My child has anxiety—just saying that makes me feel anxious and like a failure as a mom. I had never really heard about childhood anxiety until we started walking this path with our son. In the beginning, I wondered what made him incessantly worried about being forgotten or any of the other worries he carries with him all day. For the most part, no one would notice anything different about him. But underneath his calm demeanor in public lies racing thoughts, a million what-ifs, and a boiling pot of anxiety just waiting to unleash itself.
My son is fine in places he is familiar with, but privately he is a nervous wreck in new places. Most people would never realize he has anxiety from looking at him from the outside. He acts like a normal, happy boy out in public and does well in school.
At home with us though, we have to tiptoe around certain situations to try and avoid what I call “tantrums.”
These tantrums are beyond his age and are due to him bottling up his anxiety during the day until he can’t anymore, and he has to let it out. So there are times we wrestle with how to talk to him when these moments happen. Schedule changes are the worst for him, and we are learning how to manage this while also trying to lead a normal life.
At bedtime, he goes through his list of things he thinks I need to know so he can have a good morning the next day. We go through the next day’s schedule and go over any changes that might happen . . .
When he wants to wake up.
Double-checking where I am going to be during the day.
Making sure he can call me if he wants to.
Asking what other family members are going to be doing.
One of the worst aspects of my child having anxiety is always having to be on.
If I happen to forget to tell him his schedule is different for the day, he freezes, and he goes through his list of what-ifs until I have finally convinced him that it is going to be OK. Then, for the foreseeable future, he constantly questions me to make sure he knows what his schedule for the day looks like.
It is living with a child on a roller coaster of highs and lows. Highs when we are managing the anxiety well, he isn’t stressing about much, and life is peaceful. Lows are when he is constantly worried I’m going to forget him or be late or one of the many other bad possibilities in his mind. As much as I want to say, “Don’t worry I got this, you are fine.” I know his mind does not care what I say, it believes 100% that something is going to go wrong.
Not only does his anxiety affect him, but it also affects the entire family as we ride the roller coaster of managing his emotions. It is parenting a child while wading through a dark pool of goo that is his anxiety, constantly trying to keep up or stay ahead of his racing thoughts and what-ifs.
And I’m tired.
Tired of trying to control the world for him so he has time to process and manage the change. Tired of holding back the flood of change all around him, hoping I can plug the holes that are popping up all around him until he can manage to swim for himself.
I don’t know when that time will come.
I don’t know if that time will come, frankly.
I don’t know how bad the flood of anxiety is going to get.
But I do know that we will weather this storm together, and every one of the storms after this, until he is strong enough to manage on his own. Because in my house anxiety won’t win.