Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Anxiety with a capital A

Caleb has always been a somewhat anxious kid. There have always been certain things that would trigger anxiety. He has never liked loud noises (a common aversion in kids and adults with SB). He won't watch fireworks and he refuses to go to the movie theater. Loud noises, especially loud unexpected noises, have always been upsetting to Caleb. I'm convinced there is a neurological connection and Caleb will likely never like loud noises. So, there are some things we just don't do because they are so upsetting to Caleb. I'm okay with that. However, I've noticed Caleb's anxiety has increased over the last year or so and more and more things are causing anxiety. Caleb struggles with anxiety almost daily now. Caleb has significant anxiety whenever we go anywhere, even places he has been many, many times.

Example: He has a homeschool p.e. class that he loves every Wednesday. Every Tuesday he starts to get anxious and it just builds and builds until he is crying and very upset. He gets sick to his stomach, sometimes to the point of getting physically sick. Conversation goes something like this:

Caleb: "You know I'm nervous, right?"
Me: "I know."
Caleb: "I don't know why I am so nervous. Why am I nervous all the time?"
Me: "I don't know baby. You love p.e., you don't want to miss it.
Caleb: "I know I like p.e. and I don't want to miss it....but I'm so nervous."
Me: "What are you nervous about?"
Caleb: "I don't know. I'm just so nervous. I'm always nervous"

And this will go on and on and on for hours. He'll be very upset by the time we leave. And you can put any number of activities in place of p.e....nature walk, going to the park, basketball practice, play dates, going to visit family, and church. You can see that these are things that we do on a regular basis, most of them are weekly activities. Really the only places we can go that don't cause anxiety is the store, and maybe the library. That's about it.

The anxiety follows a very predictable pattern. The anxiety usually starts at least the day before the activity. It builds and builds as we get closer to going. He gets more and more upset. We go to the activity and he does fine, he has a great time and he'll be glad he went. And then the cycle starts all over for the next scheduled activity.

Sometimes he'll get fixated on something that is weeks or months away and he'll get anxious about that. It's absolutely maddening.

I think this started last spring sometime, that's when I first started seeing him get nervous when we went places. He started getting nervous about things at school (when he was in public school) which was really unusual for him. The anxiety has gradually gotten worse over the last few months. Now he is anxious almost daily. He's tense. You can hear it in his voice when he talks. I wonder if the boy ever feels relaxed. I think he spends a good bit of his time anxious and nervous. He's 8 years old. 8. He's just a kid.

I am doing what I can to help him. We talk about it. We pray about it. I've given him verses to help him have peace.
I push him to go to the activities even though he is anxious. I do that because I know that he really wants to go and I know that he will have fun. I don't know if I would have it in me to force him to go if he was miserable the entire time. Luckily, he has fun....once he gets there. But the anxiety before is ridiculous. You can just see the inner struggle with him. He wants to have fun, he wants to go to these activities but he is absolutely paralyzed with anxiety. It is so frustrating to watch. It hurts me to see him struggling so much.

I don't know how to help him anymore so I called his neuropsychologist and they referred me to counseling/therapy services. I left a message. Hopefully we can get some help for him. This momma has exhausted all efforts and it's not working. Prayers appreciated.

Can anyone else relate? Advice or thoughts? Encouragement? :)


Tristan said...

I'm praying Cassie. I don't have any concrete help, only a question. What things changed last spring? I am sure you have already asked yourself this but it's the only thing that comes to mind. A change in mobility? Nurses? PT/OT therapists? More often PT or medical appointments? A change in medication dosing? (I've heard Ditropan/oxybutynin can cause problems, is he on that and did the dose change? Mason is on it and I've heard there is a patch to use instead with fewer side effects once the child is a certain weight/size). A change in diet? A change in mom or dad's work schedule? There are thousands of things that could have changed, I know. Another one, what about a shunt problem? Pressure on specific parts of the brain can cause personality changes. (I can't remember if he has a shunt...) A family member, pet, or relative/friend pass away?

You are in a hard place! I wish I could reach out and hug you both. I'm praying daily for you all.

yochana8 said...

Hi there, I also have pretty bad anxiety, so even though I have never commented on this blog before, I wanted to see if some of the things I have tried might work for you.
First of all, I take a low dose of anxiety medicine. I did not start this med until I was 17, because my parents didn't want to medicate me. In some ways, I think they made the right decision, and in other ways, I wish I had gone on it sooner, because until I started the med anxiety ruled my life.
Caleb may have social anxiety, that quite likely is related to how he feels people see him in a wheelchair. I certainly had anxiety about my gait, because it was different. I think counseling is a good choice, but therapists are very different, and it may take time to find one that Caleb 'clicks' with.
Finally, one of the biggest things that helped me was talking out whats the worst thing that could happen? and using self talk such as "this is anxiety, i'm fine, theres nothing wrong" which is what I use when I am feeling anxious that something medically is going wrong. Other examples for social anxiety could be "i enjoy myself when I go out, I have friends, I want to go out."
Good luck!! If you want to email with any questions, please do!

Kristen said...

Hi guys! I've dealt with anxiety since I was literally in first grade. I think you are on the right path seeking counseling/therapy for Caleb. If I've learned anything from having anxiety, it is to not give in to it. Don't avoid things that cause the anxiety because then it gives those things power to control you and contribute even more anxiety the next time he's confronted with a similar situation. I think you are absolutely right in continuing to take him to the activities about which he expresses nervousness, especially since he has fun and isn't anxious any more after attending those activities. Keep encouraging; keep praying; keep talking about his feelings. You are doing exactly the right thing!

Mary Evelyn said...

Hi Cassie. I had to comment when I saw your post. I can tell you that this was me when I was little. I had intense anxiety as a child. At the time I was too little to really understand what was going on but I remember having a feeling of panic over simple things but ESPECIALLY when I was excited about something. I missed a lot of birthday parties and trips to the movies because I thought I was sick. I would be excited for weeks about a friend's birthday or something fun but, usually on the day before, my excitement would turn into a sickening anxiety and I would completely freak out. I had a constant feeling of doom. My parents took me to see a therapist in third grade (I think?) and it made a difference.

All of this is to say that with the right tools, Caleb can overcome this. A lot of managing anxiety is knowing what to do when it creeps up-- a therapist can help him (and you) find some positive behaviors that he can use to self-soothe and talk himself down when he's feeling overwhelmed and anxious. And, if all the tricks aren't working and you feel it's necessary, there's no shame in needing medication (for a time) to help the process along.

You are already doing all the right things. Talking about it, giving him verses to repeat, etc. I'll be praying for Caleb and for you. It's upsetting to see a child struggle with such a grown up problem, but you are a wonderful mother and just the person to get him what he needs.

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