i can't tell you how happy i am to finally be sharing this series! it's often so frightening opening up, especially about stuff like this, but these are a few tips that have taken me a long time to learn but ultimately have really helped with the entire process! (especially #3)
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1. be honest with the people who matter
although many times my anxiety coincides with stressful situations in life, there are equally as many (or more) times there’s a disconnect between how i’m feeling and what’s going on. i’ve found it helpful to be honest when friends or family ask me how i’m doing. i’ve explained that even when our lives are relatively low-stress, i can still have a hard time managing my anxiety. more often than not, it opens up a great dialogue and lets me highlight an often misunderstood aspect of my disorder.
2. be kind to your anxiety
i always remind my kids that although you don’t have to like everyone you meet, you do always have to try to be nice. truth is, i would’ve benefited from using a bit of that wisdom sooner when it came to my anxiety. i’ve spent a long time separating myself from my disorder and being cruel to it. harsh thoughts grounded in judgment and detachment were littered throughout my most challenging times. what i really needed to do was be more tolerant and patient with not only my anxiety, but with myself. i don’t like my anxiety disorder, but i’m trying to treat it a little better now that i’m a mother. with my children always at the forefront of my mind, i’ve changed my inner and outer dialogue to be softer and more loving in my darkest moments. i want to be a strong role model of self-acceptance for my kids, and what better way than with something i struggle with every single day.
3. don’t get caught up if people don’t understand what you’re going through
connect more and try not to get caught up in others not knowing exactly what it feels like to live with anxiety. the truth is that they won’t ever know just how you’re feeling and it can be overwhelmingly isolating to dwell on points of separation. working towards releasing the need to compare & contrast myself against others in my circle let me better accept empathetic feelings that were being lovingly sent my way. though anxiety as a disorder can be vast and personal, there are always certain aspects and feelings that all of us experience in universal realm of human emotions. i’ve found that open dialogue about how the depths and ability to manage our spectrum of emotions can be undoubtably different, that i’m none the less grateful at how my friends and family are trying to be there for me through points of connection.
4. stop apologizing
they say a great way to measure your depth of understanding of a given concept is to explain it simply and effectively to another person. i’ve found that sharing the truths of my life with my husband, especially on the topic of my anxiety disorder, has given us both the opportunity to better support each other. whether it’s a friend, a family member, a spouse or an acquittance with whom you feel a connection, instead of apologizing, explain how your anxiety works. it will deepen your relationship and empower you both to work together to better manage a disorder that can often times be far too much to face alone.
5. be as open as possible with your children
as a woman and now as a mother, i’ve been taught that no matter how i’m feeling on the inside, i’m expected to keep a cheery and stable disposition on the outside, especially around my kids. i’ve spent a long time considering this widely accepted notion, and have since adopted a new mindset about how truthful to be with my immediate family and children. if i’m going to advocate for the destigmatization of mental health, it has to start at home. with age-appropriate terminology, conceptual language that speaks to their developmental stage and an open mind, i’ve found my children’s ability to understand and accept the challenges of others have expanded exponentially when I’m open about my challenges.
i feel proud to be a mother who is living with, and actively using, my challenges to teach my children about anxiety disorders. i hope that with my help, they’ll have the tools to not only to be more empathetic and supportive of others who may face similar challenges, but they’ll also be better equipped to identify mental health issues within themselves and, without any fear or shame, seek help.