To My Family, From an Anxious Mom

Author’s note: This was written while going through an anxiety attack.

To my husband from your anxious wife,

I’m sorry I can’t be the partner you need me to be, or at least the partner I think you need me to be.

I’m sorry I’ve been dropping the parenting ball quite a bit lately. With our son getting older and more defiant, my anxiety compares the battles we have to those the gladiators fought in ancient Rome.

You’re different. You’re pragmatic and realistic. You take the bull by the horns where I somehow detour from the plan. It’s a match between a stubborn and strong-willed child and a pushover and anxious mom. The battles have been causing my anxiety to pique more frequently and lately, it’s just been too much for me to handle.

I always thought I’d be the tougher one — the stricter one. But it turns out I was wrong. I had no idea what I was getting myself into and what was in store for me. I thought I had all the answers and when I started noticing that parenting is a lot harder than I assumed it would be, I started shrinking away. I started passing you the puck every time things got too hard to handle. I’ll admit I’m a bit too overeager to negotiate with our kid if it means avoiding a fight. But not you. You are on the opposite side of the field. You’re not emotional and susceptible like I am. You don’t feed off of other people’s emotions the way I do, like a storm blasting through a calm space. Our differences in parenting show their colors when we go through a tantrum and that has been causing some tension.

To my son from your anxious mom,

I’m sorry you had to see me that way, shriveled in the corner of the dark closet while crying my eyes out into my housecoat.

I’m sorry that it looks like I’m hiding from you, because that’s exactly what I’m doing. I don’t want you to see me this way — weak and powerless. I wish I wouldn’t disappear while you’re going through a hard time, but I promise the times I do take off, it’s because I really have to.

I’m sorry I can’t comfort you when you need it because I’m not well enough. I need to calm myself down first. When mommy gets too overwhelmed, she doesn’t feel good and there’s nothing she can do for you. Those times break my heart and my guilt and anxiety stir up a harmful concoction. It makes things more complicated and I need to separate myself from everyone and practice my breathing so I can come back to you.

You’re such a wide-eyed and mischievous little boy. You’re so much fun to be around. But you are also more stubborn than I could ever imagine a small child your age could be. Sometimes I just can’t take another fight. When I give in to your demands, I am not helping you grow or learn to self-regulate. I’m guilty of holding you back. I do it for a purely selfish reason. You won’t love me any less if I don’t give you the cookies you are claiming you need to stay alive. You won’t hate me until the end of days because I turned off the television after I told you I was going to after this last episode.

To my family,

I’m sorry that all these things happen when I’m sick, but I’m not sorry for being sick. This is me. This is who I have been for a long time now. I will continue to work on my own self-regulation techniques while I do hope that you will work on your understanding of my illnesses. Together I’m sure we can muster up some ways to make things a little easier on all of us.

We are team and I’m not going anywhere.

Getty Images photo via kjekol

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