I have three beautiful daughters. Each beautiful in her own way.
One has a wonderful enthusiasm for words…reading them, imagining them coming to life, alluring alliteration, and learning different languages. She is always looking for new ways to describe the world.
Another finds beauty in the world around her and translates it into many different forms of beautiful art. She is always looking for new ways to interpret the world.
The last one has a joie de vive bordering on manic sometimes. She always seems to be surrounded by a posse of her peers who are drawn to her. Whether it’s for her hugs, her fun ideas or just being near to feel the love. She is always looking for love in the world.
One of these beautiful souls has generalized anxiety.
We have known that something was different even before she was two years old. At 18 mos. she would get so upset that she wouldn’t breath and would slump to the ground until her autonomic nervous system would prompt her to breathe again. Scary! When she started school she had many meltdowns that could last for hours; screaming, hitting, etc. As school became the norm, these meltdowns lessoned, however she then started fainting or throwing up at the sight of blood, anyone getting hurt or other health or body related incidents. We were concerned for her safety and taught her to sit down with her head between her knees. As she gets older her meltdowns have morphed into a worrisome combination of screaming, slamming doors, negative self talk and physical violence.
I have read many books and taken her to see many health care providers including an Occupational Therapist, a Naturapath, a Psychologist, and a consultation with a therapist through the hospital. There were some ups and downs in therapy; Things that worked and things that didn’t. The biggest discovery we made is that the anxiety will never go away. It is a part of her. We need to see her through the bad times with patience and coping strategies and help her learn to do the same for herself.
It took 8 years to figure that out.
I mean to really accept that.
My main concern at this point is how she will handle the anxiety in the future. An anxious personality puts children at higher risk for self-harm, developing an eating disorder, depression and even suicide. Discouraging statistics from CMHA do little to put my mind at ease. Even though there is no cure, there are therapies out there. Some of which we have tried, however most of these therapies are quite expensive. If you want to get help through OHIP there are waiting lists a mile long just to give information to an intake advisor, who may very well tell me that my daughter doesn’t fit their criteria.
Everytime we took her to a specialist I was hoping for that cure, something that would make the overwhelming feelings that are causing the meltdowns to go away. That is just not going to happen. It’s not the feelings, but the behaviour that we need to change and the way she sees herself. We need to rid ourselves of the stigma surrounding mental health so we can move ahead on managing it realistically. It really is true that acceptance is the first step. I feel like a part of the burden has been lifted and I see her meltdowns in a different light. I’m still working on the patience needed to deal with the meltdowns, but as long as I realize that the meltdowns are her way of expressing her feelings and that the patience is within my control and is what I need to do to honour my child, it has become easier.
All three of my girls are beautiful because they are who they are. My hope is that deep down, they will always know that.
With much love and kindness,