Motherhood // Social Anxiety

anxiety and motherhood

Dear fellow Mama at Soft Play,

Thank you.

Thank you so much for taking the time to stop and chat to me today, and for not ignoring me when I caught your eye.

I’m sorry my face gradually got more red as we spoke.

I’m sorry I kept having to look down at my baby and not meet your eye.

I’m sorry I stuttered and couldn’t keep up the conversation.

You probably thought I was a bit odd.

You definitely thought I was a bit odd, as the next time you came past, you deliberately didn’t look in my direction at all.

I wanted to explain.

I wanted to apologise.

I wanted to say: “I suffer from social anxiety disorder. I want to talk to you. Inside I am screaming at myself to talk to you. To make conversation. To make a friend in the very lonely, isolating world of Motherhood. But I can’t talk to you without going red. I’ll go outside. I’ll get some water. I’ll cool my face down. I’ll cool myself down. And then, when I’m back in the room, I might be able to talk to you more. I want to ask about your five children. I’m genuinely interested about what life is like with five children. Please give me the chance to have a normal conversation. I’m actually a very nice person once I get over the anxiety.” 

But instead the conversation just dwindled and died, and you went back to your friends and I remained feeding my baby, whilst internally punishing myself for being so ridiculous.

You see, I’ve always been a worrier, but my anxiety has been getting increasingly worse over the past 18 months.

Even being at soft play today took hours, if not days, of internal encouragement and perseverance.

Trying to gain enough confidence to leave the house and enter a social situation where I don’t know anyone.

I spent the morning, prior to picking up my daughter from Nursery, trying to ignore and fight the excuses that popped up in my head as to why we couldn’t go.

Here are just a few examples:

“What if she’s too tired after a morning with other children? Should I just bring her home instead of walking to soft play?”

“What if the baby needs to eat while we’re there? Should I make him a bottle? What if I can’t cool down the bottle? What if I need to warm it up? What if he doesn’t want it there at all, but decides he is hungry on the way home, and screams all the way home? What if people tut and shake their heads?”

“What if she gets too tired, and wants to ride in the pushchair? Should I take the sling for the baby just in case?”

“What if it’s not actually on today? What if we arrive and no one is there? I don’t want to build her hopes up. How will I explain if it’s not on?”

Every waking hour of my day is an internal battle with my worries and fears.

Every sleeping hour (lolz, who am I kidding? There aren’t many of those at the moment!) is filled with worried, anxious dreams.

I can’t switch off.

I’m exhausted because my baby doesn’t sleep, but I’m also exhausted because of my anxiety.

Because constantly fighting my thoughts is a serious drain on what little resources I have left.

I wish I could go back to this afternoon and tell you all of this. Get you to understand that I’m not that odd really. That I am just a Mama, looking to chat to another Mama.

I wish I could stop myself from dwelling on a moment that you’ve probably forgotten already.

I wish (oh how I wish!) I didn’t have social anxiety disorder.

Hannah

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18 thoughts on “Motherhood // Social Anxiety

  1. Danielle

    Big hugs, I know exactly how you feel, I’ve battled this all my life and it’s really starting to grate on me now as it has affected so much over the years, pretty sure it’s why I don’t have that tight friendship, I have friends, but nothing like the normal knowing everything about each other type, and I am pretty sure it’s down to me finding excuses or just being far too nervous to go and do anything much! It’s also causing problems as I am now too scared to even look and apply for jobs, I actually freeze up and my heart races as soon as James brings it up!

    So again big hugs, know you are not alone, and not the only one who has those awkward moments with strangers, and the silly thoughts that people can tell us to stop thinking (if only it was that simple and dwelling over little things hours and days after). I did find mine much, much worse in the few months after having Alex (my eldest) and during pregnancy so hopefully yours will not be so bad soon xxx
    Danielle recently posted…Sam’s 3rd birthday, and a Disney Cars and Planes cakeMy Profile

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  2. Emilyandindiana

    It’s taken me so long to realise that I suffer from this too, and probably have done all my life. I’ve become much more confident since having the children, but then again they’re a perfect excuse to stay in my safe little bubble at home. I would have definitely spoken to you (if I wasn’t having the same battle in my head too haha) xx
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  3. Christina

    I wish I had been there to give you a hug. I grew up with a mother that make conversation with anyone. I am the strange American that wants to talk to everyone. Although, I did hide in the toilet a couple times at a blog conference last year because I was to nervous to talk to several bloggers I recognised from their blogs. Xoxo
    Christina recently posted…Magical Snow Day in EnglandMy Profile

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  4. Corinna

    That’s like me! I use to have a few close friends before I had Imogen, then I became a mother, moved away from them and now have none! I’ve been to baby massage courses with both where I hoped to find a friend but instead I actively tried to avoid any conversation as it’s so awkward… I literally have nothing to talk about. I don’t go out much (can’t use public transport), don’t work, have no hobbies. Conversation is hard enough let alone when there is literally nothing I can say about myself!!
    Taking littelest to a toddler group now and yet again same is happening. I’ve never been so lonely. It is horrid. Well done for going though 🙂 like you I over think and have avoided lots because of EVERY excuse.

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  5. Katy macdonald

    I suffer with anxiety, some parts have improved since I’ve had my baby, I now don’t worry so much that I’ve left something switched on at home and then there will be a fire and where will we live and what will become of us!!!! But now my anxiety is mostly about my baby is he warm enough and is my mother in law going to look after him properly if I let him babysit this weekend,? will she feed him? Of course she will but it doesn’t stop me nearly having a panic attack at the thought.
    I was brave and went to some baby groups when he was a bit smaller , but was as quiet as a mouse because I was dying a bit inside.
    It’s really an every day struggle. Xxxxxx

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  6. Geraldine Miller

    I can totally empathise, I want to give you a big hug – I have a General Anxiety Disorder – though I don’t have issues talking with people (I talk way too much) I will then go home and analyse everything I’ve said and worry what people must think of me (and to be honest they probably don’t think of me at all!)
    I have issues with driving to places I don’t know – I worry about parking, I can’t drive on motorways! Since becoming a mum my anxieties have changed – some have improved and some have got worse! My biggest worry is that I don’t want my kids to be like me in that respect!
    If someone doesn’t suffer anxiety issues I think it’s hard for them to truly understand just how exhausting it is and the fact we already know a lot of our thoughts are ridiculous – unfortunately it doesn’t make it any easier! Well done on writing this – I’m sure you’ve make lots of mums feel so much better! Big hugs, Gxxx
    Geraldine Miller recently posted…Janathon Day 20 – Facing a FearMy Profile

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  7. Pink Pear Bear

    Oh I feel for you!!! I was crippled by this before. I thought I had beaten it but recently it has been trying to get it’s claws back in to drag me down again so actually, maybe I’d just become a better actor. If it’s any help at all, you can beat the blush, I had it horrifically to the point where I would feel I was a beacon glowing brighter & brighter but a therapist taught me to shift focus, concentrate intently on the other person, pick a bit if it’s easier, what colour are their eyes, any flecks on the irises, what colour eyeshadow etc. It really works. I am 99% blush free now. Just occasionally when I say something I think is really dumb!! 😀 You’re not alone & you’d be surprised how many others feel the same. Even the ones you would never believe could be shy.xx

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  8. Robyn

    What a wonderful blog post. I have social anxiety too, particularly around other mothers, and this describes my experience perfectly, as well. It’s so hard but I’m sure you’ll break through the wall of anxiety soon, and when you do, you’ll find someone to connect with.

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  9. Katie R-M

    Oh Hannah, I’m so sorry that you are suffering with this. I want to come and give you a big hug and take you for tea and cake as you are such a lovely lady, you deserve to have other mum friends. Keep fighting it and keep going out there and remember that everyone would love a friend like you – they’re lucky to have the chance to meet you xxx
    Katie R-M recently posted…Lottie’s wardrobe #8My Profile

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  10. Katy

    Thanks for sharing this, I relate to it so much. For some reason for me it’s got much better on the social front since having my little boy, but I still class myself as a massive worrier about life in general, and I still have the odd moments that make me think I’m not actually better socially at all. It’s posts like these that help me to realise that actually, an awful lot of people feel like this, and it’s not just me being a weirdo / paranoid / awkward.
    Katy recently posted…Playing the Pregnancy CardMy Profile

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  11. Imogene

    Aww bless you, I’m sorry you feel like this and I have to say I can relate in a lot of ways as I end up going home and feeling like I’ve made a fool of myself and they’re thinking I’m really odd. It’s weirdly hard to make friends as an adult isn’t it? All my actual friends are ones from school or college. I have mums I say hi to but I always try and turn up literally as they’re coming out of the classroom so I can get out quick. Sometimes it feels safe to stay at home although it probably doesn’t help in the grand scheme does it? xx
    Imogene recently posted…Life with Open UniversityMy Profile

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  12. Samantha Taylor

    This is a great post. I can totally relate. I am always talking myself out of things and now my children are at school, I spend most of my days alone. Well done for going to soft play and maybe next time you will feel able to talk a little more xx

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  13. Kelly Green

    Thank you for sharing, Lots of hugs!

    I have become a bit of a recluse because of my social anxiety and I kick myself everyday for it. I can’t even take myself to these places and I feel such a bad mummy to my 1 year old as I know I should be taking her to these type of way place so she can mix with others as we don’t really have any friends.

    Xx

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  14. Marie

    Thank you for posting this. I’ve had a bad morning, not knowing what to say to someone who stood near me, barely speaking to a couple of others who made overtures. I find the school run excruciating – prefer to turn up as late as possible and dash away again so I don’t have to speak to anyone. I can’t work outside the home for the stress it causes me. I know some people think I’m lazy but I actually do work really hard, from home, interacting on a computer is so much easier. I also can’t drive for anxiety reasons. My daughter has severe anxiety also and I hate to see it. Anyway, your post has made me feel a little less alone today, so I just wanted to say thanks.

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  15. Liss

    Reading your post has made me realise that this is me! I have dealt with this for as long as I can remember and i just thought I was painfully shy…thank you for helping me to realise that it’s not just me!
    So many times I have thoughts about how to get out of social situations, even work! Having my son has helped a bit, but still find it hard talking to new people.
    Thank you again
    X
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  16. You Baby Me Mummy

    Oh huni I am so sad and sorry to read this. I wish I lived close enough to just give you a big hug. You are a wonderful person and I would love it if you lived round the corner from me. Seriously that lady that didn’t speak to you again, missed a big trick. She could have got a wonderful new friend. Lots of love and if you ever need to talk (seriously) you know where I am xxx
    You Baby Me Mummy recently posted…Come and Play Tired Mummy Bingo!My Profile

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  17. M

    I used to go to baby groups with PND, social anxiety and a really awkward toddler who didn’t even do the job of making friends for me, so your post really resonated with me. I wish I’d read it three years ago!

    It took me a while to realise that what appeared to be tight mummy cliques sometimes were just people who’d only met the week before, who sat together because they recognised each other.

    I hope you can find the courage to go back to the group this week, armed with a few questions about your new friend and her 5 children. If you plonked yourself next to her and she wasn’t friendly, then you wouldn’t want that person in your life really, would you? Also, the person who was trying to pluck up the courage to speak to you last week might be there..

    Good luck x

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