Sunday, November 6, 2016

Parenting a Child with Anxiety

My son has anxiety. It is draining. It is exhausting. It challenges every ounce of my being. It tests me in ways beyond measures. It can most easily be recognized by the tears streaming down both of our faces. 

The other day was photo day at soccer. An environment which may not be comfortable for all but one that the 40+ other children they could cope reasonably well with. This is not me comparing or singling out my child. This is me being observant and open to learning how others handle such circumstances. The result: 2.5 hours of crying until he cried himself to sleep. Again, this not be comparing or singling out my child; this is me knowing my child and understanding from the dozens of medical professionals he has seen, he has anxiety.

When friends try to help - for me, a wall goes up.  A thick, impenetrable wall. I know people are meaning well but the reality is: we just want to dive into a bubble, my son and I, so we can talk; so he can express himself and I can remind him, without distraction, I am here with you. I love you.

It's not about whether or not it's going to be okay because in that moment, that is not a message he is able to hear; that is not within the realm of his reality...

If you are cornered by a lion and someone were to say to you, "it's going to be okay?" - you might have some choice words. For someone to think that by saying those words, in that moment, those "actions" are going to help with the circumstance?... Think about that. Really think about that. That is what a child with anxiety faces when they are triggered.

I relate my son's anxiety to being cornered by a lion

The reality is these situations that to most are simple decisions or day-to-day circumstances are completely overwhelming and outright terrifying for him. This --- this is anxiety.

On a day-to-day level, from public appearance, he can cope well. But, when he doesn't - and we don't always know what the trigger will be (yet) - it is not about whether or not he copes well; right now, it is that he does not cope. "Fight or flight" --- he takes off like a rocket-ship... and he is headed to a universe that is presently completely unknown to us but, guess what, we are along for the ride.

We've tried to talk with other parents about his anxiety but are often met with:
"He seems fine to me."
"He's learning at his own pace."

I can tell you these are not helpful or constructive comments. Although we appreciate the place these messages are coming from, I am writing this to share another perspective. When you know there is something "wrong" with your child it is not about labeling him - or perhaps more appropriately - feeling bad that he HAS a label. The "label" is a part of who he is. That is not something to be dismissed; it is something that must be acknowledged. It is a reality. It is his reality. It is a part of him and all of him is someone to be embraced.

We are new to this. This world of parenting a child with anxiety... it's not easy but we are learning... we are trying to keep breathing. We are letting ourselves cry. And we are reminding ourselves:

Until next time.. have a wonderful day! xo

p.s. I will keep you updated; if you have a child with anxiety, please do not hesitate to reach out.  Comment below or share some links to helpful resources to the comment section below.