My house is too clean. It’s too quiet. There’s no sound of boys coming in and out, dragging bits of grass and mud with them. Leaving piles of wet clothing and towels strewn across the entryway. No toy weapons all over the place. No air-filled rafts sitting out. No messes of stuff everywhere.
Anxiety has made my house too clean and too quiet. It’s stolen my son. It’s turned his life upside down and is holding him prisoner.
What does the face of anxiety look like? It looks like my beautiful son.
Cook. Do laundry. Dole out supplements. Shop. Be the food police. Worry. That’s what it’s been lately for me.
I hate this.
When my son was younger and experienced anxiety around going to school, I thought that because it only popped up around school, it was manageable and he could conquer it in time. He just needed to learn coping skills. But then again, he never wanted to become involved in any organized activities that his friends did, like sports, martial arts, or scouting. He liked to play around on some musical instruments but would never take a lesson. I wrote it off to his sensitivity and wanting to do what he wanted to do, when he wanted to do it, not realizing that his wanting and needing control, was probably really about managing anxiety.
Three months ago, when my kid couldn’t handle going to school any longer, reality started to sink in bit by bit. It wasn’t just about going to school. It wasn’t about not wanting to do organized activities. It was about Anxiety with a capital “A”.
I thought that when my bipolar mother died, that would be the end of my having to deal with someone close to me struggling with a mental illness. I was wrong. Fortunately, in doing healing around my relationship with my mother, I’ve developed a lot of compassion around living with a person struggling with mental illness.
But when it’s my baby, and he is hurting, it hurts me too. It’s been knocking me to my knees on some days, and not so much on others. I want to scream every time I see a post on Facebook where someone shares a picture of their “normal” kid going to the prom, playing baseball, making the honor roll in school. I want to scream that they have no idea how lucky they are that their kid is not only physically healthy, but mentally healthy.
Sometimes I just want to scream, so I cry. I cry when my son is in his prison of a bedroom trying to sleep the interrupted, nightmare filled sleep of anxiety. I cry on days when my son has come to me at 4 am because he’s had another nightmare and is terrified to fall asleep again, and I’m exhausted. I cry when my son comes to me crying, asking me to help fix him and I can’t. I cry when my husband isn’t home so he won’t feel like he has to fix something that can’t be fixed.
And I write. My savior.
We’ve had to change my son’s diet for (physical) health reasons. And we recently added some supplements that should ease the anxiety. I’m truly hoping they work, because if they don’t, the next step will involve filling a prescription. And with my son’s extraordinarily sensitive system, side effects of pharmaceutical drugs are a serious and not unfounded concern of mine.
And so I write.