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How to deal with dad anxiety?

stressed out dad holding baby
3 min read

Victoria, we did it*. We should all be proud. We contained a murderous virus, weathered logistical cock ups, listened to constantly shifting dates and plans, watched the tin-hatted brigade scream Fake News and call a police horse racist and because of it all we all spent Christmas with our families. Big sacrifice, but it was worth it. As we watch the rest of the world slip further and further into Corona Chaos, Australia has a live feed into what could have been.

So why are so many of us still so flat? So empty? It’s summer so we should be filling our rooftop bars with fruit infused alcohol and weirdly timed music that people over 35 don’t understand. We could at least get that BBQ out and invite the remaining friends you have over to listen to the 90s playlist you’ve spent endless man-hours collating. But a lot of us aren’t. There’s still a lot of foot dragging.

…why are so many of us still so flat? So empty? It’s summer so we should be filling our rooftop bars with fruit infused alcohol and weirdly timed music that people over 35 don’t understand.

One of the unexpected reactions to come from this ‘new normal’ is that this is first time in my life I’ve felt real and continued anxiety. That was never me! I was all about the positivity and how great life is, even when it was a flaming pile of shit. Through this pandemic I was still seeing all the bright spots, I was so happy to be able to spend all this time with my little boy. I got to see him right up until I had to start work in the back room and he was there the second I finished. I’ll cherish that win forever. Yet the happy wasn’t there as often and the scales tipped so slowly, I didn’t even notice. It culminated in a moment of childish petulance at work that really made me pull up and take stock.

What the fuck has happened to me? I mentioned to my wife what happened and she let me know I haven’t been myself for a while. I was withdrawn, tired, stopped doing the things I enjoy and heartbreakingly she said I’d started being short with my boy. That was a moment that started doing a deep dive into what was going on. It was not something that could continue.

Looking back on almost a year of turmoil, we were locked away from our family and friends, forced to work entirely from home which fostered isolation, worry about parents and grandparents as this disease hunted them, have a workload ratchet up without the support and toward the end I found myself unable to swallow it or kick the can any further down the street.

I started with a dangerous Google search of what are the signs of Burn Out? Up they came and tick, tick…tick, tick. OK. A little eye-opening. I was then directed to a link about anxiety, so I checked it out. Oh man. Tick, tick as read through symptoms… I was starting to fall into internet self-diagnosis but thankfully pulled myself up before I got to the inevitable online conclusion of ‘you’re about to die’.

Through all the articles and random comments there was the common theme of what the first step needs to be. Talk to your GP.

It turns out that engaging professionals is a tried-and-true method.

Despite all my body’s protests, I booked in. That’s when it got really meta! I started getting anxious about needing to discuss anxiety. I was pretty close to cancelling until I mentioned it to a couple of co-workers and they talked about they times they did the same. Almost immediately I realised that I wasn’t ‘the weird guy who dropped the ball’ and it was a stage that a number of people reach.

So with a slightly less knotted interior, I talked through my current state and a few reasons as to why. As expected, it wasn’t really any one thing, but death by 1000 cuts. He was unbelievable in the way he casually approached it, dropping the stats on how often this happens and how they are rising on the back of massive worldwide seismic shift.

I engaged a few online options, as suggested by my GP, filled out some assessments and ended up having a call with therapist who just wanted to talk through how I felt and a few actions I could take. Almost immediately I felt better knowing how much support was available. I recognised the main support was my wife. She has been phenomenal. However also incredibly frustrated considering she’s been talking about how to do all of this for years and I’ve just not listened. It’s only when things directly impact me do I seem to be open. I call it Experiential Personality – She calls it Fucking Irritating. Fair.

*Written and submitted before the game of tennis brought us all down again.

Written by Jack Hopkins

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