Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Living Anxiety as a Homeschool Mum

Anxiety, for anyone, is hard.
Full stop.
But dealing with Anxiety when you have your child around you 24/7, especially when they too suffer with Anxiety, is a tricky thing.

We've been homeschooling for years now.  This is our 5th year.  I'd like to think we have a routine, a pattern, a learning style sorted and a flow.  And we do to some degree.  But we also still have (and I dare say will always have) Anxiety to deal with.

Recently life changed for my son and I. 
His father moved away interstate for work and he is adjusting to not seeing him for months at a time.  It's not going well, but I am trying to do what I can for my boy.  It doesn't help that I am adjusting to being on my own now and coming to terms with my own disabilities, limitations and ways to cope.  It doesn't help that I am a mess while trying to be there for my child.

Anxiety is ever present throughout the whole process.  Anxiety makes the process a million times harder.

I can't begin to describe how the littlest things become huge, all consuming, mammoth tasks that you spend all day sorting out.  The first day was spent just doing daily chores, trying to work out the best order for things to be done in and making sure I didn't forget anything.  I think I wrote 20 lists just to curb the anxiety that made me sick to my stomach.

After an injury in the backyard that weekend, and my son therefore helping me, he unfortunately left the downstairs freezer open and all the food spoiled.  I felt myself crumble.  While others might experience anger or frustration before getting on with the task of cleaning up and it all being sorted in a matter of an hour, it's very different for me.  I had a panic attack.  Actually I had 4 major ones.  I struggled to breathe, had pains through my chest and yes you feel like you are having a heart attack.  I needed to sit and cry and sob for over an hour before I could even start to plan what to do.  I wrote more lists.  I felt like an utter failure as a mother, as a carer, as a person.  I saw my son crumble thinking it was all his fault and he'd caused my meltdown.  That as a mother is hard to cope with.  I then had another panic attack over realising the garbage bin being almost full and it was still two days till the garbage collection.  By the time I had collected myself (again) and was able to think, then cleaned out the freezer, dumped all the food, cleaned up the water, then decided the one section that hadn't thawed needed defrosting, and defrosted it, it was 5 hours later and after 11pm. 

Then I could breathe a little easier.  I still woke 6 times that night worried the freezer wasn't closed and was broken or that I hadn't mopped up enough and water had damaged something.

The whole next day was filled with anxiety and panic over replacing the lost food.  I struggled with meal planning that day despite having basics.  You just cannot connect the dots and function like a regular adult.  Things had changed.  I don't like change.  My usually articulate and switched on brain was broken.

Due to my own health issues, I can no longer just go and do groceries as I used to, and have my son's father here to carry it all up the stairs and do the heavy lifting and the bending etc.  So to re stock the freezer I had no choice but to enter the world of online groceries.  And welcome to the world of huge anxiety and more panic attacks.  The realisation that you have to rely on someone else to help you (and ask for help in the first place!) is a huge slap in the face.

Most people don't think much of ordering groceries online. Just pick a store online, add what you want to the online cart, select a delivery time and pay.  Done.
OMG if only it were that easy. 

I spent 3 hours on one website and 2 on another.  I hated both.  My OCD and Aspie issues screaming at me all while struggling to breathe and focus.  I eventually get my 'carts' full and then comes the decision of picking a delivery time.  What happens if I need to go out unexpectedly?  My child could get sick, or the dogs or me!  An hour later I had picked times.  Yep, it took an hour to click the button to confirm the times.  One store to deliver in the morning, one in the afternoon.  There was a 2 hour gap window if I needed to go out.  Realistically that should have been enough to calm and placate me yes? No. Just no.

 I have sat here all day, waiting for each, crossing off lists, feeling sick the whole time and being a wound up ball of electricity.  All over grocery deliveries because it was a first time thing.  Every car driving past, every noise, sets me off.

I am still anxious because I need to go and buy a child latch to make sure the freezer door stays securely closed.  I doubt I will sleep well till I have one *as she sits up typing this because I can't switch off my brain and sleep* 
And that's a whole other thing to be anxious over.

I don't think others realise how 'all consuming' anxiety can be.  How the easiest of things for them, the most mundane things, can cause such panic to me.  

So how do you homeschool amongst all of that?  Well you often don't.  On those days there isn't much point trying to get major things done.  This week we have spent reading and watching educational (on topic) documentaries as bookwork has been just too hard.  My son still learnt a lot, but our days look very different to others if I honestly painted that picture for them.  I used to worry that the anxiety we both had meant that we wouldn't get enough done and wouldn't 'keep up' but I quickly realised that the anxiety we'd both be dealing with if my son was back in mainstream school would be far worse and have a much greater impact on his education, his health and our lives.  

Not all days are like this.  Some are great and we can do a lot.  Some are calm and we are both up to exploring and being open to new people, new experiences, new foods etc.  But some are not.  Some are home days.  Days we need to withdraw and just cope with life.  Those days are hard.  Those days are not easy to explain to others without sounding like a whinger or a weakling or a failure of a person.  Those days we can sound needy and like common sense took a well earned distant extended vacation.  We can come across as selfish crappy friends.  However it is what it is and that's us, take us or leave us.

Anxiety is something that evolves and creeps up on you even when you think you have it managed.  

Despite all this, one thing I know is that being a mum with Anxiety to a child with Anxiety means showing your child that even though it is hard, we can get through it.  If he sees me struggle, but sees me get up and fight on each day, then he can gather strength and resilience through that.  I can help my son to see that it's ok to face the anxiety head on, cry, get angry and get through it.  I can help my son to see he is not alone and that a lot of people go through this.  I can help eliminate negativity and empower him.  If I tried to hide all my anxiety issues from him then I'd be doing him an injustice in the long run.  Homeschooling my son while having my Anxiety (and multitude of other health issues) means teaching him more than facts and figures.  It's not exactly conventional, but it's a big lesson on self empowerment, resilience, compassion, understanding and a strong respect for humanities personal struggles.

All that plus teaching him it's ok to take time to chill out with mum on the couch under a blanket while watching a DVD in air conditioning.  Because that's important too LOL.

I wrote this today for all the mums out there who go through this, who very much feel they fail at parenthood and life, who need a hug and a magic fairy to step in and help out.  I wrote this in case another homeschooling mum is feeling like today is all just too much and is feeling like she is the only one.  
You are not alone my friends.


  1. Sending huge hugs your way xoxo

  2. Thanks :). It's good therapy for me to get it off my chest sometimes and an excuse to fill time when I can't sleep at midnight ;)