Anxious Kid

“Do you think T is an anxious kid?”

With zero hesitation Z replied, “Yes.”

I asked the question months ago, but the dread I felt when I heard his answer, the lightheadedness and tingling in my fingers feels fresh. Immediately I disagreed with him. And then something happened, I don’t remember what, but one of the millions of things that interrups any conversation we try to have now that we have two kids-one of them fell down, they started fighting, we heard a sound that meant trouble, we didn’t hear a sound which meant trouble, something happened and the conversation ended.

I mean the conversation ended between the two of us. It has continued nonstop in my head ever since. When I was pregnant with T I thought a lot about if it was appropriate for someone who suffers from a mental illness to have a kid. What if I was a shit mom because of my crazy? What if I passed my crazy on along with my blue eyes and tiny feet? How could I take the chance of saddling my illness on an innocent baby?

To us T was perfection when he was born. As his personality developed over the last few years we only fell more in love with him. He was an early talker, so we thought he was brilliant. His fine motor skills were off the charts-he could use a toy chisel and mallet when he was 18 months. When he started school after he turned two there wasn’t a single day of crying during drop off. He is happy and loves life and is eager to learn.

I’m not trying to sell him as the perfect child. His gross motor skills have never been great-he was a late walker and he fell down a lot. He wasn’t much of a climber or runner. He certainly has never been an angel. Since he started to smile there was something mischievous rather than sweet about him. But most of all he seems like a regular kid.

So he gets frightened easily. What toddler doesn’t? During his first hair cut he sat perfectly still in the chair, only his eyes following the woman who was trimming. He was trying not to cry the whole time. His first trip to the dentist was a disaster. The second trip a week ago was not much better. He is scared at night time. New things are overwhelming to him. He only likes certain foods-it took us a year to convince him to try chocolate ice cream–chocolate ice cream for fucks sake!

Isn’t all that stuff normal? Yes, we look at him and see a little genius because he is our child. He isn’t a genius. He is healthy and he is a regular kid. He is exactly what we hoped for.

Back to that dentist’s appointment last week. It was terrible to watch his fear. The latex gloves freaked him out, he kept begging the hygienist not to touch his face with them. He was frightened by the polisher, by the chair, even the napkin she tried to clip around his neck. He shook and wept and held his hands over his mouth. I encouraged him and tried to calm him down, but I was holding back tears myself. He was so anxious. And in my head the thought “Zeke was right” played in a loop.


The stillness that accompanies his fear cuts to the quick.

So new situations are hard for him. So he is particular and craves the familiar. So he is a little bit of an anxious kid. It doesn’t mean he will develop an anxiety disorder.

But when I was his age could one tell that mental illness would be a defining feature of my life?

We don’t know what he will become. We don’t know if the screwed up wiring in my brain was passed down to him. All we can do is wait and see. I worry that I will see a boogieman around every corner. That even if he is normal I’ll be convinced he has a problem. That my cloying attention will create anxiety that would be absent if I wasn’t around. That he will be unwell and it will be all my fault. That being my child will ruin him.

Here is what I do know. I do not want him to be like me. This morning I had a therapy session. Things are not going well in anxiety land right now. I can’t tell if the new meds are working, or if they are making things worse. I’m taking more chill pills than I have in months. I’m exhausted. From the meds? From pretending I am normal every time I leave the house? I feel defeated and desperate and scared.

My therapist pointed out that in the not too distant past I couldn’t even imagine taking a class. And now I’ve finished one and am in the middle of another. At first I felt so proud of myself. After the session that feeling quickly faded as I thought about T. Because how pathetic is it to celebrate doing something most function adults could do without a second thought? Why should I get a pat on the back from my shrink for acting like a grown up? How sad is it that I have to force myself to engage with the real world? I still find an excuse every time Z suggests I take the boys to the zoo or the museum or the playground. The boys are paying the price for my illness.

Worse than all that is the idea that T might be the same as me. He might hate himself. He might be too scared to engage. He might feel worthless and pathetic. My sweet boy. My perfect and frustrating and amazing little man. How do I protect him from becoming me? How do I help him? How do I not fuck him up?

dentist 2

Even when he is scared he is cute as hell.

alien daddy

I think the a big part of the answer to raising these kids is Alien Daddy here. I don’t know what any of us would do without him.


15 thoughts on “Anxious Kid

  1. Karen, as a person who is a mom and who has a mom with a probably undiagnosed anxiety issue, let me tell you, that you getting out is huge. You’ve signed T up for preschool, so they can get out and be around people. My mom has told me, “I don’t like people.” But we know it’s different than that. The energy she puts into getting the house ready for people (HER FRIENDS) to come over is more mental than just cleaning. It’s “why is the house so messy and why am I such a slob?” She can’t leave the house a mess, any part of it, because that will mean she is unworthy and unlikeable. *You* know when it’s the crazy talking. And when your boys are older, they will know which part is the crazy and which part is you. And they will know that you are capable. You are capable of taking a class and taking care of two boys. That $hit is hard. You have assignments AND a household to take care of? The boys are a 24/7 job and they frankly do not care about your assignments. (As toddlers are the most self centered creature ever.) So, you have a 24/7 job and took on more. Oh, and you write. You do a lot.

    BTW, my mom drives me a little bit crazy. But also, I LOVE HER. She lives 3,000 miles away, but I talk to her every other day. Yeah, Dad helps too to buffer the depressing feelings, He was big in boosting self esteem. (Mom’s and mine)– But it’s Mom I usually call to talk to, and Mom who craves to hear my voice. But we talk about how our husbands are, how kids can be, and just life in general. Everyone passes something down to their kids, good and bad. I have some anxiety issues, but for the most part I can recognize it for what it is. I know it doesn’t work to say, “Don’t worry.” But what I tell Sammie is, “It’s all okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”

    Wow… how’s that for rambling?

  2. pat yourself on the back for the things you do, who cares if others do it so easy, they do because they dont have to deal with what you do. I applaud myself even just for taking the girls to play in the back yard, even though I am counting the minutes until I get to go back inside. The point is that you are doing something that is hard for YOU to do! As for your little bitty, it is WAY easier said then done, but you have to keep reminding yourself that what you might think you are seeing is only because you know and live with it yourself, not their must certainly be a problem, just that this is just another thing that your illness is taking over. Keep keeping on, you might not feel it but you are very inspirational 🙂

    • What a nice thing to say. Thanks very much. I worry that these kinds of posts can be too “please-say-something-nice-to-me” which isn’t what I’m going for. Just trying to do the honest thing, which is ugly sometimes…

      • Well I am glad you do actually. the honesty thing, it makes me feel like less of a ridiculous person (and honestly sometimes a horrible parent), to know that people out there go through the same kinds of things!

  3. Oh, Karen. We will totally fuck up our kids. It’s a matter of how. And if yours is a matter of biology good on you. Take a deep breath. Your kids will swear like sailors. Let’s focus on that.

  4. Oh I know how you feel. I have always worried that I will pass on my anxiety. My fears were first realized when we went to the planetarium and my older one began to worry about the sun going supernova. He often tells me of his worries just before bed, the same way I did with my own mom. I keep telling myself that I have knowledge on my side and even if I did pass on a predisposition for anxiety, at least I’m also armed with a ton of coping techniques that I can teach him. We already do relaxation at night when he gets worked up and it works well. While I certainly understand desperately not wanting your child to feel the way you feel, I think we also need to understand that each person is different, that things don’t have to be the same for them as for us, and that being supportive can work wonders. He might have anxiety, he might not, but he’ll have a mother who truly, truly understands if he does.

  5. I have bipolar disorder and it has a vicious hold on my bloodline. My dad and his three siblings have it, to some extent. All but 1 of their 8 children have it. One of my cousins had multiple suicide attempts and had electroshock treatments. It all came from my paterrnal grandmother. I hear tell her dad was a little off, somehow. It hasn’t skipped any generations. I was 37 before I dared have a child, and I still ask myself every day if I made a mistake. I have a beautiful little daughter, and she seems a lot more like her dad, and I pray every day that she is. But I will still watch her like a hawk to the end of my days, watching for signs of the darkness that will almost certainly be there. We just have to catch it early. And then we’ll do the best we can.

  6. As a mom with a kid who is medicated for anxiety, I will say that nothing with your son sounds off to me. Do you know what you were like as a child? When my child whose baseline was extroverted and social, couldn’t go outside and cross the street any more because of the scary thoughts and worries running through her head, which she had to come tell someone more and more often through the day, we knew it was time for some serious intervention. I’m just glad she has an impulse to confess along with the rest, so we know when it’s bad and can seek help.

    Your son is still little. It’s early days. Plenty of kids are introverted or cautious, it doesn’t make for a sign of something troubling later on. And like you said, you have your husband to help keep a pulse on what’s “normal.”

  7. teach him progressive muscle relaxation (robot-ragdoll) exercises to help bodily with dealing with anxiety. teach him breathing techniques like those found in yoga. make a game of the anxiety. while it’s not something to make light of, it IS something that quick and smart and fun and genius and normal children can embrace and work with…draw pictures of what the fear looks like ala play therapy and making friends with this little anxiety fairy rather than being afraid. read stories about people who were scared but still did things and turned out okay. put words to the anxiety that he might not be able to verbalize…when I was a kid my parents always asked “are you worried? are you anxious?” and I would always so no, because I had no idea that my racing thoughts weren’t ‘normal,’ I thought that I simply “thought a lot.” do role plays. the BIGGEST thing my mom did do when I was a kid, was practice things with me to give me practice…like role played calling people on the phone, and ordering food at restuarants, etc. etc. Teach self talk like “I am afraid and that is okay. I know that I am strong and can do this. I know that I can as mom for help if I get too afraid.”

    As a fellow anxiety/depression/ocd sufferer, I worry that my little one will too have anxiety or other issues, but I have seen that my anxiety has been a blessing and a curse…but I’d rather have an anxious kid than an a-hole 😉

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s