Around age 15, we discovered that she appeared to have an anxiety disorder. She began finding it harder and harder to perform ordinary regular items. Moving to course became a significant hurdle. The orchestra rehearsals she adored began causing full-fledged terror attacks. She would skip out on visits to friends’ houses or family dinners at restaurants, saying that she was feeling dizzy or had a headache.
We tried everything else we could think of.
There is no more helpless feeling as a parent than watching your child suffer and not knowing what to do–especially when their brain causes their suffering.
One of your jobs as a parent is to protect your children. But how are you supposed to tackle an invisible monster that lives inside them?
Psychologist Rachel Oppenheimer says this feeling is perfectly natural for parents. “One of the primary realisations parents possess is the children’s vulnerability, along with the parent’s obligation to defend the kid,” she says. “With stress, which frequently has absurd ideas associated, catastrophizing, and behavioural and disposition influences, a parent may feel helpless.”
It’s also worth pointing out that parents who deal with anxiety themselves can have a double struggle.
“Often, stress runs in families, along with a child or teenager may have stressed that manifests differently compared to the usual young child,” Oppenheimer says. “This may escalate a parent’s preexisting anxiety, and also the tools a parent attempts to use to mimic dealing may not operate for their adolescent.”
In other words, anxiety is a finicky beast–and it had our daughter in a chokehold.
Over the months, our bright, fun-loving girl became a barely functional hermit. I’m not a big crier, but during that rock-bottom period, I cried in my car, in the shower, and bed with my husband. We kept taking her to therapy, even though it didn’t seem to be helping much, because we had to do something.
Then one day, I came across an article about a teen with emetophobia–an anxiety disorder marked by a fear of vomiting–and the signs and symptoms matched our daughter’s to a tee. I did more research and became 100% sure this was what we were dealing with. Our daughter’s worry over the possibility of throwing up, which we had always thought of as a tangent of her anxiety, was the disorder itself.
No one likes to vomit, but emetophobes are deathly afraid of it. And at some point, they realise some truths that make daily life difficult for them: 1) Any person could be carrying a stomach virus and not know it. 2) Any food could be contaminated with a foodborne illness. Emetophobia can’t brush those realisations off like the rest of us, so they start to fear people and food. Since they can’t avoid those things in daily life, they begin to avoid life itself.
Every normal stomach sensation gets interpreted as possible nausea for emetophobic, so they live in a constant state of stress. And because the fear of vomiting is so great, they won’t talk about it. Our daughter never told her therapists about her fear of throwing up. She would never even say the word “vomit.” Hence, the misdiagnosis of generalised anxiety.
Once we figured out that there was nothing general about her anxiety and confirmed that her therapist had no experience with emetophobia, I started calling therapists. After a dozen phone calls, an angel named Jeannie finally said, “Oh yes, I’ve treated several people with that matter. I will help your daughter.”
And she did. With only a couple of weeks with the right treatment, our daughter made a complete turnaround. While seeing her struggles was indescribably tricky, seeing her get better was that the most relief I’ve ever felt like a parent. Now she is attending college and flourishing, and each time she walks out the door of her own accord, I get a rush of appreciation. Healthy everyday life feels like a present
But during this challenging year, I felt like I might have utilised treatment myself. When it had gone on longer, I certainly would have had it. Talking to somebody about my feelings of empathy, guilt, nervousness, and overwhelm could have been tremendously useful, and looking back, I think that it could have been advisable to find that type of support.
If you’re parenting a child with stress or other mental health problem, do not downplay the impact that it has on your psyche. You do not imagine how hard it is. Your kid’s struggles may take their toll on you, so don’t be afraid to seek help for yourself too if you have some inkling that you may want it.
You might want to read about Facts About Counteract Anxiety Attacks