I hear this one a lot lately: I’m scared of all the memories I’m missing out on because I’m sick. And honestly, I feel ya. I spent 3 1/2 years living in a separate state from my husband and daughter so I could go to college. That’s 3 and some years of missed moments, like preschool, kindergarten, plays, all sorts of firsts, and so on.
And now that my mental health has taken a turn for the worse, I’m living everyday with the fear that I’m missing out on even more.
So how do we prevent missing out on everything important even when we’re feeling at our worst?
Okay, I’m gonna level with you. There isn’t a step one. This isn’t the typical “First you do this, then second, etc.” type of guide. The reality is that there isn’t a step by step way to be there for everything.
You’re going to miss things. If there is a first step, then it’s that we need to accept this. We’re also going to have to accept that some things we don’t get a choice on…we have to push through and be there.
Pushing Through for the “Big Things”
So, in case you didn’t know, I have social anxiety. Large crowds not only send me into a panic, they trigger issues from my concussion. Lots of sounds can make my head hurt, make it hard to understand things, and make me feel that much more alone and broken. So I tend to avoid them.
That said, you wanna guess what’s gonna be at a lot of the major milestones (graduation, socials, color runs, muffins with mom, etc.)? Crowds. And yet, it’s just not something I can avoid. Those moments are important to me, and to her. So, I push through.
What does that mean? Well, sometimes things are just too important to skip out on. So we have to do everything we can to keep ourselves safe and do our best. For me, that means I take my anxiety meds, bring something soft to pet (I have tiny stuffies for that exact purpose), and usually some sort of snack. If I can manage it without looking super rude, I’ll play sudoku on my phone. It’s worth it. In the end, I’m super proud of myself (and her, of course) and usually we get a treat afterward.
Yes. I will bribe myself. No, I’m not at all ashamed. 🙂
Finding Joy in the Small Things
Not every moment is a big one, though. Some of the best ones are the small ones we tend to take for granted. In this case, those missed moments are usually there because we’re just not paying attention and recognizing them for what they are. The goodnight kisses, the laying on the floor while they build block towers, even the times you have to remind them to put their backpack where it belongs.
Yup. I promise you, these are memories you’ll keep if you can recognize them for what they are.
Why are these random things worth remembering? Truth is, these are gonna be the things that stick with your kids. They’ll be the memories they hold on to and they’ll be the ones that shape who they are. They’ll be the things you look back on with love. And best of all, they’re the easiest to achieve.
There are moments in everything you do together. What matters most is the feeling. Those kisses, that tower, and the daily reminders show our kids that they are loved and remind us that we are loved. They can happen anywhere and everywhere.
So you’re having a bad day and you’re stuck in bed watching TV for the 6th hour straight. Put on a kids show for a little bit and have them climb into bed with you. Build a little fort or a nest in bed and hide out. Not only will you feel better (because, seriously, bed nests are the best), you’ll be sharing something with your kids. You’ll be building your own memories.
Accept Those Missed Moments
Reality is, we’re still gonna miss out. When you struggle with your mental health, it can be impossible to stay continually present as a parent. It can easily spiral into feeling like a failure – like you’re ruining your kids. Unfortunately, missed moments are going to happen.
Does that mean you’re ruining your children? Not at all. Take advantage of the healthy days and turn the hard days in your favor when you can, but know that you’re not alone. Other parents struggle with this fear just like you, mental illness or no. And guess what…
The kids turn out just fine.
You’re going to struggle and you’ll have bad days, but that doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent. Be honest with your children about what your illness means and you’ll be teaching them understanding and showing them that they’re not to blame. You’re not gone because of anything they did. Trust me, it will go a long way to comforting them and soothing your guilt.
Remember: Be gentle with yourself. Be patient with yourself. You’re doing your best, and that’s what counts.