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Anxiety about Raising Children in Era of Mass Shootings

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  • #377923
    Charlie
    Participant

    Hello!

    This forum has been such a big help to me in the past, and I’m wondering if anyone has thoughts on this. I have a 2 year old son and have become very anxious lately over the wave of shootings we have been having in the US. I worry about my son’s future in this country and whether he will be anxious himself at school, where once kids go back to the classrooms, they will resume active shooter drills, etc. Between these mass shootings, police brutality, civil unrest, intolerance, and political divisions, the US is feeling like a really scary place.

    My husband is also a citizen of England (where he was born and where my in-laws all live) and Italy, and sometimes I feel like maybe we should be moving to Europe where at least there isn’t the gun issue. But I don’t know….. otherwise we have a nice life here in the US and my husband has a good job that he likely wouldn’t have over there. We want to stay but I can’t help but feel very worried about my son’s childhood and his exposure to all of this violence.

    Thank you!

    #377942
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Charlie:

    Welcome back! Would you rather I address you as Charlotte?

    It is interesting that your first post here was on April 18, 2016- tomorrow it will be exactly five years from that first post.

    The topic of your thread today is anxiety about raising your son in an era of mass shooting, a very relevant issue in the U.S., unfortunately.

    A short recap regarding your anxiety: you previously shared that your anxiety has been life long. On June 26, 2020, when your son was 17 months, you shared: “My anxiety since becoming a mother hit record heights”. You also shared that the thought of taking care of your son and having a second child, (something you considered at the time), “sends me into a panic attack every time”. You saw a therapist at the time and addressed “all the fears I have about pregnancy, childbirth, newborn age (as well as concerns I have over the state of the world and country)”.

    On August 12, 2020, you shared regarding your anxiety over the unfortunate U.S. political situation at the time: “My husband is from England and his family.. are all over there. Sometimes I wonder why I’m still here when we could be there.. But moving won’t fix things”.

    My thoughts today: (1) If you move to Europe, your anxiety will not be gone because it’s been part of your experience since early on in your life.

    (2) There are significant problems in Europe too, politically and otherwise, that affect children’s safety there. You can research those problems and compare Europe to the U.S., in regard to children’s safety.

    (3) Your son is only 2, there are about four years before he attends elementary school, before school mass shooting is a possibility to consider.

    (4) Mass shooting does not happen only in schools, a recent supermarket shooting comes to mind. You can research and come up with the statistics of mass shootings in schools and outside of school and figure out the chances of your son being affected for the next 4 years or so vs after.

    (5) If you are still working with abused and neglected youth, as an attorney, taking on “the healer/ helper position pretty often”- then you are helping the very people who are more likely to participate in school shootings. I wonder if you can volunteer to talk to students in schools on the matter, and make more of a difference.

    anita

    #377948
    Charlie
    Participant

    Hi Anita! Thank you so much, I ALWAYS appreciate your advice and am so grateful. Yes, you can call me Charlotte :). Honestly, you sharing your wisdom with me throughout the years has helped more than therapy or anyone else. You’ve given me a lot to think about here and put things into perspective. You are right that moving away would not likely alleviate my anxiety because it’s always been there. I switched therapists after you pointed out that one of my previous ones was giving out very dubious advice, and my new one is much better. However, when I told her about this dilemma yesterday, she basically told me that yes, I should move because the US is a mess. It left me feeling a bit overwhelmed with even more questions than I had before the session. I’m grateful that you could share a different perspective!

    I’m wondering if there is any hope for someone like me who will probably always struggle with anxiety coming and going (usually triggered by world events or family issues completely out of my control) – in addition to therapy, exercise, and meditation. These are helpful for me to an extent but find sometimes I feel I could need a bit more for a bad day. CBD? Magnesium supplements? Ashwaghanda? Not sure if that’s beyond the scope of here but I’m just curious since you know so much about anxiety!

    #377951
    Charlie
    Participant

    PS: I stopped working recently to take care of my son full-time during Covid. Not sure I will ever go back to being a lawyer in that capacity as I think it might have been too much for my anxiety. I would love to volunteer in some capacity in the future, though. While working in a job that is a bit less stressful 🙂

    #377954
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Charlotte:

    Good to read back from you and thank you for your kind words and appreciation, it feels good to read! I want to respond to you further tomorrow morning, at about 9 am your time (assuming you are still living on the East Coast). If you want to add anything, at any length, before I return- please do.

    anita

    #377967
    Charlie
    Participant

    Thank you, Anita! I don’t really have any more questions, but if you don’t mind, I’ll just expand a bit. Overall, my anxiety since I last wrote in the summer has been better. I am still debating the 2nd child issue, but now that my son is a little older, the fact that Trump is no longer president, and the fact that we are hopefully seeing some light at the end of the tunnel in terms of covid, makes the idea of a 2nd child a bit less scary. I still have anxieties about it, but no where near as panicky as I was last year.

    Certain times of year and certain things seem to trigger my anxiety, I’m beginning to notice. One is the weather. I live outside of New York City, and winter and the start of Spring can be difficult for me, especially during a pandemic. The winter is cold and gloomy, and the spring is often rainy and gloomy. Until 3.5 years ago, I spent my whole life in Philadelphia, so I don’t really have close friends or family near me. I think I became a bit more anxious than I was pre-baby perhaps because of isolation on top of the fact that being responsible for a tiny human who can’t form sentences can be challenging.

    Now add up the gloomy weather, the lack of close friends or family, and then any combination of 1) news of horribly upsetting national events and/or 2) drama involving my parents, and sometimes I just feel like we should pack up and leave the country. Or move somewhere rural where I have easier access to nature or the sea and I can clear my head more easily. But obviously this would not keep me or my son risk-free either, nor would it prevent me from being upset by world events, my parents, etc. This is why I was kind of taken aback by my therapist really encouraging me to pack my bags and “go on an adventure.” She told me it was my intuition telling me I need to move our family somewhere safer and that I need to listen to my intuition. But is it really my intuition, or is it my response to anxiety? Things like this sometimes make me feel more confused and conflicted coming out of therapy than I was before the session started!

    PS: I actually live in a very safe suburb of NYC. So my therapist saying I need to move somewhere safer is in terms of national events and the “American culture of violence” (as she says), not local crime outside my door.

    #377983
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Charlotte:

    You are welcome, and thank you for your kind words! You shared that your anxiety is triggered by (1) gloomy, cold, rainy weather, (2) when you hear/ watch “news of horribly upsetting national events”, (3) “drama involving (your) parents”-

    – sunny, clear sky weather will help, at least somewhat, so will staying away from sensational presentation of news, limiting your news intake to reading vs watching pictures/ videos of troubling events, and staying away from your parents and their drama.

    Regarding your therapist telling you to follow your intuition, pack your bags and go on an adventure- it may be her intuition, something she wants to do (lots of people do).

    Regarding safety, you wrote that you “actually live in a very safe suburb of NYC”, that there is no local crime outside your door-

    – this is meaningful because when you evaluate safety living in a particular location, it is way more relevant to evaluate the safety in the particular location than it is to evaluate the safety of the country as a whole. There are locations in the U.S. that are much safer than certain locations in the UK, and the other way around.

    It is similar to evaluating safety as far as Covid is concerned- the safety regulations in a particular location need to be much more about the number of cases in that particular location, than in the country as a whole.

    anita

     

    #377989
    Charlie
    Participant

    Hi Anita! Thank you so much, again, for sharing your wisdom. I have really cut down on news and media consumption in the past few months for exactly that reason. I need to work on mentally not being so upset by my parents for sure. It’s the main reason I started therapy.

    A follow up question is, how do I know something is intuition or my anxiety? For example, if I feel nervous, is it my intuition telling me something bad will happen? Or is it my anxiety taking over?

    Another follow up question is, how do I know therapy is working or if what my therapist’s advice is right for me? I agree with a lot of what my current therapist tells me, but find myself questioning other things she says (such as her advice for the above).

    I still want to circle back with you in a few weeks regarding the 2nd child issue I had last year if that’s ok! I definitely haven’t forgotten 🙂 Thanks, Anita!

    #377992
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Charlotte:

    You are very welcome. I will be able to reply further later, probably tomorrow, in about 18 hours from now.

    anita

    #378009
    Charlie
    Participant

    Thank you, Anita! Very much looking forward to your thoughts as always.

    #378052
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Charlotte:

    You are very welcome, Charlotte!

    “I need to work on mentally not being so upset by my parents for sure. It’s the main reason I started therapy”- I don’t remember discussing your parents outside the context of politics, if I remember correctly. If you’d like to elaborate on having been so upset by your parents, please do.

    Regarding your follow up questions:

    1) “how do I know something is intuition or my anxiety? For example, if I feel nervous, is it my intuition telling me something bad will happen?  Or is it my anxiety taking over?”

    A definition of intuition from Cambridge English Dictionary: “an ability to understand or know something immediately based on your feelings rather than facts”-

    – my answer to your question: anxiety is an ongoing state of fear brewing below the surface, sometimes leaking out to the surface slowly, at other times, erupting. For an anxious person, when something distressing happens, or a distressing thought occurs, what comes up immediately to the surface, is not an understanding of any kind, but fear. Fear comes up from below the surface first, before anything else. Whatever understanding or any other feeling that comes up following the fear, is heavily influenced by the fear that’s already there.

    Therefore,  I say, better for an anxious person to abandon the concept of intuition altogether.

    2) “how do I know therapy is working or if what my therapist’s advice is right for me?”- ask the therapist for her reasons behind the advice she gave you. When she told you that you better pack everything and move to Europe, you could ask her if she would like to move to Europe herself, and for what reasons/ motivations, then compare her reasons/ motivations to yours, and research the matter.

    A quick example that comes to mind, if she told you that she wants to move to Europe because she doesn’t like American men and wants to meet a European man to marry, you can figure that her reason and motivation does not apply to you because you are already married.

    “I still want to circle back with you in a few weeks regarding the 2nd child issue”- circle back with me anytime you want to, I will be glad to read and reply to you whenever you post.

    anita

    #378073
    Charlie
    Participant

    Hi Anita,

    Thank you so much for your thoughts. They were incredibly enlightening as always. I never actually thought of questioning my therapist or asking her why she gives the advice she gives, as silly as that sounds. Next time she says something that I don’t necessarily think fits me, I will ask her why she suggests this. I also really appreciate your suggestion of abandoning the idea of intuition altogether. I hear so much about how people should be “intuitive” these days, and I’ve tried so hard to be so, but I think my anxiety is really what I’m feeling. I only ever seem to feel “intuitive” about fears afterall…..

    My parents were good parents in the scheme of things. They gave me food, shelter, sent me to good schools, etc., but they are not at all emotionally supportive and can be very critical. For example, when I was struggling postpartum with my newborn son (in hindsight I believe I had postpartum depression/anxiety), my mom’s response was always that I should stop crying, get over it and count my blessings. Aside from this, there is an issue between my sister and my parents (basically my parents do not like my sister’s boyfriend for really stupid reasons and have made it known that he’s not welcome), and it looks like my sister might eventually become estranged from them. Even though it’s not my issue directly, it saddens me to see my family so dysfunctional and to see my parents so upset when I am visiting them over the issue (even though my parents are being the ridiculous ones). Why do I emotionally care so much about my parents when, logically, I know they are flawed and in many cases, very wrong? Oi vey!

    I will post soon about the 2nd child issue. Just want to get my thoughts all together 🙂

     

    #378087
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Charlotte:

    You are welcome. I am guessing that because of your sister’s bad relationship with your parents, and particularly because of the possibility that she will be estranged from them, you may be feeling some extra stress or pressure to spend more time with them, be present for them, so that they have at least one supportive and involved daughter (?)

    You are welcome to post again on what I brought up above, on the second child issue, and/ or on any issue when it is convenient for you to do so.

    anita

    #378112
    Charlie
    Participant

    Yes, I believe I do feel that way. My parents actually don’t put pressure on me to visit, though. I do generally like visiting them because, aside from the fact that they are my parents, almost all of my life-long friends live near them, and it gives me a change of scenery and a few more people around to help entertain my son. But sometimes the heaviness that surrounds them gets to me. I worry about their mental and physical health – my Dad has gotten himself so worked up about my sister’s boyfriend that he’s landed himself in the hospital a few times thinking he was having a heart attack. I still do yearn to live closer to them a lot of the time (and thus, move back closer to Philly), even though I know they are dysfunctional. But I also don’t want to spend my life wishing I were living somewhere else and always looking at job postings for my husband near there. I want to be happy living in the present and with my present circumstances, no matter what is happening with other family members or in the world, but I don’t exactly know how to get there…..

    #378114
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Charlotte:

    I will read and reply to your recent message in a few hours, possibly tomorrow morning, about 10 am your time.

    anita

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