Here’s why you should let go
Sunday was a big day for me. I had to go to a party organized for my son’s class to meet the other parents. It was nice to meet face to face and connect with other moms, but by the end of the party I was good to go.
Socializing is exhausting for me no matter who it is with.
As we walked home, I replayed the conversations I was having with the other parents and continued to shake my head in embarrassment. I felt the heat splash over my cheeks and the anxiety began to mount.
Did I say something stupid? Did I sound rude? Did I appear as a believable human being?
I’m sure I did well, if not a little awkward, but one that I can live with. Still, I felt like my anxiety was snowballing. I started to blame myself for not washing my hair before the party, wondered if my jeans were too tight and wondered if I was smiling enough.
By the time I got home, I took an anxiety pill to relax me. Fine.
Then I abused at dinner. OK.
Later, I took another anxiety pill. I couldn’t help but think that I had done something wrong. It started to run up against the apprehension that normally sets in every Sunday evening. I debated a third pill and then started to wonder why I couldn’t just sit there with my feelings?
As soon as I feel uncomfortable or have negative emotions, I bury it with food or medicine. I want to feel everything except what I feel, and fast. I do not give myself grace; instead, I take stock of everything I could have done or said wrong. Maybe I can attribute it to my anxiety disorder and a rare (but real) personality disorder. But it’s not the fact that I’m mentally ill, everyone’s probably going through some version of that. Anxiety is not limited to people with a mental disorder.
I forget that those parents and I are probably in the same boat. This party was probably the most social interaction we have all had in over a year. That, and it’s always embarrassing to meet new people even if there is no global pandemic. My face hurt because I was smiling so much, and it was the first time I had worn jeans in months (I go for leggings). I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s a little embarrassed. Everyone likes to make a good impression and be accepted by their peers. It’s just that few people talk about it.
I say it’s okay to be nervous when meeting new people. And it’s good to admit it. As parents, I think we all want to foster a community where our children can thrive, and that is no different for us parents.
I decided to skip this third pill. Instead, I thought about how much fun my son is having at the party, how he makes friends, and how I make friendships too. I’ll try not to think about signing up to be a room-mom, thanks to a girlfriend who never believed I was anti-social. She never gave up being my friend when I was so depressed, and I am deeply grateful for her persistence.
She doesn’t care if my hair is dirty, my jeans are too tight, or I’m awkward. She gives me permission to be myself, and I hope I can do that for others now that I’m not so depressed anymore.
But I would never have gotten to know her if I had let my anxiety make me think that I am not good enough. That’s the problem – you never know when you will meet someone who will have a positive impact on your life. You need to showcase yourself, be authentic, and make meaningful connections.
So I will continue to show myself and be me (idiosyncrasies and all), even if that means smiling until the muscles in my face ache.
Here are some new friendships.
For over 20 years, Heather Loeb has lived with major depression, anxiety, and a personality disorder, while battling the stigma of mental health. She is the creator of Unruly Neuros (www.unrulyneurons.com), a blog dedicated to normalizing depression and a member of State Representative Todd Hunter’s Suicide Prevention Task Force.
Today more than ever, we need to take care of our mental health. Guest columnist Heather Loeb explains why and explores other important mental health topics in this special series.