I never thought social anxiety would become a “thing” for me.
I grew up performing and speaking in front of audiences and attending every possible social event. After Brady was born at 28 weeks, spent 120 days in the NICU and had 25 surgeries his first year, obviously our lives changed. Our schedules completely revolved around his needs. Of course, it’s typical for your life to completely change when you bring any child into the world. Eventually, you get back to a new normal where you can breathe again and socialize with others, even through the tiredness. For me, my new normal was not allowing me to breathe again. There was a constant fear of a medical emergency. How could I socialize with friends, when in my mind, Brady needed me Every. Single. Second?
Most everyone understood in the beginning why I would turn down invitations. Well, most of the time, we were hanging out in the hospital anyway. Now, Brady is not having surgeries every month, but new pressures exist. I need energy to transport him throughout the day, so I need to sleep. Because of the seizure disorder, I need to be alert at all times, which again means I need sleep. I can’t miss signs and symptoms and I also need to look for patterns. Seizures are so hard to “fix” in the medical world, so it is up to me to see Brady’s trends and try to figure out what his triggers are. That combined with appointments for his 10 specialists and 3 therapists, creates a whole lot of visits, phone calls and mental and physical exhaustion. Not to mention Brady’s strict schedule. There are few people that can lift him in and out of the bath tub, so a lot of times I need to be home to help with that and administering medications. At that point, I am ready for bed, even though it isn’t bedtime yet. Oh, and I can’t stay out late anyway…. I need to have energy to do it all again tomorrow. Let’s also say a quick prayer that we have nursing help and that he sleeps through the night. Because when he doesn’t sleep, the next day is even more physically and emotionally demanding.
Tired kids want to be held and are emotionally sensitive, right? So are adults!
Honestly, my brain is so focused on “medical stuff”, sometimes I don’t know if I have anything else to have a conversation about when I am in public. And when someone asks me “How’s Brady?”, because they are being a good friend, I don’t always know how to answer. Do they really want to know, because that could take a while and do I really want to talk about it? Planning in advance gives me anxiety because who knows what that day will be like for Brady. Big SIGH…. Just Breathe. I realized last week I must say that word a lot because we were programming Brady’s temporary communication device and when the word “breathe” came up, Brady laughed. His speech therapist and I laughed too because he obviously recognized the word and I wasn’t sure why. God sure knows how to use Brady to make a point!
Brady is 7 ½ now, and it was just a couple of years ago, I was sitting in a meeting at work, learning about self-awareness, and I had this great epiphany that I truly did not know who I was anymore. I had been living through a traumatic experience for 5 years, and still wasn’t quite sure when it would end. When would I be able to breathe again? To have friends again? To be me again?
I still don’t know the answers to all those questions. Some days are better than others. I know God wants us to enjoy this life, but 2 things: 1. Joy is a choice and 2. This life is not about me. I find joy in different ways now. Brady’s smile gives me instant joy. And I don’t have to attend every social event to find joy, although a few are nice every now and then, when I don’t overthink it. When I switch my focus off of myself, trust Him and just help others; that brings me joy. The fact is, that no matter how long we live on this earth, our time here is still temporary. Whatever trial we face or season we are in will pass. Some seasons are longer than others, but ultimately our goal is to not get lost in the heaviness of a season. Our focus should be to get to Heaven and bring as many with us as we can. And that doesn’t have to be after–hours. That can be throughout our interactions each day. Scripture repeatedly tells us that God is love and we are created in His image. We are created to love others. That is why it feels so good to care about someone else and help others, because in those moments, we are being exactly who God created us to be!
That thought gives me hope and joy! Most days I have a lot of tasks to take care of, that seem quite overwhelming. I worry about what others think when I decline an invitation. I’m trying to be a better friend, wife, sister, daughter and mom. I’m trying to be better at relationships. I may not always prioritize correctly, BUT God knows my heart. He knows how much I love Brady because, the truth is, He loves him even more. When I choose to trust God with Brady, those are the days I get to be who He created me to be! Those are the days I can focus on others.