Regular thoughts vs. Anxiety Thoughts

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Me. Worrying.

Sometimes my mind plays tricks on me. Well, “tricks” makes it sound kind of fun and playful. These tricks are neither fun nor playful. Hmm, maybe “my mind” isn’t the best phrase either. Let me start over.

Sometimes my brain chemicals try to screw me over.

The same things happen to me on good days as do on bad days. No matter how good or bad my brain chemistry is acting, I still have to make the same amount of meals, wipe the same amount of bums, and hear the same amount of chaos. The difference is whether or not I can handle those things.

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Me. Hiding.

Some days, I can calmly look around and survey the damage and prioritize my responsibilities. Other days, I look around at my life and I … feel like when I’m swimming and I think the bottom of the lake is right there, but then my toes realize that I can’t touch the bottom and I panic and tread water even though I know I know how to swim.

And then, I shut down. Zombie mommy takes over. I don’t know what to do about anything and I slowly lose the ability to do anything. I lose the ability to prioritize. Everything seems huge and every attempt on my part seems inadequate or even just wrong. On a “good” day, I might look back and wonder why on earth I couldn’t handle that stupid little event/ responsibility / feeling/ chore/ request.

Here is how my brain handles things on good days versus bad days…

The houseplant needs water.                                                            
Regular thought: Where did I put that watering can? Which kid will help me water this plant?
Anxiety thought: I kind of like watching this plant die.

My kids go to their rooms for their regularly scheduled “quiet time”.
Regular thought: These kids really benefit from quiet time. We all need a break.
Anxiety thought: Shouldn’t I be doing some cute craft with them or something? I shouldn’t need a break from my own children.

I see a book on the floor that I had promised to read to them but didn’t.
Regular thought: Oh, I better remember to read that to them tomorrow!
Anxiety thought: I am the worst mother ever. How could I promise something and not follow through? These kids will never keep trusting me if I don’t mean what I say.

I am late to something.
Regular thought: Ugh, I tried hard. Oh well, people understand that I have potty-training twins and can’t always be on time.
Anxiety thought: I am never on time. Everyone else manages to be on time, no matter how many kids they have. What is wrong with me?

There are piles of laundry on the couch.
Regular thought: I can’t believe how much mud and pollen three small boys can get into in the spring!  Let’s get this folding started. It won’t be so bad in the summer time.
Anxiety thought: There is no point. Laundry never ever ends. Other moms can handle their laundry with bigger families than mine. What is my excuse? I can’t even look at this pile.

I need to start making dinner.
Regular thought: Let me consult my meal planner on the wall to remember what I am making tonight. Ok, I need to start that in ten minutes.
Anxiety thought: Everyone is going to need me while I’m making dinner. It’s so impossible. They won’t even want to eat what I planned anyway. Why do I bother?

My husband calls and says he will be late coming home from work tonight.
Regular thought: Ugh, not again. Ok, let’s get this over with.
Anxiety thought: I will be doing this alone forever. I can’t handle this. I can’t handle them.

I have a whole lot of emails/ texts/ messages/ calls to respond to.
Regular thought: Well, people understand that I have twins. I’ll get to them sooner or later.
Anxiety thought: People make time for me, yet I can’t seem to make time for them. I am a really bad friend. I am going to lose the friends I’ve got.

Everyone is crying at the same time.
Regular thought: Let me see who has the most serious need and handle him first.
Anxiety thought: I don’t know what to do. I want to hide in the bathroom.

The house is a mess.
Regular thought: Well, I have three small boys! What do I expect it will look like? It’s not like I have a cleaning crew. I’ll clean it when they go to kindergarten.
Anxiety thought: I am a failure.

Even on a bad day, I know I can’t believe the anxiety thoughts. But it’s so hard. I know I shouldn’t listen to that crap. I know it’s not real. These “tricks” are all so new to me. I can’t believe how much effort it takes to both hear them and not to listen to them. On a good day, I just handle it. Handle it and move on.

Besides my migraines, anxiety has absolutely been my biggest challenge to my parenting. Sometimes I imagine what kind of mother I could be without anxiety or migraines strangling me. I can’t decide if thinking like that makes me feel better or worse.

Yes, what I do is really really hard. I am not sure that anyone in my situation would be able to do any better. At least, that’s what I have to tell myself. Having three small children, one of them with special needs, a couple of them potty training, and all of them very very dependent on me, would take a toll on anyone. Right?

It makes me really sad to read what I have written – to put this stuff in words. But I usually can’t heal from something until I write it down. I think better when I write. Let’s just hope I can learn to think better during the bad days, too.

I Went Away With a Girlfriend for Two Nights So I Wouldn’t Crack

I went away with a girlfriend for two nights. My husband insisted. I had been going through a really rough time, due to anxiety problems combined with some truly evil migraine medication side effects combined with potty training. He knew I was about to break. He told me, “You need to call your friend and ask her to go away with you. Right now. If you don’t call her, I will.” She is also a mother of three-year-old twins, so she heard the desperation in my voice text, and scheduled a beach weekend with me right away. Her husband must be as smart as my husband.

In order to make it to my weekend away, I had to sludge through my husband’s six-night business trip first. It was such a huge strain on my body and mind that I could barely even look forward to my beach weekend. I survived, but potty training didn’t.

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I did force my friend to do this with me and she will never forgive me.

When my friend and I told our strength-training instructor that we would be going away to the beach, he got a sparkle in his eye and said something about us “going out” and blah blah. We looked at each other and laughed. Sleep. Lots of sleep. And maybe a couple long walks on the beach. (Oh, and somehow I would force my friend to do one of those old-timey dress up photos with me, but that would be pushing it.) Our trainer, a man with no children, had no idea what we were really looking forward to. Sleeping through the night. Deciding when we wanted to go to the bathroom. Eating a whole meal without witnessing anything gross enough to make us stop eating. Eating a whole meal without getting up. Not having anyone demand anything of us. Not dealing with anyone else’s poop besides our own. Not having anyone ask us 900 questions a day. (Not exaggerating: the average three-year-old asks upward of 400 questions a day. Times two for us. It’s science.)

It was finally time to leave. My kids, ages 6, 3, and 3, are finally old enough to basically say, “Don’t let the door hit you in the a$$ on the way out” when I leave. A year or two ago, we were still in the cling-to-my-legs stage. Sometimes they seem better off without me. I know that is the anxiety talking, and it’s not really true. But they fight less when they aren’t around me. They potty train properly for my husband. My husband can keep the house in order. Sometimes it seems that I shouldn’t be here. Anyway, I was so emotionally drained by the week of single parenting prior to our departure that I sagged into my friend’s car with not quite as much enthusiasm as I had imagined I would have. I wanted to weep, but more from exhaustion rather than from sorrow at leaving the kids or from joy at leaving the kids.

As the house got further and further behind us, we realized it was so much … easier… to talk to each other without four three-year-olds talking to us at the same time. Wow. Imagine that. We were able to finish thoughts and sentences. Have a real back and forth like normal people. It was so… easy. And not once did I turn around and strain my neck looking into the back seat!

We arrived at our hotel and both of us had to take Benadryl. It’s been so long since we slept through the night that we know we can’t actually sleep through the night anymore. The body is a cruel mistress.

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My first time alone in a hotel room. Age 36.

I had never slept in a hotel room alone before. Since I married at age 22, I can’t remember a time that my parents or my husband weren’t with me in a hotel room. (I did go to college and also studied abroad in Italy, but I always had roommates!) It was weird and scary and intimidating. And yeah, kinda nice.

We did all the usual things that you would expect Mormon moms to do at the beach in the cold springtime: walk around, sleep in, eat at cheap restaurants, look at dolphins, not drink, and maybe make fun of the cheerleading competition that was in town. It wasn’t life-altering. But it was good. Very very good.

I was surprised that I couldn’t make myself call home.

I was also surprised that I never did relax. How many days would it have taken?

I was also surprised that when I came home, I discovered that my kids are the cutest things in the whole world. Those little voices? Those chubby legs? Those giggles? Those fat arms around my neck? Are you kidding me?! Beautiful.

It lasted about an hour. Then they were the same old kids.

I need to go away again.

 

Also, this is a non sequitur, but this sign made me laugh every time I got on the elevator.

Also, this is a non sequitur, but this sign made me laugh every time I got on the elevator.