Thursday, January 7, 2016

living with Eeyore

In the past I have seen this being shared:
Awww / all about Eeyore / Winnie The Pooh / unconditional love and friendship. -
People love it, because it validates feelings. It makes them feel good about someone out there, who knows how to love. Usually, people who love it are not the ones living with Eeyore.

Let me tell you what it's like living with a child with anxiety.

Today we ended up in a crisis mode. I had just the boys, we went to taekwondo, the schedule was written in advance (no unexpected surprises), and I wanted to get chumash done while the baby was napping. I asked 9 yo to go first. He sat on the couch, pulled out his chumash, my chumash, opened to the right spot, read the pesukim that we did yesterday, and did not remember a whole bunch of words. Since this was the second time around, and I mildly suggested that he write them down yesterday, I insisted that the write them down today and I will even tell him what they mean.

He got the paper, wrote down one word, I gave him the translation, he stumbled over the next word, I told him that he should know it, and he got teary-eyed. "I cannot do chumash. I will never be able to do chumash. I just want to know it. I should not be alive. I do not belong in this family. I do not want to live." Not the first time, not the last. I calmly said that I'm very glad that he's alive, I love having him in the family, and I'm sorry that chumash is giving him such hard time. It was almost lunchtime, so when he ranted that he's hungry, I said that we'll have lunch first. While I was warming up his noodles, 11 yo came in. 9 yo was still sad, still raving. They spoke and I overheard 11 yo telling his brother that since he's already alive, he might as well enjoy it. 

Then 11 yo came to me. He actually told me that he's upset. He was worried that his brother is suicidal and sad over not being able to do schoolwork. There were tears in his eyes. The boy was sick with worry. He told me that he can't eat his lunch, his stomach being in knots.  9 yo calmed down, and was eating. And the baby woke up and I was nursing her. I told my older son that we are cancelling all the schoolwork for today, and if we get to chumash, so be it, and if we don't, it will be OK. I told him that 9 yo calmed down, and I don't think he's planning on killing himself. I also told him the secret: often, in order to make others feel better, we take on some of their emotions, so we end up feeling sad ourselves. His talk with his brother helped his brother, but brought him down.

Afterwards, I thought about all of this. Anxiety is invisible. Anxiety is something that is easy to dismiss, especially by those who have never experienced it. Even with my child having a diagnosis, I get " oh, but we are all anxious" thing. I have set up 9 yo's life where we can skirt over the issues that cause anxiety. I modify and flex, not to protect him, but to allow him to deal with issues obliquely. Despite all of this, once in a while, anxiety grips this child. When it is here, it grabs hold of the entire family, sucking us all in.

Anxiety is cyclical, so it is hard for me to see what causes it and whether the moods improve on their own, or due to some intervention that we do. Some time periods are particularly bad, others are so amazing, that it is easy to forget that this child has anxiety.

But this is what living with Eeyore is like: you know he will bring you down, even though you love him. And then, when your own mood it down, when your energy has been sucked out, you worry: what if this requires medication? What if you need to pursue therapy? What if he's really that depressed and will attempt that suicide that he mentions?

I do not want to share a mental health awareness ribbon. I do not want to share a deep thought about acceptance of all mental disorders. I want a pediatric mental health hotline, where a worried mother can call in and get checklist of what constitutes a real threat, and what is just talk. I want a hotline where a mother can call in and get a relief person showing up to her house to diffuse the situation (I know, they used to be called grandmothers, or aunts, or friends, but this is 21st century America). I want a safe space where we can all go to breathe and get my child evaluated. I do not want to take him to adult psych ER. 

I do not want to live with Eeyore and be a martyr.

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