This morning my son had to go to the dentist to have fillings. The dentist is a huge anxiety trigger for me. As I got ready, I could feel myself building up an array of uneasy feelings. I went into the mode of fake it till you make it. I think as parents with anxiety we do that a lot for our children at times.
My son knows I have generalized anxiety. He knows there are some things I just cannot do even if I really wanted to. What he doesn’t know, is that there are many times during this thing called life and parenting, that I put on a brave face, and put one foot in front of the other. Many of these times are in relation to having to parent.
This morning I could see my son felt a little nervous. People with anxiety have unspoken words where body language becomes communication. No one knows better than a person with anxiety the thoughts behind fidgeting, becoming withdrawn, scanning the environment, and breathing changes. When my son began to ask questions about how much his fillings were going to hurt, and how long it would take, I knew he was feeling nervous. Feeling nervous is normal. Lots of people feel nervous at the dentist. What I was concerned with and am always concerned with, is if those normal fears my children have will manifest into irrational fear and thus anxiety. Being mindful of that, I seem to go into this mode of doing what needs to be done despite how I am feeling. I reassured my son and I answered his questions. I made sure my body language didn’t give off the vibe I was feeling anxious being at the dentist myself. I busied myself with distraction, working on things on my phone while the sound of the drill wanted to make my skin crawl. I looked up every few minutes to see he was doing okay. I was having anxiety about whether he was going to have anxiety. I just wanted him to be alright; and he was. Because he isn’t me. He was nervous but did not have anxiety. There is a difference. I also made sure that I didn’t project my anxiety onto him. Sometimes that is really hard to do as a parent.
I am baffled how I can be an anxious mess and need someone to come to the dentist with me or the hospital even, but if my son has needed to go, I can do it. I have done it. When my child has been sick or hurt and needed medical attention, I’ll be damned if I am going to let anxiety stop me from tending to his immediate needs. Mom can do it. How weird is that? My anxiety likes to play tricks on me making me feel like I am incapable of adulting yet I can be a mom when I need to be? I think my anxiety is confused at times. Parents, at least this parent, can get into that zone where your child comes first, no matter how anxious you feel. A parent will tell anxiety to sit down and shut up because no one and nothing is going to stop me from taking care of my child when it comes down to things like this. I wish I could do the same for myself. Forever a work in progress. Insight and reflection is a start. The point is I am capable. I have proven that. I just have to start believing it. Maybe one day.