Being Open about Anxiety for the First Time with Parents: Pt 3

So Part 1 was contextual waffle and Part 2 was about telling my mum. Predictably, Part 3 will be about telling Dad.

Telling Dad started off awkward, progressing to mildly comedic, progressing to absolutely fine.

By the time I got round to talking to Dad, it had been two or three weeks since telling Mum. This was because at the end of the Christmas holidays, I hadn’t found a good opportunity to bring up the subject with him and reluctantly postponed it till my next visit home. So I came back for a weekend and it got to Sunday afternoon, a few hours before I would be getting on a train back to my university town again, and I still hadn’t attempted it. So I figured I’d have to give up looking for the perfect opportunity and just out with it.

So me and Mum were in the kitchen chatting and Dad came through to pour cups of tea (something we do a lot of in our house) I decided to pipe up now, but I was hesitating about how to go about this, scared of how unexpected it would be. He poured the teas and was cheerfully sauntering back out of the kitchen so I awkwardly said “Hey Dad hang about a bit!”

So then he was just stood there waiting for me to say something and I felt like this was already harder to go about than I had anticipated and there was a silence as I tried to formulate words. Then Mum dropped the line “Why don’t you just sit down and tell him in the front room?” causing the look on his face to become even more bemused. But I wanted to talk to them both together, even though I’d already sort of scuppered it up by telling Mum when he wasn’t around the other week, in the middle of a sort-of-panic-attack-ish-thing.

So I quickly said “So have you heard of Anixety? Because I have that,” kind of awkward and blunt, not like the flowery speech I’d planned in my head at all.

And he really didn’t know how to react because it was so unexpected, “Oh!..Right!…Ok!”

I said nothing, just awkwardly laughed because I was stumped. He then put on his dad-joke voice to maybe alleviate the awkwardness like “Oh right, so you are an anxious person, ok!” Upon this, Mum shot him a look of alarm as if he wasn’t reacting the right way, but I just found it funny.

Then I thought, maybe he hadn’t even heard of Anxiety after all and just thought I was using the word anxiety in its general, non-psychiatric sense. I’d expected him to know what Anxiety is, because I know there’s a book about mental illness that he likes and often makes reference to, though its main focus is Depression I think (Masks of Melancholy by John White if you’re interested).

So rather inarticulately I said “No, not like that, I mean Anxiety- it’s an actual um, it’s an actual thing

Still with no idea how to react, he shuffled back to the TV saying “Right!” and “Ok!” and I didn’t get to say anything that I’d planned to say. I went into another room and had a quiet moment of being really upset about how inarticulate I’d been and how I now had no idea what to do or say to rectify the situation.

I went upstairs, pulled myself together, came downstairs, and he was obviously still processing it despite continuing his war film and as I walked past the door asked “Something said by a GP?”

This was the turning point where the situation got better. He had now had a few minutes to process and asked the questions that I needed him to ask. We had a rational conversation about it, where I went through the basic chain of events of the situation and the steps I’d taken at uni to sort it out. The conversation wasn’t overly serious and it wasn’t really awkward at all. He was glad that I’d already tried to do something about it, understood why I’d wanted to keep it to myself, thankfully not feeling guilty about that fact. He said something like “It’s just something you’ve got- a bit like your mobility problem.” (I’m double-jointed which is hardly a big deal) seeing it like it wasn’t some dramatic emotional/mental state, just one of a range of medical issues (and this was good, me feeling over-dramatic about having Anxiety is already one person too many)

I felt the most important thing to say to my parents was that now it’s in the open, I don’t want them to feel like it’s a topic to be tiptoed around, I don’t want them to be afraid to ask questions about it or treat it like it’s a big secret. I’d rather them ask questions if they feel the need to be up to date because if they’re worried and feel like that shouldn’t can’t approach the subject with me won’t keep it to themselves they will just worry more (of course I’m really talking about Mum here because Dad’s more chilled out about this kind of thing). And personally I need it to be treated like it’s not a big deal; some people seem to treat things like this like explosives that other people are supposed to avoid even if they already know about it– I don’t want that to be how this is.

If we can be clear on both sides about what our thoughts or concerns about my anxiety, that means they {ie: Mum} can worry about me less, and I can worry about them {Mum} worrying about me less. If you know what I mean. It makes sense to me anyhoo… Now it’s out, it’s out, let’s not pretend otherwise.

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