control over. My loved ones can live their own lives without me “helping” them to worry. I need only take care of myself and help my husband and son with what they need from me, and that is all that I can do.

Reading this article, and recognizing the issues with my worry was such an eye opener. Seeing it as the obsessive and anxious behavior that it really is has motivated me to change it. It’s going to be a slow road, but it’s a necessary one. As Chopra says:

Even though worry is milder and less disabling than phobias or panic attacks, it needs to be healed if you want to find the kind of inner peace that no one can take away from you.

Worry might not be as challenging as some other panic disorders, but certainly warrants some attention if I ever want to calm down and be happy (and sleep at night!).

How are you on the scale of worry? How do you cope?

Bumps and Bruises

Lately Bowie is covered with bumps, bruises, scratches and cuts. And every single one makes me feel so guilty! Like I had something to do with it. I have to start to accept that he’s his own little person and stuff will happen to him and he will (most likely) heal back up and be fine.

But, if he’s this rough and tumble now, what’s to become of him when he’s a bigger boy, trying newer and scarier things? I recall my brother having stitches 3 times before he turned 8. If he had been the first child and not the third, I’m sure my mother would be in a padded cell to this day.

I have a friend with a child a few years older than Bowie who recently fell at the park, hit his forehead on a cement embankment and cut it open to the tune of 100 stitches. The grisly pictures were of course posted to Facebook, and it has me a bit worried about how I would react to a situation like that with Bowie.

I’m sure I’d faint at the site of the blood. Then, when I came to, I’d more than likely vomit at the site of the blood. Then, I would freak out for a few minutes, just running around yelling, “OH MY GOOD GOD!” before finally having the wherewithal to dial 911.

And may the good lord help me if he decides to become a rodeo cowboy or a BMX racer or a crocodile hunter or a sword swallower or something. That would put me in my own padded cell for sure.

The New Sitter

Last night was the first time Bowie’s babysitter was not either my sister-in-law or some parent from the park that he knows really well. We met the gal last week, she works at an indoor play space, so we went and played for an hour or so. He was really shy that day, and kind of shy last night but he seemed more at ease.

I was freaking out the whole week leading up to it, and while I was super excited for a night out with my husband and friends, I was NOT super excited about leaving Bowie with someone he didn’t know very well.

It’s not at all that I don’t trust people, I do. And this girl was definitely trustworthy. The best way I could explain it to my friends was, there’s a million funny little quirky things about your kid. And for some reason, you feel like you have to remember all those things at once and tell them all to the caregiver. Even though some of them are so insignificant, you yourself tend to forget them sometimes. And others, like he needs his diaper changed when he poos or he’ll get a terrible rash. Like, duh. I’m pretty sure any sitter would do a diaper change at the first whiff of poo.

So, at some point you have to say to yourself, “Self, just let it go”. Any and all things about your kid will be one of three things:

1. a complete non-issue.

2. figured out by the caregiver.

3. maybe worthy of a quick phone call if they can’t figure it out.

Now that we’ve survived the ordeal, my life is completely changed. There’s going to be so much more we can do now that we’re not solely relying on family and close friends. Such as, going out with said family and close friends. This is going to be AWESOME.