Birthday Parties… And Other Social Gatherings

Birthday parties. Are. The. Worst.

Sure, they’re fine if you’re a kid. My daughter loves them, and gets invited regularly.

For me, they’re awkward. I get nervous because I won’t know the other parents, and even if I do know them, I never know what I’m going to say to them. Keep in mind, almost all of these parents are almost 10 years older than me. They got established in their careers, and then had kids, while I did the opposite. It’s like if you pictured Marcia Cross’ character, Bree Van de Kamp, in the show “Desperate Housewives”. Now picture the opposite. That’s me. Or at least, that’s how I feel. Like Mila Kunis’ character in “Bad Moms”. I don’t have everything figured out, by I promise I’m trying my best.

So, while we all have kids, the similarities end there, and I’m supposed to talk about what, exactly, for 2 hours?

It has even gotten to the point where I’ve depended on my daughter for some type of interaction (ironic, right?). Not in a way that I keep her away from enjoying herself and spending time with her friends, but in a way that I immediately feel a little less insecure when she comes around.

How pathetic is that?

Also, eating. Have you ever noticed how many adults don’t eat at birthday parties? It’s sad, but no matter how hungry I am (and I’m always hungry), I will not eat unless another adult is eating. I always get embarrassed to be the only person, other than the children, to accept a piece of cake. If I’m the only one eating, I feel like everybody is watching me, and I HATE being watched. I failed my driver license test twice because it was too much to have someone in the passenger seat next to me, writing down everything I did. I’d rather go hungry than feel like everyone is staring at my while I eat. Which is stupid, I know. But try telling that to my anxiety-ridden brain.

My Mother

Almost all of the things I do as a mother are because I learned them from my mother.

Or at least, I learned that I wanted to do exactly the opposite of everything she did. And I don’t mean in the silly way like on TV, where the woman has kids and vows not to be the same way her mother ¬†was, and then turns out exactly like her. I mean really; I do not want to be anything like her. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any show or movie that has a mother/daughter relationship that I could compare to my own. Sure, there are always the mother’s that start out rough around the edges in the beginning, but always seem to come around by the end of the program.

That’s not my relationship with my mother at all.

I’m not close with my mother. When I was growing with my younger sister and brother, it seemed she was always more worried about what was going on in her personal life than she was about us. Her free time. Her dating life. Her happiness. Yes, those things are important for anybody, single mother or not, but our mom always seemed to take it too far. She’d drag us to go visit her boyfriends with her, make sure we left the house on the weekends because she didn’t want us around. It always seemed more about her. There have been times when I’ve even gone as far as to say that she never wanted to be a mother, but our dad wouldn’t give us up. It’s harsh, I know, but it’s how I feel.

Now, as an adult myself, I can see more clearly how toxic my mother’s behavior was, and still is. She constantly shifts blame to everybody else, no matter what the situation is. Nothing is ever her fault. She projects her securities onto her children, and then wonders why we never come around. If confronted about any of this, she blows up and doesn’t listen to anything that anybody has to say.

I’ve learned that a lot of my anxiety comes from how I was raised. Our lives weren’t exactly stable when we were kids, so we learned to be on high alert, even if it wasn’t necessary.

So, when I had my daughter, I vowed I’d be nothing like the way my mother was to me.

Today was a good day

Yes, I quoted Ice Cube. I have some weird sense of pride of being able to sing along (er, rap along?) to rap songs. It’s weird, but it’s something my older brother and I used to do when we were younger, and still do today.

But, like I said, today was good. Actually, this weekend was good. There are some weekends when I feel like I got everything done that needed to be done. I got all my laundry finished (and even put away), went grocery shopping, did all the major cleaning. I’m ready for the week, and it’s so nice to not have to worry about what I’ll be cooking for dinner the next few nights.

This hasn’t always been the case, though.

Have you ever been in tears at the end of the day because you didn’t get around to mopping the floor?

Has the sight of dishes in your sink made you want to break down?

This is what anxiety does to me. Seemingly minuscule things build up in my head until I can’t take it, and before I know it I’m sobbing on my bed. And for what? My house is never really that messy. We always have food. My daughter always has clean clothes. Why do I let these things get to me? I can’t turn it off. Once my mind starts spinning out of control, I can’t make it stop. I know I’m being irrational. I know I’m being hard on myself. But once it starts, it seems there’s no turning back.

And to think, I used to think this was normal behavior. Not because of anything I’d seen on TV, but simply because I had always been this way, for as long as I can remember. I’m not the type to ask for help or to open up to a lot of people, so nobody was ever able to tell me that crying over a ‘dirty’ floor wasn’t something a lot of people did.

To deal with this, there are a couple different things I can do. The first, is to find a nice, soothing playlist on Spotify and color while it’s playing. I recommend the playlist, ‘Deep Focus’. It’s music you can listen to without really listening to, so it doesn’t take away from what you’re trying to do. Also, have you ever ¬†tried an adult coloring book? They’re amazing, and it’s one of the few things I can do that actually clears my mind.

Secondly, I go running. Now, stay with me here, it’s not all about exercise. I mean, exercise is good for you, but it also burns the excess hormones in your brain that cause anxiety in the first place, and is huge stress relief. Highly recommend at any time, especially during finals week.

Where do I begin?

I’ve never written anything that can be read by anybody, anywhere. I’ve never exposed myself quite like this before. So please, bare with me.

I guess I should start by giving my name? I’m Meghan, a 29 year old single mom to a 5 and a half year old little girl, who works full time, and goes to school full time. All of this while still trying to maintain a social life, spend enough time with my family, exercise, and even go out on the occasional date.

Oh, and I have anxiety.

No, I’m not crazy.

I don’t pull my hair out of my head. I don’t punch walls. I don’t really do any of the things they show us on TV when someone has a mental disorder. Actually, unless you knew me, you’d never guess I was struggling with anxiety.

Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I feel like I can’t breath. Sometimes I feel like my heart is going to beat out of my chest. I get irritable, snappy, and short tempered. Other days- most days- I feel fine. I don’t feel overwhelmed, or like I’m not doing enough or trying hard enough. Recently, I’ve gotten better at accepting that I’m only one person, and I can only do so much.

I have anxiety, and I’m not ashamed. The only thing I’m ashamed of is when I take it out on those around me. Specifically, my daughter.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my daughter more than anything in this world. She’s smart, creative, funny, and beautiful. But, like I said, I’m a single mom. I’m the only person around that she can go to for attention, and it can be overwhelming, especially on days when I’m feeling particularly anxious. I snap at her for no reason, and the sound of her sweet, sweet voice makes me shudder. I love her, but there are times when I need her to not be right there, following me, talking to me, singing to me, asking me questions. This is all followed by my immediate guilt. She’s doing all of these things because she loves me, and she looks up to me. She’s asking me questions because how else is she going to learn?

These are the deep dark secrets that I keep to myself, because I’m afraid if I said these words out loud, people would accuse me of being a bad mother, and that is my absolute worst fear.