Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Anxiety, redux

I took Little Guy for an evaluation last week. I've known for some time -- years, in fact -- that he has anxiety issues. I tend not to see them as clearly as I see them in some of my other kids, because they flare up more when I'm not around. We've been working on it, and making progress, though the past couple of months have brought some events that have set Little Guy back a bit.

So I took him for the evaluation, because although I know (oh, how I know!) how to handle anxiety in kids, I'm stretched awfully thin these days. I can't do everything, all the time.

It's a sobering thing to sit in a room with three mental health professionals and see them grow increasingly serious and compassionate as you talk about what your family has gone through. It's both validating and daunting.

I wouldn't have taken Little Guy in to be evaluated if I hadn't thought there was something to evaluate. And still, in the way life is, my heart just about broke when he was given a diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder. There's something about a label that hits you in the stomach.

So I teared up a bit, and allowed myself an afternoon to feel sad. The doctors shared information with me about some incidents which had taken place at home which I hadn't known about, but should have. Little Guy is especially sensitive to blow-ups, and when you've got an older brother with 'issues' those are fairly common. I was aware that when I'm out of the house the two guys have had arguments. What I hadn't known was how severe these were, nor how triggering they were to Little Guy's anxiety. And frankly, I'd been so concerned with another kid who is falling apart at the seams that I hadn't fully absorbed the information I had been told.

So. What appears to ameliorate the conflicts between the boys appears to be me, since we don't have these kinds of problems much when I'm at home. So I thought through how to shift life around. Then I was sad again, for a bit, at the thought of having to make my life smaller in order to make my child's life bigger. I will do it, of course. That's what moms do. But it's important, before one picks up the elephant, to spend some time acknowledging it will be a heavy load.

Now, several days later, the label doesn't bother me. It's a label. It's useful, inasmuch as it helps me define the kind of help I need for my son.

Now, several days later, what seemed burdensome in prospect is less difficult than imagined. And I daresay the label helps to make it easier because it makes the problem clearer, and therefore easier to focus on. I have set a short-term goal of trying to get through a full week without any blow-ups between my over-irritable ones, because giving everyone a break is an urgent priority. (There's a sense in which arguments are like a bronchial infection; your throat can become so irritated that you cough even after the germs are gone. Then you have to find a way to suppress the reaction so that the cough doesn't irritate the throat more and perpetuate the problem. What I'm trying to do is let the irritation subside enough to allow healing to take place.)

Now, several days later, I realize that part of what was triggering my other falling-apart kid was the conflicts between the boys. So there's some efficiency in this. Which I definitely appreciate.

The moral of the story, so far? There are several:

  • It's helpful to define the problem, even if the definition makes you feel sad.
  • It's okay to feel sad over sad things. 
  • You never know as much as you think you do.
  • Most bad feelings subside, if you let them.
  • Even if you feel awful, you can still make progress
Nothing new, but then most of what we need to learn (again) is not novel.


  1. Thank you again for writing, for your inspiring bravery in your own life and for your raw honesty. So many points that will bring wisdom into my own life.

  2. Ah, Julia! So sorry it's happening again. Though I sort of expected it from things you'd said before.

    Yes, you have the right to be sad, for as long as it does any good. And if you want to write me, I'll be happy to listen. Sometimes you just need someone to tell.

    I like that bronchitis analogy too. Very useful! And I'm glad you found a working computer to write on.

  3. If I can help, you know where I am.

    Love you.

  4. You are an amazing and strong woman. Life as the perpetual "peace maker" is draining, but you will do it, and make the best of the situation , for your children. Stay strong, and Peace be with you.

  5. As I watched a brief video of a large snow storm heading your way, I thought I'd better come by the site and see if anything new was posted. Now I see you will have a storm inside and out. I am sending up prayers for peace, safety, & joy for all of you.

    "You never know as much as you think you do." I should have that tattooed somewhere I see it minute by minute.

    Know that you are not alone, but loved by many.

  6. Just a brief note to let you know I echo the sentiments already posted. If there is ANY way a long distance person can help, please let me know.

  7. Thank you, Julia, for sharing with us, your readers, the process you go through as you face new obstacles. Your thinking is so clear and logical. I may go through some of the same steps in my own struggles, but I am not nearly as self-aware.