With Little Man experiencing a resurgence of not only anxiety but triggered panic attacks, I wanted to create a PSA about anxiety. If you have never personally experienced a panic attack, and don’t have a family member who experiences them, know that they are different from becoming anxious because of a situation or ongoing situation.
Little Man’s sixth grade teacher was a classic example of someone who thought they knew all about kids by virtue of having taught for many years. She thought that my son should be able to dig deep and man up; willing his way through his anxiety. For a long time, I did too. Until he wanted to die. You can’t overpower anxiety by sheer willpower.
I should have known better because during my last year of college, I experienced panic attacks, with no precursor anxiety. I was sitting in class, and all of a sudden, it felt like my heart stopped and I was about to die. A few times, my vision became a tunnel, and I almost passed out. I had no idea what was going on.
Fortunately for me, my panic attacks were caused by extreme stress, and after I graduated from college and moved back home, they went away, never to be experienced again. My son’s experience is different.
From the National Institute for Mental Health, anxiety is defined as:
“Occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. You might feel anxious when faced with a problem at work, before taking a test, or making an important decision. But anxiety disorders involve more than temporary worry or fear. For a person with an anxiety disorder, the anxiety does not go away and can get worse over time. The feelings can interfere with daily activities such as job performance, school work, and relationships. There are several different types of anxiety disorders. Examples include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder.”
When Little Man was ten, he was given a diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder. These days, I would add that he also deals with panic disorder as well.
When someone has a diagnosis of anxiety disorder, they might experience triggers, but anxiety often shows up without any as well. And panic attacks can develop when the person can’t put themselves into a place where they can decompress from the anxiety. Or, in my case, the panic attacks happened out of the blue. You feel like you are literally about to die.
Certain activities that are anxiety triggers cause my son to have headaches, nightmares, stomach upset, and more. He will be up all night in anticipation of a triggering event that he’s supposed to do the next day.
For years, I knew that my son would become anxious about having to go to school, but I never considered that he had a disorder, because when he was home, he was always fine. Until last year. Looking back, I can see a correlation to an increase in anxiety and Little Man’s hitting puberty.
And after we took him out of school, I thought his anxiety would be gone. It wasn’t. In fact, it took almost two months before he wasn’t experiencing constant panic attacks. He was doing pretty well last spring, and had a so-so summer. With my taking him to tutoring recently, it brought up all of the old “school” triggers.
A few days ago, I found out about a healing modality that might help Little Man. After speaking with a practitioner, I am hopeful that this will create shifts and make a change for the better. Because if it doesn’t, I feel like we’re about down to our last option of using pharmaceutical drugs. With a thirteen year old, there is only so much he will do to help himself. We should know if this modality will be helpful, this week.