Last night after a lively dinner table conversation (a plus for pandemic life), the teen girl said “mom, sometimes I feel like you gave birth to me because our brains are so much alike.” It is true. She is my mini me in both the good and bad ways.
So I started thinking back about when I noticed that I was more of a worrier than others. Here are 2 memories that are so vivid in my mind. The first memory is when I was around 4 years old. We were still living in the one story ranch house in Branchwood, and the den and dining room shared the same wall. I would run around and around the two rooms the collapse on the blue leather sofa that was a furniture staple all my life. And then I would hear the noises. Bump, bump, bump. I was convinced there was someone coming to get me, so I kept on looking over my shoulder to see when he would reveal himself. The real source of the bump, bump, bump? My own heartbeat. Fast forward to probably second grade. I attended a super small, Christian school. My mom bought me a fancy new school outfit trying to get me to be more girly. White ruffled blouse, plaid skirt complete with a gold clip to hold it together at the bottom. I wanted to please my mom, but the outfit was not me. I remember being in before care and literally making myself sick so that my mom would come and get me. I was that afraid that people would make fun of me.
Check out this super, yet really Southern, confident version of me around 4th grade. (And yes, I was in a pageant…. SMH.)
Then came the adolescent years. I became increasingly more anxious and insecure. This was also the time my mom’s anxiety and depression took over her life. I fed off of her social anxiety. A big source of conflict at our house was going to my grandmother’s house on Christmas Day. My mom knew that her MIL did not like her (but honestly, what MIL does actually like her DIL?), and there was a HUGE gathering at her house. For some reason the activity of going around the large circle of family members sharing what you were grateful for was super anxiety-producing for me. I tried to position myself where I thought the circle would start, but this strategy never worked for me. When there are over 50 people saying what they are thankful for, guess what happens? People repeat ideas. The me today would simply say “Wow, cousin and I had the same idea of what we were grateful for this year. We must be on the same page.” But instead my brain would try to come up with a ton of unique ideas as I waited for my turn. My mom would opt of this tradition almost every year when I was a teen. And as she would complain about how hard it was for her to go, I felt my own anxiety creeping up and up.
Doing new things (and sometimes hard things) is something I continue to work on. Thankfully I have a supportive husband who pushes me gently when I need that push. And sometimes, when needed, he pushes me harder. I wish my mom would have had that type of support.
I have developed many self-care strategies over the years, and I hope by modeling these to my mini me she will push herself out of her comfort zone. Or acknowledge that something is too hard and opt out if it is not healthy.
Digging in the dirt, hence the blog picture. Nothing quiets my brain like working in the gardens.
Working up a sweat. I can literally feel myself relaxing after a good work out. This used to be running, and it is not anymore, and I am finally ok with that.
Saying no when I really need to. Not for all social gatherings/events. But not committing to all just to please others.
Getting help. I hope we get to a place where there is less stigma associated with mental illness. I think we are making progress. And in our house, that means talking even (and especially) about hard things.
I also try to show my daughter that an anxious brain is not always a bad thing. Will I ever be able to turn mine totally off like normal people? No, but I use the good aspects of it and can turn it down much better now. Anxious people do better in school, don’t miss deadlines, have a small group of really good friends (vs lots of acquaintances). Anxious people are the most loyal people I have ever met when it comes to their inner circle of friends.
The beast called anxiety no longer controls me. He is still there, but I work to keep him in check every single day. I hope my mini me does as well. She is a pretty amazing lady.