"In my mind, there is no need to live a life of "I am a mother, I should be able to handle these things" No one can handle everything all of the time, taking some time for yourself, being honest with those around you and talking about things can help a great deal."
If you knew me in my past life, my pre-Instagram life, this probably comes as a shock. I was always the girl always up for a party, always the go-getter, the one who wanted to drive a million miles just to go to a show. Heck, I owned a gallery in a town where 30,000 tourists visited every year! I was a social butterfly. But something changed that last summer I owned my gallery, it's something that made my confidence in myself, as a mother, a woman, a wife, a friend, drop way down. This is a little bit about what happened and it's by no means terrible, it's just my thoughts and feelings summarized for you all in a blog post, hoping that maybe what I've gone through will ring true for others.
A lot of my anxiety stems from Elliot's autism. If you are to read Elliot's Autism blog post you'll see that his autism was actually a huge blessing in disguise. My anxiety isn't about HIM, it's about ME. When he was a baby (patting myself on the back here) I was a very organized, prepared, adventurous, and fun mother. I took on so many things, managed them all gracefully and had huge confidence in myself as a mama to that little baby boy. I took him to my gallery with me, kept house, ran a business, and had a life. I still long for those days and who I was back then. But a switch flipped inside me and I will forever have more respect for those who suffer from social anxiety.
In July of 2016 when Elliot was 3 years old he was diagnosed with autism. My world shattered, I knew in my heart that there was something so different about him, I knew he was not able to process things like other kids could. But before he was medically diagnosed, when I was naive to his (for lack of a better word) condition, his behavior (or lack thereof) was the norm for us. I knew nothing different. I guess you could say ignorance is bliss in my case, he was my special boy that had some very unique ways about him. And he still is, but mentally, for any mother, it was a daily battle to overcome.
So what changed in me? My feelings for him did not change. If anything I was relieved to have some answers. We now had a path set out for us to create his autism journey, we were well on our way to having some answers. What happened to me was I lost my self-confidence as a mother because I never knew how he would behave in public. Any mother with a child on the spectrum knows the feeling: "I can't take him to the bank because they will offer him a sticker, he can't handle stickers" "Maybe we should avoid these steps because if he missteps and is triggered, it's going to be the end of our outing, the tantrum will be too much" or "Do I really need to stop at the grocery store, I'm not sure he's going to comply and sit in the cart for me" These mental battles were daily for me. It was so crippling it came to the point that I just wouldn't leave the house. and being a work from home mother I didn't really need to. Sounds glorious, right? To most, yes it's wonderful. But for me it isn't good.
My lifestyle and how we are able to both work from home has only added to my anxiety. I don't really need to go anywhere, this modern age of Amazon Prime means I can get everything I need delivered to my doorstep. The more days I don't leave the house the harder it gets to push myself to go, even when I do have the chance to go out all by myself, no children in tow. Just ask Marc, I will sometimes make up really weird excuses to cancel my own trip out shopping. It's a daily struggle for me and it's one I am slowly working through.
Elliot has since overcome MANY things this past year, a lot has to do with his school that he's enrolled in. They help with weekly in-class therapies and one on one assistance in class. The things that were once difficult are now becoming easier, so my anxiety is starting to melt away. Once we learned how to help him with transitions (that's a whole other blog post) a lot of our "issues" with him ended. Not every time is perfect, we still have lots to learn.
If any of this rings true for you guys, know that with a little patience, a lot of support and some self-motivation, overcoming social anxiety is possible. My best advice is just GO. Put a block on a block and build yourself up. Self-care is so important as a mother and if pushing yourself to go get that pedicure will make you feel better, do it. I've listed below some things that have helped me when I go out. They may seem excessive and kind of crazy but until you've felt the way someone with anxiety feels, don't judge! Not saying you are judging, but it can be really hard to understand. Believe me, I was one of them! I shook my head in disbelief at people with social anxiety. I couldn't understand how they couldn't just "shake it off, push through, just do it". I take it all back now, I get it.
These are some things I do that help:
• Essential Oil Rollers: calm mama, focus, breathe... those are just a few that I have come up with. Do some research on some essential oil rollers that help anxiety, I know they help me
• Make an itinerary: It might seem a bit excessive, but make a list of everywhere you need to go, where you're going next, what you need there, where you'll eat, which stores have bathrooms, where's the best place to park that's easy.... plan your trip before you go and write it all out, place it on the seat next to you and FOLLOW it like a guide. You'll get out of your own head and trust what you're doing. Kind of like what we use for Elliot every day, a play plan of sorts so the transitions are not as hard.
• Get some sleep: Easy, right? Not so much when you have anxiety. But a rested mind will be able to process things easier, making your outings more enjoyable, making your anxiety lessen, making you sleep better, making your outings more enjoyable.... you get the idea
• If you can, wear your smallest child. Nothing like strapping them onto your own body to know they're safe, they can't run off and you can manage the other child easily with both hands-free. I wear Leia in our Proverbs 31 Heart Ring Slings when we go out. She is a very petite 3-year-old and I can wear her comfortably with this sling
• Don't be afraid to ask for help: Did you just buy a massive toaster oven and you're afraid about getting it into your car whilst wrestling two children in the parking lot? Ask a store manager if there is someone who can help you out to your vehicle OR if you can pick your bags up at the door after you've loaded your children in the car.
• I say this last one with tears in my eyes. Guys, if you suffer from anxiety TALK ABOUT IT! Even with strangers, like the store manager who is looking at you cross-eyed because you can't manage to get a toaster oven out to your car alone. Speak up, just flat out tell him/her you have social anxiety, that this is a big deal for you to be out with your children trying to do everyday things and some help with your bags would be greatly appreciated. The human race has great compassion for people who are honest. I have found in life, as long as you are honest with yourself and those around you, things will work out for the best.
In my mind, there is no need to live a life of "I am a mother, I should be able to handle these things" No one can handle everything all of the time, taking some time for yourself, being honest with those around you and talking about things can help a great deal.
Let's chat about this, leave your comments below, maybe you have tips on how to manage social (or any kind of) anxiety. I'm ready her hear them.