Lessons From My Mother: On Anxiety, Love, and Self Care
She scooped me up as soon as she was able, my teenage sister in the car, asking “What’s wrong with Jillian?” “She’s having anxiety” my mother calmly replied. I didn’t even know that’s what was happening to me at the time, I was just uncontrollably hysterical, and as far as I knew, for no reason. She brought me up to the guest bedroom she kept mostly for me, as I bounced in and out of her house between disastrous relationships, and she talked to me quietly, but I honestly have no memory of what she said at that point.
My mom taught me that day that asking for help is in fact one of the most grown up things you can do. I manage my anxiety much better these days, in large part because that day I learned the power of just saying out loud the cause of my anxiety to someone I trust; even if that person doesn’t have a solution, just having my worries heard and outside my head takes a great deal of their power away.
As I thought back over all my previous, and ultimately doomed relationships, I saw she was right. The guy I had started hanging out with at bars, mostly to complain about the world together, had resulted in a relationship with far too much alcohol and bitterness, even as we tried to build a life together. Relationships that had begun with coyness and games never became straightforward, and that was ultimately their downfall. Relationships that started with an uneven power dynamic never quite evened out. My mom has watched many relationships come and go; between her parents, her siblings, her friends, her coworkers, and she has not seen this truth about love and relationships falter.
In the case of my husband and I, we initially came together over impassioned talks about politics and history, and the bond our mutual enthusiasm for in-depth discussions of current events, media we love, or personal growth and exploration keeps us close even as the sleep deprivation and constant demands of parenting a toddler can leave us ragged.
By the same token, if my husband and I go too long without asking for a babysitter, my mom always offers nights that would be good for them, knowing that it’s important for us to prioritize our own needs too. It’s my mom who has encouraged me to relax with my toddler with a movie if we’re having a particularly difficult day together, or reminds me how much better I might feel if we got out for a walk. Sometimes as a mom it’s so hard to remember to take care of yourself, and I am grateful to have a mother who both sets a good example and actively encourages me to take those much-needed breaks.