An anxious Mom’s List of Calms

Author’s note: I wrote this when my daughter was significantly younger, but I was thinking today about the mindset I was in when she was little and I was struggling more with anxiety and depression.  If you’re struggling with these things postpartum, I encourage you to seek professional help.  It really, really, really helped me. 

And with that, on to the article that I wrote as a Professional-Grade Worrier Mom

I am an anxious person. A worrier, you might say. I’m anxious every time I get in the car to drive my daughter to her grandma every morning. I worry every time I think about sending her to school. I’m anxious every time I walk down the stairs with her that this will be the time I trip and fall when I’m holding her. Even my dreams are full of scary things happening that I can’t control. Even things that ought to be fun turn into scary things there, I’d been planning a day trip to the High Bridge Trail once, and the dream I had that night about that bridge and my daughter getting too close to the edge still terrifies me.

Despite these fears, I am clearly a functional member of society. I’m scared, but I keep going. What other choice is there? But when I find those fears creeping into my daily life and making things difficult, I try to talk myself through a number of calming facts and anecdotes that seem to quell those fears at least a little.

Carseats are designed for crashes. That’s the whole point of a carseat. It’s not just to keep kids snug and comfortable; it’s to keep them safe in the event of a crash. A medical professional friend once said they call carseats the orphan seats, because even if a crash is terrible and other passengers die, the child in the seat is much more likely to survive. Admittedly this is macabre comfort to take from such an anecdote, but still. I have to remind myself each time we get in the car that even though other drivers scare the crap out of me, I have taken all the steps I can to keep her safe.

School shootings are rare events. While it was published in 2011 and thus does not include the latest statistics, the Encyclopedia of School Crime and Violence states that “generally speaking, schools are relatively safe places to be. Although many people believe that overall school violence is currently on the rise, in fact this is not so. In the last decade, types of school violence other than shootings has decreased by approximately 50%. Most students, particularly those in suburban areas, will not experience a shooting; among homicides where school-age children are the victims, less than 1% occur at school, or while traveling to or from school.” This is not to downplay school shootings. They are horrible and horrific and tragic. That is why they are a fear. A gut-wrenching, sickening fear. This is only to say, they are still rare tragic gut-wrenching sickening events. Will I make decisions for my daughter’s future schooling based on fear? I want to say no. And while it may not seem like school shootings are getting more rare, rare is at least still rare. If Malala Yousafzai can go to school with courage under harrowing circumstances, I can send my daughter too.

Kids in Japan run errands when they’re adorably young. Sometimes they get secretly filmed for the show “My First Errand” which if you watch nothing else on the Internet today you should watch right now, and they are okay. Even with that knowledge that we live in very different places, knowing that kids that young are capable of basic self reliance is enough to make me feel more comfortable letting my daughter toddle around the park with me in a safe line of sight, rather than climbing up on the jungle gym with her. I can let her go a little. I can unclench my fingers…a little.

We will all cause some sort of damage to our children eventually. Whether we let that keep us from taking risks is up to us. Whether it’s saying the wrong thing or taking them out on the High Bridge Trail, everything we do and say has the potential to cause harm. But everything we do also has the potential to cause good. Risks don’t always reap the worst outcome. They can reap rewards, too. I am trying to focus on what the good outcomes can be when I take a risk.

There are terrible people in this world, but there are incredible people, too. And just like the scary people who come out of nowhere, the kindest people can surprise us too. There are people doing tremendous good in this world, who are focused on kindness and not evil. And while it’s scary to share a world with unspeakably evil people, it’s pretty comforting to know that we share it with the kind people too.

Dreams are not reality. Fears are fears, and even when they manifest in very real ways like taking over my dreams, they are still ultimately fears, and not what is necessarily going to take place. The worst can happen, but I’m trying to remind myself that maybe, also, the best is yet to come.

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