Is Anybody Out There?

I spend the majority of my time taking care of other people.

As a single mother, most of my time is obviously spent taking care of my daughter.

As a daughter, I also help take care of my father. He isn’t in the best health and can’t get around or do a whole lot by himself, so I help him with grocery shopping, taking him to doctor appointments, cutting his hair, and whatever other miscellaneous things he might need.

As a child care provider, my work week is spent taking care of other people’s children, day in and day out, with what feels like very little help. At least, lately.

As a friend, I try my hardest to take care of my friends. It’s important to me that the people I care about know that I’m there for them, and that I will do nearly anything for them. This goes for my family, too. It’s really just the type of person I am.

I’m happy to do things for other people, honestly. It makes me feel good to be known as someone that other people can count on.

It’s just, sometimes I wish someone would take care of me.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of friends and family who are there for me just as much as I’m there for them. I have people I can call whenever I need someone to talk to. I have people that check up on me when they know I’m going through something.

I have a lot of people that love and care about me.

But I’m exhausted. All. The. Time.

Is it anyone’s fault that I’m tired? No. It’s really not even my fault, (I don’t think), this is just my life. And granted, I definitely give off the vibe that I don’t need to be taken care of. Or that I’ve got this shit handled. Because in all reality, I do. I’m perfectly capable of taking care of myself, my daughter, my dad, my friends, and everyone else’s kids at work. I’m no stranger to working hard in every aspect of my life. I don’t need to be saved. I don’t need someone to do everything for me. But, like. It would just be nice once in a while, you know? And not even everything, but maybe like a couple things? Like, dude, put my clean clothes away and I’d be a happy camper. Take my recycling out that’s overflowing. Jesus. Anything.

It sounds like I’m saying I need a boyfriend. That’s not it. Or maybe it is. Actually, it probably is. But dating is a thing that I hate. And I’ve been seeing this guy, and it might lead to something? But I don’t know yet? But also I feel like it’s been long enough that I should know? Ugh.

Also been thinking about getting a puppy. Probably in place of the fact that I actually want a baby, but that’s not a plausible thing right now. So, yeah, a puppy. Puppies are cute too, right?

Notice I didn’t say I’m good at taking care of my personal self?

I mean, I shower and everything. But self-care? Taking care of my mental health? Low on my list. I’m the type of person who thinks everyone else’s problems are more important than my own, which is how I end up spreading myself so thin. Also how I get so anxious and stressed out. Mental health is important. I get that. But there are only so many hours in a day. Should I tell more people no? Make myself slightly less available? Probably. Will I? Not likely.

Why am I so bad at balancing everything in my life? Or am I bad at it? I don’t know. At this point, I’m just ranting. I literally have nothing figured out except how to be a semi-decent person. That’s pretty good though, right?

Dating

Dating is tough.

Dating as a single mom is tough.

Dating as a single mom with anxiety is tough.

I don’t fall hard. In fact, it’s a miracle if I go out on a date at all. I have very little free time, so I’m very picky about who I spend it with. More often than not, I’ll cancel a date because I’m usually hanging out with my friends beforehand, and I’d rather keep hanging out with them than to go out with some guy who I probably don’t even like that much (I’m really not as negative as I’m making myself sound).

When I do go out on a date, I’m nervous, as most people are. What will I wear? What will we talk about? Do I pay for myself? (I always offer). Then I take it one step further. Would my family get along with him? My friends? How does he feel about kids? About marriage? What will I do WHEN (when, not if)  it doesn’t work out?

These are the things that go through my mind before/during/after a FIRST date.

I don’t lose it, though. This is one of the few situations where I can keep myself collected. I know I’m getting ahead of myself. I’m not a stage-5 clinger stalker girl that you go out with once and become immediately obsessed with you. What I do is called catastrophizing, especially the part where I just assume it’s not going to work out. I go through all of these made up scenarios in my head and inevitably freak myself out. Then, if things do progress and seem to be going well, I get anxiety about the other person losing interest. I’m afraid to text them (not blow-up their phone by any means, like, one text) because I’m afraid I’m being annoying. I get this way with my friends, too. Last year on my birthday, I felt guilty because I ‘made’ them go out to dinner with me. (Meghan, they said, we want to be here. We love you).

I assume that I’m bugging other people by asking (indirectly) for their attention in the slightest, and this amplifies when I’m dating someone. I can hardly even bring myself to save a phone number in my phone because I’m convinced I won’t need it long enough to have it saved.

At the same time, I want to get married, and maybe have another child. And I’m well aware that my current attitude toward dating is not going to get me to those things.

It really is a vicious cycle.

It doesn’t help that society has trained me to try and be the ‘cool girl’. That, according to almost anything you see on TV, if you text a guy more than once, you’re obsessed and crazy. So I hold back, even if I’m wanting to talk to the other person for fear of coming off  as clingy. And then, on the flip side, feel like shit if I don’t hear from them. There’s something about dating that constantly makes me feel like I’m not good enough, no matter what anybody else tells me. That, whoever I’m seeing, will get bored and move on. I feel like I can’t win, even though it’s me who isn’t letting myself win.

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.