Perhaps a more proper title might have been, “why anxiety keeps me at home” but we all know I like to have something that’s a little more catchy. But getting to the point, this is an apology for almost always saying no. My sadness has won. It’s won for years. Anxiety told me, no and so that’s what I said to you.
We moved here a little over 9 years ago. I had these hopes that I’d maybe left the anxiety and sadness back home with the old house and the old life. I was bitterly wrong. And despite a valiant attempt at being a social butterfly, including starting a MOPS group, I quickly lost to the monster that anxiety is. I think it started to creep back in when I got pregnant with Dexter. I had this embarrassment associated with having a fourth. The stigma of another unplanned, but much wanted, baby. I remember when my friend Emily told me about her little Matthew, it was a relief to be able to finally tell someone, who I knew would be happy, that I too was expecting. I kept Dexter a secret for a while and when I finally did tell I felt each and every time someone looked at me poorly for adding another to my family. It was like a mounting hill of shame and anxiety seeds. A full field, waiting to bloom into something that looked like the shell I was and occasionally still am.
When my MOPS group fell apart, that probably didn’t help either. Because as each friend disappeared from my life, another anxiety seed sprouted. And when the one friend I really wanted, didn’t show up to our pizza date, I began to lose all hope I’d had to ever be apart of the social circle I’d so badly tried to infiltrate. I stopped letting people in. Even the kind Emily who kept me from feeling like I was a lost mother. I just stopped and I stopped saying yes. I made excuses not to go. I stopped returning texts. I never picked up the phone. I said no, to everything and everyone. For years.
I said no to the parties and to the play dates. I’ve made excuses not to show up. And despite my love for shooting families, I admit, I’ve spent years hoping people would cancel but always glad they didn’t. When I got pregnant with Dixon, I hid it for a full 20 weeks. Afraid to be excited; my anxiety stole the excitement of that baby bump. I was afraid people wouldn’t want him, they’d be upset he was a boy. That people would think I was crazy for wanting a fifth. I cried when my beloved friends threw me a baby shower. Because my anxiety told me I wasn’t good enough for a party. Thank goodness for my friends who saw my worth. Thank goodness someone loved me enough to celebrate me and my to be born son even knowing how anxious and unworthy I felt.
But even after that, I still said no. To everything. To meals, I could have used after he was born. To help on the first day of school. To playdates and lunch dates and all those things. And people stopped asking and I felt relief but then I felt lonely and then my anxiety told me I wasn’t worth it all over again. I had regret. I have regret. For all the things I missed. For not calling my brother, for not saying my peace. For not taking my mother’s group, for not fighting for my place. I feel regret for not riding the rides, for not dipping my toes into the ocean. I regret not learning new things, for not taking the photographs, for not learning how to truly sing. For so many things.
But mostly I have regret for the no. I said no for no other reason but anxiety and self-doubt. And I am sorry. I am sorry I told you no. I wanted to go. Deep down, I wanted to go to your party. I just couldn’t. My inner worth told me I wasn’t good enough and I was too worried I might embarrass you or myself.
I won’t say no anymore. Please ask me again. Sure there may be reasons I can’t go but please, invite me again. Help me beat this monster. Remind me. Remind people like me that I can go, that I am wanted and that I have worth.
I won’t say no.