The Eldest has panic attacks, has done from an early age, separation anxiety it seems, something we think only worries our very young, our babies and toddlers but never our bigger kids. I had the best job in the world, I was a postie I’ll have you know, but I left so that I could be there to take him to and from school, to be ready at a moments notice for assemblies, plays, walks to church and the likes. Despite this he is convinced that I will drop him off and never go back.
I’ve never even so much as been a few moments late but if the bell went and he couldn’t immediately see my cheesy grin he would start to gag and cry and lose his shit. He became affectionately known as Sir Gagalot, still is.
It is quite remarkable how quick he can go from calm to horrified, there’s not much build up, at least not to the lay person, a pro like myself can spot his concern a mile off and sometimes, but not all times, nip a good hearty panic in the bud.
Now, I have spoken to every single person under the sun about this and how to help him. I’ve read and I’ve read and I’ve read everything I could find regarding children and anxiety. We’ve tried everything we could possibly think of but to no avail. The doctor thought that maybe a move to middle school would do him the power of good, a bit of independence, a feeling of not needing me so much, he said to hold fire on the therapy that I was harping on about at the time.
I held fire.
Nope. If anything he felt worse than ever. I spoke to the school and they said all the things I wanted to hear and then did nothing. He got worse. In their defence he looks fine, he is a good boy, his work is fine, there are no problems in that department, he has friends and a wicked sense of humour. They must look at him and think what a shame it is that his mother is a crazy lady but they can’t see how he feels, nobody can see how he feels, nobody can see how anybody feels.
I called a therapist. Within ten minutes of chatting to her she decided it might be a good idea if she saw us both. Odd huh? Ten minutes to work out I am a mess and I’ve passed it on. I decided she knew her stuff and booked us in. Sadly, as lovely as she was, and she was really very lovely, I could almost see her words washing over The Eldest. He’s heard most of them before, from me, he didn’t believe me and he didn’t believe her. The next morning he had the mother of all panic attacks. I told the school he wasn’t going back until someone listened to him.
They listened and things improved.
Now to work on the stuff that has nothing to do with school. The parties he’ll not go to without me. I have been to some lovely children’s parties, I’ve made pizza and been to the cinema. The kindness shown by some of his friends parents makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, they knew if they invited him they got me too and they invited him anyway. If I couldn’t go, because I wasn’t invited, he’d just not go and that was that. He doesn’t go to friends houses. He can’t sit in the car when I pay for fuel, he comes with me in case I leave him. I tell him everywhere I’m going, the garden, to the bin, to the bathroom, if he forgets and can’t find me within seconds he phones nanny in a panic.
We think we know when and why this all started and we think we know why it is still going on. To cut a long story very very short he’s been let down by a few grownups, important grownups, grownups that should have had his back but didn’t and now there are very few people he trusts, even those he can he doesn’t because of the actions of a few. He trusts me and because he trusts me he cannot lose me not even while I hang the washing. He recently told me that the best part of his day is walking into the house because he feels safe. I am now on a mission.
I contacted CHUMS. CHUMS is a place where children go for support, support through whatever it is that makes them unhappy, worried or scared. I thought CHUMS would, like many others before them, poo poo me, they didn’t. The best thing about CHUMS is that they listened to him, not me, him and now we go to Anxiety Club. The Eldest goes off with a group of similarly minded children (with my car keys so that I can’t leave him there) and they chat, play games and eat lots of biscuits. I’m hoping that knowing he’s not the only anxious kid in the land will help him feel less of a loon if nothing else. We’ve still a couple of sessions to go but I’m keeping my fingers, toes and eyes crossed that all will be well in his world or, in the very least, that he’ll be able to cope better when it’s not.
As for the Anxiety Club parents, we go off and chat, play games and eat biscuits and we try to find ways to help our kids. We wear name badges and we work in pairs, it’s not at all embarrassing. It is so embarrassing. The first week we had to introduce ourselves, oh the horror, my worst nightmare.
“Hello, I’m Tina and I’m a chocoholic”
I didn’t say that, I wanted to but didn’t. I’ll tell you what I did say though.
This week there was a bowl of Smarties being passed around. We had to take the bowl and tell the group which quality we have that we would like our child to inherit. Fuck! Nothing from me, I wouldn’t wish any of my personality traits on him. I love him too much for that. Please, please, any God or Godess out there, let him grow into a cute version of his father. Not that his father isn’t cute of course, that is the reason I married him after all, that and he had money. Oh did I say money? I meant a magnetic noughts and crosses set and a horrid blue jumper. That’s all he brought with him and once I’d ‘lost’ the blue jumper we were very happy indeed.
“Oh God” I thunked but said out loud.
The nice lady running the group said they’d go the other way around, give me chance to ponder on it. I plumped for sense of humour mainly because I know he already has one. He must have, we call him Sir Gagalot for goodness sake, he knows funny when he hears it. We then had to go around again and say the very thing we hope they don’t inherit. Boy the things I’ll do for a Smartie. This was far easier though.
“I have absolutely no self belief and I hope it isn’t catching” said I.
“Oh” said the nice lady “I wouldn’t have thought that of you”
I was pleased, it meant I had bluffed it pretty well.
On the way home myself and The Eldest were chatting about what we’d been up to, he spoke mainly of the biscuits. I told him about the Smarties.
“You don’t believe in yourself?” he asked.
“No, not much”
“But mum, you can do anything, anything you want if you just go for it. You are clever, if you want to do something you must do it. I believe in you”
He then talked me into a McDonalds.
“Go on mum, turn around in the next layby, I’m starving” he said with a belly full of biscuits.
He’s nine and he is awesome. Children with anxiety often have low self esteem apparently, not this one. Occasionally he will ask who I would be if I could be anybody. That’s a no brainer, Meryl Streep obviously. If I ask him he always says nobody.
“I would be me”
I told the nice lady at Anxiety Club this and she said I must be doing a good job bringing up The Eldest. Little does she know that everything I’ve learnt worth learning has been taught, inadvertently, to me by my kids. It is they that are doing a good job with me.