This morning before leaving for DD's school, hubby called. He just wanted to know if the kids were still feeling ill from the cold that has been battering them for a week and a half now. I was in the midst of trying to get a very reluctant DD out the door. I told him I'd call him back.
This morning, DD informed me (many times over) that she was NOT going to school today. I got our things together, but them and my son in the car, and went in to collect her. I slept for a long time last night, so I wasn't feeling the aggravation I often feel, but instead tried to calmly pep-talk her into getting ready to go. Although she had gone upstairs to "hide" she got only as far as the top of the stairs, and didn't resist when I picked her up and carried her to the car. All the way to school I talked with her about doing the best she can and focusing on ten minutes at a time and blahdeblah. She informed me she would not be getting out of the car. High anxiety day. Wow. We got to school, and in the half-minute before one of the teachers came out to meet her and the other kids, she informed me that the teachers might have to carry her in to school today. What? I asked her to explain. Basically, from what I could understand, she had at some point refused to go from point A to point B at school, and she had been told that if she didn't come herself within 3 minutes, she would be carried. She informed me that more like 10 minutes went by, and then she was carried to where she was asked to be. Oh! Ok. What I said to her was that I was getting some idea of why school was suddenly so stressful for her. That there was, in fact, an event that upset her. We didn't have much time to talk about it, but I reminded her that today did not need to be a repeat of that day. She then started to worry about what she would do if she had to use the bathroom. Oh no. This is old stuff from her former school, and NOT good. I reminded her that if she had to go, she would just go. She said she wouldn't be able to. (NOOOooooo!!!) At this point the teacher was there, and we had to move on. I plucked her out of the car, and gave her a hug..... and got back in the car. She walked slowly up the path, as is her thing lately. Off I went.
When DS and I got home, I left a second message for a psychologist I have tried to connect with before. Then I called DH. And something weird happened.
Instead of telling him I was worried and sad and anxious and that DD had a terrible morning, I proceeded to explain her behavior. As we talked, suddenly things started to fall in to place. I don't know why, but somehow, the entire past couple of weeks just made sense. No, we didn't figure out why DD carries all of this anxiety with her, or why it manifests one way sometimes and another way another time. But her recent surge in anxiety symptoms, and her poor coping skills of late make more sense. Now that I move back and take a look at the situation as a whole.
If you picture an "average" person dealing with a terrible cold, you see a person who has a week or two of decreased focus. A period of time where coping skills are a little off because the person feels generally unwell. Things are a little harder to manage. The person may want to sleep more than usual. Stuff like that. Then you take DD and give her a terrible cold. And she experiences everything that the "average" person does. But three times as much. The "average" person starts to feel better, and gradually returns to normal functioning and production. The recovery time is fairly predictable. For DD, the response to this upheaval is much, much stronger, so of course the recovery time is much, much longer. I picture a chart. The "average" person follows line A. When given the terrible cold, this person moves to productivity line C, or an average, predictable amount of decrease in functioning, focus, stress management, increased sleep, etc. DD, and people like her, move to line F, or extreme upheaval in ability to function in a "normal" capacity, practically no ability to focus, very poor stress management abilities, fatigue but inability to recognize the need for extra sleep, which results in a refusal to settle down to sleep at the usual time resulting in a decrease in sleep...you get the picture. And for the "average" person, the recovery from all of this is predictable as well. A little extra TLC, a few days, and normal functioning returns. For those who have traveled to line F, the return takes longer, and is much bumpier. Normal sleep patterns gradually return. Normal stress management comes back in fits and starts. And so on. A silly sort of way to explain all this maybe, but it is really what occurs. And how easily I forget!!
So, while going through this cold, which has lasted now for over 1.5 weeks, she basically shut down at school, faced a very uncomfortable situation at school which required her being physically moved from one place to the other, and created a very uncomfortable situation for herself. So now, as she gradually recovers from the cold and things start to return to normal for her, she has to go and face all of that at school. UGH. Anyone facing that would have a lot of emotion around it, and facing it without being able to justify it and understand it would just be harder.
I am hoping I can help her to understand all of this. I hope that it helps us to be better prepared the next time around. I hope most of all that I can help her to be more forgiving of herself when things become overwhelming, which for anxious people is a far greater challenge than for others. I hope I remember to see the whole picture next time.
How to wrap
1 year ago