“Mom,todays my birthday party. I’m so excited”.
My son is turning six years old and this is the year he is totally into his birthday party.The first time he will have a few of his friends there, first time he is excited about the cake and gifts.He totally gets it. And it’s so sweet to see. His joy is still so pure and innocent. I love creating and giving him these memories to carry with him throughout his life.
But on the inside I’m ridden with anxiety. What is supposed to be a fun event to plan and be a part of, is somewhat of a nightmare come true for me. The over thinking wheel is in motion and the thoughts keep flowing.
“Is there enough food”?
“Will people come”?
“Will the weather cooperate”?
“What can I wear, that I wont look like a huge blob “?
The anxiety after the party is even worse. It becomes physically uncomfortable. I become irritable, agitated, heart is racing and I’m on the verge of tears. I just want to hide. I just want to get home.The thoughts won’t stop. The over thinking is in full gear. I second guess everything and analyze things to death.I can’t even stand myself. I feel bad about things that may have not even happened.But in my warped reality they did.
“Were people glad they came”?
“Did they like the food”?
“Did I come across rude or was I short with someone”?
“Did they even want to be there”?
“Did I look 5,000 pounds”?
“I feel bad I couldn’t visit with everyone as long as I wanted”.
JUST MAKE IT STOP.
As much as I love celebrating my favorite person in the whole world, the social aspect of it, is an internal battle for me. All my insecurities and fears flood my mind all at once and simple thoughts grow into irrational ones. It takes all my energy to not have a total break down.
Even as a young child I distinctly remember telling my Mom I didn’t want anymore birthday parties. It was too much for me. Watching my Mother plan my party stressed me out and had me worrying for her and my future guests. If you have a child that suffers from anxiety, you need check out these books.
But every year I have and will push through these feelings because I love my son. He deserves to be celebrated. He has been the biggest gift this world has given me. And there is no way I will allow my struggle with anxiety take time and memories away from him or me. I have been to therapy for this and know how to cope with these feelings. But sometimes human instinct kicks in and takes its course. And the coping goes out the window for that moment.
Perhaps a lot of what I’m saying sounds familiar. And you have similar struggles. So allow me to reassure you that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. These overwhelming feelings are only temporary and do not define you as a person. The struggle is real but it does not have to be your everyday life.It really is about learning to cope and manage your symptoms.
So how do I cope ?
Breathe. Yes you need to breathe and focus on it. In through your nose and out through your mouth. Get the oxygen flowing. Sounds so simple, right? But sometimes when I first try to focus to do this,I notice I have been literally holding my breath without realizing it. So start with focusing on your breath.
Time out. Sometimes I need to just step away from the situation. If it is getting to peopley , I will usually find a quiet nook to take a breather in. I use that time to self reflect and ask myself ” what are the facts, what is happening right now “etc…Helps me refocus, reassure myself and reset.
Plan. I avoid situations that I know will trigger my anxiety as much as possible. Until a few years ago you wouldn’t even catch me at a movie theatre .Than they created this thing known as online reserved seating and that opened a whole new world for me. That amazing invention removed the stress of getting there early enough, picking seats etc… Very rarely will you catch me at a theme park, carnival, busy boardwalk or an event that I know will just be a madhouse. I have my son experience those things on special outings with his grandparents, friends and other relatives. Saves me the stress and gives special traditions for my son and his extended family.
Learn to say no. It’s not a dirty word. I admit I am a recovering people pleaser. I use to say yes to everything. Yes to every invite, request,opportunity etc…Even if I didn’t want too, the idea of saying no to someone just made me feel bad.Many times anxiety is caused when someone is trying to people please.We want to be good enough, not disappoint, make someone happy. In doing that we stop living a life that makes ourselves happy. And in turn resentment grows and anxiety rises. So know that it’s ok to say no. Your happiness needs to be valued. Be assertive, set boundaries and know that it’s ok. People who truly love and care for you will understand and think nothing of it. With practice ,saying no will come easier and naturally.
Talk to someone. If you have never seen a therapist or talked to a doctor about this you absolutely should. It truly does wonders to give yourself that time and self-care. Having a professional hear you, validate you and give you perspective is worth its weight in gold. And you are worth that.