Dear fellow Mama at Soft Play,
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 Mum, looking to chat to another Mum.
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.