An Anxious Parent

Louisa Leontiades Anxiety, Vile Depths

Will I never be free from it? This cruel twist of biology which sends adrenalin coursing through my veins, and tells me ‘run, run for your life‘. The anxiety, which I realised had pervaded my life after the birth of my daughter, sweeps over me again; so familiar now that it seems like it’s always been there. But I can’t run, I must stay. Because they need me here, my amazing children. I love them, I would die for them, but it has been a battle to be happy around them.

So as I force myself to be patient with every nerve tingling at the ready, to stop myself from fighting or flying. Mostly it works. I’ve other people around me who are better than I at this job. Their father, the extended family. I am grateful to them and their presence for my and my children’s sake. I can cope better when they are around and the responsibility for these precious small people is shared. I try to limit the amount of time I spend alone with them, especially if it is unplanned and when I haven’t been able to meticulously think through distraction strategies, reasoned responses, calming solutions. I take them to a friends, to share cooking and playing. Another adult voice to support the conflict resolution.

I once tried to tell the doctors, but they told me to go home. They told me that ‘medicalising my anxiety would normalise it’. Thanks Britain. It was my duty to fight it alone. So I did, every single day. I put myself through my paces, girded myself up every morning to face another day of high octane stress. We’ve moved to Sweden, to an island with no cars, and no shops. A rather more peaceful existence where my kids can run and be free. I’ve created routines, bought activity books, depended a little too much sometimes on Peppa Pig. I’ve forced myself to go out, to face the demon. By accident or design, there are few jobs here for which I am qualified, so instead I write and work as a carer in a low pressure environment. Less stress. Three business degrees on my CV, unused.

But because I manage it so well, after five years people forget that I still have it. I’ve learned to deal with it better through therapy, writing and a thousand tiny mechanisms which have become part of my daily life. Living this way is incredibly stressful. But what else can I do? I can’t leave. I don’t want to leave. Take the medication that the Swedish doctors threw at me? And become a shadow of my former self?

It’s not only others who forget I have it, I also forget that the monster is still there. It is weaker than before, but there’s a danger. I forget sometimes the cage I have built over the years also has weak walls. When I’m tired. When I’ve pushed myself too hard. When I forget to lay down my boundaries. When I assume that I’ll always be ok. I have worked really hard on making myself happier and more relaxed, so my kids will be happier too. Then there are days like today. Days which remind me that the battle still continues. When the terror overwhelms me and I explode. And afterwards I sit, crying helplessly with my head in my hands, wanting my kids to have a better mother and wondering whether this is what the rest of my life will be like. Whether I will always feel this dark. And wondering what more I can do, to end the pain.