Friday, February 14, 2014

Shards of anxiety

Anxiety is love’s greatest killer. It makes others feel as you might when a drowning man holds on to you. You want to save him, but you know he will strangle you with his panic.
— Anais Nin

For two days this week, Soren's anxiety has been rubbed raw. He's had meltdowns in the mornings like I've never seen; "meltdown" is not even the right word, since it sounds like a kid's naughty response to not getting what he wants. This is a panic attack, with deep sobs and gasps and stomping of feet. He is deeply anguished by or terrified of something, and I don't know what or why. Like his anxiety was in the past, this has come out of the blue. And he's inconsolable. He seems to want to be totally alone in his pain.

Here's what I'm doing wrong about it: I'm panicking. I'm going to the worst scenario. I'm assuming this will be a constant. And I am taking on his anxiety as my own. My inner dialogue goes something like: 

i knew it would come back. so much for his easy transition to school. why can't i figure out the cause of this? i'm completely ineffective as his parent. this is awful. my heart is racing. god i feel like i'm suffocating. 

I know I look shocked and stricken when he's in the midst of an attack. It's because I feel his anxiety viscerally. It's become mine. I notice I'm not breathing. And oddly, because nothing I do seems to help (and talking to Soren often exacerbates his crying), I have moments of complete dissociation. 

How do I balance empathizing deeply with his pain while not becoming enmeshed in it? How do I care for him without letting his anxiety become mine, too? Because of his challenges, I've always felt like part of my job is to speak for him, to interpret what's happening to him or what he may be thinking or feeling. Another special needs parent friend says that she feels like she is her child's executive function. It's hard to unlink ourselves enough to see where we end and our children begin. And it's so hard to work on helping Soren with his anxiety without over-empathizing. I need to remind myself that this is not my anxiety. I don't need to feel all the pain for him.

As a footnote, today was a good day with only a few minutes of quiet crying. So maybe this was just a fluke. But I'm still thinking about ways to keep my emotional health if and when this crops up again.

Give Me a Nap | Template By Rockaboo Designs | 2012