Before anyone becomes a parent, they need to know the possible side effects of having a child.
Warning: having a child may drive you to the brink of insanity.
Warning: having a child might cause extreme weight gain.
Warning: having a child may cause premature gray hair, intestinal upset, migraines, extreme wallet depletion, and the necessity of drugs like Prozac that causes even more side effects.
And this is especially true if you are empathic and have a child with anxiety.
Looking back at the past school year brings back shivers and chills worse than reading a Steven King book.
The long and short of it is Little Man missed 34 days of school last year because of a combination of being sick, and having anxiety and panic attacks. When he was sick (the usual stuff of getting a bad cold or having a tummy bug) and recovered to where most kids would have been well enough to go back to school, anxiety would kick in, followed by panic attacks. If it was a Monday (or the anticipation of it being Monday), anxiety and panic attacks happened more often that not. Or there could be something going on at school that would have Little Man all amped up and panicking.
And every time his anxiety ramped into panic and a panic attack, it rung my bell like nothing else. It got to me in a place so deep it drove me nuts. I tried to stay detached so I could be the calm, strong mommy, but I became the crazy mommy who totally lost her shit on too many occasions. Not judging. Just saying that I don’t like spinning out and losing my shit because it would fragment and unground me like a hangover for the rest of the day (when it came to my kid and anxiety).
The last time he had almost this bad a school year was in third grade, and his teacher had less than zero empathy for this sensitive kid. He didn’t miss as much school that year, but it was an almost daily battle to get him to school.
The year after that third grade year, Little Man was diagnosed with ADHD, learning disabilities, and anxiety. With the formal acknowledgment of anxiety, I did what any diligent parent would do and, after a 5-6 week wait, finally got Little Man in with a highly recommended psychologist. When we met with the woman, she seemed very nice and friendly. Little Man was observably not comfortable in her office, and I was hoping she’d start by having him play with the toys she had, and let him get used to the whole scenario: her and her room. Remember, this is a kid who is slow to warm up to new people and things, and who was there because of anxiety.
Ten minutes into being there, the psychologist apparently forgot all her training and started right in, asking him about his worries, and about what happens when he starts to worry. Well, folks, right then and there she got a front row seat to Little Man’s anxiety. The worries marched right back in and took over my kid’s brain. Panic set in and Little Man had to leave. That was the end of that session or any hope of further sessions with her.
That all happened in the middle of fifth grade. After that, Little Man wouldn’t agree to see anyone for the rest of the year. Fortunately, he had a pretty good year with his fifth grade teacher. Since the anxiety monster really didn’t show up much, I thought it was becoming a non-issue.
But then sixth grade came last fall, and within the first two weeks of school, Little Man got sick, finally felt better, came down with another thing that brought on vomiting, recovered from that, and then had a few days of severe anxiety and panic attacks. He missed a week of school. That set the tone for the entire year.
I got in touch with very highly recommended psychologist, by a person who knows Little Man well, but his wait time was long. We waited about 4 months and finally got in. Things went a little better there. But Little Man only lasted about 3 visits before he melted down and couldn’t go. That was the end of that.
Near the very end of the school year, I was having a particularly tough day with the kid, and I spent a little time talking with the school counselor. After about 15 minutes of listening to me talk about my recent struggles, and her spending zero time with Little Man ever, she decided that the best course of action would be to get that kid on anti-anxiety medication, pronto. I explained that if I did that, it would only happen under the guidance of a pediatric psychiatrist (apparently, she wasn’t thinking about the fact that these are psych drugs, and mental health counselors and psychologists can’t prescribe – and pediatricians have very limited training in psychiatry). And the closest one is in the next county and has a six month wait time to be seen (yes, I looked into it a while back for ADHD meds). So, the advice dispensed (with great urgency) was to call the doctor and get on the waiting list as soon as possible. After all, if I didn’t address this thing, it would only get worse and worse, and end up crippling my son. Maybe.
Maybe not. Treating a 12-year-old with psych drugs and all their non-specificities and side effects, for anxiety that is highly situational; and that situation revolves around the chemistry between having to be in school with certain teachers, is not the best course of action in my mind. See for yourself. Spend five minutes researching drug treatment for anxiety in teens or children.
Having a bipolar mother, I’ve seen that some drugs can help mood issues at times, and there are also times that no drug will help. When it comes to our brains and “diseases” of imbalance of moods and emotions, the field of psychopharmacology (psych drugs) is still in its infancy. It’s a guessing game to see what happens to this individual when these chemicals are introduced into this particular brain. They’re getting better at guessing, but because they don’t know the cause of these dis-eases, they can’t address it directly. It’s not like seeing a particular bacteria or virus that has taken over the body or a part of the body. Psychiatry deals with unseen and unknown causes.
Sure, they sometimes do brain scans and try to evaluate electrical activity and such. But they still have absolutely NO idea about the causes of why someone experiences anxiety to the point of having panic attacks, while someone else in the very same situation doesn’t.
And just to add a quick sidebar, doctors can’t explain why several people can be exposed to the same germs or virus and not 100% of the people will get sick. Here’s one explanation that I find very fascinating, that speaks to this at several levels.
So, what’s a mom to do when her son is having the worst year of his young life, thus causing her to have the worst year of her son’s young life? Well, for anyone who has never read this blog, you might think I jumped right on the phone and put my son on a psychiatrist’s wait list and then spent the rest of the summer sitting, wringing my hands about it. But for those of you who know me at all, you probably guessed correctly, that I looked for the bigger picture of what’s really going on.
Several weeks before this past school year ended, I went to a local holistic fair and had a psychic reading from a trusted and extremely gifted local intuitive (psychic). I had her look intuitively at Little Man and his teacher to see what was going on energetically. She saw several things. First off: their two souls made an agreement to come together during this lifetime for Little Man to have this experience in effort to help him learn to discern the difference between feeling his own energy and emotions, and feeling (picking up on) other people’s energy and emotions.
You see, he’d been picking up all of his teacher’s emotional baggage, and she has a butt-ton of it. She hides it pretty well, but not from Little Man. Among other regular stressors in her life, she has a deep-seated need for perfection.
More intuitive information I got about the teacher is that she carries a lot of masculine energy in the form of “it’s my way or the highway” type of persona. She hid this in every interaction I had with her up until the very last week of school, when I got a taste of it. I picked up on a lot of very subtle passive aggressive behavior.
When it came to motivating her more difficult to motivate students, she always did the same thing: dangle a carrot and hold it over the kid. When they couldn’t perform, she’d either lay on the threats or try to lay on the hurt in some way. For kids that this type of motivation doesn’t work, their lives spiral downwards quickly. As they crumble and fail (literally, getting several F’s), she never waivers or changes her tactics. After all, in her mind, she’s not the problem and holds no ownership that she could possibly be doing anything but the most correct thing.
Between absorbing a ton of emotional crap that wasn’t his, and having to deal with the way this teacher handled her more challenging students, Little Man’s body and brain reacted by becoming anxious. And when he was forced into spending the entire school day with this woman, day after day, it quickly became intolerable, and anxiety morphed into panic attacks.
Once I explained to Little Man the dynamics of the bigger picture, it helped a little. I worked with him to help him begin to discern when he was feeling something uncomfortable, whether it was truly his stuff, or someone else’s. This isn’t easy, as I’m still working on it myself (but I don’t feel as much from others as my son does). We also worked on cleaning up his energy field, and shoring it up, so he doesn’t walk around like an emotional sponge, taking on and keeping everyone else’s emotional woes. But it’s one thing to do this at home, and quite another when you’re thrown into the fire.
Things got a little bit better until the last 7 days of school, when Little Man got sick and missed all but the very last day. Part of it was, indeed, anxiety. But he was very sick for a good 4 days. Another intuitive friend told me that was all about the teacher’s own anxiety that piled up at the end of the year.
What I couldn’t understand was why the teacher seemed to be so upset and bothered when the kid missed days that were non-academic. Only ONE of the days he missed included any work that affected grades. ONE! (He missed going to a water park, cleaning up the classroom, practicing filing in and out of the gym for an awards assembly, a moving-up celebration party and swim). And the way his teacher acted, you’d have thought he missed a week of state testing that couldn’t be made up.
I finally understood that it had to do with her not being able to control this boy. To MAKE him come to school. Even dangling the carrot of a big award at the end of the year didn’t make this kid show up for school. And 24 hours later, when he couldn’t man-up and get his butt to school, the mysterious big award suddenly had to be given to another student (told to me with a heavy sigh and an “oh well” attitude).
Looking back, I can see more crap, having to do with Little Man’s IEP and not having his work assignments modified much at all; which they are supposed to be, if the work load is too much for him to keep up. He was behind in his work for about 90% of the year, which was a huge anxiety trigger for him. I brought this up, and although some grading was modified, almost no assignments were. The attitude I got was if the bar was raised up high, the kid would rise to the occasion. But that platitude doesn’t always work with my son. In fact, if he feels the bar is raised too high with no support underneath, he becomes immediately defeated. He feels the difference between a teacher who raises the bar high and demands that her students jump for it, and one who supports them so they can fly up to it.
I now understand that his teacher doesn’t believe anxiety is real. Any sort of mental issues of instability equals some sort of internal or moral weakness. She thinks a person can buck up and will their way through a panic attack. I seriously wonder what ball of shit she endured as a child to bring on the extreme amount of crap she sill carries around.
Back to the bigger picture. I see the scenario was set up for some big time learning for both me and for Little Man. And as I’ve learned, the more the pain, the more motivation to get the lesson quicker. So this past school year was a biggie.
With it behind us, and with this next year putting Little Man into our local middle school with a different set up (switching classrooms for each subject, a different teacher for each subject, and being with kids from all the elementary schools), we are both looking forward to new and different being all good.
Will there be challenges? For sure. Will it be the hell beyond all hells? Hell no! As with every school year before this, I am cautiously optimistic that it will be a good year.