Category Archives: anxiety

You’re telling me it’s ok

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Tomorrow, finally, is election day. Our country has shown itself to be broken, divided, and ugly during this season. Women, in particular, find ourselves in a cloud of anxiety – anxiety triggered by a presidential candidate’s bragging about sexually assaulting women, by the multiple accusations of sexual assault against him, and by the enormous response of shaming, discrediting, and excusing by supporters who will go to no end to stand by their candidate.

Here’s the thing about sexual abuse and assault: it results in lifelong anxiety and shame that’s just under the surface, waiting to be triggered. The national conversation surrounding Trump’s blatant misogyny and abuse of women has been a trigger for countless women, myself included.

“She’s a pig.” “She wouldn’t be my first choice.” “They let you do whatever you want.” “Grab her by the pussy.” “Have you seen her?” “Such a nasty woman.” “She’s gross.”

We are not deaf to these things, and we are certainly not deaf to the rush of voices across the country shouting angrily that women are too sensitive, they’re liars, they’re attention whores and ungrateful hypocrites.

To the Trump supporters around me who think his disgusting statements about and his actions toward women are “no big deal” or that he respects women despite consistently and blatantly acting to the contrary, you may feel like your words, your excuses are as inconsequential as Trump’s are, I say bullshit. Those messages are dangerous, and I think it’s irresponsible at best to keep perpetuating the excuses.

Because what you’re saying to me when you don’t call out your candidate when he refers to his own daughter as a “nice piece of ass” is that it is ok that young women are shown by society that they do not really own but are still completely responsible for what happens to their bodies in the hands of men. When the boy I loved in high school abused me for three years and turned out to be a violent sociopath, these messages told me it was my fault for not getting away or seeing clearly from the inside what was going on. As if that is something any 17 year old is capable of.

When you say “all men act that way”, you are telling me that those times I was rubbed against on a dance floor in a bar, when I just wanted to dance with a local band, I should’ve been grateful. You’re saying that it’s fine that those testosterone and booze-filled college men who had to be told “I have a boyfriend” in order to leave me alone because “no thanks” isn’t legitimate but “a man has already claimed me” is, those boys are a norm that is completely ok with you.

When a lying, womanizing, not-good-enough-to-call-a-man I was involved with in college manipulated me and his other girlfriend to hide his cheating and make sure we were suspicious of eachother and of ourselves, defenses like those of Donald Trump told me I should just be ashamed and admit I was a slut. When that same man came to my apartment with the intention of doing things I wasn’t ok with, that I said no to and struggled against, those hateful attitudes told me I probably deserved to be pinned face down on my bedroom floor, raped, and made to act like nothing ever happened. And I never reported the assault because no way in hell was I going to put myself through the public crucifixion that happens to college rape victims in small towns.

So when you call Trump’s accusers ugly or liars, then cheer when he says he will sue his victims for coming forward, you’re telling me it is okay for a man to hold down a woman and take what he wants and, more importantly, that it’s dangerous to report such a violation because we all know women only report rape when they’re desperate.

I don’t want any sympathy or attention. Until today, I’ve kept my stories to myself to avoid re-victimization or questions, and only a few of my closest people know them. But then a presidential candidate triggered my anxiety and sent me into a tailspin. Thousands of women came forward bravely to share their assault stories, and thousands more men excused Trump’s behavior as if it was normal. As if we have no right to feel safe as long as we have the nerve to carry around these female bodies. As if we can’t be trusted with these bodies because we aren’t the ones who know what we really want. So I’m adding my voice to the growing national conversation running parallel to this destructive one. Because until we all tell our stories and get angry and stand up and build a community of support, the destructive conversation will be the only one people are listening to. We have to be louder.

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Kindergarten Fears

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Kindergarten Fears

My older son started kindergarten this year, and we were expecting him to love it once he got past initial worries.  He was anxious to begin with – he was worried he wouldn’t know anyone, worried he would be late to school , worried his teacher might not be as nice as his preschool teacher had been.  Once school started and he realized he did know kids in his class, that it’s ok to be late once in a while, and that his teacher is just as nice as the preschool teacher, I figured it would be smooth sailing.

As it turns out, not every child, even the well-adjusted ones, loves kindergarten. Even kids who love to learn and love the idea of school can have a setback with a change as big as starting public school. And don’t get me wrong, he likes kindergarten; it is just very, very stressful for him.

N has always had anxiety about new things, but until kindergarten started in such a difficult way for him, I didn’t realize just how much pressure he puts on himself.  When he misses an instruction during a game of tag in gym class, he feels embarrassed and worried even if the gym teacher doesn’t notice.  He has cried several afternoons after school because he said it’s “too much for him” to worry about doing everything perfectly during school hours.

We’ve never had a house where anyone feels outside pressure to be perfect, and I try to reward effort or kindness over perfection and being the best at things.  But some children are just born anxious, and I think my N is one of them.  So I started looking into things I could do to help him survive a little more easily.

Statistically, 10-20% of school-aged children experience anxiety.  It is the most common mental health condition in children and adults, and luckily it is one of the easiest to deal with before it becomes debilitating.  It is nice to know that my child isn’t alone, and that there is expert advice out there to help me help him.

The Child Mind Institute has some excellent suggestions for helping children deal with anxiety.  Among their list of suggestions is this:

“The message you want to send is, ‘I know you’re scared, and that’s okay, and I’m here, and I’m going to help you get through this’…You can’t promise a child that her fears are unrealistic—that she won’t fail a test, that she’ll have fun ice skating, or that another child won’t laugh at her during show & tell. But you can express confidence that she’s going to be okay, she will be able to manage it, and that, as she faces her fears, the anxiety level will drop over time. This gives her confidence that your expectations are realistic, and that you’re not going to ask her to do something she can’t handle.”

Giving children skills to manage their anxiety will help them be successful in life without being afraid of failing.  Because they will fail, and we have to let them.  But we can work with them to be okay with not being the best at everything, not being perfect, and not being afraid to be who they are.  One thing I have learned while helping my son navigate the first month of kindergarten is that sometimes we don’t even know these worries are in our children.  If we don’t ask or don’t pay close attention to what is going on with them, we may miss it altogether.  Had my son not broken down over a Lego fight with his brother that would never have fazed him otherwise, I would not have thought to ask him what was really wrong, and I would never have known he was constantly worrying about school.

Now that the communication is open and I’m making a big effort to curb some of this anxiety, we can talk about it, run through scenarios that might come up, and then debrief after each long day at school.  If my son can manage to get through some of the smaller hiccups like forgetting an instruction, he can move onto dealing with life’s bigger unknowns and hopefully learn to deal with his internal pressure in positive, productive ways.

 

*A version of this post first ran on Greeley Moms.