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So here's an anxiety issue I haven't read about anywhere else and though I feel ridiculous even admitting this, it's REALLY bothering me today and I was wondering (hoping, desperate to know) if anyone can relate.

Preface: I'm single, I have no children. I harbor no expectations that I ever WILL have children, mostly because of my mental health issues. Most of the time I'm fine with that, most of the time I don't even want any. I know, rationally and logically, that I am someone who never should have children and that it's better for everyone (ie, myself as well as any hypothetical kids) that I don't.

I work at an elementary school (which means I'm constantly around OTHER people's kids instead) and have two nephews and a niece (6th grade, 4th grade and 2nd grade) who happen to attend the same school. We also live about a mile apart, so between work and home I see them every day and we're all extremely close and always have been. I'm incredibly lucky, I know, to have these relationships and the ability to nurture them, but here's what's bothering me:

Today is my niece's twelfth birthday, and I am FREAKING OUT. The passage of time is a huge, screaming trigger for me and no matter how many birthdays and holidays go by it never gets any easier. Simply watching kids at work get older stresses me out (there are many other sixth graders, aside from my niece, who I've known since they were tiny little kindergartners), and the end and beginning of every school year is a huge mental ordeal for me. One of my nephews lost his first tooth on Friday and I just about cried, so between that and my niece's birthday today I am really in a state.

I just can't handle the thought of these kids getting older, it's causing me intense anxiety and sadness. Over the past 10 years or so time itself has become a GIGANTIC trigger for me and I don't know how to deal with it, I don't know how to get over it. I've done some research and Chronophobia is the closest I've ever come to an actual name for this feeling (although I'm not elderly and I've certainly never been in prison!). Birthdays and holidays and other major life events (weddings, funerals) are intensely difficult for me and I can't seem to cope. In fact, I'd say I'm getting worse. Happy memories make me sad, and I can't even stand to look at old pictures.

I'm sure this has something to do with my crushing existential anxiety and my fears and regrets over the things I've lost and the time I've wasted because of my mental illnesses, but has anyone else experienced this?? I've never admitted it to anyone before and I feel ridiculous about it, like I don't even have the right to these feelings since I'm "just" an aunt, not an actual parent, but good god... these feelings are just too much.

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Hi Epic Sky:

I appreciated reading your honest and insightful post. I haven't had the exact feelings or thoughts you've had about children and the passing of time (I do have my share of anxiety provoking thoughts around other issues).

I think you have every right to these feelings. That doesn't mean that you want them or that they are ultimately helpful, but they are true to you and your experience and who you are. So, please be gentle with yourself regarding the feelings. You come by them honestly.

I have no medical expertise. However, I know that often it is helpful to me to unpack exactly what my thoughts are and whether or not I'm processing them in the most helpful way.

I wonder if there are other ways for you to look at the passage of time. For sure, there is an element of the passage of time for us all that is sad, for time brings with it necessary loses and endings. However, time also can bring growth and self-development and experiences that we otherwise wouldn't have.

You are more than "just" an aunt. You are a truly and fully alive human being. The loss of time is sometimes too much. However, it also brings opportunities.

Anyway, please disregard any of the above that is not helpful.

What I most want to communicate is my respect for your challenge and for your authentic and honest way of communicating.

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Hi Epic Sky,

I have felt these things too. They can occur for me at certain times or out of the blue. Happy memories sometimes make me sad or fill me with regrets. My own brain illness has affected me profoundly for my entire life, or at least the entire life I can remember. Various losses and traumas have not helped any either. I lost a child and never completely got over it. I think you do have a right to every single one of your feelings. I think you are entitled to every single one of them. Depression is terrible because it is so personal. No one can really know the brutality of suffering that another person is going through in this insidious malady. I am currently on the last antibiotic, the antibiotic of last resort for a hospital-acquired infection and I never know when I go to sleep at night if I will wake up the next morning. I think that we share at least a sense of time that might be different from other people's. Maybe I am wrong about this. I have found a great deal of solace in befriending the animals where I live. And I am on medication and therapy for my depression and anxiety which are life savers. I wish I could say something really inspirational and helpful. I am with you in spirit is all I can say. Others here usually give better advice than I do so maybe someone will say something magic for you today. I send you all my best thoughts and wishes. All good things to you Epic Sky!!!

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Back in February, I had posted something similar to this regarding my 12 year old niece. She decided to get on her school's talent show and her father videotaped her whole performance and put it on youtube. Watching the video made me break down. Now tall and sinewy, she sang and had the demeanor of a teenager, wearing her mom's clothes even. It made me reminisce about the good old days when she was a baby and how things used to be. My mind started to race and I reflected on my life over the past 12 years. I began to feel depressed because I realized that I was, more or less, in the same exact place I was 12 years ago...especially when it came to my mental health. It made me feel hopeless. Meanwhile, I see my niece with a full life ahead of her, and one that was brim full of possibilities. It wasn't the fact that I was jealous but that I almost wished I could be in her shoes just so I could've made better choices in my life. I also have trouble watching kids age, I think namely because they serve as time; their age triggers time, which then triggers involuntary self reflection and time lost. I have a lot of anxiety when it comes to time in general too. Sometimes I think it flies by too quickly (and I want it to wait for me)...sometimes it flies by too slowly (and I hate waiting for it). Most days, I just want it to stop and pause for a minute simply so I can finally take a deep breath.

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I go through the same thing, especially this time of year as my "baby" boy will be 12 on the 16th and it seems like just yesterday I was waddling around pregnant or cradling my baby...he started middle school this year and I think it was harder on me than him!

I try to savor every childhood moment with him but it's harder now that he's more interested in video games and spending time with his friends than his mom...I don't take it personally, I know it's all a part of growing up.

I wish we could slow down time too but when it really gets to me, I just try to tell myself that now is all we really have, yesterday's gone and tomorrow hasn't happened yet so don't worry about it. It doesn't always help, but I try!

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HUGE THANKS to all of you for responding so quickly and with so much support! I can't tell you how much it meant to me. Tim 52, Epictetus, and taysmom1016, thank you so so much for your kind words, you ALL helped me today. I can't emphasis that enough. Just being told that I have a right to my feelings, however silly I might think they they are, is truly a gigantic relief. Thank you, thank you.

pinto77, what you described in your post is pretty much EXACTLY what I've been experiencing, but you explained it in a much clearer and more concise (and, imo, braver) way. I look at my niece and feel sad, not only because her true childhood days are behind her but also because looking at her makes me reflect on my own life and the time that's passed, all the wrong choices I've made, opportunities lost and/or wasted, that broad horizon of childhood "promise" I once also had but never fulfilled because my own screwed up brain derailed me long ago. My niece is an artist, as I once was, but she has the ability to actually make something of that talent, and as happy and proud as I am of her, it's also incredibly painful and upsetting to think about. I also agree with you about children triggering feelings of self-reflection and loss, that's been my exact experience. Sometimes I think I need to find another job for that reason alone.

Epictetus, I also wanted to add that a very close friend of mine was once in a similar situation as you in regards to medication. It was not for an infection, but it was a "absolute last resort" sorta thing that could possibly have killed her at any time. She survived, thankfully, and I believe that you will too, but I'll never forget how scary that situation was and I'm sending all my best thoughts your way. I've read many of your posts on this forum and I think you are a wonderful person and an invaluable member of this community. Before I'd even read it, just seeing your name in response to my post lifted my spirits. Please hang in there!

Edited by epic_sky
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