What I Need My Children to Know About My Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
To my children, from your mother with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD),
Each night, I lie on the floor of your room, arms stretched out to hold one of each of your hands while you fall asleep. I lie awake listening to the sounds of your soft breathing and think of all the ways I screwed up that day.
I got angry and yelled because you spilled water on the floor.
I snapped at you because you took too long to get into your car seat.
I didn’t have the energy to make dinner so we had fast food again.
I forgot to wash your favorite shirt which is now buried in a large pile of dirty clothes.
I declined another invitation to a birthday party.
I refused to hug you.
I locked myself in the bathroom so you wouldn’t see me cry again.
You see, my sweet innocent children, Mommy has a mental illness that plagues her daily. It’s called generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD. It causes me to worry about nothing, to feel everything and to lose control of my emotions regularly. I feel my anxiety build up inside me like storm clouds forming in the sky. My outbursts of rage are the thunder and lightning releasing from the storm that rumbles inside me. You fear monsters in the closet or under your bed; Mommy fears the monsters in her mind. GAD causes Mommy physical pain too. That’s why I couldn’t carry you up the stairs, because a full day of clenching my body from stress causes my muscles to seize at night. I want to hold you both in my arms and carry you like the babies I still see you as, but my anxiety makes my skin crawl from too much physical contact. It feels like ants crawling all over me and biting my skin.
Mommy wasn’t always sick. I used to be a happy person. I used to be the girl people called for spur-of-the-moment road trips. For after-work drinks, or the person to make them laugh. But I’m not that girl anymore.
Now, stepping outside of the home causes my mind to spin. My anxiety tells me of all the wrong in the world. How can I take you to school after another report of a school shooting? How can I drive in my car after hearing about another accident on the road? What if your school is next? What if our car is the next accident to make the news? My anxiety tells me the monsters in my head are right. You would be safer at home. My monsters tell me you would be happier without me. You would be happier with a mommy who could enjoy life and not fear it.
I want you to know I love you. I try to do better, to be better, every day. I want to be the mommy you deserve. I want you to look at me and think of happiness and smiles, not tears and yelling. My hope, children, is that this illness won’t control me the rest of my life. That you will get the gal who takes spontaneous trips. You will get the mommy who takes you to every birthday party without fear of another anxiety attack. You will get the mommy who doesn’t have to be medicated to function.
You are beautiful, bright, strong children. You are my greatest accomplishment. I see so much hope for the future in your eyes. And every night, as I hold your tiny hands until you fall asleep, I fight the monsters in your closet and in my head.
A version of this article was originally published on hellominder.com
Photo by Benjamin Manley on Unsplash