When You’re a Mom with Anxiety Disorder, You Know the Monsters Are Real
I have such immense anxiety. It sweeps me up into its furious winds. And my kids are at the middle of the storm.
This is a monthly column by Katie Rose Pryal about family life, mental illness, and raising disabled kids as a disabled parent.
Then I start walking toward the fishing pond across the street.
On my way, I spot a flash of blue in the grass, as blue as a robin’s egg. My son’s bike helmet. I pick it up and clutch it to me. I continue walking toward the pond. Six is a good swimmer. I’ve made sure of that. But kids drown, so I have to check. I have to put my eyes on the water, walk the perimeter, check.
I don’t know how much time has passed since we realized Six was missing. It could have been five minutes. It could have been an hour.
I’m almost to the pond when my phone rings. “I found him. I have him.” It’s my brother-in-law. He found Six at my parents’ house. Six biked there looking for his Mimi and Pop-Pop. When he arrived, no one was home because they are out of town.
In anxieta veritas
How can my husband be hit by the same barrage of notices about our children, and not be tortured like I am? This torture is the difference between a parent who has anxiety and a parent who does not. In my mind, one email about math becomes probation becomes expulsion—the path is as inevitable as it is clear. My bayou grandmother, were she still with us, would tell me that I’m borrowing trouble. My psychiatrist would say that I’m ruminating. All I know is that when an email arrives from school, I’m out of sorts for the rest of the day, unable to work or even to think about anything but the ugly potential consequences that my mind creates, each one a small, poisonous gift.
For years, the calls and emails were so frequent that my husband had the school put him down as the primary contact. He filtered through notices, only sharing the direst ones with me. We didn’t think we’d need this special plan with our kids’ new school. We were wrong.
Every time I get a notice about something someone thinks my child has done wrong, again, I want to rip my family away from here, wrap myself around them like a giant raptor with wings the size of the world, fly them to a place where no one lives but us, and nestle them there, where they can grow and learn and become the people that they will be. There, they can thrive.
Katie is an author, speaker, an expert on mental disability. She is autistic and has bipolar disorder. She's the author of more than fifteen books that center mental disability, an eclectic mix, including an IPPY-award-winning series of romantic suspense novels and four essay collections on mental health and trauma (two of which won national awards). After earning her master's from the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars, she earned her law degree and doctorate in rhetoric. She works toward accessibility for everyone. A professor of writing, she lives in Chapel Hill, NC, with her family and horses.
Enter your email address to receive notifications for author Katie Rose Pryal
Confirmation link sent to your email to add you to notification list for author Katie Rose Pryal
More by this author
An Autistic Girl’s Guide to Horses
Learning I was autistic gave me insight into my childhood fixations and hurts, into how those things have stayed with me over the decades.
No, I Don’t Want Your Advice on How My Kids or I Can Be “Cured”
I’m not looking for a cure—not for my kids, and not for me. Any treatment we choose is merely a tool to help us enjoy our lives.
What It Takes to Advocate for Twice-Exceptional Kids in School
I think about the many invisible struggles, the empty places I have had to fill for my kids. The bridges I’ve had to build.
More in this series
Finding a World Big Enough for My Twice-Exceptional Kids
Every day, when my kids come home from school, the first thing I ask them—like most parents do—is about school. But unlike most parents, I do not expect my kids to say that school was fine.
For Parents and Children with Psychiatric Disabilities, the Stigma Creates an Extra Fight We Don’t Need
So many people have suggested I stop taking medication for my bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, and panic attacks. The stigma is strong.
My Mom, Princess Diana, and Me
At what point does someone we’ve lost become only a story we tell, more myth than memory?