The true reality of a mom with an anxious child
The true reality of a mom with an anxious child.
I am the mother of an anxious child. My son is 9 and he suffers from severe anxiety. He has struggled with different levels/types of anxiety for over 3 years now. We have ups and we have downs. Last week we had a great week with no problems at all, this week it’s very down and it’s not just my little boy that’s affected but the whole family.
Yesterday I spent over 2 hours and today I have spent over an hour physically chasing my son around the school grounds and the surrounding roads, trying to restrain him and make the situation and him feel safe, the majority of this time I also had my 5 year old daughter in tow. The reason for his behaviour is because he was too scared to go into class but still desperately wanted to go. This is our reality….this is anxiety at its worst, the constant battle in a 9 year olds mind!!!
A bit of background information – we have recently moved house and countries, and our 2 children have started a new school, we knew it wouldn’t be an easy ride but the reason for the move was us wanting to give our children a better, happier life, a more outdoorsy lifestyle and to ease the stress for the family in the long run. I feel and hope that the stress we are going through now will be worth the end outcome of a happier little boy and in turn a happier family.
When we lived in the UK I had a full time professional job and my partner runs his own business, it meant that we were constantly under pressure and rushing, rushing to before school club, rushing home from after school club to cook and eat dinner, rushing to get bathed and into bed on time. I had 2,5 hours a day with the children from finishing school to bed time. Everything was hectic and we soon realised the hecticness wasn’t helping with Harveys issues. We tried everything, I changed jobs to i could spend more time with the family but then we couldn’t afford to live so I went back to work and my partner reduced his hours and took on the school runs but then his work suffered. We had to make a choice and we chose to relocate to spain so we could spend more time as a family with less stress on money and most importantly no more rushing!
Harvey’s anxiety is generally based around school and social situations. We strongly believe that Harvey has Autism, albeit mild. We have been told by psychologists that he has a lot of the traits and is borderline from the small amount of time they have spent with him. Unfortunately it seems that anxiety and autism have many shared traits and trying to diagnose autism alongside already diagnosed Anxiety is proving very difficult for us.
Overall we spent 3 years trying to get help for him from our local doctor, his school and both educational and private phycologists. Eventually everyone agreed that Harvey’s problems were getting out of hand, he had developed OCD in relation to germs, anxiety over everyday things and a real fear about going to school, it could take me 2-3 hours to get him into school some days, I would have to physically carry him into school across the playground kicking and screaming with him fighting me in front of all the other children, he then suffered bullying from one of the children who found it funny seeing this situation occur every morning and thought he would take advantage of the upset child. He also wouldn’t partake in any school or afterschool activities. He wasn’t sleeping well, it would take 4 hours to get him to sleep at night as this is when all the worries came into his little head and he couldn’t be parted from me. Separation anxiety kicked in. So after many appointments and meetings with the powers that be a referral was sent to the umbrella pathway services as well as a occupational therapy request. The OT request was undertaken rather quickly but wasn’t much help as Harvey was having a good day that day. The Umbrella Pathway Service sent us and his school a questionnaire to fill in about his behaviour.
A few weeks later we received a letter stating that they were sorry but he didn’t tick enough boxes to warrant intervention and that he would be removed from their list. And that was that, no offer of other help, no words of wisdom, no information of other services that we could utilise, nothing! I felt like breaking down, my son obviously has many issues, does he not deserve some help, they hadn’t even met him or spent any time with him yet he was written off after they reviewed one questionnaire, we had put so much into getting this referral that i never believed that there wouldn’t be some kind of positive outcome. We felt deflated and unsure of what else we could do to help him.
During the final stages of trying to obtain a diagnosis we made the decision to relocate, as part of this process I did a lot of research about how children with anxiety and mental health issues were treated in spain and was pleasantly surprised by stories I read and was sent by other moms of how their children had thrived and how well their new schools had reacted and given help to their child. Also every school in spain has their own psychologist, based at the school, this impressed me the most as in the UK our school had a waiting list for a educational psychologist who covered many schools.
So here we are in Spain and since moving we have seen a great improvement in our son’s behaviour and anxiety levels, we spend more time together as a family which has made him feel more at ease generally. He knows we are there for him when he needs us as we try and limit our work to school hours and most importantly for Harvey, we hardly ever rush now.
Day one of school was a massive success, we couldn’t believe our luck, he just queued up with the other kids and went into class, don’t get me wrong he was anxious, I could feel his little hand trembling but he had a new gained confidence and just did it, we were amazed. He came out happy and smiling with 2 new friends. We were ecstatic.
Unfortunately it was short lived and by Monday morning that nasty anxiety monster had reared its ugly head again, gutted is an understatement but we we very impressed with how the school handled it, by the following morning a meeting had been planned with the psychologist and we were met by them at school where Harvey was given a guided tour, for someone with anxiety not knowing where everything is can be a massive thing and harvey struggles to ask questions so on the first day he had held in a wee all day as he was too scared to ask where the toilet was.
Another of Harveys issues include big groups of people, especially noisy, over excited kids so he has always struggled with queing up for class in the mornings, at his old school he went in through reception to avoid the playground craziness. So we asked if there was a way to recreate this option at his new school, luckily they said yes and it was agreed that he would go in early and be seated in the class before the other children came in. the next day Harvey went to school with no problems at all, the new method was working and he was a happy boy once more, we were so pleased that we had managed to pinpoint the issues and find ways around them so quickly. Peace was restored……..
Fast forward 2 weeks and we are back to where I started my story. It’s now midweek and we have had one hell of a stressful week so far.
On Monday I struggled to get Harvey up, we were late leaving the house, we were late getting to school and as we quickly strolled down the school road my heart sank as I saw the school gates open and all the kids went running in, we were merely feet away from the gates but i knew in my heart that was it, there was no way Harvey would go to class, having to walk past all the other kids that were now outside queuing. This is the reality of anxiety, something that for you or I wouldn’t be an issue but for a child with anxiety it’s a deal breaker. Harvey froze and started getting upset, I can’t go in now mommy i just can’t do it and i knew that too, I had to make the decision for him, I was doing the school run alone and had my daughter to think about, she loves school and I didn’t want to jeopardize that by making her watch Harvey get upset and didn’t want her to be late to class, I had to get her to class on the other side of the school so I gave Harvey one more chance, do you think you can go and que with the other kids, NO, NO, NO he said as the tears started to fall and his hands started to shake. So we took his sister to school and we went home together. He was upset and angry at me the whole way home, it was my fault we were late and that’s why he couldn’t go in, its easy to blame others to reduce the pain he felt, but I had a back-up plan, I knew they had a school break at 11am so I suggested we took him in then so he could sneak into class whilst the others played, we had done it before and it has worked. Being a parent of a child with anxiety you have to think about the repercussions, anything you can do to take the trauma and pain away to make their lives easier while still getting the desired outcome. So off we drove at 11am back to the school to sneak in at playtime but that day, it didn’t go to plan. We got to the school but he wouldn’t get out the car. My plan had backfired, I didn’t know what to do next. We ended up driving back home, he was angry and frustrated. Tomorrow’s another day I told him.
Tuesday, we were all up early and dressed and ready for school, no worries had been mentioned and I had good hopes……they were short lived, we got to school before the other kids went in, we got to class, I pulled out his seat and then it started, I can’t do it, I need to get out, I can’t be here, the sheer look of panic in his face as Harvey stated pacing the classroom banging into everything, throwing his bag around, trying the back door to see if he could escape, we were verging on a major meltdown and I knew that there was no way out of this anxiety attack. Anxiety has many faces and anger is the body’s way of dealing with them in certain occasions, I have felt the brunt many a time. I was getting ready to take him out, I had to get his sister to her class with only 5 minutes to go but then his teacher appeared and I knew we had to try again, this was a second chance, his teacher approached him and put his hand on his shoulder to show compassion, the look on Harvey’s face is now hysterical but not at the time, Harvey’s fight or flight reflex kicked in and he was off, I chased him out the classroom with his poor little sister lagging behind wondering what was going on, his sisters only 5 but she knows Harvey has problems, she’s a very caring, intuitive child and she wants to help him, she sometimes feels like the older child. I didn’t want to lose sight of harvey, he’s an escaper and often tells me he’s found ways to escape school so we had to give chase, luckily he hadn’t gone far, this teacher followed and we tried to talk him into going into class before the other kids went in, we didn’t stand a chance, by now he was trembling and starting to have a panic attack so I apologised to his teacher and tried to get Harvey to leave with me, this is where things get even harder as although harvey is shit scared of going into class, he feels like he’s failed and he’s angry with himself so as we walk away he keeps turning round and running back saying he can do it he wants to go in, so we head back towards class and then he runs the other way saying he can’t do it. I can see the internal battle he is having in his tiny little head, hes 9, he shouldn’t have to go through internal turmoil like this, it breaks my heart.
After 20 minutes of chasing him up and down the playground I managed to calm him enough to try and get his sister to her class, unfortunately when we get there the external gates are locked and the receptionist can’t understand that we are late (my spanish isn’t good yet, we are still taking lessons) and wont open the gates. My daughter gets upset and starts crying that she can’t get in and then starts Harveys guilt, Harvey has masses of empathy, he now feels awful and blames himself, it’s all his fault he starts shouting ,he screams that he’s rubbish, this is a stage we go through regularly, the I hate me phase, he’s angry with himself and there’s nothing I can do to calm him apart from be there and show him love and compassion. We eventually manage to get away from school and head home, we decide to try again at break time as keira is desperate to go to school. When we get to school I take his sister in whilst Harvey has a pep talk from his dad on video call. I get back and Harvey’s raring to go into class,the pep talk and a little bit of bribery (a new game) has worked, we have 20 mins of break time left so we head toward school,he hides behind me as we go past the playground so his friends don’t see him. Harvey gets embarrassed very easily he hates being looked at, but when he has a meltown/panic attack this all goes out the window, the fear takes over. We get to his class but the room is locked, he starts to panic again so I go to find his teacher, I find him and he tells me that we have to get harvey in during the morning, coming and going isn’t good for him, I know that but i also know my son and I know when the ship has sailed so I explain that and he opens the door by now Harvey’s had time to think and the anxiety is back….. full force. He runs off again and I give chase again. This goes on for ten minutes before I talk him into coming home knowing playtime has ended and the other kids are heading back to class. Then starts the negativity again, hes rubbish, he’s angry and he wants to kill himself. I’ve heard him say this on occasions, its when he’s very angry with himself and he feels worthless that he can’t do what he wants, it kills me everytime, the tears start to roll down my face and I try to stop them before he sees, I don’t want him feeling responsible for me being upset, I have to be strong, i’m his mommy, he has enough going on in his little head but it’s so hard to see your child in this way, it’s so hard to hear them diss themselves and say these terrible things, I reassure him its not his fault, it’s anxiety, he can’t help it, he has to fight it but he doesn’t know how.
Today I decided we wouldn’t try if he didn’t want to, we have a meeting with the school psychologist tomorrow and we can take it from there BUT harvey wanted to go in so we tried again, it was pretty much the same as the last 2 days. We tried, it didn’t work, he got angry and i got upset.
So there you have it, my story so far, a few days in the life of a mommy whose amazingly clever and beautiful little boy has anxiety.
Methods we use to help reduce anxiety
I am obsessed with anything natural and holistic and my kids love this way of life too so we have tried many natural products to help with the anxiety. Harvey has chosen crystals to help him and they have worked well many times, sometimes it gets to much that even nature cant help but we keep trying. We utilise breathing techniques for when he feels the onset of anxiety and if panic attacks to arise, we smudge the house and the kids bedrooms to remove negativity and we also do meditation together. its very difficult I find to get a 9 year old to relax enough to meditate but in time I’m hoping Harvey will chose to do this of his own accord rather than being guided by me.
Thank you for reading my story
Jess – mommy to an anxious child xxx