The Many Faces of Anxiety

Even though I’ve lived with anxiety all my life, I’ve learnt the most from my children. Because I had early talkers, I’ve had an insight into their inner world earlier than I expected. One of my children started this before they had full sentences. It was always the same few words which equaled a question for me to respond to. When I’d respond they would keep doing their thing. If I didn’t respond the way they wanted, they would keep asking until I fulfilled my end of the script and their anxiety was temporarily subdued. As they have gotten older it has become more obvious to me and both of my children have this pattern.

Just to clarify, this repetitive question or statement or script that I’m reffering is not a stim. I get stuck on words that feel beautiful or fun to say and I can repeat them for all of eternity sometimes. My kids enjoy this as well. No, this is different. This interaction is a form of my children getting reassurance from me. This reassurance temporarily relieves them of the anxiety and they feel safe for that moment.

I know first hand how draining it can be answering the SAME question in the SAME way OVER and OVER again. There were days I become angry. But my anger was because I didn’t fully understand (not to mention us parents are human and usually have many other factors at play… I mean really, sleep anyone??!!). I didn’t fully understand the depth and level of the anxiety my children were experiencing, nor did I realise at the time, this wasn’t the norm (as in a healthy level of anxiety). Since these early days, I’ve been receiving help and my children have been receiving the proper support for their anxiety.

It’s a line we walk as parents and educators. A line between making sure our children feel safe and secure while allowing them to move into that zone of uncertainty where they learn independence and that the world overall is a safe place away from their primary caregivers. As a parent of 2 children with extreme anxiety and as a naturally anxious person myself, this is by far the hardest part of my parenting role.

Not only is anxiety in our children hard to watch, it can be debilitating for them and in some cases it leads them to act out with aggression due to the level of fear response they are feeling. As a parent it hurts on so many levels. Not a day goes by that I wish I couldn’t take their anxiety from them and show them they will be ok.

But that is the other thing with anxiety… it is so easy to naturally reinforce. I know as a parent, I haven’t been able to do it alone. I needed and continue to need the support from multiple specialists in a variety of disciplines. I also need to have the support of not only my family and friends but a community of parents/carers in the same situation. Thankfully online groups have given me that space and support.

If anything I’ve written here is giving you a nudge or wink, perhaps sounds a bit familiar, if you haven’t already it could be worthwhile looking into anxiety. And if you are a parent or educator with neurodivergent children that have anxiety at that next level, one that looks angry, aggressive or completely shut down it could be worth looking into the, newly acknowledged in Australia, Autism profile PDA (pathalogical demand avoidance).

Just sharing because I’d wished that I had read something like this a lot sooner. You’re doing a great job, don’t ever forget that.

Light and love to you all.

-Christina Keeble

***This was originally a post on my FB page this year that I felt needed to be incorporated into my blog.

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