Millions of people suffer from anxiety, and I am one of them. I recently started therapy because the severity of my anxiety and depression has sent my life into a downward spiral. My medications are no longer enough on their own. Negative thoughts consume my mind daily, and trialing emotions, such as anger and guilt, regularly cloud my conscious. The guilt, though; the guilt wreaks havoc on my inner peace every day. “I am not a good mom because I struggle so much with my mental health,” “I am going to end up just like my mom, and my kids will be traumatized and hate me,” “My kids misbehave and don’t like me because I am not doing a good enough job as a mom,” are just some of the common thoughts that cross my mind.
Not only am I harsh on myself, but I am also overly critical of the coping skills I have developed over the years, my main one being cleaning. I clean all the time. I clean when I am angry. I clean when I am stressed. I start my day off cleaning. I tidy up at least four times throughout the day and end my night cleaning. My kids have way more screen time than they probably should because I like to avoid the cleaning disasters that come with toddler playtime. My house looks like children should live here but don’t. I constantly clean and keep things organized because of my anxiety, and I beat myself up over it every day.
Why? Why can’t I make myself happy? Why is it impossible for me to treat myself the way I would treat other people? The things I say to myself, I would never say to another mom or another human in general. So why do I set unrealistically high standards for myself in everything that I do and never cut myself any slack? If I were looking for a legitimate answer, I would guess that my anxiety, guilt, and perfectionism stem from the emotional neglect and abuse I endured as a child. I would guess that since I wasn’t taught any coping skills growing up and have undealt with trauma, I have to figure out how to navigate motherhood and poor mental health in (what feels like) solitude. It could also be that society has set unrealistic standards of what productivity, motherhood, and even happiness has to look like. And if you don’t look it, you don’t have it…right?
I wish the guilt would fade. I wish my anxiety would subside for at least a day so that I could be more present and less irritable with my family. I wish that growth and healing were not a lifelong, nonlinear process and that I would wake up…fixed one day. But that last part will never happen, and I know that. I am doing everything I can to focus on self-improvement and healing myself, and I have been for the last year, but (and I am sorry to whoever this may offend) sometimes life is just plain dreadful. Abhorrent. It sucks. Sometimes horrible things happen to good people. Sometimes horrible people get to live their lives unscathed. Que sera, sera. All I know is that I am taking steps in the right direction, no matter how minuscule they may be; even on days when it feels like I am being dragged through a desolate desert, I am still moving.
Typically, I want to end something like this with a positive or enlightening saying. I could say, “Motherhood is hard. My anxiety and the guilt that comes with it affects my day-to-day life and is crippling at times, but I am still so blessed and taking it a day at a time”. But we all already know that. So, no. I appreciate the pep talks as much as the next woman, but I wanted my feelings to be validated. I want to be heard. I want to wallow in my emotions, the sadness and anger I have towards this constant guilt and anxiety. I want to feel what I feel, about how I feel.