Social anxiety and grief

An excerpt from Emma Hopkins-Curry’s blog, Widow Mama.

So, I haven’t written in a while. I have wanted to, but kept thinking that it was the same old shit, and that quite frankly, it was boring!

It kind of is boring… because the patterns that grief create in your life after a significant loss are seriously monotonous.

It gets old to talk about it, and it gets old to hear about it, just as it gets old to be living it.

I am still present in the support group that I started in September 2013, and I have met many wonderful people here. It is a forever changing group, ever growing, and there’s always a comfort in knowing that there are these people that walk the Earth, that I’d probably never have met if it weren’t for very unfortunate circumstances that we all share.

It is nice to know that I can get onto the online group and say how I feel four years and ten months later, without thinking that I’ve “overshared” or that I’m making my family and friends feel uncomfortable that life is still a challenge because of that one thing that happened to us.

It is I’m afraid.

Grief is an arsehole.

It is not a temporary thing.

Every minute of every day it lingers in the background of your every decision, experience, emotion… It feels like it lives and breathes in the walls of our home, and it’s sitting there ready to pounce on the kids or myself, right when we need it the least, and we’re exhausted from thinking about it.

I recently went to a 40th on the side of the Mountain that Trent and I first started our lives out here. I hadn’t gone to an event over there since we moved the kids to a new kinder and school on this side of the mountain when Poppy was four and Ruby was eight. Due to shitty circumstances, I didn’t leave in the best frame of mind.

We made an incredible group of friends over there for the five years that we resided there (half of our entire relationship together). I no longer see almost all of them. Life is very unpredictable.

Anyway, the lead up to this gathering was  horrendous. I can’t look forward to an event with more than five people in it anymore at the best of times, let alone one that will present me with a bunch of people that I haven’t seen since my own husband’s funeral.

One of the after effects of losing Trent, is a shocking case of social anxiety.

I am most annoyed by this new trait of mine.

Other than Trent himself, I felt like the most social person on Earth before his death. And it was also one of my favourite things to do. Not anymore.

For a week leading up to an event, I feel sick. I get sweaty palms, heart palpitations and gut aches. I can’t sleep properly, and every stupid scenario I can dream up will go through my head in the days and hours leading up to the actual day or night.

I now understand how my daughters feel daily. They suffer from anxiety 100% of the time. Ruby since birth, Poppy since her Dad died. They worry about almost everything.

I, at the very least, can cruise through life most of the time and not let it consume me. I have stopped going out a lot though. I have taken the one thing that riddles me with anxiety, and stopped it from occurring as much as possible. This does not fill me with happiness either.

I don’t actually want to be that person.

I can’t even have catch ups here at home without it happening to me, and the girls try and organise sleepovers all of the time, (and god forbid, birthday parties) and I get just as anxious about the pressure that this brings.

Years ago when I took my eldest to a group specifically for kids with anxiety, I realised that anxiety and anger go hand in hand. I am not sure if the anger comes from the feeling of utter desperation at not wanting to feel the anxiety or not, but the one common trait that all of these kids shared was outbursts of aggression towards their family and friends.

This describes me perfectly when I get social anxiety.

I am unbearable to be around in those days and hours before the event, and then I spend days after the event apologising for being so snappy and rude, and demanding of the people around me.

And nothing cuts it. No matter how much my family try and ease me into a situation, no matter how accommodating they are, I am an arsehole.

I totally understand why the girls can never explain their aggressive outbursts to me now when some new thing has begun, or a big change has been shoved down their throats.

Anxiety equals confusion and anger.

It’s totally shit.

I ended up socially lubricating the shit out of myself at this party (with booze) and by about hour four, I was able to relax. About two hours before we left. Awesome.

At my own 40th, my anxiety was so off the charts that I actually don’t remember it all that well. I know that I was surrounded by the most amazing people that had all made an impression in my life at some point.

But my panic and heart palpitations prevented me from stopping, and sitting, and soaking them all in.

I wish I could relive it, but alas, you only get one shot at it.

The funny thing is, when I share this new thing that consumes me with most people that I know, they don’t believe it. They don’t see it. I guess I am a better actor than I thought.

More the point, no-one knows what is going on inside the head of another person, nor what they’ve had to accomplish to just “turn up” or make an appearance.

Just like grief, it sits in your guts and lays dormant until it decides that this, right here and now, is a brilliant time to rear its head.

There is not a day that passes that I don’t wonder what kind of person I would be, or what life would look like right now if Trenton had lived.

I guess I will never know.

See you later “Old Me”.


To read more from Emma, visit Widow Mama

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