Guest Post: Living With Depression and Anxiety. A Moving Personal Account

Living With Anxiety and Depression. (A Moving Personal Account by Sharon Rowe)
By Sharon Rowe

Sometimes I wish there was some physical sign that would show the suffering I feel on the inside. If I had a broken leg I would wear a plaster cast, but because my illness is inside my head, no one really knows how or what I feel unless I choose to share.

This is just one reason why I talk about my depression and anxiety to let others who are suffering with this illness, know they are not alone and this can help. Others are feeling like you and if telling how I feel helps one person to seek the help they need, then my words have not been for nothing. In truth just putting these down on paper giving it a voice that it craves is empowering for me, it helps me focus on the positive, the things I accomplish on a daily basis, knowing that some days even just the small things are an achievement.

Why I Give My Depression and Anxiety A Voice

Giving my depression and anxiety a voice is kind of scary too. It is like opening up a door directly into my mind. I have those thoughts that scare me and I wonder if you might all think I am some crazy person. In reality I am not, I just live with an illness that I am learning to deal with and manage so my life is worth living, doing the things that I want to do.

There are good days and bad days, we can all have these but when I have bad days it really can be so bad, that I just have no desire to do anything and that can include even brushing my hair. It is difficult to explain how I feel, it is like there is so much inside my brain that it wants to explode, but then the easiest way for me to get this fog out is to write, it is as though there is too much information with nowhere to go. This makes me feel intelligent when I explain it like this!

Sometimes even the most simplest of tasks are overwhelming, more than I can handle on my own. Imagine knowing that you need to walk your dogs at some point in the day and you spend the whole day putting off this task because you can’t bring yourself to walk out the front door. Yet when there is someone with me, I have no problems putting on my shoes and walking my dogs.

I build this activity up in my mind imagining all sorts of scenarios that in reality probably never happen, yet in my mind, just the thought of these stops me dead at the door and I am unable to make it outside to walk the dogs. Yet they need to use the same door if they need to go out to the toilet and I have no problems doing this!

Overwhelming

A word that I have found in my vocabulary lately is overwhelming, it is the best way for me to describe to others how I am feeling. It doesn’t cover the extent but it does give a basic idea that the situation I am facing is becoming too much for me. I think it is like my code word for get me out of here!

It can be in any situation, from too much needs doing around the house, I don’t mean like decorating just cleaning, it can become overwhelming if I see too much that needs doing. Then I just cannot face any of it, I just don’t know where to start. I think my coping mechanisms have started clicking in and I cannot see any of it and it is as though the mess is not in my home.

This situation is very difficult for me because I am a perfectionist, others don’t clean the same way that I do and letting go of the thought, that if you can’t do it right, why do it. However, in truth even if something is cleaned to a less than perfect standard it is better than before.

There is hope, there is meaning to life and it is about dealing with the challenges of life and accepting the condition, depression and anxiety is a part of me but it is not going to rule me, I am going to take the lead to where I want to be.


 

Sharon RoweSharon is a wife of 24 years and a mother to three children with the youngest being 17.   She is a full-time writer and blogger at How To Get Organized At Home and spends her day working on her blog or creating great content for other people. She lives in Cumbria, in the UK with her dogs and loves creating lists, organizing, and cleaning her home.

 


 

31 Comments

Jan

Hello
Thank you to all who posted. I have been battling depression & anxiety for the past 20 years. Medication & therapy have helped considerably. However, even with great medical & mental health community support programs, these monsters remain. I find it very discouraging when, at 60 years old, daily life can be most challenging. There seems to be no end in sight for those days when deciding to eat or not, is crippling. The one thing I have learned is to accept that this is just where I am today. Some days I feel like I am living 5 minutes at a time as it is too overwhelming to think past this. Then the next day will come and I am back again, enjoying the small things in life. I have had to relearn taking things in babysteps & always stay in a place of mindfulness. Easy to say, tough to do! For all of us who live with depression and anxiety, hats off to us. We are strong and resilient because of our illness. Outside our circle, others just cannot understand the battle we fight within ourselves ALL the time.

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Joanne

Hello:

My name is Joanne and I reside in Boston,MA. I am a 35 Indian-American who lives with her folks due to putting myself in debt due to depression which resonated in expensive shopping because not only did I have to be depressed, I had to have expensive taste and shop at stores like Saks, Banana, and J.Crew. I feel my story will move you as I am sure many others have but, this one comes with so much insanity attached you will feel like you just had the most intense cardio workout that even Jillian Michaels has not even tried!

I moved to the states in 1985 at the age of 6 from India with my two parents, and my two siblings. Like many Legal foreigners (lol) my parents had the same dream for themselves and their family to have a better life so they could provide for their children better opportunities for a better future. Okay, let me fast forward 17 years, it was time for college, I was always quiet about the whole subject and yet gave off the impression i went with the flow, went with my friends to the college campus visits etc all the time knowing my parents were not in a position of sending me away to college due to finances and not wanting to entertain the idea of letting go. They felt I was too young and although my older brother was in his senior year of college, he never expressed the desire of moving to a campus setting so this was uncharted territory for them.

My friends moved away and I went through loss, sadness, loneliness for the first year and then I acclimated to them coming home once in a while. Lets fast forward to the age of 19, I by now, worked at CVS for the last two years or so. It worked and surprisingly lucrative because I worked so much due to having my friends away at college. I went to Quincy College taking classes here and there it was a two year affordable college. My hopes were to matriculate into a four year school. But of course I found, Bay State college and got my associates in fashion merchandising with hopes to go to NYC to F.I.T.- of course there was no way in hell my parents would be able to find a way to afford it or let go .

This led to depression, and desperation it is funny how they go hand in hand. I must have worked a million retail jobs and then at the age of 19/20 I was hired by Arnold Worldwide an advertising firm in Boston as an account coordinator entry level it was for 22k; I thought I had hit the millions! I was living on my own now cuz my parents moved to Florida due to my dad getting a transfer in the bank he was working for. Had no clue what I was doing but I went with it and guess what I survived. Got laid off by 22 and at that point was finishing up on my lease for my apartment so I had to figure out funds asap! Luckily someone created severance packages. That helped with a new apartment. My parents also helped me financially. So I guess looking back, it wasn’t that my parents did not want to help me out financially, but in their head, they were willing to help with realistic things. They did not see what a better value of an education you received while living on campus measured out to v. being a commuting student. I of course wanted my space and pushed for moving away. A battle that I lost miserably!

I signed up with almost every temp agency in the city of Boston. I went on interviews, and got job offers, some of which I showed up for the first day and some of which I boldly did not show up for. I recreated the downward emotional spiral; as a matter of fact, by the time I was done with it, my life actions resembled more of a geometric equation! Okay do not mind my corny jokes; I guess I am showing that all I can do reading this email I am preparing for you is to laugh because I did not know what I was doing! I also felt like my parents were not the people to go to for guidance because they were not supportive of me going away to schools, so what else could they possibly understand.

At 26, I received another full time job as a receptionist, I had it for a year and got promoted to the marketing division and of course go laid off. I started taking it personal! I job hunted again for a year and did every job both corporate and retail for this period of time until I found Tufts University School of Dental Medicine in 10/2005. I worked the front desk for 2.5 years while earning my bachelors at the same school I earned my fashion associates degree as they started bachelors programs at the school. I earned my bachelors in Business Management in May of 2008.

At this point, I reached out to my favorite recruiter (at this point I knew so many, that it was possible to have a favorite one lol) and she found me a job at a great finance firm as an office administrator making 33k. I did that for 2.5 years and started searching again because guess what, I got bored. I have no interest in making rich people richer is what my heart was screaming day after day. I got a job at the prestigious broad institute in Cambridge with a 15k salary increase. So I was working for the company founder Eric Lander. This was great for 7 business days until i basically told off Eric’s right hand man I was working with off because he treated me horribly and I dimed him out in front of the HR rep. I am seen as a horrible person in that company’s eyes but I felt good doing it. No one has the right to mistreat people.

After that I was back to the job search drawing board, I was job searching again, needless to say the recruiter that found me the broad institute would not work with me again but I did not perish I persevered. I found MGH, the same thing happened, someone in her twenties might I add when I am in my early 30’s basically bullied me out. I guess I lost that battle but was able to keep my sanity. This whirl wind brought me back to Tufts Dental school and I am there today.

I am still not satisfied, I joined Tufts again in 3/2011 for the front desk. I was promoted in 7/2001 for a dental practice administrator. I am currently working with two doctors co-managing a group practice of 32 dental students in a teaching dental clinic.

Phew, almost done, I racked up so many credit card bills, about 20 cards since 2003 because my boyfriend of 5 years broke up with me in the worst way not written in the books as of yet. I lost my childhood friends, and I basically had to start over. My parents took me back in in 2002 after they moved back to boston. I have 50k in debt, 40 of it from school; I graduated in 2008 but I spend money instead of wokring on paying it back. hence the same amount to pay back 4 years later. I spent money on a pilates certification and never finished it through because I got bored, I ask my parents for 4k in February of this year to do a holistic health counseling through IIN in NYC and I am 6 modules behind and module 8 comes out tomorrow. Guess what I am bored!

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Hey Sigmund

I’m sorry to hear about the disappointments you’ve had. You sound resilient though – You’ve been tested a few times and you’ve always come through. It sounds as though you haven’t found your passion yet maybe. I hope you’re able to find whatever it is that will spark you and bring you happiness. You deserve it.

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Maxine

As a current dog owner, I’m prabobly biased, but I absolutely think owning a dog has been one of the healthiest choices I’ve ever made. They are a source of constant companionship and give SO much back to you in terms of unconditional love, companionship and even entertainment. It’s really important to do your homework, though, and figure out what breed would fit in best with your lifestyle. Would dealing with shedding and fur on the carpet freak you out? Don’t get a Golden Retriever you’ll end up with fur in your food no matter how much you vaccuum. I know this from experience as that’s the breed I own. Though I wouldn’t trade him for the world he’s an absolute sweetheart. Do you want a puppy or an adult dog. A puppy is a TON of work, though that’s the route I’ve gone both times. At this point in time, I would adopt a little bit older dog to avoid the puppy stage.Once you find the perfect dog for you I absolutely believe dog ownership is a wonderful de-stresser. They ask for so little, but give back so much. Just petting a dog is a great way to unwind and forget the stress of the day. If your down or depressed, just looking at their happy faces and wagging tail can lift your spirits.There is a good bit of responsibility to having a dog. You have to spend time with them and to some degree put them first when making plans. But in my opinion it’s worth it for the pleasure they can bring to your life.A dog can be a great stabilizing force in your life. Just be VERY sure to research and get the right breed for you. There’ll be an adjustment period while you get to know each other, but most dogs live to please you, so if you take the time to train your dog and spend lots of time with him, he’ll learn quickly what you like and don’t like.Good luck with your decision!

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Sharon Rowe

Thank you Isobel for taking the time to comment, it is a difficult area, one that people hide because of the difficulties it can cause. I am glad that you are taking care of your own needs.

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Dafydd Davies

Hi,

Ive been dealing with this illness for years and know exactly how you feel. The best thing I ever did was to go to see a Cognitive Behavioural therapist. They teach you to adapt your way of thinking and in a short space of time you start feeling the benefits.

I personally got to the point where I couldn’t leave my house. It was horrible.

There is a solution though.

Hope this helps

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Rachel O'Brien

Thanks so much for this, you describe me perfectly. It’s a relief to know that I don’t have a moral failing or that I’m a useless,lazy person who wallows in self pity (really). There are times when I can’t even make the decision which foot to put forward and it feels so overwhelmingly hopeless. And you’re right, I do try to accept it but there’s an awful lot of people out there who don’t. Thankyou for your honesty and bravery.

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Sharon Rowe

Thank you Rachel for your kind words. There is just one reason I share and that is for others to know they are not alone, often it can feel like you are the only one who has these difficulties and the more you realize that you are not alone sometimes it is easier to deal with. 🙂

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Isobel

Dear Sharon,
Like some of the other admirers of your article I related hugely to what you said. I realised I could almost have been writing it myself especially when you talk about your perfectionism and the OCD ish cleaning habits. I had to admit to myself just over a year ago that I was suffering with depression and anxiety. It was a hard thing to do as I am a professional psychotherapeutic counsellor. “I can’t be ill!” Is what I thought, until finally I broke down. I stopped work for over a year to reconnect with myself and what is important in my life. I too refused antidepressants having seen many of my clients suffering nasty side effects. I feel like I am now slowly emerging, though have my bad/black days. I thank you for sharing your experience and ask if I can share it through my website articles for a while?

Warm Regards,
Isobel.

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Cheryl

Thank you Sharon for your story and thoughts and feelings on anxiety and depression. I spent my childhood witnessing my dad suffer with depression. At the time I did not realise what it was he was suffering with I just thought he was ill and sad. During my adolescent years I started to feel sad at times but thought it was normal and everyone felt like it. I had some awful times that I found extremely difficult but struggled on the best I could. I could not talk to my mum as she was exhausted all the time and not the easiest person to approach. I did feel closer to my dad but he was always very tired after working all day. I was the eldest child of 4 and my parents relationship deteriorated but they stayed together. To cut a long story short my childhood wasn’t the easiest, my adolescent years were troubled, lonely and I would sleep to overcome the sadness. I left home at 19 to try and find some happiness and eventually married at 26. I have 4 beautiful grown up daughters. When my youngest was 15 months old I had my first panic attack and raced myself to the doctor. I was diagnosed with severe depression and have been medicated ever since ( 20 yrs). I continued to see my doctor regularly and still do, have seen a clinical psychologist and still, like you, have good times and some very dark days. It is a very hard condition to learn to accept. Over the years I decided to not let it take over my life. I am a very driven person and don’t allow things to beat me but at times I become so overwhelmed and stressed that I can’t cope and end up having what I call a melt down. It is during these times I really struggle to cope. In some ways I am my own worst enemy but I am passionate about my career, pushing myself to further my teaching quaIifications, not wanting to give in to what I call my ‘brain cancer’. I too have started to write in a journal. I have to get out my feelings some how and paper is NON JUDGEMENTAL. People aren’t. Unless you have it you really can’t imagine what depression and anxiety feels like. It is good to see that more and more people are talking about it increasing awareness.

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Sharon Rowe

Cheryl, Thank you for your kind words, it is hard to understand depression and anxiety unless you experience it first hand, I know that feeling of not wanting to let it take control and fighting for a ‘normal’ life. I am lucky that I work from home and that enables me to have my down days and just up the work to compensate, I couldn’t do the job market, I tried and failed, I had one major breakdown at work and I just couldn’t face going back so I changed and adjusted to something that could allow me to work and to not have to deal with certain aspects. In some ways I can see that this is negative I am not facing some of my demons head on like I should but maybe one day, just not today I might tackle it again. Thanks for taking the time to comment and share, I really do enjoy connecting with people 🙂

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Eli

Dear Victoria,

I cannot begin to fathom your financial situation and I won’t try to.

I do empathize with living life with anxiety and depression without the proper care.

For a while I had been seeing a ‘doc’ about another issue and that only caused me more depression; since I was reliving sad memories.

There was then a long stretch of time that I was out of the country. My story continues with going to another psychologist who really couldn’t care less were I to follow up on ‘bad thoughts’ (suicide).

All in all, it was pretty rough without proper care and attention. Thank god now I’m with a really good doctor.

I implore you from the bottom of my heart:
If at all possible, get yourself the care you need. Start to feel those hands holding you up. Talk to someone. Share the burden. Develop some tools to manage your emotions.

You can’t begin to imagine how helpful it is for me.

I’m still young so my parents have the financial burden. But they make the sacrifice for me and two brothers; as well as seeing a family therapist in the near future. (We aren’t on the ten richest list 🙂 .)

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Sharon Rowe

Unfortunately, it isn’t always possible to be able to get the professional help. I use to see a councilor it was free but then this was removed, it was offered for a set fee but it is not something that I could consider doing because the financial burden would be more than we can spare, so while it isn’t easy sometimes it is necessary to not be able to afford all the medical attention we need.

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Hollie

Thank you for sharing some of your story. Our daughter (14) has recently been diagnosed with anxiety and depression. She goes for cognitive behavioral therapy weekly and has appt to see a psychiatrist next week for medication. I was wondering at what age did you discover you were ill and have/do you take meds to help and do they help? I hesitate to start drugs at her young age but we have seen 2 major depression episodes along with some mild mania in the last six months. We lost her dad suddenly when she was 9. They were very close and we were devestated by his loss. She grief suppressed for a long time but eventually this turned into the depression and anxiety. I am just wondering what more we can do to help her?

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Sharon Rowe

Hi Hollie I was not that young when I started taking medication for my depression but that was mainly because I didn’t tell people how I was feeling, I bottled it up inside for so long.
If you look at the medication in a different way, if your daughter had a chest infection and needed antibiotics to help her cure the illness you wouldn’t think twice, it is the same with depression medication it is there to help the chemical imbalance. Medication for depression has improved a lot in the last few years and it tackles the problem and helps. I found the medication made me feel nauseous so I take mine at night and sleep through any of those symptoms.
I think you are doing a great job by helping and supporting her, getting her the help she needs. Well done.

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Rhonda

Thank you for such an insightful visit into the world of anxiety. My teenager faces this challenge and my husband and I have difficulty understanding what he is going through as he has difficulty communicating his feelings with his parents (as do most teens). I believe you have described exactly what he is going through and now that I understand his situation more clearly, I can deal with his “behaviours” in a much more positive and compassionate way.

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Sharon Rowe

I am so glad that you will be able to help your son, it is not easy talking about how you feel or even to put it into words whether you are a teenager or an adult.

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Linda

I wish I could email this message to my insurance company who calls me every 2 weeks wondering why I can’t go back to work yet… Your blog says it all!

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Teri

Thanks for sharing. I have seen depression on my medical records for decades. I always think I am normal and the doctors have great paying jobs and don’t understand how hard it is for a working person to find a decent paying job that allows for one to have a life too. I refuse medication because it makes me feel awful. I can live with highs and lows but sameness and feeling blah makes me feel so sad. It is like living without passion. It steals hope.

Journaling has been the medicine I choose to take that has worked long term. I listen to myself and decide what is normal for me. I feel the effects when I don’t journal so I write three pages daily to keep my balance. Journaling and walking help restore my joy.

Thanks for a great read.

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Sharon Rowe

Thank you Teri, I found the medication difficult at first but I started to take it in the evening so all those funny feelings happened when I was asleep.
Journaling is a great way to help keep you balanced, over the years before I started writing by blog and for other people, I would keep a journal. I could write pages and I think it did help to keep my balance.

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Claire

i agree, this is a great article and makes me better realise that it’s not just me who feels like that… Xx

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Lori Christie

Wow this is so me. Even with medication some days are just terrible. Every day is like a new battle. I also have an eating disorder and Fybro.

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Victoria F

Thank you for sharing your life and heart with us. I feel so related to this article. Unfortunately I don’t have money to go to a specialist (recently unemployed) so
it’s been a struggle everyday.

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Sharon Rowe

Thank you Victoria for taking your time to comment. I feel for you, it is not easy dealing with depression especially if you are dealing with it on your own. I share my thoughts and feelings so others know they are not alone and you are not alone, I am there with you struggling too.

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The temptation to fix their big feelings can be seismic. Often this is connected to needing to ease our own discomfort at their discomfort, which is so very normal.

Big feelings in them are meant to raise (sometimes big) feelings in us. This is all a healthy part of the attachment system. It happens to mobilise us to respond to their distress, or to protect them if their distress is in response to danger.

Emotion is energy in motion. We don’t want to bury it, stop it, smother it, and we don’t need to fix it. What we need to do is make a safe passage for it to move through them. 

Think of emotion like a river. Our job is to hold the ground strong and steady at the banks so the river can move safely, without bursting the banks.

However hard that river is racing, they need to know we can be with the river (the emotion), be with them, and handle it. This might feel or look like you aren’t doing anything, but actually it’s everything.

The safety that comes from you being the strong, steady presence that can lovingly contain their big feelings will let the emotional energy move through them and bring the brain back to calm.

Eventually, when they have lots of experience of us doing this with them, they will learn to do it for themselves, but that will take time and experience. The experience happens every time you hold them steady through their feelings. 

This doesn’t mean ignoring big behaviour. For them, this can feel too much like bursting through the banks, which won’t feel safe. Sometimes you might need to recall the boundary and let them know where the edges are, while at the same time letting them see that you can handle the big of the feeling. Its about loving and leading all at once. ‘It’s okay to be angry. It’s not okay to use those words at me.’

Ultimately, big feelings are a call for support. Sometimes support looks like breathing and being with. Sometimes it looks like showing them you can hold the boundary, even when they feel like they’re about to burst through it. And if they’re using spicy words to get us to back off, it might look like respecting their need for space but staying in reaching distance, ‘Ok, I’m right here whenever you need.’♥️
We all need certain things to feel safe enough to put ourselves into the world. Kids with anxiety have magic in them, every one of them, but until they have a felt sense of safety, it will often stay hidden.

‘Safety’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what they feel. At school, they might have the safest, most loving teacher in the safest, most loving school. This doesn’t mean they will feel enough relational safety straight away that will make it easier for them to do hard things. They can still do those hard things, but those things are going to feel bigger for a while. This is where they’ll need us and their other anchor adult to be patient, gentle, and persistent.

Children aren’t meant to feel safe with and take the lead from every adult. It’s not the adult’s role that makes the difference, but their relationship with the child.

Children are no different to us. Just because an adult tells them they’ll be okay, it doesn’t mean they’ll feel it or believe it. What they need is to be given time to actually experience the person as being safe, supportive and ready to catch them.

Relationship is key. The need for safety through relationship isn’t an ‘anxiety thing’. It’s a ‘human thing’. When we feel closer to the people around us, we can rise above the mountains in our way. When we feel someone really caring about us, we’re more likely to open up to their influence
and learn from them.

But we have to be patient. Even for teachers with big hearts and who undertand the importance of attachment relationships, it can take time.

Any adult at school can play an important part in helping a child feel safe – as long as that adult is loving, warm, and willing to do the work to connect with that child. It might be the librarian, the counsellor, the office person, a teacher aide. It doesn’t matter who, as long as it is someone who can be available for that child at dropoff or when feelings get big during the day and do little check-ins along the way.

A teacher, or any important adult can make a lasting difference by asking, ‘How do I build my relationship with this child so s/he trusts me when I say, ‘I’ve got you, and I know you can do this.’♥️
There is a beautiful ‘everythingness’ in all of us. The key to living well is being able to live flexibly and more deliberately between our edges.

So often though, the ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’ we inhale in childhood and as we grow, lead us to abandon some of those precious, needed parts of us. ‘Don’t be angry/ selfish/ shy/ rude. She’s not a maths person.’ ‘Don’t argue.’ Ugh.

Let’s make sure our children don’t cancel parts of themselves. They are everything, but not always all at once. They can be anxious and brave. Strong and soft. Angry and calm. Big and small. Generous and self-ish. Some things they will find hard, and they can do hard things. None of these are wrong ways to be. What trips us up is rigidity, and only ever responding from one side of who we can be.

We all have extremes or parts we favour. This is what makes up the beautiful, complex, individuality of us. We don’t need to change this, but the more we can open our children to the possibility in them, the more options they will have in responding to challenges, the everyday, people, and the world. 

We can do this by validating their ‘is’ without needing them to be different for a while in the moment, and also speaking to the other parts of them when we can. 

‘Yes maths is hard, and I know you can do hard things. How can I help?’

‘I can see how anxious you feel. That’s so okay. I also know you have brave in you.’

‘I love your ‘big’ and the way you make us laugh. You light up the room.’ And then at other times: ‘It can be hard being in a room with new people can’t it. It’s okay to be quiet. I could see you taking it all in.’

‘It’s okay to want space from people. Sometimes you just want your things and yourself for yourself, hey. I feel like that sometimes too. I love the way you know when you need this.’ And then at other times, ‘You looked like you loved being with your friends today. I loved watching you share.’

The are everything, but not all at once. Our job is to help them live flexibly and more deliberately between the full range of who they are and who they can be: anxious/brave; kind/self-ish; focussed inward/outward; angry/calm. This will take time, and there is no hurry.♥️
For our kids and teens, the new year will bring new adults into their orbit. With this, comes new opportunities to be brave and grow their courage - but it will also bring anxiety. For some kiddos, this anxiety will feel so big, but we can help them feel bigger.

The antidote to a felt sense of threat is a felt sense of safety. As long as they are actually safe, we can facilitate this by nurturing their relationship with the important adults who will be caring for them, whether that’s a co-parent, a stepparent, a teacher, a coach. 

There are a number of ways we can facilitate this:

- Use the name of their other adult (such as a teacher) regularly, and let it sound loving and playful on your voice.
- Let them see that you have an open, willing heart in relation to the other adult.
- Show them you trust the other adult to care for them (‘I know Mrs Smith is going to take such good care of you.’)
- Facilitate familiarity. As much as you can, hand your child to the same person when you drop them off.

It’s about helping expand their village of loving adults. The wider this village, the bigger their world in which they can feel brave enough. 

For centuries before us, it was the village that raised children. Parenting was never meant to be done by one or two adults on their own, yet our modern world means that this is how it is for so many of us. 

We can bring the village back though - and we must - by helping our kiddos feel safe, known, and held by the adults around them. We need this for each other too.

The need for safety through relationship isn’t an ‘anxiety thing’. It’s a ‘human thing’. When we feel closer to the people around us, we can rise above the mountains that block our way.♥️

That power of felt safety matters for all relationships - parent and child; other adult and child; parent and other adult. It all matters. 

A teacher, or any important adult in the life of a child, can make a lasting difference by asking, ‘How do I build my relationship with this child (and their parent) so s/he trusts me when I say, ‘I’ve got you, I care about you, and I know you can do this.’♥️
Approval, independence, autonomy, are valid needs for all of us. When a need is hungry enough we will be driven to meet it however we can. For our children, this might look like turning away from us and towards others who might be more ready to meet the need, or just taking.

If they don’t feel they can rest in our love, leadership, approval, they will seek this more from peers. There is no problem with this, but we don’t want them solely reliant on peers for these. It can make them vulnerable to making bad decisions, so as not to lose the approval or ‘everythingness’ of those peers.

If we don’t give enough freedom, they might take that freedom through defiance, secrecy, the forbidden. If we control them, they might seek more to control others, or to let others make the decisions that should be theirs.

All kids will mess up, take risks, keep secrets, and do things that baffle us sometimes. What’s important is, ‘Do they turn to us when they need to, enough?’ The ‘turning to’ starts with trusting that we are interested in supporting all their needs, not just the ones that suit us. Of course this doesn’t mean we will meet every need. It means we’ve shown them that their needs are important to us too, even though sometimes ours will be bigger (such as our need to keep them safe).

They will learn safe and healthy ways to meet their needs, by first having them met by us. This doesn’t mean granting full independence, full freedom, and full approval. What it means is holding them safely while also letting them feel enough of our approval, our willingness to support their independence, freedom, autonomy, and be heard on things that matter to them.

There’s no clear line with this. Some days they’ll want independence. Some days they won’t. Some days they’ll seek our approval. Some days they won’t care for it at all, especially if it means compromising the approval of peers. The challenge for us is knowing when to hold them closer and when to give space, when to hold the boundary and when to release it a little, when to collide and when to step out of the way. If we watch and listen, they will show us. And just like them, we won’t need to get it right all the time.♥️

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