I am ALWAYS afraid

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Q: I constantly feel anxiety that something bad will happen to my daughter. (She is 2)This has always been there, but has gotten worse as she has gotten older. My parents own a cabin about 4 hours away and I didn’t want her to go with them to the cabin because of being in the car without me driving for four hours. (I did eventually let her go, but they had to call me the minute they got there.)

I lay in bed at night and think about what if someone broke into my house. How would I protect her. I made my husband put an alarm system in our house because I was worried that someone would break in. I have to pretty much have her in my sight at all times, or I start getting worried. I must say “Where is Gianna” a million times a day just to make sure she hasn’t wandered off somewhere without me know it. Some of it I chalk up to being a first time mom, but some of it is just crazy worrying. I can tell myself that, but I cant help the feeling. I did loose my mom when I was 13. She was manic depressive and committed suicide. I know some anxiety is passed down, so maybe that has something to do with it. Or just me being worried of losing someone I love?

I had an experience a while back – probably like 6 months ago where I was working at my parents bookstore which is in a kind of poor area, and i was there alone with my daughter and this guy came in and started acting strange and asking me if I was alone and what schedule I worked and such. I realized at that point how vulnerable I am as a mom. When you have a child, that really limits what you are willing to do and can do to protect yourself and child. He eventually left, but after that I suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome I think. I dreaded and avoided going to the store for a long time. I couldn’t sleep for months. I would lay awake and replay it over and over. I got so paranoid that when I would drive home I would go a different way to make sure that that guy wasn’t following me. It was bad. I eventually got on with my life, but I am still VERY paranoid all the time.

I am afraid of everything. I mean its not like I never leave my house, but just little things set me off and I go through a week of extreme anxiety. Tonight for the second night in a row someone from a jail was trying to call my house collect. (no one i know is in jail) My husband instead of accepting the call hit the block call button and now I am paranoid that the person will get upset because he thinks whoever he is trying to call doesn’t want to talk to him and send someone to my house. I know- its silly, but this is the kind of worst case scenario stuff that I think of all the time.

I really need some advice. I am definitely against medicating myself with happy pills so I will never worry at all, but I need some help. I don’t have a good primary care doctor, so I was hoping for some advice.
Thanks for taking the time.

A: What a hard, hard way to live. I’m so sorry. This must be exhausting for you. I’m glad you wrote, both for your own sake and for the sake of your daughter. She can’t grow and develop as she should if you are so overly protective.

My best guess is this: The last time you were in a mother-daughter relationship (with your own mother), it ended suddenly and sadly. Now that you are again in a mother-daughter relationship (this time with you as the mom), that loss is being stirred up again. The nature of the relationship puts a part of you back to when you were a scared 13 year old who had lost the protection of her mother. It’s very possible that you are suffering from unresolved grief and a kind of Post Traumatic Stress that is based in that loss. You are responding by trying to protect yourself and your little girl. There’s nothing wrong with that except that it is way, way over the top. It’s making you miserable and, paradoxically, it is probably making your daughter scared.

I do think you need to see a therapist to help you with this. If you could do it for yourself, you would have done so already. Seeing a therapist does not have to include medication, although you might want to rethink your position on that. Sometimes using medication temporarily takes the edge off the anxiety a bit so that you will be better able to take advantage of the talk therapy. Please follow through. You’ve been scared much too long.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 17 Nov 2008

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2008). I am ALWAYS afraid. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/11/17/i-am-always-afraid/