My daughter, who is 5 1/2, experiences a higher degree of anxiety in certain situations than other kids her age. While this is true in her every day life, her anxiety peaks at certain times, or in certain situations. She is currently experiencing a peak.
The source of her anxiety, on the surface, is that she is afraid to use the bathroom at school. This has been true since she started pre-k, last year. She has refused to go all this time. Amazingly, only twice during the last two school years, she has had accidents. Twice! That's pretty incredible, considering she is at school this year for six hours at a time. I couldn't do it, that is for sure! That being said, she has not been particularly stressed about all of this. She simply made her mind up that she wasn't going to go while at school, and she hasn't. So last week, seemingly out of the blue, she decided to start thinking about it. Recently she has made some other changes at school as well. She used the water fountain during the school day, and she considered eating a treat during various birthday celebrations at school. Big changes for her.
Anyhow, I said that the source of her anxiety on the surface is the issue of the bathroom. Having experienced her surge in anxiety last year at just about this time, I think that the true source of the anxiety is the impending end of the school year, the change in routine that summer vacation brings, and the knowledge that she will be attending a different school next year.
But she's five, she can't recognize that, so she's projecting her fears on something much more tangible. This year it's the bathroom. Last year it was an obsessive fear of swallowing inappropriate things.
I realized the pattern sort of accidentally. Last year as DD faced her fears and dealt with a surge in anxiety that lasted for weeks, I considered seeking help from a professional. I got as far as asking a friend of mine, who is a child psychiatrist, to recommend someone to us. She sent me an email with the names of a few of her peers. I never contacted them, but appreciated having the resources. Just the other day, I went through the same thought process, and wondered if I still had the email from my friend. I did. While rereading it, I noticed the date on it, and I realized that the seeming random anxiety surge may not really be so random. It brought relief, in a way. If she got through it last year, which, of course she did, then chances are she will get through it this time, too. And perhaps reminding her of last year's situation will help to ease her mind a bit, as well. Maybe it will help her to see the source of her anxiety more clearly. At least for me, defining the nature of the beast makes it much easier to battle.
That being said, it's still really tough to know what to do while in the thick of it. DD becomes so upset at times that she cries and cries, and I just want to take her in my arms and never let go. Then there are times when she has talked about the current focal point to the point of utter madness, and I become so frustrated that I get angry. I'm not proud of that, but how many times in a day can one person listen to "I think I need to go again" ? It was hell leaving her at school this morning, crying. I knew that she needed to face today, as she had spent the entire weekend agonizing about it, and if we avoided it, it would just turn into tomorrow, or the next day, or the next..... Sometimes the only way is through. But it's no fun knowing that and trying to tell someone you love, someone who breaks your heart into bits with every tear, that that's the case. It sucks!
In any event, perhaps as this "episode" passes, we can learn more about how she works, how anxiety works, and how we can help to make the next "episode" less intense. And perhaps it is time to allow someone else to advise us on the process. I'm sad for her. And I'm so, so proud of her! I know, and I keep reminding hubby too, that she is dealing with all of this because she is growing. She is facing things she has been afraid to face in the past. And she is afraid now! But she is facing it. And for that I swell with pride.
How to wrap
2 years ago