I've alluded to the fact that I have more than one child who struggles with mental illness. Yup. Four of the five of us are medicated, and the one who isn't... Probably should be.
My eleven year old son has been fighting with very high anxiety. It's not what I pictured anxiety to be. I imagined someone shaking and sweating, maybe curled up in a corner, paralyzed by fear. BUT, then I realized that anxiety can take the form of flight... Or fight. And in my son's case, it's definitely fight. Or, should I say, FIGHT!!!
At first I thought I was doing something wrong. My kid acts like a maniac over small things, and it can make him look bratty, petty and spoilt. But the truth is that he knows that whatever he is freaking out about, he's not going to get it by throwing a fit. When all is said and done, and he's feeling calm again, he feels horrible about the things that he does and says. It frightens him, and it breaks his heart. And that is how I know that he is not just having a brat-tantrum. His stress level is constantly so high that the smallest thing can make him rage. It's not at all fun, but sometimes it can be slightly entertaining. And we almost always look back later and laugh about it.
Here's an example.
A couple of weeks ago, I was running out the door to do Mom Stuff (groceries, soccer... Who knows). I said I was going to stop and pick up supper on the way home, and asked what he wanted. He says a burger. I ask, "any specific burger?"
"No, just a burger Mom."
So I finish whatever I was doing, and I stop and get burgers. I get home. I put food out. His burger has no cheese on it.
I'm pretty sure I heard accurately when he said just a burger. You read that too, right? "Just a burger." But I was supposed to KNOW that he wanted cheese on the justaburger.
My Meltdown Alert started tingling. And the frantic thoughts start.
"Ooooooh shit ohshit ohshit ohshit. Here it comes. Where's the cheese? How was I supposed to know he wanted cheese? Why didn't I know that he wanted cheese? I should have known he wanted cheese! Is there any cheese in the house? Check the fridge- DO IT CALMLY! Don't let him see your stress or he'll lose it! No cheese. Damnit WHO ATE ALL THE CHEESE?! Is there any Cheez Whiz? Nope, I remember seeing the empty jar in a teenagers room last week... Why on earth was it in their room?? Did it ever come back upstairs? Frickin teens never clean up after themselves... No. Focus. There is stringable cheese... Maybe I could grate one up..."
All the while, I am completely aware that even if I had found cheese, it wouldn't have been enough.
And now it's too late anyway. The Hulk moment has started. You can feel his blood pressure rising. I'm pretty sure that he is actually turning green. He stomps off down the hall to his room and slams the door. He starts screaming about how much I don't love him, how everyone must want him to die. All over a piece of cheese. Cheese!
This, my friends, is an anxious child.
I'll leave out all the details of the flailing and the screaming and the pounding and throwing... No one needs to hear about that. I sit in my room across the hall and wait for a break in the storm. I go in and sit quietly on the edge of his bed and listen to him cry, lie down and cuddle him until he is no longer afraid. This is the hardest part. Here is where my heart breaks. He can tell me that he hates me all he wants, because I know it's not the truth. But when he tells me that he's scared and that he doesn't know why... And so we hide together, and I wrap him up as tightly as I can and try to shoo away demons that I can't see or feel.
Finally it's over. When he is calm again, he feels awful as always. He apologizes and we talk about it, and then he goes to eat his burger...
But the dog got there first. So he has cereal. 😏
(The photos and memes that I use here are pretty much all pulled from Facebook posts that strike a chord with me)