Anxiety was an intense and often overwhelming issue for 4 to 5 years of our lives. There were moments that I wasn’t sure I could continue to take it…and I’m the adult (at least sometimes). I know my child felt the same and worse since she had the anxiety. She couldn’t always describe her feelings and thoughts but I still remember the fear in her eyes. It was awful. If you are in middle of struggling with one or more of your kids with anxiety you will wonder, “How long will this go on?” “Will this take years?” “Will it be a lifelong battle?” “Will it ruin her life?” Having been through it and happily on the other side, here are a few thoughts that might be helpful.
Anxiety is necessary
The built-in need and ability to be anxious or feel fear never goes away. It is necessary for life. It is a message that there is a big problem. We all have to learn how to deal with hardships, problems and dangers. Life is hard. We need an alarm system. That is permanent. Thank God for that. Without the alarm system we would never survive to adulthood. Loud noises, fire, heights, animals, all could be dangerous, especially to kids. Fear when there is truly danger is normal and good. An anxiety disorder is just the normal system giving off false alarms. It is a danger response when there isn’t a danger. I tell my patients that nothing is wrong with the alarm system itself, only that it is going off at the wrong time. There will always be anxiety. That is good. Healing is coping with and getting control of false alarms. Bottom line: It is just a false alarm not a broken system.
Anxiety disorders get better
Crippling anxiety with correct treatment gets better. Better is better, not perfect. It is not either/or. Doing better is success. Don’t predict the future based on where your child is on any given day. It may take a while. Your life may get really messed up. This is a hard word but it will almost certainly take longer than you hoped for things to improve. It will be up and down. Bottom line: Don’t give up. Keep working on it, it takes as long as it takes. When my daughter began to show symptoms, I thought I could help her get this in check in no time. After all, I’m a psychologist. Turns out I was a pompous psychologist. It took 4 years. There is the other side. Hang in there.
Everyone has advice
People will give lots of advice. Mostly it will imply if you or your child just “do it the right way” there wouldn’t be a problem. They mean well. But they think it is way more simple than it actually is and possibly that you have messed up as a parent. “They just need a kick in the butt, quit coddling them.” “Are you praying for him?” “It is just a kid thing it will go away.” Bottom line: If someone hasn’t been through this then they probably don’t know what they are talking about. Don’t take their “well-meaning” critique to heart. And stop fussing at yourself. Now I’m fussing at you for fussing at yourself. So quit. (Fussing is a nice Southern USA expression for fault finding.)
Horrible, terrible, awful…or is it?
Life is not ruined if you or your child struggles with anxiety. Your future is not doomed. A lot of people (in their hard moments) feel like if they have to continue with anxiety their life is ruined. They are a terrible person and completely hopeless. Possibly crazy. It is no surprise that type of thinking will make a person feel really bad. Be careful to not compound the problem with catastrophic thoughts. An anxiety disorder is an incredibly hard thing for a kid and parent(s). Really hard. Life can still be good. Hard does not equal ruined. Even in the worst case anxiety is only part of a persons life. Everyone has hardships. This is yours. Bottom line: Part of life doesn’t ruin all of life. Discipline your mind to find the good, hopeful and wonderful part of life. Don’t let it spoil your relationship with your child or other family members. Good will come.
Down the road I may offer few more thoughts to this list. I would love for you to contribute any thoughts, experiences or ideas that have been helpful for you. For those who have been through or going through this what has helped?