The word anxiety is bandied about a lot, in the same way people claim they have the flu when clearly its just a cold (but that’s a whole different rant).
Anxiety isn’t worry or concern. It isn’t being a little bit scared or apprehensive.
Anxiety is a full bodied sensation that literally stops you in your tracks.
And I know this because I watch it happen in my daughter on almost a daily basis.
The girl I know is larger than life, inquisitive, dynamic and smart. She asks so many questions and talks so much she makes me look quiet (which I know you won’t believe). She is cheeky and owns her peculiarities. She is nothing short of awesome.
But then we go out into the world and I watch this long lanky gregarious creature literally diminish in size.
The smallest thing will send her into a spiral that will takes days if not weeks to recover from. Larger things that happen we are yet to recover from and I believe will shape her long into the future…and most likely will make her world a little smaller.
It’s my goal everyday to empower young people at my studio and yet I watch helplessly as her world gets smaller.
I used to take solace in my experience as a teacher, that often little people who are shy are just taking in the world one bit at a time…and they usually become the teens that are actually confident and not hold a facade of confidence around themselves.
I used to think she was taking just her time but now there are experiences that make me genuinely concerned she’s editing out all the things she doesn’t want to do and one day there will be nothing left.
Just recently she spent all day, and I mean ALLLLLL day, getting ready for a birthday party. She got dressed and got dressed again.She put sparkles under her eyes because it was a disco party and literally hounded me every 10minutes to know if it was time to go.
Finally, it was time to leave. We left the house and she was 6 feet tall. …Then we got in the car and she shrunk just a little, almost imperceptibly except that the questions started. All the questions, who will be there? Will we be first? What food will there be? Will you stay the whole time? Will other mummies stay the whole time? And more.
We got out of the car and she shrunk further.
We got into the party and she lost her shit, she burst into tears and hid behind my legs. I asked her what was wrong and her reply was “I want to go home, right now”.
She couldn’t articulate (and still can’t) what happened but her body went into flight mode and she buckled beneath the weight of anxiety in front of my very eyes.
Despite her pleads, we stayed. We found a corner and I sat there with her for over 45minutes as she watched. Her beautiful friends came and went. They seemed to understand she needed time and they came to include her every so often and then gave her space.
Eventually she joined in and was the last to leave the party. I’m proud of us both that we stuck it out. The easier thing for me would’ve been to leave but we stayed because what if her world becomes so small that she can’t even go to friend’s parties?
And this morning the smallest thing completely threw her at school and now I know it will be weeks of tears, tummy aches and mummy huggles but we’ll push through.