A is for Anxiety. For her and for me.
It is a strange world our little family of three have been living in, these past few months. The anxiety that has always been underlying Milla’s behaviour, has taken over, to the point where she is in a constant state of ‘fight or flight’.
Her fear of traffic has become so extreme, that we no longer leave the house during the week, except for her appointments and classes. I take her in the pram, as she becomes so blinded by panic that she will just wildly run, and I’m terrified she will run out on the road. Even in the pram, she recoils in fear when we have to cross a road; screaming and crying in fright.
We can no longer use public toilets, due to her fear of hand-dryers. We can’t get her to come in to the disabled toilets or parents room, even when we assure her that no one will use the hand-dryer. If we try and carry her in to show her, she will scream and cry.
Walking from the car to the shopping centre is an ordeal, she jumps a foot whenever a car drives past, and the mere sight of a truck will have her dissolving into tears.
Home should be her safe place, but this is where her anxiety manifests fear from the strangest of places.
The ceilings make her anxious. She will keep staring up at them, growing more and more uneasy, until she has to leave the room. If we try and coax her back in, reassure her that everything is fine, and that there is nothing on the ceiling, she will meltdown, crying and shouting over and over again, NO NO NO. At first it was just in the play room, so I came up with ideas for decorating the ceiling, but it soon spread to other rooms in the house; the lounge, the kitchen, the dining room. There is no explanation as to why she is afraid, and she can’t verbalise her reasons to us. Sometimes sticking pictures up on the ceiling helps, until the next time.
Certain reflective surfaces scare her. The plastic doors on her toy microwave and oven. The stainless steel tap in the bath. Again, she can’t explain why, perhaps because her reflection is distorted? At least these fears are easy to fix, with paper taped over all the surfaces that frighten her.
There are so many other, random things that crop up each day. On Monday, it was milkweed seeds, that float through the air. Other children call them ‘fairys’; Milla runs in fear.
Every day, I walk around with a tight knot of anxiety in my stomach. I dread leaving the house with Milla on my own. I measure every word, every action, in case something I do exposes another fear in my baby girl.People tell me that she will be able to pick up on my anxiety, and that just makes it worse. That is like saying wolves can smell fear, does it make you more or less afraid??
I lay awake at night in bed; worrying, wondering. How can I help her?
That is the saddest thing, the most heartbreaking thing. Milla is three years old. A three year old should not have to carry this anxiety and fear around with her. A three year old should not even know what ‘anxiety’ feels like, let alone live with it, day in and day out.
A beautiful new friend I made recently, said this to me “When our children are having a hard time, it is so much more obvious to us, because unlike the rest of the world, we are FEELING it all. Trying to soak up all their anxiety, stress and upset, so that they can be ‘OK’. “ This rang so true for me.
I so desperately wish I could get inside her head, figure out exactly where her fear is stemming from , and then I could make it go away.
But instead, I take her to see new psychologists, new occupational therapists.
Instead I research sensory processing disorders.
Instead I make daily activity charts and routine charts; to try and remove any uncertainness or confusion.
Instead I have blind faith, that this WILL get better. That this HAS to get better.
Because I know this girl. I know she is meant for amazing things. I know that she is stronger than her fears, than her anxiety. We will get over this hurdle, just like we have all the ones before. Because that’s what we do. We just keep going.