Thursday, June 10, 2010
New Villains to Vanquish
There is a reason for this two week silence on my blog. The first is simple, I had and actually still have a really horrible cold. It is the kind of cold that makes your abdomen feel like you did 200 sit ups because you are coughing so hard.
The other is not so simple and unfortunately will not go away like a cold. That is, anxiety. It's a dirty word in my house now. If I could, I would take it, stomp on it, chop it up until little tiny pieces and then burn it.
Of all the words that make me and my kids fall into "psychologically different" category, this word or really this aspect of our lives may actually be the most debilitating, more than hyperactivity, impulsivity, autism, ADHD, sensory processing disorder and so forth. I am still trying to figure out why but I think that part of it is because I think it is somewhat stealthy in nature. The word itself is accepted in society. In a sense, you are allowed to have some and not do anything about it.
When you say that someone is anxious, you don't necessarily think that person has an actual disorder but "disorder" or not, the level of anxiety in this house stops us from doing what we want to do and being who we want to be.
In my quest of finding calm, I have learned that the medication that treats anxiety can cause nasty side effects. I have also learned that if you don't recognize and deal with it effectively and treat the other things like SPD and ADHD then it may be like collecting water with holes in your buckets. The bucket will hold the water but still you have to move fast because eventually you will lose all the water and have an empty bucket again.
It took me 38 years to figure out that I have been suffering from anxiety since I was little. As I watch my children grow, I see myself in them. I see their irrational fears and remember the ones that I had that weren't the exactly same but equally nonsensical. And while I do know that all children have fears, having big fears or fears that are uncommon along with other behavioral issues makes for a pretty difficult time to do something like say... learning and having fun with other people.
Three weeks ago, I gave up my anti-anxiety medication because it was making me fat and causing major gastrointestinal problems (hint: starts with "c" and ends with "n"). My plan was to just brave it out and do yoga.
While I love yoga, I need to kind of laugh at myself because when I start to get busy and stressed, the last thing I think about doing is yoga. It is so much easier to just pop a pill.
So I had to make adjustments to my plan by using another type of medication and it helps somewhat although it doesn't beat the anti-anxiety medication. However, I don't miss those meds enough to go back on them. I really don't think I will ever start using them again unless I have another huge panic attack like the one that landed me in the ER and sparked this blog into existence.
These past few weeks, I have also noticed that anxiety is not only making me suffer but also bothering my two children in a big big way. For the little one, it is very obvious and it really unnerves me. I feel so bad for him and yet his anxieties or fears or whatever you call them have at times, totally wreak havoc on all of us. It is very stressful.
For example, like many little kids, he wants to ring the doorbell when we go to someone's house but unlike other kids, he will talk about it for five minutes continuously until he gets to ring the bell. Even if we reassure him that he will get to ring the bell, still, he can not stop talking about it until the moment he pushes that button.
Oh, and just to make things easier for me, just throw in his big brother to the mix. Logan who knows that Spencer is obsessed with the doorbell, can not resist the urge to taunt him and so he'll walk in front of Spencer on the way to the door, making it seem like he will ring the bell first thereby further fueling his little brother's anxiety. Sometimes I wonder if the personality mix between the two is healthy or harmful. Is Logan's tendency to "push people's buttons" good for
Spencer because it challenges Spencer's fears head on or does it push those anxieties to dig deeper into his psyche?
When I was little, my brother knew that I was DEATHLY afraid of vampires. We were latch key kids too so sometimes, when my parents weren't home, he would take a blanket and cloak himself with it and pretend to be a vampire. To his delight at each time, without missing a beat, I would totally lose it.
I think Spencer finds it so hard to relax when he's feeling this tense. He does not have a security blanket like Logan does. I think I am his blankie and since he's three now, I think it is fair to say that I won't be able to give that job to a real blankie or stuffed animal. Believe me, I have tried. I'm still trying. I wonder if that is why he is so attached to me. He asks me for a hug about fifty times a day.
I have noticed some obsessive compulsive behaviors in our little guy as well. He closes the door often. Sometimes, he closes drawers if they are open even just slightly. I noticed that at night, he wants his glass of water in the same exact spot near his bed. It's as if there was an imaginary coaster there that only he can see. On the night that I noticed this habit, I decided to secretly take it away and within five minutes after tucking him in and closing the door behind me, I heard sobbing from his room because his water cup was missing.
I explained to him that I was thirsty too so I needed to take the water and that if he was thirsty he could take a sip and I would then take it with me back out of the room. He accepted that but as for the laundry machine, his latest and greatest fear, there is no way of reasoning with him.
I couldn't believe how bad his fear was but starting two months ago, he started crying whenever we went into the laundry room in my apartment building. I know that sometimes things upset him and I do not know why so I just keep talking to him and say that nothing is scary. Recently, during one of my laundry days, I went to him to hold him for a second and I was shocked. He was shaking. You can't see it with your eyes but if you felt him you would know. At this point, what can you say to make him stop the shaking? I still didn't know what exactly about the laundry room was bothering him.
That same day that I noticed the shaking, I found out that it was the big jumbo washer that was causing the trouble because another tenant had turned it on after we left the room. Spencer was so shocked to see it on when we returned to put our clothes in the dryer. He acted like it was a bloody monster. I had never heard him scream like that. I tried to remain calm for him but it pained me to see him so disturbed. I asked myself, "Am I doing the right thing? Am I pushing him too hard? What is the quickest and most gentle way of getting rid of this fear?"
About those fears and getting rid of them.... I had even more questions. Would getting rid of one help you get rid of the others you have in your life concurrently? Theoretically yes, right? I actually have no idea. I am planning on having a larger chat with his therapists to figure things out.
I know that I have done a good amount of reading on things like ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder, but I have barely done any reading on anxiety. I am realizing now that I know so little about it. I always thought that my kids didn't have anxiety to a clinical extent but now I am really questioning that, even with Logan.
My poor Logan. I am trying to think back to when he was three years old, the same age Spencer is now. At three years of age, Logan's issues could no longer be passed off as just being a "real boy" or "really energetic," and so we had him evaluated. We were so surprised to see that his evaluations reported many many delays.
As he grew up, I only suspected ADHD, SPD, and Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) for him but never anxiety. Logan isn't afraid of anything, I thought. Logan doesn't complain of tummyaches. Logan likes people even though he doesn't quite know how to play nicely with them sometimes.
However, Logan has been scared of any movie having scary-type suspense scenes or characters with scary faces on animated creatures like a shark or a tiger. He was even scared of watching Finding Nemo. I have also noticed that he avoids sitting in the inside of a booth sometimes at a diner or sitting in a place from which he can't easily extricate himself. Also, another clue about possible anxiety of Logan's part are his favorite phrases: "What's next?" and, "What comes after that?"
He does complain of tummyaches but I think I always know what the root of them are and they aren't anxiety related. Basically, Logan's anxiety, if it is indeed anxiety because it is still a question mark right now may not be that huge but big enough to cause poor behavior. Even while he is on stimulant medication, if he is in a non-structured situation (like the weekends at home), he sometimes appears to have not taken any medication at all.
Obviously by now it is clear that anxiety is huge in my house but now the biggest question is... Am I the best person to help them with this? I suppose I could be because I may know or could take a good guess at how that feel. The bad part is that I am anxious too and so at times, I lose the patience and calm that I need to help my children effectively when they start to freak out.
This is what I noticed after I stopped taking my anti-anxiety medication. It is probably just a coincidence that my children's anxieties seemed to have expanded or become more noticeable just as I pass this phase of my life. But I do have some hope because I do believe anxiety is treatable. Now, on top of my list of things to research 'til I drop is anxiety. There is so much to do. It just never stops.
Photo: Spencer has not wanted to go to sleep in his own bed at night for a while. He used to be so good about it too. These days, he is begging to sleep with me in my room. I usually say"no" but I really had to on some of the days when I was very sick because I just couldn't listen to him crying anymore. One day, he went to bed and we didn't hear any whining nor did we have to chase him after he came running out of his room. Kai thought it was strange too and when he went to check on him, he saw that Spencer had crawled into his brother's bed (they share a room) and fell asleep there. Right now, the battle seems to have stopped because we have negotiated that if we leave the door open a little, he would promise to stay in bed and go to sleep. So far so good.