I Have To Stay Busy All The Time (Because Anxiety)

by Samantha Angoletta
Originally Published: 
Woman carrying her child and grocery bags, staying busy due to her anxiety
huePhotography / Getty

People often wonder aloud if I ever stop moving. Do I slow down? Do I ever say “no?” How do I balance it all? And, the truth is, I don’t know. Do we ever have answers for these things? We somehow manage to get through the day, doing the things we do, leaving what we can’t (for better or for worse) and picking it up again the next morning.

Finding balance is elusive in motherhood. There’s never balance. It’s a constant push and pull, giving what you can, and tending to the things that need you most in the moment. We often feel like we are shortchanging one element of our life to compensate in another. We often feel like we fall short, even when we don’t.

These challenges are often compounded when you are an anxious soul. Take generalized anxiety disorder and throw in a husband, three kids, a demanding work schedule and the upkeep of running a household and you’d think that would be enough to push me to the brink. And, it is. At times, I melt down. I lose my shit. Doesn’t everybody?

The thing is, most people know when to throw in the towel. When to pull back, when to stop being a “yes!” mom, when to delegate more and take on less at work, when to tag in the spouse so you can just sit down. I’m not one of those people. My body might need rest, but my mind doesn’t thrive when calm and still. When I’m still, when it’s quiet, when I have a chance to breathe, then my anxiety kicks into overdrive. It fills the space. It comes crashing in wave by wave.

And it is brutal. It’s all consuming.

Childhood trauma bubbles to the top. Will I ever have a relationship with my mother again? Will my kids grow up and feel the same way about me?

Cue the panic.

Then the mom guilt comes riding in on the next wave. I was supposed to be a stay at home mom, fill my days with the needs and wants of my children and my children only. No email account, no smart phone. Just mud pies and park dates and museums. Am I spending enough quality time with them? Are we making memories they will cherish forever? Do they know that my heart literally beats for them? Will they resent me being on my computer? Will they resent me checking my email at the park sometimes?

Cue the panic.

Then the relationship guilt floods me. I can’t be in all the places at once. I’m only one person. But I have a niece now and she is perfection and I want her to know how much I love her, and I want my baby sister to know how much I want to do this parenting thing alongside her, supporting her and loving her as we learn and grow together on this wild ride. I want my grandparents to know how important they are to me. I want my kids to be able to make as many memories as possible with their family. I want to spend some one-on-one time with my husband, who I love so much it hurts. I want to be a good friend, because my friends are so good to me. I want to be a good boss, because my “employees” are like my family too. It’s a lot of people, and I know I’m failing someone somewhere.

Cue the panic.

Then the rest of it piles on. Student loan debt — will I ever pay it off? Housework, lawn care, car maintenance. The kids are due for wellness checks. I’m way past due at the dentist. There’s a list a mile long of projects we need to do around the house. We promised ourselves we would get them done, but the list is stuck to the fridge. Haunting me. Causing me to lose sleep as I obsess over every little thing I have left waiting for another day.

Cue the panic.

It’s not easy living like this. If it sounds exhausting and overwhelming, it is. I have always been an extrovert and a “go, go, go” personality, but this goes deeper than that. This is a mind that can’t be calmed. If I stop moving, I start overthinking and worrying and obsessing. It’s often more exhausting for me to have a quiet moment to myself than it is for me to find something to do, regardless of how tired I am.

The only thing that truly helps me maintain some semblance of normalcy is to stay busy, but then I feel like I’m often teetering on the edge of burnout. Short tempered, impatient and exhausted. It shouldn’t be like this. I know that, and I’m trying. I deserve better, and my family does too.

I deserve to just drink in a rare moment of silence in my otherwise chaotic household, or lay in the sun on vacation, or indulge in a good book before bed, without my thoughts consuming me. Robbing me of my relaxation. Prohibiting me from enjoying a shred of self-care.

Medication helps. Therapy helps. Headspace helps. Friends and family and my adorable kids help, but nothing takes it away completely. I still lose sleep. My thoughts still spiral out of control. Worst case scenarios playing out in my head, even when I’m trying to think “happy thoughts.”

Anxiety is an everyday battle. I know there are so many people who can truly empathize with this struggle. We are beginning to speak up, so that we can feel more connected and less alone through this battle. I’ll keep fighting the good fight, and hopefully some day, my mind will give me a real day off.

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