I am a 41-year-old mom with three children. I suffer from generalized anxiety disorder. My mother also suffers from anxiety, and she revealed to me that my grandfather was also known to be an anxious man. It’s in our family, we pass it on to the next generation, like some diseased baton in a relay race. The person in front of us reaches back accepting the gift without even looking behind them. I didn’t volunteer to hand this over to anyone; I’m sure my mom didn’t hand it over to me with ease either. I couldn’t prevent this from happening – well I suppose I could have chosen not to have children. That idea makes my heart ache.
A few weeks ago school started, and we started to see my six-year-old son becoming tearful at night. He asked me if he could be “absent” from school the next day. After some digging in it appears his new teacher (a male) is a rather tall man with a big voice. We believe my son is intimidated by him. I jumped, not brushing this off, and I spoke with the teacher and the school counselor. Both were receptive and helped to make plans to follow up with my son. All parties are seeming eager to understand my son’s feelings of “being sad and nervous” at school. I felt really good about the first step I took. I felt like we were making progress just by opening up lines of communication. I felt like I had given him this ugly scar that he will have to try to hide from others for the rest of his life and I don’t know how to help him because I so often don’t know how to help myself.
He had a soccer game on Saturday, leading up to the game he doubled over in the back seat, crying and telling me his head and stomach hurt. He didn’t want to play. I talked him into sitting on the sideline with me to watch, hoping he would want to join his team when he was ready. Thinking ahead, I brought his gear, and he changed his mind and played. He played with enthusiasm too! The process of leading up to getting him on the field was his first panic attack, at least the first one I have witnessed. He did overcome it, but I know what it is.
My husband and I deliberate for hours after the kids were in bed. What are we doing or what are we NOT doing right? What can we change? What can we do better? Will the other two children be like this too? Surely it has to skip at least one of them?
I know people will read this and say I shouldn’t apologize, but I am. Pardon my writing while I switch to talking directly to my son as if he (a child) could understand everything here.
I’m sorry, son. I know. I know what it’s like to want to do something so badly, but fear holds you back. I know what it’s like to think you can be something great, yet being the center of attention is terrifying. I know what it’s like to feel like no one wants to play with you, and you are too shy to make eye contact or ask others if you can join them. I know what it’s like to lay awake at a sleepover and beg the sunlight to pop through the window so you can feel like you belong with the other kids again. This is a lonely and scary road ahead. I’m sorry.
I’m sorry I haven’t figured out how to dig myself out of the deepest crevice I threw myself in years ago. I am more than halfway out, I have overcome so much, but I’m not stupid, I know there is more. There will always be more.
I promise to you that I will be here for you to shake in front of, cry, throw up, or feel like you might poop your pants (yeah, isn’t that one fun). I will be here when you feel like eating in front of people is difficult, so you don’t (that phase passes I promise). I will hold your hand in long lines, tell you it’s okay to take a break and it’s okay to walk away – that’s not all true though.
You see, sometimes you have to shake alone, lose your breath alone, and let your mind race around one topic, alone. Sometimes you have to eat before you go out to dinner, sometimes you have to face the long line (or order it from Amazon), but most importantly you CANNOT always walk away. Sometimes you have to face it head on, and it will suck. It will be hard. It will be harder for you than it is for others and no one (but me) will understand how hard it is.
Seeing you torn up over a school day or a soccer game has stirred some triggers in me. I have sensed this early, so I promise you that I am going to help myself and help you. I am going to look for answers for both of us. This is new territory, but I know there aren’t always going to be answers. When that happens, I will lay in bed with you and read you Creepy Carrots and talk about Lego and Nerf guns. You are a kid. It’s not fair that you feel this way already. I’m sorry that you do. I’m trying to help. I want to get you the help I didn’t get myself until I was older. When you wait to get help it feels like the darkness of anxiety settles in your bones and it’s harder to shake. Maybe there is hope that we can get ahead of that happening. I’m not sure. Right now I want to make this easier for you. I don’t want you to suffer like me. I love you so much. I’m sorry I gave this to you.
Photo Credit Pixabay