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A Mom’s Silent Struggle with Social Anxiety

Great Expectations

I had been looking forward to this baby shower for months. When I was pregnant with my firstborn eight years ago, the only baby shower I had was the one my coworkers so graciously threw me the day I went on bedrest. Now, seven years later, I was pregnant with my sweet baby girl…our bonus baby. Three different baby showers were being hosted for me, the last being hosted by my sisters.

They chose a baby Star Wars theme. My inner nerd was PUMPED! The few sneak peeks they sent me of the decorations had me ridiculously excited for the big day.

That is, until the actual day came. 

The Albatross

I woke up feeling fine. The morning progressed and was relatively uneventful. As the time of the event grew closer, the more on-edge I felt. I didn’t want to go through the effort of getting ready and interacting with other humans. My anxiety was through the roof. Yet, I knew everyone who was invited (I made the invite list, even!). No drama was anticipated. No clashing personalities were going to be there. It was literally going to be the best party ever. 

Until it came time to leave my house. 

I didn’t want to. 

But I had to.

All these friends and family were waiting at my sister’s house for me to arrive. 

I called her after I got in my car.

And buckled my seat belt.

And put the key in the ignition.

And actually put it in reverse and backed out of my driveway, all the while feeling this urge to just go back in the house and not interact with anyone at all. 

Almost There

She talked me down and convinced me to keep driving in her direction. Now I was paranoid because I was late. Not five or ten minutes late…I was like, THIRTY minutes late…to my own baby shower. Classic Cynthia. 

Deep breaths.

All these women love me. They want to celebrate me and baby girl. I can do this.

Hiding Behind The Mask

Anyone who knows me will assure you I am very outgoing and talkative. They aren’t lying…I could literally talk to anyone about anything for an inordinate amount of time. 

I volunteer at school and church. I enjoy spending time with my friends, family, coworkers, and acquaintances. I’ve been known to chat with complete strangers in the checkout line, elevators, or anywhere else where interaction can happen. I’ve stopped and chatted with the homeless who simply need someone to listen.

I’m OK Until I’m Not

Then, the wave comes over me. My shell pops up instantaneously. I retreat back into it and avoid eye contact. Suddenly, it’s as if I can’t get home fast enough. I bury my face in my phone, re-reading the same email and pretending it’s ridiculously important. My brain is overwhelmed by sensory overload and I need space NOW.

It’s Not Easy But I’m Getting There

It’s incredibly unnerving to be a social butterfly with social anxiety. Oftentimes I can breathe my way through it and fake it ’til I make it. Other times, though, I just can’t help but get to my car or my house fast enough. Sometimes I will sit for as much as thirty minutes in my car, decompressing before going into the house to see my awesome husband and amazing kids. 

I know I’m not alone. I see you, mamas. We share the struggle. It gets easier some days and harder on others. But still, we persevere.

As for the baby shower? I had a blast. My anxiety eased once I actually got there and we had such a fun time. My dear friend and her daughter really got a kick out of the shirt my youngest sis-in-law got me:

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