Living with anxiety in the family

My 16 year old daughter is a beautiful caring, articulate, creative and adventurous person.  She still is that person but we don’t get to see it often because social anxiety has wrapped her up in glad wrap and she can’t escape.  This stops her from going to school, making friends, attending parties, getting a part-time job.  Normal activities for a teenager.

At primary school, she was happy, carefree and had friends.  She was always a person who stuck by my side and over the years, became more and more anxious about little things.  That was nothing compared to now.

Today, she is so gripped with anxiety that full time school is too hard for her.  She attends school twice a week but even this is too challenging.   She often says ‘You don’t understand’.  Well, I don’t have severe anxiety and my school life was very different so I don’t fully understand but I can empathise and listen and support her and that’s all I can do.   When I was at school all those years ago, it was a different world.  No smart phones, no iPads, no laptops, no internet, no social media, no judgement and less pressure.  I’m not the most technological person but new technology is a good thing.  We can find anything we want on Google.  Previously, we had to go to the library to look up research for assignments.  That sounds so old fashioned now!  In my opinion, social media for adolescents has ruined the idea of what ‘natural’ looks like.  My daughter sees these ‘perfect’ people – perfect skin, perfect hair and a perfect life which adds fuel to the anxiety.

Being a parent of a teenager is challenging enough.  Anxiety in the family feels like being on a rollercoaster you can’t get off.  We have good days and bad days.  The good days are fantastic where I see my real daughter for who she is.  The bad days are filled with work load, acne, lack of friends, injustices in the world, lack of appetite, what to eat, low mood, etc.  It can be a lonely place for all of us.

As a Nutritionist, my first response is ‘What have you eaten today?’  What we eat has a profound effect on how we feel but stress also has a negative impact on the body.  As a teenager, it’s challenging to eat well most of the time.  She is also a vegetarian which is a fantastic way of eating but she’s very particular about the foods she eats and lacks protein, veggies etc.  I worry about her long term health as she’s still growing.

Both anxiety and her diet lacking in sufficient nutrients has affected her health.  Her hormones are out of whack, her gut health is out of whack and her acne makes her more stressed.   I realise that it can be challenging to eat well and take supplements daily but the benefits far outweigh the negative.  It’s not a quick fix, sometimes it can take months and months but it’s definitely worth it.

I wanted to share my story, not only to highlight the challenges of mental health but to also highlight that a Nutritionist’s life is not perfect!  I’m a real person going through what some of you may be going through.  Self-care is so important for everyone but as a parent, the emphasis is even greater.  How can we look after our kids well if we’re not well ourselves?  Go out and get a massage, a facial, a long walk, read a book – whatever YOU want to do.   Don’t feel guilty, just do it.



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