Tag Archives: motherhood

What Social Anxiety Feels Like: “The Grocery Store”

I lie face down on a sunny patch on John’s man room carpet.  I massage my forehead, to try to relieve the dull ache.  Dora The Explorer plays upstairs, as Megan enjoys her quiet time. Over the baby monitor, I hear Tara roll over and sigh dreamily.

My whole body hurts, as if I’m coming down with the flu. I’m so tired of feeling like this, I really need to call the doctor about adjusting my medication.  I’ve been telling myself this for weeks now. Maybe on Monday I will be brave and actually call.

“So are you ready to go?” John crouches down and rubs my back. I blink back tears. He doesn’t notice.

“Yep.” As I struggle to my feet, my thoughts flash from a facebook “some cards” joke (Motherhood: when a trip to the grocery store alone is like going on vacation.) to a vision of stabbing myself in the stomach. I am so incredibly weak, and so pathetically selfish. (What is wrong with you? You have two beautiful daughters, a loving husband. You better start enjoying them, start enjoying life, or something is going to happen to take it all away. Grave illness. Car accident. Divorce. And you will deserve it.)

I slip into my coat, put my hands in my pockets, grip my hand sanitizers. One for each hand. They give me a brief moment of comfort.

“Have fun,” John chuckles and kisses my cheek.

“Thanks,” I manage a smile, and head out into blinding white.

In the car I turn the music on full blast, because after all, I can. I sing along. I take deep breaths. I mutter a few prayers that the girls will be safe while I’m gone.

As I drive into the parking lot, my stomach sinks and my heart starts beating faster.  I feel angry, and at the same time I feel guilty for feeling angry. Saturday. Far too many people here. I contemplate going right back home, but I cant. We need food, damn it.

I speed walk into the store. I try to breathe slowly, to relieve my increasing dizziness. As I frantically manoeuvre my cart through the produce section, flashing polite/ apologetic smiles at the other shoppers, I realize I am much better off when I bring the girls with me.  They help me stay focused. They help me see through the fog that now clouds my brain.  They give me someone to talk to. They make me brave. Right now, I am scared. Scared I will run into someone with my cart. Scared the women with highlighted hair and stylish boots look down upon my Joe Fresh jogging pants. Scared I will catch a disease from opening fridge doors.  Scared everyone can tell I feel like I’m going to pass out.

As  I race for the aisle with the laundry detergent, I long for my precious daughters to be here with me.  Saying hi to the old ladies and making them smile. Dropping stuff on the floor. I wish I could breathe in the scent of baby shampoo from their hair, kiss their foreheads. Ironically, this would be for my own reassurance.

Mercifully, I make it to the checkout line without losing consciousness. I take some deep breaths, silently say a few prayers for protection against the grocery store germs as I wait.

A pretty blond woman and her two teenage sons are waiting in line behind me. They see someone they know the next line over and start chatting. Everyone else around us who waits seems impatient, or perhaps it is just me.

My turn comes. I catch my breath as the service clerk who helps bag the groceries goes on break before helping me.  There are a lot of people waiting behind me. I must get my groceries bagged. Fast. My hands tremble. My armpits sweat. The cashier starts helping me bag the groceries, and for some reason this embarrasses me. The pretty blond lady and her sons, preoccupied by their conversation, have advanced too far in line, and block the interac machine. One of the teenage sons hovers over me as I clumsily stuff groceries into bags. I am on the verge of panicking.

I awkwardly ask ask the mother with twins to back up so I can pay. I’m so dizzy, it’s as if I am drunk.

“Hey, no problem at all. It’s all good.” The teenage boy who had been hovering gives me a sincere smile. He’s a lovely young man, and he’s my undoing. I stare through my tears at the pin pad.  It takes an eternity for the payment to go through.  I want to smile at the pretty blond woman and her sons as I leave, but I fear my tears will overflow. I look down, and briskly push my cart away.

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Thank you for reading.

Be Brave, and Talk

It’s Okay

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Gasp! What? You’re not happy today?
Well, fear not, because there is an abundance of happiness advice readily available in this day and age of social media. There are articles, like “12 Things Happy Moms Don’t do”, and ” 7 Habits of Happy People”, and plenty of quotes to inspire you.

“Happiness depends upon ourselves.” -Aristotle

“You can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will. ” -L.M Montgomery

“Most people are as happy as they make up their minds to be.” -Abraham Lincoln

So, you see? Feeling happy is under your control. Just be a little more positive, and you’ll feel fine in no time. Right?

You stare at the ceiling, feeling numb. Thoughts that seem miles away float haphazardly around your mind.

I’ve got to get up.
The kitchen is a disaster.
The kids are still in their pyjamas, what kind of mother am I?
Come on! Get up!
“happiness depends upon ourselves”
Well, I guess I am choosing to be unhappy. I am a negative, pathetic person.
I just want to sleep.
Get up, you lazy piece of garbage!
No, no. I’m not garbage.
I’m a good mom.
I can do this.
I’m so tired.
I need some Tylenol. My head hurts.
Happiness depends on you! What’s the matter with you?

You roll over, lie face down and notice your carpet needs vacuuming. This thought pulls at the ever tightening knot in your stomach. A pang of dread mixed with fear turns your hands to ice cubes, and gives you the motivation to stand up. The clock reads 10:00a.m.

If you can manage to be heading to the park by 10:30 a.m, it might not be too hot yet. You and the girls might still have fun. Your parenting might still fall within acceptable range, if you make it out the door by 10:30 a.m.

You bribe the girls with gummy vitamins to get their pjs off as fast as they can, and frantically clean the kitchen.

By 10:27 am you’ve cleaned, dressed kids and ushered them to the front door. As your older daughter struggles with her sandals, you realize you’ve forgotten the sunscreen. Racing to fetch it from the washroom, you catch a glimpse of the clock. 10:31 a.m. You run back to your girls, throw all the shoes they’ve messed up back on the shoe mat, slather on the sunscreen a bit too thickly, and bite back the urge to yell as you tell your children to walk out the door. You brush aside a nagging thought that you are being insane, and hurry the girls to their stroller. Then, it’s the buckles. They get you every time. Your head spins, and it’s almost like you can’t see enough to do them up efficiently. You pull and nudge and struggle, and wonder why this seems like the hardest thing in the world to do.

Finally, you’re off. You sweat as you push the stroller uphill. The heat of the sun on your face irritates you, even though you normally love sunbathing. You stop and pick flowers for your girls. Yesterday, seeing the look of joy on their sweet faces as they examined, sniffed and got excited over simple, pretty flowers was deeply satisfying to you. Today, it feels like going through the motions.

Yesterday, you saw a cardinal perched just above you in a fragrant, blooming cherry tree. You were moved by the beauty of nature as you pointed him out to your amazed little girls.

Today, you hear one singing in the distance, but you just don’t have the energy to look for him. The sweat on the back of your neck makes you itchy, and irritated. You want this park excursion to be over. You feel uncomfortable, anxious, and in the background, guilty.

Yesterday though, things were different. Yesterday you laughed and chased your daughters around the park. Today, you’ll be counting the minutes until it is time to leave. You can try with all of your might to get the magic back from yesterday, but it’s gone. For now. The best you can do is hope it will return tomorrow.

Even in the depths of despair that is depression, I think it is possible to find hope. Choosing to be happy though? I really do not believe it’s that simple. And really, that is OKAY. The message that it’s okay is a message that those with mental illness desperately need to hear. It’s okay. It’s not your fault. Have hope, and tomorrow might just be the most beautiful day ever.

“He who has experienced the deepest sorrow is best able to experience extreme happiness.” Alexandre Dumas

Thanks for reading!