Anxiety Is Taking Care of My Child Today
I took my kid to the park today. No big deal, right? We’ve been doing this since she could walk. She’s even taken quite a few spills, like falling 5 feet off a rock wall and landing directly on her back with a loud thud. She was remarkably unscathed, and continued playing after a quick hug. I think I was more hurt than she was, and I didn’t even fall. She’s collided with strangers, been pushed and scraped her knees countless times. Nevertheless, she persists, and we visit the park over and over again.
I took my kid to the park today. It’s a beautiful, sunny day where we live. It’s really windy, a little chilly, but definitely better than the cold and rainy weather we had just a few days ago. I decided an afternoon at the park was well deserved, so we buckled up, and headed to the one park I figured would be empty. That should have been a warning sign. Why was my mind searching for empty? I drove to the first park and saw a young man sitting on a bench next to the park. I felt panic rising in my throat, and I contemplated turning around. Instead, we got out and headed to the playground. There was a mother there with her two children. I was filled with dread. I got lucky though because all of the slides were still wet, and since it was a small park, it left little to do. I suggested driving to a different one, and she readily agreed. The next park was empty. Perfect. But again, why was my brain searching for solitude? Quiet? Oh well, go play.
I took my kid to the park today. While she played, I imagined every scenario that could possibly happen to cause her extreme harm. I hovered more than usual. “Be careful.” “Don’t run.” “Please don’t do that.” “Are you sure you want to climb up there? It’s really high.” My fear was only escalated by her slipping and falling several times. She crossed a bridge and slipped, and in her fall, she almost slid off the bridge itself. The chances of that happening were slim, but I saw it happen anyway, and my stomach jumped. “Slow down.” My heart was beating so fast. My palms were starting to sweat, even though my arms were cold from the wind. I felt nauseous.
She continues playing. She slips again while climbing a slide. “Are you OK? Let’s not do that again. Let me help.” She almost fell off the side of the slide. She did fall off. No, she didn’t. She didn’t. It was my imagination. She keeps playing. She wants to play hide and seek. OK. The park is empty, we’ll be fine. You hide first. “One…two…opens eyes…three…” Do I really need to count to 10? Can I pretend? I need to keep my eyes on her. It only takes two seconds to kidnap a child. “10. Ready or not, here I come.” I pretend I can’t see her sitting in the tunnel, and jokingly look around. Found you. Now it’s my turn. I don’t hide. I sit on a step and wait for her to finish counting. She also pretends she can’t see me. It’s cute.
Why am I shaking? It isn’t that cold. My stomach hurts. I need to go home. She found me. She wants to run around. Chase me mommy. She slips, but doesn’t fall. She fell and knocked a tooth out. She broke her arm. Mommy, I bet you can’t get me. I don’t run. I walk slowly and pretend to chase her. My brain is foggy. I can’t shut it down. I’m actively panicking. The world is exploding around me. Five more minutes. I hear tires screech on the main road. I’m shaking.
Anxiety took my kid to the park today. It created false realities that never happened, but it didn’t matter that they were fake, because I believed them. I saw them. I felt them. I had to come home and lay down because anxiety took my kid to the park today. We’ve been home for two hours now and my stomach still hurts. My body feels drained and exhausted. My hands are numb. She’s safe. We’re home.
Anxiety took my kid to the park today. Nothing bad happened. I still feel panicked. Something is wrong. The world is off today. Dread. Dread. Dread. These feelings will likely last until well into tomorrow. I won’t sleep because I’ll be up watching her breathing. I’ll be worrying about the incessant cough she has, even though I know the inhaler eases it, and all she needs is a couple puffs to stop. It’s not just a cough. It’s something more. It’s not. I know it’s not. I know how to ease it. I know she’ll go back to playing. I know she’ll fall back asleep. I know she’s OK.
Anxiety is taking care of my child today. I’ll hover a little more. I’ll ask her not to run. I’ll cut her dinner a bit smaller. I’ll ask her to sit and relax when she starts coughing. I’ll clean her a little longer tonight. I’ll sit in her room while she sleeps instead of going right to bed myself. I’ll worry. I’ll worry. I’ll worry.
I took my kid to the park today. I take care of my child everyday. I am her mother. I know what’s best. Anxiety does not control me.
Stop. Breathe. Get her a drink of water. Fight the panic. Breathe. Breathe.
Tomorrow will be better. Tomorrow I will be better.
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Thinkstock photo via Melpomenem.