What if, What if, What if?

This is the flavor of anxiety we saw tonight in our 4 year old.

We are going on a family vacation to Cape Cod in June. I brought it up at bedtime tonight to my daughter and said how excited I was. She lit up when I mentioned it but that light quickly faded. You could see the wheels start turning in her head. The wheels that you DON’T always want to turn for an innocent little girl. Her brows became furrowed. She started to stutter and ask questions.

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“What if there are crabs?”

“What if the crabs come up on the sand and pinch me?”

“What does it feel like if you get pinched, can you show me on my hand?”

“What if Madeleine eats sand?! Can you not put her in the sand so she doesn’t eat it”

“What if the room I sleep in is dark?”

“I want to bring my stuffies to the beach but what if they get sand on them?!”

“Can you bring something to keep Maddie in so that she doesn’t touch the sand?”

“What if the beach has big waves? I don’t want to go in the water. Will there be big waves?”

The panicked, anxious, racing thoughts went on and on with repeated questions even after our best efforts to acknowledge and reassure.
It breaks my heart to hear such worries from a little girl that should be way more focused on her excitement for a vacation. I get that kids anticipate what things might be like in the future but the level she goes to is an upsetting one. And that is only the beginning of the challenges having an anxiety disorder has brought our Eleanor. It has been a really long road with many doctors, psychologists, evaluations and not to mention the struggle Ryan and I have had both collectively and individually. We’ve slowly started to get answers (there are sensory processing components as well) and see more clearly what makes her tick and as heartbreaking as it is to see your child struggle, these answers will hopefully also bring to light possible tools for coping and also open doors for finding the right supports. We’ve been lucky she qualified for services through CDS (Child Development Services) very early on and having that support was immeasurable (Teresa <3). That led us to her current school where I believe she is in the best place she could be.

I think people hear the word “anxiety” or the term “anxiety disorder” and it’s largely misunderstood by those that have no true experience with it. Having anxious moments is a part of life. Feeling anxiety is a normal human feeling and response. An anxiety disorder though is a mental health disorder that is characterized by excessive feelings of worry, anxiety, or fear that interfere with someone’s every-day life. There are stretches in time where every single day is a complete struggle. Eleanor comes by it honestly; I was diagnosed with GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) at 16 and it has completely affected my every-day life, sometimes in debilitating ways. I even have intense anxiety about writing and sharing a blog post like this. So Eleanor comes by it honestly, unfortunately. In kids it can present in many different ways. Tonight for example was showing in a very obvious fear or worry-based way. But often times it presents with extreme meltdowns and explosive tantrums because she struggles to understand or regulate big feelings she has inside and can’t quite verbalize what’s troubling her. There was a 2 year period where every single time we had to leave the house and put her in the car that it would take 20-30 minutes of screaming, biting, kicking, spitting, and hyperventilating to get her in the car. Two years!! Almost every transition from a bday party or family gathering ended the same as well. We began to dread going anywhere and felt alienated from other families that didn’t understand what it was like. We will have a conversation with another parent and we would mention that we were having a really hard time with Eleanor and tantrums. The common and understandable response is “oh yea, she’s 2 or 3! We have tantrums at our house.” But if we pushed a little we quickly realized Eleanor’s went to a very extreme level of upset and she had multiple huge meltdowns a day leaving us raw and numb.

What gets us through is those moments of just seeing Eleanor. Without the anxiety. Without the dysregulation. Her personality is electric and she’ll either blow you away with how intellectual she is or have you in stitches with her shows and facial expressions. I’ve truly never met anyone like her and my goal is to help the truest Eleanor blossom while learning to cope with whatever challenges she might have or face.

I could write a 10 page post about all the intense, grueling details of the last four years with Eleanor but I’d rather not broadcast everything to the world. In summary, it has been the hardest four years of my life and taken a toll that has forever changed both myself and Ryan. We still don’t feel like we have all the answers and other diagnoses could be in her future. But what I do know is that we are truly grateful for the family support that we have, the psychologist that has let us cry and vent for years, the support from CDS, the school that has helped her grow in leaps and bounds and as self-centered as it may sound, for the fact that she has parents that care and have tirelessly worked to do whatever it takes to help her cope and also blossom into the beautiful person she is.

 

 

 

 

 

Heaven on Earth

I’m a bit of a mommy-zombie today. Eleanor had a weird night of waking and crying almost every 2-3 hours (brought up some good ol’ memories of the first 8ish months of her life!). No idea why! She couldn’t tell us anything, didn’t have a fever, and answered NO to every question we asked about any aches, pains or needs.

It never goes well once we go into her room in the middle of the night, especially during night terrors but I don’t think this was a night terror kind of night. She had a very stimulating, busy day so that’s sort of my guess as we expect she has a form of a sensory-processing disorder (that’s a whole other topic!). She usually wants to get up and walk around the house, watch TV or even play. And when we say no we are going to stay in her room it turns into flailing, kicking, screeching tantrum time. Eleanor has never been a big cuddler or affection giver. (She has recently been giving family hugs and kisses, which melts my heart into a complete puddle.)  But last night when I picked her up and sat in the rocking chair something amazing happened. She laid into me, stopped crying, and we ROCKED! I couldn’t believe it. Talk about Mommy Therapy 😉 She cuddled into me, you could tell she wanted me close and remained still. I wanted to just bawl my eyes out with happy, mushy tears. I think we rocked like this for 45 minutes, she even fell asleep. My back started revolting from holding her in the position she wanted to be in but I didn’t care. It was heaven on earth, a feeling that is pretty much impossible to describe, especially to someone that isn’t a parent. Time stopped and every single worry, thought, ache or pain just melted completely away.

All we needed in that moment was each other and it felt like the calmest, happiest, therapeutic moment I’ve had with her in a really long time. Parenting is difficult as we all know and if only all of us could have these moments once a day to fuel us through the sometimes never-ending tantrums and challenges. I know this is a random sharing post but I hope all you Moms and Dads get to have a moment like this today, tomorrow, or when you really need it to recharge your parenting batteries.

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Be well,

Lindsey

Biting, Hitting and Scratching….Oh My!

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It has started. Maybe a little sooner than I naively expected but how would I really know what to expect with my first child? I’ve emphasized how spirited and feisty my little Eleanor is and that personality is stronger than ever. And so, the biting, hitting, scratching, body-flailing temper tantrums have begun.

I guess the hardest thing we had to learn, and learn QUICKLY, was patience. By 3pm and tantrum number 9 for the day, patience seems unobtainable. When she first started expressing frustrations and anger through tantrums I would simply become frustrated and angry with her. Why did taking that tiny penny away from her upset her soooooo much? Why is she throwing herself around in a fit of emotion, she is going to hurt herself! But I’ve learned through some mommy peers and experience that I simply must stay calm and be patient. The more calm I am, the quicker the tantrum passes. Are they still frustrating? Yes. Am I still utterly exhausted at the end of the day? Yes. But I want to be sure that I do whatever I can to help her through it safely and while calmly modeling behavior I hope she’ll exhibit someday as she matures. And this is SOO much easier said than done, especially when she hauls off and whacks me right across the face with what seems to be devilish grin OR contorted face of anger.

So many people say “woah, you’re in for it” and “she’s a handful that one!” And while I know that some of it comes from her extremely strong willed, passionate personality, I also do realize that this is a completely normal stage/phase/behavior for her age. When you really sit back and think about it, it must be incredibly frustrating to be in her shoes. With no way to fully communicate what she needs or wants, I sometimes don’t blame a little flare in her temper. She is running around, comprehending so much and wanting to explore and share so much with us – all of that with no ability to verbalize or understand how to emote accordingly. I think one of the biggest things we can learn as parents that will help us better understand our kids is that we can’t expect them to have the same faculties, mental processes, or emotional maturity that adults have. It’s so hard to see it that way because it’s almost like trying to imagine unlearning all that we have acquired our entire lives to exist the way a toddler does and step inside their brains. But it’s simple, they can’t comprehend everything we can, they don’t have the same emotional control we have, and they are easily overstimulated because they are taking in and learning so much more every hour than we are in an entire day or week even.

Ryan and I had our first real temper-tantrum shopping experience the other day. We were in a kid’s consignment store and Eleanor was in heaven! We let her walk around on her own and she couldn’t have been more excited to run up and down the aisles, play with the toys and simply explore. She was getting a bit overstimulated and when we were playing with some toys that we needed to put back she lost it. I felt it coming too. I pulled the toy out of her hand and she let out her signature “how dare you momma” squeal that is always followed with throwing her head back and tantrum ensuing. She is difficult to pick up or try to talk to or console. Ryan and I handled it quite well I think. We quickly decided it was time for her to leave so he took her to the car and I paid for our items. Neither of us lost our patience nor did we really try to shame her for her behavior. We want to start the routine now of acknowledging WHY the behavior starts, stay calm throughout any acting out (not reacting to her), and then discuss after she’s calm. We think it’s important to acknowledge emotions instead of ignore them entirely. It’s also important to set ground rules and expectations *yes she’s a little young now but it’s never too early to start talking about how we want to handle these inevitable situations. *

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Thought I’d share a happy, joyful moment too!

I pose a question to veteran Mom’s out there: what did you do when your toddlers were a bit young for discussing their feelings/actions and they completely melted down? I’m talking head-butting or going-completely-limp-then-flailing uncontrollably-and-screaming kind of melt downs. We feel like we’re on the right track as far as modeling our behavior for her but any and all advice would be very welcome!

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