I have anxiety and bouts of high functioning depression and OCD. Basically when my anxiety gets out of control the depression and OCD follow. I go through periods where I have a handle on the anxiety and feel relatively “normal” and I have other times it takes me a little longer to regain some stability. It took me until somewhere around the age of 35 to realize that what I’d experienced my entire life had a name. Anxiety always seemed like one of those things that had to be loud and flashy, that if I had it everyone would know. Surely someone would have noticed or said something. Right?! As I flipped through a magazine sitting on my couch as a 30 something adult, I read a checklist: Signs you have High functioning Anxiety….it was box after box that resonated. After years of suffering silently there it was, my entire life described in black in white. Anxiety IS loud and flashy, its a constant chatter making you second guess every single detail of your day, but it is silent too! No one can see the suffering, until you break down. Some of us can go an entire day, month or year without a single person realizing how hard it was to even get to work, make a phone call, or allow someone else to drive your child. No one can see the sleepless nights, or horrendous scenes your brain has showed you. Anxiety is a slow and steady illness that when triggered takes off into a dead sprint that leaves you unable to catch your breath. It is painful in a way that leaves you feeling undeserving to express that pain because no one else can see it or feel it. Its feeling lonely and sad, yet knowing you have everything you’ve ever wanted. Anxiety can rob you of your joy sometimes, and then will make you feel guilty for allowing it to do that. It is something that never fully goes away.
When I’m experiencing a major upswing in my anxiety, my OCD rears her ugly head. How does my OCD look? It is nervous ticks and obsessive thoughts. It is always changing and I am always able to over come it, only to have a new one pop up when the next upswing comes. I have vivid memories of me being around 7 or 8 and being paralyzed with fear over which pair of socks to wear. Two pairs of socks, one in each hand and trying to decide which pair wouldn’t make something bad happen to me. That is what OCD does to you. It makes you feel everything has a consequence, like its a twisted game of life. My Brain tells me ” You have to switch that light switch 4 times or you’ll prob die” or “If you don’t have your car stereo volume on an even number, you or your family might die” I could go on listing more, but you get the idea. It is like being a prisoner in your own mind sometimes. I’m grateful I have learned skills to navigate it all. The bad stretches have lessoned and I have learned my triggers. I have also learned I’m strong enough to overcome it all each time. It really is about finding what works for you and knowing its coming back again at some point.
Ready for what is the hardest part for me? It is none of those things. All of that is hard, so damn hard, but what is the most gut wrenching is parenting my child who has all of those things. With my sons permission I am going to write about that. We both feel it is important to share our story with others in the hope that someone reads this and either recognizes they need help, that their child does, or that they know nothing about any of it and walk away knowing more than they did before.
My 8 year old son has the same anxiety disorder, depression and OCD that I do. He too goes through periods of time where he doesn’t have a single drop of anxiety in his body. When anxiety comes knocking so does the OCD. It is long nights of reassuring him that he will not die in his sleep. Many nights of meditating and deep breathing, at home therapy exercises, and visits with his amazing therapist. The silent illness that again, most people don’t know is effecting him. His anxiety started with a lot of mood swings outside of normal kid stuff. We soon found out that everything he puts in his body directly effects his mental health. We cut out artificial dyes and flavors and saw a drastic improvement. The day I recognized he needed therapy and more help than I could give him is etched in my brain forever. He came down the stairs during what was supposed to be nap time and began to cry as he told me he was terrified that the pretend wooden knife he had or his extra sharp legos would impale him. He was 4 years old and in preschool. My sweet baby boy was worried he’d trip and fall on them causing him to die. This was during a particularly bad week behavior wise and it all just clicked. That day with tears streaming down my face I reached out to our insurance to find him a therapist that could help. He has been going ever since. We have been in what they call maintenance for the better part of two years. Going every 3-4 months with appointments timed out around the triggers we know are coming. Triggers in school such as two weeks back after breaks, and about 5 weeks into school once it all catches up to him.
We are currently back to regular monthly visits with check ins over the phone. The pandemic has been difficult and Covid talks have triggered the fear of death once again. He will get to a place where he feels better, but for now he’s exhausted and looking to me for stability and reassurance. He has bravely agreed to share his story through me, and I couldn’t be more proud. He is so much more than his anxiety. He is the hardest working kid you will ever meet. He builds me tables, and is outside doing yard work before 8 am. He is athletic, smart, and funny. This is only a piece of who he is and he is more aware of his feelings that the majority of adults in this world. I am so proud to be his Momma. Parenting a child with the same metal health stuggles as you is exhausting and can be a trigger in our own mental health journey. I’m grateful I’m able to tell him, you are not alone. It is just another thing the two of us will navigate side by side. We both can agree we are grateful to have each other.
Most people want to help you when you’re struggling, and it’s a kind thing to want to do. It is also important to not dismiss someone who has anxiety with a ” Oh you’re fine, get over it” If we could do that I promise you we would. As my son describes it….” Anxiety is the voice that lies to you all day long, leaving you exhausted from having fought it all day and night.” I have to agree, that is exactly how it feels. If you have never had a panic attack let me explain it for you. It is feeling as if you are dying, you can’t breath, yet you are breathing. You know this, you know and can feel air coming in and out of your lungs, yet you are convinced you are going to die. While having all of those thoughts you somehow deep down inside know you are absolutely fine, yet are unable to regulate your breathing. That is anxiety, it’s the constant fight between what you know to be true and what it tells you is fact. If you want to help someone with these struggles, listen without judgment, because sometimes being heard feels a little lighter. Listen without trying to fix it. You can’t fix it for us and we are trying our best to get there. If you think your child could be suffering with anxiety, please get them the help they deserve. If you feel you relate to any of this, I encourage you to seek out the professional help you deserve too! Reiki and Therapy have helped me immensely. What works for me doesn’t have to work for you. Find what works for you!
For anyone who read this and it resonated I see you. I promise that the sunshine is coming, it’s just past that storm cloud you’re in right now…..
Click here to read more about Child Anxiety and Depression
Click here to read more about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in Children
Click here to read about Adult anxiety
Click here to read about High Functioning Anxiety and Depression
Visit https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline if you are struggling and aren’t sure where to start. or call 1-800-662-4357
2 responses to “The Invisible Struggle”
Oh my God, I feel almost exactly the same as you. Just today is a hell of a day, like you described. I texted three friends today to pray for me, I was saying that I felt out of sorts. But you described how I feel. I hate that you and your little guy feel like this, it’s awful. I am thankful for knowing what’s going on with me. Thinking of you with hope for quick relief! Mary
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I understand so much of this post. I suffer with Ocd and panic attacks. This post showed up in my reader and soon as I started reading it I couldn’t stop. 😁
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