‘A teary-eyed sobbing mess with knots in her hair and ripped skin at her fingernail beds.’: Mom shares emotional open-letter to parents of anxious children

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“To the mother of an anxious child…

Sometimes, it’s just you and her and the sound of her heart thumping against yours like it’s her lifeline. Sometimes, there aren’t enough tissues for the tears, words for the hurt, comfort to give her when the world feels like such a cruel place. A mother’s love is like an inferno, and never more than when she cries into your arms, does it burn until it tears you apart.

‘Things will get better,’ you tell her. A promise of if rather than when, but you don’t let her know that. Instead, you smile through the chaos, scramble to meet the demand for your reassurance. You become a master puppeteer, a face braver than you feel. Your heart aches with the echo of your biggest and most profound failure, that you could not shelter your child from what hurts them the most.

If you are a mother of a child with anxiety, you will relate only too well to every word written here. You will have spent nights crying into the palms of your hands, worn down by exhaustion and the unfair judgement of those who don’t understand. Some will have blamed you, with no concept of how much of that guilt you’ve already self-prescribed for so long.

Haunted by the recurrent question of ‘what if,’ you convince yourself the signs were always there. You recap over those early days, where tears would fall with unpredictable force. Maybe new foods, the start of a new school term,  weekly spelling tests, or the way she’d grasp at your hand for comfort as she would reluctantly fall asleep.

You blame yourself for ever believing those ‘passing phases’ were growing pains that would eventually burn themselves out. You pick yourself to pieces for not acting sooner, for not doing more, for not fixing that one small cog in her mind that would go on to hinder so many opportunities for her to just feel content.

But you couldn’t.

sisters walk together, swinging hands in the air
Courtesy of Michelle Smith

And as she packs your heart full to the brim with loaded questions of worry, like ‘What if I don’t wake up in the morning?,’ you muster up the strength to find any reassurance you can offer. Sometimes, it doesn’t work, your words become fuel to a fire that stirs up a series of rhetorical questions you’ll simply have no answer for.

And then, other times, so very occasionally but sometimes, your voice becomes an anchor for her stability. You’ll get a glimpse of a near smile, a moment that feels somewhat triumphant, watching on proudly as she conquers some of her biggest fears.

When you are a mother of an anxious child, you live for the days that are OK. You sit waiting in hope for her to return from school to tell you her day was good. You pray she speaks of friendships and break times, class work she’s proud of, and excitement for the weekend plans ahead.

When you are the mother of an anxious child, those days can seem few and far between. More often, you’ll greet her at the gates, a teary-eyed sobbing mess with knots in her hair and ripped skin at her fingernail beds. A tremble with every sentence she can barely put together, a bridge between you, a closed door shutting down your attempts of communication.

anxious teenage daughter runs down grassy hill
Courtesy of Michelle Smith

It’s tough. It’s hard and it’s grueling, and if you’re reading this today and you recognize your own situation, I want you to know this…

You are not alone, and neither is she. Even at 3 a.m. when darkness seems to be the only thing that surrounds you both, you are not alone. You are one of many thousands of people riding out the same storm, desperately battling the waves of what you never imagined anxiety might feel like. As you Google search for herbal remedies, childhood counselors, and local therapy groups, you are a part of an army of passionate and protective mothers all doing the same. When your failures seem so daunting and heavy on your shoulders, the weight of your guilt is shared. When your child is ridden with insecurities and fears, those troubles are recognized by several many others who feel just the same way she does.

It may offer some comfort. It may offer none at all. But when you are the mother of an anxious child, you too, are a warrior, raising your beautiful human to be just the same. Because for all the strength you struggle to find on your darkest days, you still do. And in a selfless act of motherly love, I know and you know, you’ll give every last ounce just to starve out her fears.

Together, you will find a way and you’ll weather the storm as you were always destined to – just one ‘tough, but so-worth-it day’ at a time.”

teen daughter who struggles with anxiety enjoys herself at the beach
Courtesy of Michelle Smith

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Michelle Smith. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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