Saturday, April 06, 2013

Owning our anxiety

One of my kids has a massive fear of me dying on an airplane.  The week before any trip, they begin a cycle of challenging behaviors, in hopes that I will change my plans.  This has been the norm for five years.  There was a time when we would wait to tell the kids about a trip until the week before, because the difficulties would begin as soon as the trip was in sight.  Even if it was 6-8 weeks away.

This is a part of the tip of our iceberg we have balanced upon over the years.  In all honesty, when there is so much improvement in many areas, I find myself extremely discouraged when these things pop up yet again.  I'm not terribly therapeutic.  I'm sarcastic or indifferent.  It's stressful enough to plan for a trip for yourself, and plan for your home while you're gone.  Throw in clogged toilets or continuous aggression or the constant subtle stick-poking behaviors ... yes, this is why I coach people that they need to give themselves a break for not being "on" all the time.

You can't

Sometimes the strongest, best thing you can do is to keep your mouth shut and stay very, very busy. And when you don't keep your mouth shut, use that as an opportunity to teach your kids how to make it right when you screw up.

Just last week I was talking with a mom about finding a way to journal the behaviors.  When you are in the middle of attaching and healing, the progress gets lost.  It's there, but you can't see it.  The healing that does happen can be completely clouded by a typical time of regression.  So, that is what I'm doing today.  I'm journaling so I can remember.  So I can see on the days my own vision is clouded.

This particular kid has been spiraling down for several days.  Yesterday I gently suggested we might want to talk about the things coming up on our calendar to work through the big feelings.  This created more anger and more defiance, so I backed off.  I said, "Take your time.  I hope you are able to talk about it.  If you're not, that's okay too.  We will get through it.  We always do."

My child slept through dinner (with food issues, this is a very big deal, and extremely outside their norm or comfort zone).  I found myself nervous.  Okay, I was terrified.  I saw it as a protest of epic proportions, which meant it might be the beginning of other old behaviors.  I had no idea what we would wake up to.  I had no idea what missing dinner would look like this morning.  I was scared.

At 8:00 am, my child walked in, and in a very calm voice said, "Mom, I'd like to talk about what is bothering me.  I'm afraid that you'll get hurt on the airplane next week.  I was hoping that if I act really bad that you won't go."

Yeah, let that one soak in for a bit.  The information is not new.  The big deal is:  they did that.  On their own.  No prompting from me.  It was the first words out of their mouth.  On this particular subject and with this particular fear ... that has never happened before today.

It was Denise Best who first taught me that most of the kids in her practice who were acting out around their parents' trips were doing so because they feared they wouldn't come back.  I knew that.  I have been able, over the years, to gently lead my kids through that truth.  But today my kid grabbed their anxiety by the balls and said it out loud, on their own, so it would stop owning them.

There was a time I honestly did not think any of this would ever be possible.  It seemed too big and too much.  This continues to feed my hope.  It continues to feed my child's own hope for themselves.

And on the days when things are whonky and words aren't being said ... I will come back and read it.  Remind myself what healing actually looks like.  Not allow my eyes to be clouded to so much truth.  So much healing.  One more step in the journey, and any amount of regression cannot take this away!

It happened!


Hannah_Rae said...

That is awesome. I know what a big deal that is to you and your child.

Question, when big breakthroughs like that happen, do you make a big deal about celebrating it? I think I know the answer, but my thought is that if you do, does that in itself cause shame? Like "wow, you finally overcame this behavior" might lead to "I can't believe it took me that long!" I don't know. Just thinking. But it probably is just such a proud moment that those thoughts might not even come into play.

Wow. That was rambly.

Love you! I get to SEE YOU NEXT WEEK!!!!!!!



Unknown said...

Hannah, just saw you are on my list for Friday morning. And it's a TINY group!!! We are going to have such a good time!

Anywho, to your question ... it depends on the kid. And in this situation, I asked, "What do you think about all of this?"

That gives them a safe place to brag on themselves if they want to or back off. I smiled with them, today. They let me join them.

My8kidsmom said...

Yay! Thanks so much for sharing your journey b/c of people like you my journey with my little RAD is completely transformed!

Hedged in Beauty said...

Hooray for progress!!!! I'm so very grateful for every microspeck and this is tremendous progress!!!!

Amy said...

That is awesome! I wanted to share an app I found for my ipad that tracks things like behaviors, health, activities, and goals. It is actually labeled for autism but it works great for my RAD son and my Asperger's son. It is called My Autism Day. I hope someone else finds it helpful.