Parenting with Anxiety

This morning I was reading Facebook on my phone when a plastic bowl sailed past me and smashed into the dining table.  “Ben!”  I shouted, more out of fear and startlement than anger.  As soon as the word was out of my mouth, I regretted it. Ben crumpled into a sorry, sobbing heap, frightened by my outburst.

The loud noise and movement had triggered my anxiety, setting off the fight or flight response in my body.  Even after Ben and I hugged it out and he was all smiles once again it took a while for my nerves to settle.

The whole incident lasted all of two minutes, but it happens often in our house.  Sometimes I can go a week without an outburst.  Sometimes when my anxiety is close to the surface, as it has been the past few days, they happen more frequently.  Ben is often the target of the startled yell.  He is an exuberant child, who moves constantly, even in his sleep.

He runs and jumps, bounces off of the furniture, walls, people.  At meal times he won’t sit at the table.  Instead he does headstands on the couch or planks with his hands on the table and his feet balanced on the back of his chair.  His father is pretty much a walking playground which he scales and jumps on without warning.

I love Ben’s energy.  I love the physicality of it and his fearlessness.  At the same time I can’t stand it.  Loud, sudden movements make me flinch and set me on edge.  Being jumped on makes me cringe.  I’m always on guard for a blow to the body.  Ben doesn’t mean to hurt me.  But he is energetic and clumsy at times.  No matter how many times we explain that he doesn’t roughhouse with me, he will forget in his excitement.

Rather than dampen that enthusiasm, or worse, punish him for how he interacts with the world, I take great care to manage my condition.  I am on medication to help with my depression that in turn lessens the intensity of my anxiety.  I am in therapy as well.  For the day-to-day, minute-to-minute stuff, though, I have struggled to find solutions.  I’ve had to learn how to walk away and be okay with that.  Telling Stephan that I have to step away has been the best coping mechanism I’ve learned.*

Finding  activities I can do with my son that doesn’t involve jumping around has helped.  We play with Legos, a lot.  We read books.  We cuddle.   We sit in the hall closet and play Minecraft on the tablet.  I try in as many ways as possible to let him know that I love him and he is not at fault for my current state of mind.  I try each day to focus on the good times, to be patient with myself and him, to know that I am working on getting better.

With all of that, however, I still struggle with the belief that I am a bad mother, that I am scarring my kids.  I am honest with them about what I am going through: that I am struggling with anxiety and depression.  They know I take medication to help, that I see a doctor.  They might not understand fully what it is that is going on, but they see I am doing what I can to get better.  I hope that helps to counter the times when my issues get the better of me.

Only time will tell.


*Though it took time and comes with its own guilty baggage.   It’s hard to admit that you need a break from your children, when they are just doing what comes naturally to them.

Spiral Garden

A few months ago I got sucked into Pinterest, despite my long time resistance. I get annoyed by any platform that requires you to sign up for an account to view the content. But with Pinterest boards being the top results for searches, I finally broke down and signed up. I understand why it is such a popular site. Crowd powered research mixed with social media makes for a powerful and extensive source of information.

Which is where I learned about spiral gardens.  It started with this picture.  I was immediately taken with the idea of an herb garden that is vertical and circular.  Our backyard is all angles, which I have been trying to soften with curved beds and features.  I also wanted to relocate my turtle shrine from behind the arbor vitae in the back to somewhere more prominent.   With that in mind, we set out to work.

Keeping with the motto of “Use what you have.” we started with collecting rocks, stones and pavers from around the yard.  After thirteen years in this house, I had amassed quite a collection of yard masonry.  To that haul I added a clay pot that had cracked over the winter.  Half of the pot went to the spiral garden and the other, smaller half, was used to make a toad house.

Putting the spiral took about two days of laying stone and adding in soil.  The dirt came from two other raised beds we had dismantled.  Ben provided worms he scrounged from the overturned dirt.  I added bark and leaf debris to the space between the rocks and the wood fence, as well as inside the back of the pot, to provide a habitat for bugs and other garden fauna.

To keep our dog, Enya, from climbing into the spiral from the sides, I moved two other large pots to flank it.  They’ll be useful for mint or other plants that need to be contained.  The turtle went on top of the pot and we called the whole thing done.  I would like to propagate moss on the stones and the turtle, but that’s proven a bit difficult.  Enya, the dog who treated the compost heap like a salad bar, found the moss slurry (moss and buttermilk blended together) and licked most of it off the rocks I had spread it on.  I may have to put some fencing up to keep her out until it has gotten established.

Now all that is left is to plan what will go on the spiral while I wait for planting time.

The skeleton of the system

There is no such thing as the isolated mythical event, just as there is no such thing as the isolated word. Myth, like language, gives all of itself in each of its fragments. When a myth brings into play repetition and variants, the skeleton of the system emerges for a while, the latent order, covered in seaweed.

Roberto Calasso, The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony