Seemingly From Out of Nowhere: Childhood Anxiety Disorder

If you are a parent, particularly of school-aged children, then I hope you will read this very special post I’m writing today.  I’ve taken a three-week hiatus from writing while embarking on what may become a life-long journey for my 9-year-old learning to cope with Childhood Anxiety Disorder.

Easter 2013 002

Six weeks ago I had no idea what was happening, and I have a sneaky suspicion  there are hundreds of thousands of parents wearing my exact shoes.  Maycee has always thrived: emotionally, spiritually (yes, she loves God with all her heart), socially, and educationally.  She’s been the top reader in her class since kindergarten, reading at a 6th grade level currently, and she’s excelled in all subjects, including citizenship and participation.  She’s been the teacher’s aide and the first student to offer to help another classmate who might be experiencing trouble either academically or with his/her peers. She’s always LOVED school and the activities that go along with it.

What began happening six weeks ago came seemingly from out of nowhere…seemingly.  Maycee had been sick with the flu for a week, and then, after trying to go back to school as soon as she was well enough, began having severe diarrhea in the morning.  We thought it was the antibiotics she was on, but along with the diarrhea there was hesitation and nervousness about being in the classroom.  Maycee didn’t want to be at school…I thought it was because she still was sick.  I didn’t realize she was still sick because she was suffering from Anxiety Disorder-Health Anxiety to be specific.

Here are the symptoms:

  • Constant worry about being sick
  • Obsessing on disease and illness or being hurt physically and dieing
  • Panic attacks, hyperventilating when triggered
  • Restlessness and sleep disruption
  • Nausea, shaking, stomach cramps, diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Needing to be reassured continuously that she is physically okay
  • Sweaty and clammy palms of the hands
  • Seeing the environment in strange colors (“Everything looks yellow.”)

These physical and emotional symptoms then lead to:

  • Not wanting to go to school
  • Extreme tantrumming when the anxiety takes over, including screaming, ranting, door slamming, and not being able to calm down
  • Uncontrollable crying
  • The feeling that no one cares, no one likes her
  • Needing “someone” (me) to help her “feel better”
  • Unable to focus on normal daily activities such as classwork or small chores
  • Extreme fear of the unknown
  • Depression and sadness that something is physically “wrong” with her

This is only an abbreviated list, if you can believe it, and you should.  I did not know what was happening to my bright, shining, star.  I had no clue why my once silly and outgoing child was cowering in the corner of her bunkbed afraid afraid to come down.  I only saw her in pain and wanted to make it better, so I began searching.  Searching for answers, praying, searching some more, and not giving up-no matter what.

Here is what I’ve found now in week 6:

  • Maycee has been diagnosed with Health Anxiety Disorder, and it is completely treatable with the right therapy.
  • I did not do anything to make this happen (yes, parental guilt is huge here, so this was a relief to find out).
  • This would’ve happened to Maycee, if not now, at some point in her young life as discovered through therapy based on her behavioral and emotional history (she’s incredibly empathetic for her age).
  • This most-often occurs in children around the ages of 8 and 9, when they are in the third grade, and also often occurs in kids of average to above-average intelligence.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the most effective form of treatment (not medication), and I’ve also discovered, very difficult to find specialists who focus primarily on children.  I was referred to the only Childhood Anxiety Specialist in the county, and her web site is the SECOND one to come up on the web when you look for Cognitive Behavioral Therapists (we’re blessed).
  • It takes an IMMENSE amount of dedication and hard work to implement this therapy, and the parent is the primary teacher upon receiving  instruction from the therapist.
  • After only 4 sessions Maycee is already showing improvement, but she is also working extremely hard to “fight” the Anxiety Monster (we now affectionately call “Buttface”).
  • This is a big one: the school is REQUIRED BY LAW to make educational accommodations for the child to ensure that he/she receives the same education as any other student via the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, Section 504.  This is not the same as receiving Special Education, but rather, for particular emotional or physical issues that require slight modifications in the school day.  This is so important, as initially when Maycee began having problems being in class I was told the school “could not accommodate her on campus”. NOT TRUE, PLAIN AND SIMPLE.

I’m not going to write a 5-page post on the subject, but rather, I want to make sure all of my readers and anyone else who may find this post are informed.  Anxiety Disorder in kids is very real.  It is not a behavioral issue (meaning the kids are acting out “just because they need more discipline”, etc.). This is a mental and emotional state that develops, and there may not be any major trigger causing it, which is makes it elusive.  It can happen to any child, just as it did with mine, and quickly turn the family’s world upside down.

Had I known about this, I might have saved my daughter weeks of emotional duress, weeks of missing days of school, weeks of me missing work, and a whole host of aggravation, fear, stress, and exaustion.  So, I’m taking the time to deviate from my regular writing style to make sure this information is put into the blogosphere…I don’t want to look back on everything we are going through and not have done my part to help another parent and child in need.  Maycee feels the same way:

Two days ago when we were driving to the Boys and Girls Club for Maycee’s spring break vacation she said to me, “Well, even though it’s hard, I’m glad I’m going through this, Mom, because I will be able to help other kids now.”

Yes.  Yes, indeed.  We are on our way.  God led us to the right people eventually, and we are on our way.  Maycee’s spirit is beginning to shine again.  This week has been particularly successful compared to the last five, and I’m grateful.   She’s falling asleep more easily, learning to handle the obsessive worries and focus on the moment, what is happening now, and what is real.  She is identifying when she’s panicking and recognizing it will pass if she practices the techniques we’ve learned so far rather than trying to run away from the anxiety.  We are still in the beginning of the battle, but there is hope, there are answers, and her therapist has GUARANTEED me she will return to her happy and vibrant self soon.  I believe it.  I do!

Me and Maycee Nov 12 

So, Readers, I’m tired, very tired.  Even now as I write my eyes feel swollen and like they could close with no hesitation.  It’s tough being a single parent in all of this, no one to help in the home, no one to “take over” in the late nights and early mornings,  but the past has taught me I can handle it, you know?  I act “as if” I’m okay, and I break down when I can in the stillness of the night so I can re-charge my batteries.  I just do it like any other dedicated and loving parent would, and I’m grateful every day to those who support and encourage me.

I hope this information gets around…please feel free to re-blog this, print it and pass it on, post to Facebook, Twitter, and anywhere else.  There really isn’t a lot of information about it, and what is out there isn’t easily accessible from a parental point of view (physician’s speak rather than nitty-gritty real-life details). I’ve provided a couple of links, as well, that might be helpful.

Life is short, and it’s also challenging, but everything we experience gives us the opportunity to be of service and pay it forward in some way.  Maycee already realizes this, as I have hopefully passed this way of thinking on to her.  I wish you well, and I’ll be back around these parts more often very soon, I’m sure.  Be happy, and take some time to chuckle, okay?

http://slocbtcenter.com/contactoffice-location.html

http://www.cta.org/~/media/Documents/PDFs/Prof%20Dev%20Pub%20PDFs/quickGuide504pdf.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20130404T1222182301

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28 responses

  1. Kasey… I can relate to a lot of it though the cause might be different, it is exhausting. Accommodations make the difference and stave off the bad days. Check my fb page…my buddy Nina G wrote a children’s book on accommodations. Hugs!

  2. I just wanted to say thank you for this! I am so glad I found it as I do not feel so alone now. My daughter is 8 turning 9 this summer and I feel that she has anxiety also. I am waiting for a referral to the pediatrician to have her diagnosed formally. I am having a hard time dealing with her anxiety (she also has ADHD and her brother has Autism). I am overwhelmed and trying to deal with it one day at a time.

    • You are very welcome! I’m glad this helped you! It is very overwhelming, I know, so I hope that your pediatrician can refer you to a good child psychologist. The cognitive behavioral therapy is already working for my daughter, and I’m so grateful. I felt completely lost just a few weeks earlier, and now I feel there is light at the end of the tunnel. Best of luck to you, and feel free to check back here, as I will be making updates every so often. 🙂

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  3. Sending hugs and prayers to you both. I have found with my own anxiety that knowing more about what is going on helped. When I finally was told I was having panic attacks and how to handle them, I didn’t feel crazy anymore and knew how to “fight back.” I am continuing to root you on as we face our own versions of “Buttface.” 😉

    • Thank you so much, Sarah!  Knowing what is happening now is huge, for sure. It makes it easier on me, but I think it is still pretty elusive at times for my daughter because she is so young: she knows now that she has anxiety and that is needs to talked back to, fought against, but she battles with doing so off and on.  It’s so painful to watch her struggle, which she was last night and this morning again, but I trust the therapy we are doing and believe Maycee will be better for it one day at time. Thanks, again, for your support.  It means a lot! XOXO Prayers to you, as well ♥

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  4. What a great mama you are! You have one very special gal there too but I know you already know that. Thoughts and prayers, hugs and the best of vibes are being sent your way from NY. Thank you for sharing your experience and this valuable information. LOVE! xoxo NY

    • Thank you, my dearest blogging buddy! Maycee is so special, and I’m praying every day for constinuous recovery, although it is more of 2 steps forward and one back on a daily basis. This is the toughest thing I’ve ever had to endure with her, but it makes me more determined not to give in or up! Thank you, thank you, for the positive vibes coming from across the country! It means so much. Lots of hugs to you!!!! XOXO

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  5. I completely understand! I have 2 with that Dx (+ other Dxs) and I 100000% understand the guilt that comes along with it. No matter how hard I try, that little voice is always in the back of my head: (how can I have 4 kids with special needs, and it NOT be my fault somehow?) Even though their Drs remind me it has nothing to do with me. & w/ being a single mom with no help, there’s no one other than the Drs, and the crazy schedule and lack of sleep doesn’t help that guilt either.

    My Thomas is 9, 3rd grade- sounds a lot like him… Hes been getting help for 3yrs and is on meds and an OHI IEP at school. He can not function in the regular class room BUT because he is is highly intelligent, they can not put him in a special ed class room.

    We will be praying for your family. 🙂

    • Thank you so much for sharing, Christine. I can only imagine having to take care of 4 children as a single mom, let alone with different disabilities. I am so exausted with my one girl. :-) I guess we have to adapt as our circumstances warrant, huh? Maycee is super smart, too, and so does not qualify for special ed, but the 504 plan is supposed to help her have accommodations to make functioning easier until such a time as she can be back in class fully. Of course, getting the school to move on this is another story. It’s one day at a time, and it is a cycle of trying to re-charge our batteries and keep going. I appreciate your comments so much, and thank you for your prayers!! XOXO

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      • You need to find an advocate… 🙂 You should be able to obtain one for free…. do you have a United Way/211 where you are? They are help you find one. Schools are good at tearing apart parents when they try to fight the system alone.

        The only other advice I have is: never look at everything all at once. It’s just too much and can over take you quickly. Focus only on what you really have to at each particular moment. I keep a daily planner, write everything down as needed, and then “forget” about it until the day of/night before. If I stop to think about everything I have to do, I can’t do anything and I start sinking like quick sand.
        So, not only one day at a time, but one hour, one minute at a time… 😉

        Good luck!

      • Thanks for the good advice, Christine. Our therapist is being our advocate. If I don’t get anywhere, she steps in since she knows the legal obligations of the schools inside and out. I plan to get tougher this week if I don’t hear from the principal or the teacher by tomorrow as far as how things are going on their end with helping Maycee. And, yes, sometimes it’s minutes at a time. I write down my “to-do’s” on a dry erase board and wipe them off as I go along to help me stay stane. Thanks for sharing your wisdom! XO

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  6. You and Maycee are amazing!! I’m so proud of both of you. I know the walk you’re on now won’t be easy, but I know you will both be stronger, wiser and more faithful as you take this journey. I will repost this blog, with your blessing, on Monday. Big hugs to you both with lots of love. Holly

    • Thanks, Holly, and I’m so glad you re-posted this on your blog. This is a very rough path, but I see progress in both small and large form, and I’m confident that now that I know what is happening, we will overcome this anxiety monster with time and perserverance-all the while trusting God to lead us, as He has already. It’s great relationships like the one I have with you that remind me to stay steadfast in this journey. Lots of hugs and love! XOXO

      • You and Maycee are going to come out of this stronger and happier than ever. I have no doubt. God loves you both so much. So do I!! Big hugs and lots of love from the Great White North.

  7. Reblogged this on survivingthemadhouse and commented:
    I have become great friends with Kasey at Single Working Mom. She and her beautiful daughter have been having a challenging couple of months, but there is light around the corner. Read about SWM’s experience mothering a child who is newly diagnosed with Childhood Anxiety Disorder.

  8. One of the very fortunate things about your story is that your daughter was diagnosed quickly and is getting the right therapy early on………I am sure her journey back to herself will be successful. Thank you for sharing.

    • Thanks, Janet. Yes, I do feel fortunate that all of her symptoms were very much indicative of Anxiety Disorder. She has every single possible symptom there is, so the doctor didn’t have any trouble with a diagnosis. I see improvement every day now that we are in therapy and praciticing the tools. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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  9. Kasey, You have one very lucky little girl because she got you. And you are one very lucky mama because you got her. I always say “there are no mistakes in this world” even when we don’t understand the pain we may experience. Though I’m sure neither of you would consciously choose” the line that led to the Childhood Anxiety Disorder” window, look at how God is using the two of you to help others! May you both continue to find healing, and continue to offer help and hope to others.
    Much love, Mary

  10. You have brought your daughter up so beautifully for her to be able to deal with this and see how she can help other people through it at the same time, I think that is truly amazing. I hope the CBT continues to work and that she is able to find her way to deal with ‘buttface’. I am so glad you have found a good therapist as without one it is so hard to get anywhere. My thoughts are with you both.

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