I joined a playgroup when my first born was 6 months old and I met with them once a week until she turned three and went off to preschool. After that we have continued to meet, just not as frequently. The other day we met for the first time in a few months. I have been doing well with my anxiety and I forgot how hard it was for me to go to playgroup in the past.
I am always late to playgroup. I take my time getting ready and getting out the door. I don’t want to be early or on time. I want to get there late so there’s less time I have to be there. That being said, I do really enjoy my playgroup. I like the moms and the kids get along well with each other. I just dread the first ten minutes of being there.
I hate the beginning of most social situations because it’s when I feel the most trapped. The things I don’t like about being in familiar groups when I feel anxious are: having to worry about making excuses, being embarrassed, and having to see them again if I do something embarrassing.
When I first walk in I always think: It will be a long time until it’s safe for me to leave. Time is going so slow. How can I sit here that long? What will I do to fill that amount of time? How can I stop thinking about this? How can I shut off my brain and just live in the moment? There is no way I can sit here feeling anxious like this and thinking these thoughts for another two hours. It feels like an eternity.
If it’s a social situation where I don’t know many people then I am fine. I can walk right out and assume no one will care. If it’s a very large social situation, even better because my chances for slipping out unnoticed are even higher. I don’t care if a bunch of strangers are wondering why I left or why I was acting weird.
When it comes to close family and friends, I tend to not be as anxious because I am so close and familiar with them. Most of them know about my struggles with anxiety. If my husband or mom are there then I am good to go! If some of my best friends are there I am okay because I know I could just tell them I am anxious and ask them to hang with me for a little or just say I need to leave. Not that I would be completely unembarrassed if this happened, but it feels manageable.
It’s situations like the damn playgroup that have me the most anxious. I like this group, I like the people and for my sanity and for my kids sake I want to stay in the group. I need this group of moms to share advise, laugh and commiserate with. My kids need the interaction with other kids their age.
So here I was doing really well with my anxiety. Hell, I recently flew to Nashville and I was feeling like I have my anxiety in check – until I left this morning for my playgroup.
First I’ll give you a little background. My daughter was up a lot the night before. This is not normal for her and it’s not normal for me to have such a bad night’s sleep. I know my sleep and my anxiety are directly related. I woke up tired and anxious and dreading the day. We also slept in a little after being up at night, so I felt rushed in the morning to get out the door and get to the playgroup. Another thing that helps to heighten my anxiety.
When I left the house and got in my car I started to feel anxious but I told myself that I have been doing so well recently and that I would be fine. As I got half way there (20 minutes total trip) I started to feel more anxious. I had flashbacks to the days when we met weekly and I wasn’t in a good place with my anxiety. I would have anxiety before every playgroup. I remembered how I used to drive around the neighborhood before getting the nerve to walk in the door. I thought of one time when I drove around the neighborhood for 30 minutes before getting the courage to go inside. (My daughter was a baby and didn’t know any better as to why mommy was driving around in circles for so long!)
As I continued to drive to the playgroup I started to feel my anxiety rise so I thought what the hell and took half a Xanax. This is actually unusual for me. As much as I love my xannies I try very hard not to take them. I normally only take them for flying and a few times a year when I am having a panic attack. Every once in a while I will take one just because I am feeling some anxiety. Well for whatever reason I thought why not take half. So I did and I immediately felt better. I know this is all in my head since the Xanax doesn’t work this fast but whatever it helped.
I continued to drive the remaining 10 minutes to get to the playgroup. I felt okay. Not great, but I wasn’t scared of having a panic attack. As I was pulling into my friends neighborhood I started to feel pretty anxious and I wanted to drive around. I didn’t have that option because her house was right when I pulled into the neighborhood and another member of my group was in the driveway and saw me.
I parked my car and started getting my kids out and one friend came over and started talking to me. I felt comfortable and I was thinking I was fine. I got my kids into the house and started talking to the other three moms there. All the sudden this thought popped into my head: I just got here and I cant leave for awhile without it being awkward. Just as I had this thought a wave of panic hit me.
The first thing I did was try and jump into the conversation my friends were having to distract myself. This didn’t work. So I walked over to my purse and used my lavender inhaler and got out my anxiety acupressure ring. I immediately started to feel a little better but then I felt another wave of panic hitting me so I opened up my pill box and popped the other half of Xanax. In hindsight I wonder if they noticed me using my lavender inhaler and popping pills in the corner and thought what the hell is she doing but no one said anything 🙂
I had the luxury of escaping to the finished basement on the pretense that I was checking on my one and half year old boy who is a monster. All the moms were upstairs in the kitchen but I walked down the small flight of stairs in this split level home to get to the finished basement area. I saw my two adorable kids sitting on the floor playing and I felt a little better. I tried to distract myself by talking to them and playing with them. However, my anxiety had other plans.
Thoughts started to float across my brain like: I just want to leave, I can’t leave, it will be so awkward if I leave, what do I say?, should I say I’m sick?, It will take forever to explain to them that I’m leaving and get my kids in the car. It felt like I had this huge obstacle in front of me to get out of there. I couldn’t just grab my two kids and slip out the back door. There would be a whole conversation; people asking me a million questions about my abrupt wish to leave. I didn’t think I could handle looking them in the eyes and telling them I needed to leave. I can’t have a conversation while having a panic attack!!! I would also have to deal with my two kids freaking out when I ripped them away from the toys they were playing with. Basically, it felt impossible to leave.
Luckily the other moms were still upstairs gossiping about something so I had the chance to pace down in the basement without having to worry about any adults seeing me. The toddlers didn’t seem to give a shit that I was down there pacing like a crazy person and rolling my anxiety ring up and down my finger.
All the sudden I had this thought pop into my head. I could leave and go to the walk in urgent care down the street from where I was. Now I know there is no way in hell I would actually do this but the thought brought me comfort. During panic attacks it usually makes me feel better knowing there is a hospital or urgent care close by that I could go to. I have never actually done this but the thought soothes me. Even though I know they don’t specialize in mental health I know that if I walked in there they would have to take care of me.
This thought brought me some comfort for a hot second but then I thought more about the logistics. I would still have to walk upstairs and tell the other moms I don’t feel well and that I’m leaving. Do I tell them I need to go to the urgent care and leave my kids here? What would I tell them is wrong with me? Or do I just pretend I’m going home but bring my kids with me to the urgent care? Wait, am I really going to the urgent care???
So my anxiety continues to climb. Why can’t the Xanax just kick in right away?!
Then the girl whose house it was brought out her pet bunny and all the kids ran over. My two kids were especially excited about the bunny. I got distracted for a second and I kept trying to keep my focus on the kids and the bunny. I thought about going outside and calling my husband. Telling the other moms I had to talk to him about something important. I started to feel a little better.
As I stood there staring at the bunny I had this hot and tingly feeling go through my whole body. It’s happened to me before and it’s hard to explain. I am having a hard time right now putting this feeling into words. All I know is that this feeling brought me relief and I started to feel calmer. I had a second of worrying about what was causing this feeling and if it meant my anxiety was about to get worse. But then the feeling went away and I felt better again. I’m sorry if I sound like I’m talking about a ghost. I actually hope this happens to me again soon so I can explain it better next time. Maybe it was the last burst of adrenaline going through my body before it wore out, gave up and stopped pumping out the extra adrenaline!?!
Whatever it was that happened I felt better afterwards and I started to focus on distracting myself. I focused on the kids, talking to the other moms and using my anxiety ring. I was lucky that all the other moms stayed upstairs the whole time I was having a panic attack. It felt like forever but it was probably five minutes. If they had been in the same room as me I think it would have been very hard to hide what I was going through. Luckily the toddlers had no clue there was a mommy having a panic attack in their play area. If the other moms had been around I propbably would have made the phone call excuse and went outside and called my husband or mom. It would have sucked no matter what.
So why did his happen? Did I get cocky with my anxiety and not take the time to mentally prepare myself for something that has brought me so much anxiety in the past. Did I need to drive around and give myself more time before walking in? Was it the lack of sleep the night before? The rushing around to get there? The fact that I hadn’t been in a situation like this in awhile?
There is something about the whole play group thing that makes me feel trapped when I walk in. I am always fine after I have been there a little bit. I feel great when I get to a point where it wouldn’t be awkward to leave. Hell I am usually the last one to leave. It’s just walking in the door to a small intimate crowd and feeling like I can’t leave without embarrassing myself. Another issue is having my kids with me. This makes it harder to leave. Harder for the other moms to understand how I can walk out after just walking in. Harder for my kids (especially my 4 year old) to understand why mommy is making them leave when they just walked into a room with new toys and other little people to play with.
I wish I had the nerve to tell them my situation. Let them know how I truly feel and let them know how anxious I am when I walk into playgroup. But then I’m afraid they will all stare at me every time I walk in the door. Waiting to see if I’ll put on a show and freak out in front of them! I am embarrassed to think of all the people they will tell and what they will say.
My therapist told me when I am in a situation like this and feeling anxious I should think about telling the people around me that I am feeling anxious and need a minute to get myself together. She said even thinking about doing this could bring me comfort. I try to focus on the fact that the worst case scenario is I tell everyone the truth. If they are rude and not respectful then they obviously shouldn’t be my friends. This works for me when I am dealing with my close group of girlfriends but it doesn’t help me when I am in a situation like this. These are friends but we only see each other at playgroup. They are also part of a larger moms club organization and I don’t want a reputation in the organization as the mom with anxiety issues. It was also like this with co-workers when I was working (I’m currently a stay at home mom).
So I suffer in silence until I get home and then I tell my husband how awful my panic attack was in playgroup. When I see my therapist again we will go over every detail. I will keep making plans with my playgroup and pray it doesn’t happen again. We don’t have plans to meet again until next month. I will try to mentally prepare myself better for the next time, get a good night sleep the night before and keep on fighting the battle with my anxiety.