Have you ever experienced anxiety so terrible that you felt like you spent every moment of every day worrying? That the daily feelings of panic you experienced would never go away? That basic activities that you used to do with no problem seemed entirely insurmountable?
Well, I have, and it started the day we launched The Childhood Collective. Well, to be honest, my anxiety has been around for most of my life, but the launch of our business brought it all painfully to the surface.
I know with this past year, many of you might be experiencing an increase in your anxiety and depression. When you have a child with ADHD or anxiety, parenting is A LOT. Most of the time, your own mental health gets put on the back burner so you can attend to your kids. But I can tell you from experience that when you take the time for yourself, you can free up a lot of bandwidth to focus on many other things in your life—including your children.
How My Anxiety Started
My whole life I would have been described as a shy girl. I always had one close friend but struggled to initiate with other kids I didn’t know well. In high school, I had a constant feeling that I was not as smart at my friends and just frankly didn’t care much for school. I went to college and had a professor tell me that I would do an honors thesis. It really wasn’t a question; she just insisted. I started my own research and then began working with other faculty members. After feeling incompetent most of my life, she helped me to realize that I was capable of doing more. I will forever be grateful to her because she was the person that led me to becoming a child psychologist.
However, I remember the first presentation that I had to give as a practice for my honors thesis. It was to around 100 other undergraduates, and I was completely terrified. Public speaking was hard for me, but speaking in front of so many people felt impossible. I remember shaking and barely making my way through the speech. By the end, my friend expressed how painful I sounded and how he felt sorry for me. It was truly a terrible experience.
I decided to attend graduate school for school psychology, and presentations became a way of life. Classes, research, and work (training school staff in positive behavior supports) all required me to speak publicly. I suffered through them and eventually gained more and more confidence. My view of myself was always so harsh and never based in reality.
I spent the next 10 years as a child psychologist doing testing and therapy. In that time, I had to present results at IEP meetings that were very contentious. I had one meeting that went badly and after that meeting, I found myself avoiding situations in which I had to present information or speak in front of groups. That avoidance continued for years, which is how my anxiety grew.
The Childhood Collective Was My Dream…
And My Nightmare
When I dreamt of the Childhood Collective, I had a vision of offering video-based courses to empower parents. But the truth was that getting in front of a camera and talking was one of my worst nightmares. I knew it would be hard for me, but I also knew that I had done other hard things in my life, and I would be able to overcome my fears.
The day we launched the business though, the reality of what it meant and required of me hit. That day I experienced an overwhelming amount of fear that I was in fact not capable of doing it. That eventually, people would see that I was incompetent, and it would be an utter failure. I began to doubt myself.
And then, in January 2020, I could no longer avoid my fears. I had an anxiety attack at work. Though looking back on it I can see that it actually wasn’t that big of a deal, to my perfectionistic self it felt like the end of the world. I quickly began dreading work and being around people because I feared it would happen again. If people saw my anxiety, then they would know. They would know that I truly was incompetent and inferior. It felt like an unbearable weight on me.
My Social Anxiety
Fortunately, I knew exactly what was going on with me—I knew that I had social anxiety. I feared other people seeing my anxiety. Presentations in front of people felt like climbing Mount Everest. Most people who I told, including my husband, thought I was crazy. I have taught several graduate and undergraduate courses over the years and presented at numerous national conferences with minimal anxiety. They didn’t understand why I would feel that way. But the truth is that anxiety usually doesn’t make sense to other people. And trying to convince me not to feel that way was completely fruitless.
In the next couple of weeks, I will explain my treatment and what that looked like in the midst of a global pandemic where social avoidance was celebrated!
Until then, if you are experiencing similar feelings of anxiety or sadness, just know that you are not alone. And you are certainly not weak or deficient if you need that help! Don’t hesitate to seek out treatment from a professional. I can tell you that it was a life-changing experience for me that I only wish I had done 20 years ago.
Have you also suffered from anxiety or depression? Let me know what you did to get help!
Stay tuned for part 2 of my anxiety journey…
All the best,