How My Child’s Anxiety Made Me A Better Mother
Posted on February 01 2017
Kallie & Co., appeals to a variety of women of different ages and demographic groups; we often share content that resonates more with a specific group then other. Today, we are sharing a piece about anxiety and motherhood by Ashley Kincaid, Kallie & Co. Content Creator.
Embracing the Chaos...
I’ve been a parent for almost 10 years. Not long, in the grand scheme of things. But long enough to feel like I’ve got things somewhat figured out with this gig. Things like colds and coughs, possible broken bones and a 5 year old who survives on goldfish crackers and chicken nuggets don’t really freak me out anymore. Living 900 miles from any family members and having a husband who is gone more than he’s home (Marine Corps wife, over here!!) did a great job of removing the “petty jitters” I associated with motherhood really fast. I’m also a planner. I make plans for when my first set of plans don’t work out. And chances are, I’ll have a third plan on backup, just in case. I’m the Mom who sits up at 10 pm planning out how we will get through a move IF my husband would decide to take a job elsewhere in three years. THREE. YEARS. I sit and ponder how we would sell our house, move out of state, and buy a new home in the lovely allotted time frame I have planned out and designated as being what needs to happen. I’m also the Mom who then contemplates the inevitable emotional angst that will fall on my children for being uprooted from their school and community and how it will probably create years’ worth of therapy for them to come back from it.
Did I mention I’m a worrier?
Three YEARS away, people! You get my point.
So what happens when your lovely plans of sending your children off to school, watching them thrive in their newfound independence and planning on them loving it, totally derail one day? That is the case in our family at the moment.
I never saw myself as a homeschooling Mom. Granted, the idea intrigued me at times because I loved having my kids home with me, being on our own schedule and such. But when I really sat down and contemplated it, I thought “ HECK TO THE NO!!! Ain’t nobody got time for THAT!” Kids need social interaction. And teachers. And recesses. And clubs. And Proms.
But then our oldest son was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and all those things I had planned out for him that he “needed” were showing to be the things that very well made him miserable.
He started kindergarten in 2013. On the first day of school, in his little sneakers and ninja turtle backpack, he was a mess. He cried going in. He cried when he came home. And he cried when I told him he had to go back the next day. Everyone assured me he would adjust. It was normal. For weeks, I got him up every morning and sent him into school crying. Then I was a mess. But again, I kept telling myself that he would figure it out. It was just school.
In 2014, on the first day of 1st grade, I walked him to his class. I left listening to him cry for me as I walked down the hallway feeling like the worst mother in history. By the middle of the year, he had developed “obsessions”. Natural disasters and plane crashes consumed his mind. He would frequently ask if a tornado was going to happen and if we would all die. During a thunderstorm, I watched him have a panic attack so severe I had to bear hug him and make him match my breathing. He was 7. This couldn’t be normal.
By 2015 and into his 2nd grade year, I knew we needed to see a mental health doctor. We found a pediatric psychologist and had him psychologically evaluated. Three hours later, they handed me 20 pages of detailed notes on what was plaguing my son.
“Your child suffers with generalized anxiety disorder and mild depression.”
Depression?! My first thought was “What did I do?” “How could I have possibly screwed up my kid like this in 8 short years? I should have just got a dog! At least I wouldn’t have depressed a dog!!”
I was guilt ridden and upset. I sat there listening to his doctor, going over all the notes and left with a handbook on coping mechanisms, a referral for a psychiatrist and a sick feeling in my stomach.
He fell asleep that night and I sobbed.
What did I do wrong?
Where did I fail him as a parent?
We made the appointment with the psychiatrist and started the long road to figuring all this out. He was put on medication and we, through it all, involved him in the process. We asked him how he felt about the treatment options and assured him we would do ANYTHING to help him. We seemed to notice a difference and I breathed a sigh of relief.
Great!! Crisis solved – on to the teenage years!
But despite the medication helping his anxiety, he still loathed school. I tried everything from being compassionate and empathetic to being harder on him in an attempt to toughen him up. Nothing worked. My mornings became filled with dread over wondering if I’d be sending a sobbing boy in those doors again.
And one day, my words “We will do anything to help you” flashed in my mind over and over. Was I really doing everything I could? Was I limiting my options to only what I considered to be socially normal? If school was the ONE trigger, what would happen if we removed it? Would I see my happy boy again? The one who loves to draw and write comic books and has a heart for reptiles? Would he finally come back from wherever that part of him had been pushed into the shadows of fear and sadness?
So, for weeks my husband and I researched. We talked to parents and researched some more and decided that, despite this never being the plan, we would become homeschooling parents. Definitely a path of life I never saw myself walking. But a path that my child needs. And isn’t that my job? To give him what he needs?
I think so.
My sweet, almost ten year old boy is teaching me that plans are well and good. Necessary even. But plans don’t always follow the course we mapped out. Plans aren’t always what we expected. Motherhood isn’t always what we expected. Life, most certainly, isn’t always what we expected. But it is always consistent in its inconsistency.
And that is something we can all plan on.
** If you suspect your child suffers from a mental health issue, please visit their doctor. I’ve attached some links below that have helped us in our years of this journey.
Information for psychiatrists and families about developmental, behavioral, emotional, and mental disorders affecting children and adolescents.