A Mother’s Perspective…
My Failure to Relax
* This is our second contribution from Melissa, a Mom of two, dealing with her own anxiety as well as her children’s challenges. She is sharing her story to help others understand what it’s like to live and parent with mental illness.
It’s summer, my kids are away at camp, and I should be carefree... relaxed... having the time of my life. At least that’s what everyone tells me, and I’m trying. I’m really trying, but, quite honestly, I think I’m failing. It all came crashing down on me as we left on a long-awaited vacation and my anxiety really took control.
In recent weeks, I’ve taken advantage of most of my strategies to manage my mental illness. I’ve kept up my therapy and my meds. I’ve done yoga. I’ve walked with friends and talked with friends. I went out. I stayed home. I went to movies, dinners, and a party. I’ve volunteered, attended a professional conference, stepped up my networking, and completed some work projects.
I have squeezed every second out of every day, yet as my husband and I headed out of town, I was frantically attending to all of my “to dos.” While walking through the airport, I was emailing and downloading. Once we sat down at the gate, I still had not crossed off everything that was on my list. Then, I hit the proverbial wall. In this case, it was a technological wall. I got locked out of a website I was using for work. I could feel my blood begin to boil. Ooh... I was so mad. I sat with jaw clenched while we waited for our flight which, by the way, was more than three hours delayed. (That didn’t help my anxiety.)
By the time we boarded the plane, in a moment that should have been filled with happiness and excitement, I felt so overwhelmed and exhausted that I started to cry.
I thought I was managing my anxiety, but maybe I’ve just been avoiding it? In a year that’s been filled with non-stop challenges, I have powered through every moment telling myself and everyone around me that I’m good. I can handle it. I don’t need anything. It’s no big deal. I’m fine. I clean up the mess - emotional or literal - and I move on to the next thing thinking eventually things will slow down, and I’ll get a break.
Well, now I have a break, and I’ve replaced the pressures of parenting with the pressures of a break from parenting. I’ve been running at a break-neck pace to take advantage of this time by filling it with everything that I need and want to do... making sure I have a laundry list of accomplishments to show for myself. My anxious brain is telling me to keep up the Energizer Bunny routine, lest the kids come home, and I haven’t cleaned every corner of their rooms.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining that my kids are at camp, and I’m going on vacation. I’m simply wishing I could enjoy it more, but anyone with anxiety knows it’s not that easy. And that just stirs up more distress: how embarrassing to struggle to enjoy the good things in life. And isn’t that the heart of living with a mental illness?
P.S. I did manage to relax while on vacation. I let go of my “to dos” and my “shoulds” and just existed in each moment as much as I could. It all paid off on our way home when it appeared our luggage might not make the flight. Rather than panic with worry and aggravation, I thought to myself, oh well... the dirty laundry will get washed whenever it arrives.
Melissa is a married mother of two, dealing with her own anxiety as well as her children’s challenges. She is sharing her story to help others understand what it’s like to live and parent with mental illness.