Childhood should be a happy time when kids enjoy going to school, learning new things, seeing their friends, playing on sports teams, having sleepovers and playdates. Childhood should not be filled with headaches, stomachaches, shortness of breath, dizziness and a racing heart beat. A ten year old's biggest worry should be whether or not they want to play goalie or forward in the game today not will I be able to make myself go to school today.
A year ago November began my daughter's battle with anxiety. It started with a phobia of throwing up after seeing kids throw up at school during a particular busy stomach bug season. She had an immediate fight or flight reaction. At first I thought she was having asthma attacks because she couldn't take a deep breath and her chest hurt, but we soon learned it was a panic attack. From there the anxiety grew and grew like a weed that you keep pulling but never quite get all the roots. It slowly began to take over her life and ours. She learned tools in therapy to calm herself, but then it hit a point where she would feel so sick that she was convinced she was sick. She would get so beaten down and upset when we would tell her that it was her anxiety making her feel that way. She said we didn't believe her that she was sick. I tried to explain to her that just like a virus causes the flu, her anxiety causes her stomach aches and headaches and that they are real. Every Sunday evening became a predictable turn of events. Especially after a long fall or spring break. She would be her usual, happy self until about 8:30 and then she would feel sick and dizzy. There would be nights when she wouldn't fall asleep until 4:00 in the morning.
Monday morning would come and how could she possibly go to school when she didn't get any sleep. Her General Anxiety Disorder revolves around school and sometimes she can pinpoint one thing that makes her feel anxious, but other times it's just school in general. She has lots of friends....she's outgoing....all the teachers know her....she loves playing on her soccer team....she's testing for her black belt in tae kwon do this summer....she's student council president AND she's fights everyday to not let her anxiety get the best of her. But it's gotten to a point where it is ruling her life and ours. It's heartbreaking to watch your child go through something like this and not be able to make it all better. She does the best she can to hide it from people, but kids start to question why she gets to leave the classroom and stay with another teacher when she feels her anxiety ramping up. They make rude comments about her and thinks she's getting special treatment. She is fighting to make it through a full school day and finish out the year strong. Every day is a battle to stay at school and not call me to come get her and then you throw mean spirited comments on top of that and it just adds fuel to the fire. Friendships become difficult because she can't let things go. She perseverates by saying the same thing over and over or not being able to move on after having her feelings hurt. My strong willed child becomes even more so when she gets angry and upset and will argue and repeat herself till she's blue in the face. She sees a therapist, rides horses, uses essential oils, meditates, has done yoga....believe me we try everything to help her.
It's difficult as a parent because sometimes I just need to talk about it and get this off my chest. I want other parents to know what's going on so that maybe their child can show some compassion and understand her a little bit better instead of talking behind her back. I want my friends to know why I often back out of get togethers not because I don't want to go but because I'm barely holding it together. I want my family to know that when I talk about this that I'm not always looking for suggestions or advice but rather an empathetic ear. I want myself to know that I'm doing all I can and am handling it the best I can. Most of all I want my daughter to know that I will never stop fighting for her, protecting her, encouraging her and loving her.