The Anxious Child
As the Covid-19 situation continues and affects more and more of us, many children are experiencing real anxiety.
This moving account of what it is like to parent an anxious child has been bravely written by Fegans’ Parent Support Worker Leonie Vickers. It highlights the need for greater understanding of the realities of living with mental health issues in the home, and the support that is available for you and your child.
A day in the life of the Anxious Child.
By Leonie Vickers
First task: 6.40am – 8.50am
It’s the battle of waking to get out of bed every morning. The struggle to find the energy to get dressed. The refusing to get dressed. It is the terrifying wonder of what today will bring, then comes the sheer panic of being late for school.
Second hurdle: 9.00am – 3.15am
The fear of walking into a crowded room turns her belly and feels her with almighty adrenaline waiting to burst. ‘They’ come to peel her away, screaming, fighting with fear of the thought of being separated from mum.
She tries her best to focus on the task set but the uncertainty of what is to come causes a grinding pain in her belly. She knows she can do the task but the MONSTER that lives in her belly has climbed up and is shouting at her. She is overcome with terror and the only way to stop it is to SCREAM at the top of her lungs.
The heartache when friends run from her, or whisper. Feeling so alone despite being surrounded by people who care. The questioning of “why am I so different from the other girls?” The wanting to be ‘perfect’ but disappointment in thinking she’s not, oblivious to how much she’s cared for.
Third challenge: 3.15pm – 7pm
To get relief from the day she’s had she curls up and hides her feet under mum’s top as though something is after her. The look of sheer terror and tears in her eyes. The deep, dark, frightening pictures she draws over and over. At last, the calm, fun, playful girl is released as she relaxes without any worries, and some normality resumes until mum says goodnight…
Bedtime: 7pm – 8pm
That’s when ‘IT’ happens. That’s when/where all the fears come into play, her body gives in to sleep eventually but no matter how much she tries to switch off these vivid hallucinations of thought, she just can’t. Her mind is awake, but she is unable to move any limb, completely numb, she can feel something coming towards her, and tries to scream out for mum but her voice will not come out! The tears run down her face and sweat through her pores. a few minutes pass which feels like forever, then her body wakes.
She is now able to scream and cries hard running straight for the bedroom door to find mum, and the same exhausting regime of calming starts again. Finally mum lays next to her for reassurance and is now she is able to drift off safely…
As a parent it is incredibly hard watching your child go through such sad, overwhelming issues. I am so pleased to say those days are now rare.
As a child I suffered with anxiety myself and remember the crippling stomach cramps I had when a change was occurring, the pounding heartbeat that was so strong it was deafening. I knew what caused my anxieties, but to try to figure out your child’s is a challenge. I put it down to moving house. I put it down to having my next child, and I even put it down to me…
I looked to doctors and teachers for answers, trying to understand the how and why. Finally after trying every strategy suggested to me, I was referred into a parenting support group, which I would seek new strategies to try out. That’s when I found Fegans, and the support from the other mums in the group has been immense.
I learnt ‘The Incredible Years’ programme and took on board other parents ways of trying different things. I brought her a tunnel to sleep in, I spray the room with lavender and chamomile to give a relaxing environment and cleared 90 percent of toys from her room.
I learnt to differentiate between what was a ‘meltdown’ and a ‘tantrum’ by using the ignoring strategy. To prepare her for bed I brought some melatonin (natural remedy) which has made the REM sleep join with the body so the sleep paralysis is no longer taunting her.
Now she has a full night sleep she wakes happy, gets dressed by herself, and looks forward to going to school. We have a few minor things to work on still but, what a huge difference the past year has made.