I have a son with anxiety. I once struggled with understanding this because it is not something I battle. Don't get me wrong, I have the normal anxieties that are built into a life in this day and age but it's pretty easy for me to get to peace when I recognize myself having anxious thoughts. I meditate, pray, do yoga, go for a walk, call a friend, have a convo with the hubs, and I'm fine. This leads me to believe that everyone else can do the same and boom, snap out of it. My belief is wrong.
I have watched one of my children battle anxiety with an intensity that leaves me quaking in pain for him sometimes. Jackson, now 20 years old, has been victim to, sometimes, debilitating anxiety for as long as I can remember. When I think back I can see the time he vomited while spending the night at a friends house at 5 years old, the first sign. Later, playing baseball, which he loved, vomiting before every game. On tournament weekends 2-3 times a day. Once while standing on the sideline I called him over before his turn at bat, he vomited on my feet, turned around and was up to bat. I begged him to quit. He wouldn't. Thank God! He was pushing through the discomfort. We don't grow without it.
When he was in middle school I would try to bring him to the mall. He would not leave the car. If I tried to force him he would lose his mind in anger. I thought he was ridiculous. I got tired of fighting and stopped trying to make him. He hated going almost anywhere that he didn't plan for himself. I thought he was just selfish. He wasn't, he has anxiety.
Jackson is unbelievably brilliant. I don't even know how a human can be so smart. He is also ridiculously gorgeous. He literally looks like a mythical creature to me. If I had been as beautiful as he is I would have been out of control with pride, relishing in the attention. Yet for someone with anxiety, the attention is a curse.
A year ago things escalated and we had to take a deeper look at his anxiety and all that it entails. I went to therapy and told his therapist all the things his dad and I could have done to contribute to his condition. His therapist was shocked that I was pouring all of this out, exposing myself fearlessly. I wanted to fix it. I want my son to be free. I don't care what I have to do, I'll do it to help him. But I can't fix it, nor can I live stuck in guilt about what I could have done differently. The only thing I can offer him is my unconditional love. When he wants to stay away from functions because of his anxiety, I can encourage a different choice but know that it is not my decision. When he refuses to attend church with us because he doesn't like walking into a building filled with nice people expecting him to say hello and engage in conversations, I can understand. When he calls me in a panic over the tiniest thing I can just be present and know that he is on his own journey, I don't have to express any frustration. I'm not totally there yet. I'm trying, learning, growing.
I am 100% certain that he will be okay. That he will thrive. This is his cross to bear and he is learning to bear it with grace. This is part of his formation and he will use it to create the life of his dreams knowing that nothing great comes from easy.
I absolutely despise anxiety and the havoc it is wreaking on my sweet child and on so many in his generation, but I love him so much. I pray that one day he doesn't wake up with the feeling of butterflies in his stomach, or the tingles that come when his nervous system is being negatively triggered for no apparent reason. That he finds a deep peace that I'm convinced is available to us all, though not always accessible in the same ways. In the meantime, I will maintain my own peace. I will continue to sit at the feet of the Prince of Peace praying for Jackson. I will continue to suggest books and podcasts but be okay when he chooses to not read or listen. I will stop thinking that I have the answers to a problem I do not have and let him find his own answers.
I will just love him. Every day. Every hour. Every moment. That is my only job.
Hey, this is Jackson. Yes, Mother is right, anxiety is a bitch. My experience thus far has been generally seen through a vessel with sweaty hands and a racing heart. This has led to a hyper-awareness of my surroundings that is a lot less fun than movies poeticize it be. Anxiety is such a fickle term today; it’s difficult to detect what people mean by it, given the various ways it can present itself in one’s life. However, for me it has been clear; I think a bizarre amount about everything and anything that my mind is, or can become conscious of. Any thought that arises, I dwell on until, well, nothing happens. With this hyper analytical state comes a surplus of physical manifestations, making my experience distinct from those that just think a lot. For me, this looks like an overactive sympathetic nervous system showing itself through increased heart rate, sweaty hands, sweaty everything, racing thoughts, random flashes of tingling or itchiness, an inability to be fully present, nausea, and a clenched jaw to mask all of this to whomever I’m talking to. Nonetheless, I’m still here and I’m still dominating shit. (This is a Nicole interjection....Feels so weird to be proud that my son is dominating shit, even though I think he could have said stuff, or crap, or poop! ha)
So, here is what helps me:
-Intense physical activity: I recommend Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Wrestling, Boxing, or Yoga; Anything you can truly lose yourself in.
-Any sort of mindfulness practice: I like Vipassana meditation or just an extended focus on the breath.
-Spending time bonding with other people: This is huge man, huge.
-Educate yourself: Read the literature surrounding your issue; Basic awareness can bring some peace.
-Drugs and Alcohol: fun in moderation or in excess. Just fun really.
Haha, sorry, I’m still a kid; Can’t take everything too seriously. (Nicole again...... not funny J)
***Post Post Addition***
Yesterday Jackson and I wrote and published this. I received numerous private messages concerning medication and supplementation. It wasn't until I got the first one that it dawned on me that we left that out.
In the area of medications. Jackson sees a doctor, therapist, and psychiatrist. Not completely on the schedule I would like but he does. He has been on numerous medications under their supervision. We finally found one that is working pretty well. I will not share what meds he has taken and is currently taking because there is no perfect medication for everyone. It's trial and error and finding what works for you. See professionals for help with this. We are not professionals;)!
I am a natural health lover. I have studied natural health, herbs, and supplements for over 10 years. I have bought Jackson many herbs, supplements, essential oils, etc. They don't work because he doesn't take them. This is part of what is hard as a mom. You cannot control your children and forcing them to take something is going to cause more anxiety. I believe there are natural remedies with the potential of helping with anxiety but it's really much like medication, you have to find what works for you. Sometimes that takes time.
Jackson's last comment was a half hearted joke. He has self medicated. This is what landed him in the hospital last year. He believed certain substances would help his anxiety. His psychiatrist explained to him that even if it helps at the moment, in the long term it exacerbates the problem.
I tell you all of that to say, parents, help your kids find what works. It won't be one thing! It may be a combo of medication and the things Jackson mentioned above, which is what his route is at this time. It may me another combo. You cannot control what they do when they are older but you can help them by offering support, helping them research, paying for whatever they need, and being there for them as they navigate this.
If we can help we are here for you. Feel free to message or email and we will do our best given the info that we have. Much love friends!