I stood in the middle of our living room staring at the wall, my hand over my mouth, the kitchen lights softly streaming across our beige carpet.
“I don’t know whether to laugh, cry, or scream. I don’t know how to do this with him. He’s just gone.” I was talking to no one, but my husband was hovering in the background, listening to same raging screams that had become our normal recently. I felt him put his arms around my shoulders and he whispered, “I know. I’m just as lost with this, Danielle. What do we do?”
I shrugged, and rubbed my wrists. It’s hard for me, especially given my own past with abuse, to know how to handle these violent outbursts. Everything in me screams to run and hide, because that’s my learned instinct, but the Mother in me overrides, and I find myself right in the middle of the battle, trying to reassure my son that I’m there, giving him options for how to rid himself of the frustration. “Punch your pillow,” I say as he whips another toy in my direction, the crashing laced with his fiery screeches. Sometimes he hears me. Sometimes he doesn’t, and I wind up blocking another punch, another kick, another toy. In those moments, he’s not really my son, though he is. He’s just succumbed to the pain of always feeling everything, all the time, every single day. He’s given up to the weight of anxiety.
What do you do when your child loses control of himself, stressed himself out because of anxiety, because things change, and it’s just too much? How do you give him coping methods that take years to hone and execute?
The doctor gave us a prescription. And I balked at it. Because, he’s just six. I pushed for a referral to a psychiatrist, only to find out weeks later that it’s a year wait. “We cannot wait a year,” I had almost pleaded with the nurse, “We need help, now.” More numbers were given. More waiting. More hoping that finally we’ll find a way to help him manage this side of his life.
Our son has always been an anxious child. He’s always had issues sleeping, only ever sleeping in bursts of 45 minutes for the first six months of his life. He’s always held back in situations that made him uncomfortable. He was the child glaring at everyone, not really angry, but just afraid of the newness of other people, of other situations. He worries about everything, the things he knows, the people he loves, the things he doesn’t want to happen, all of it, racing through his mind, constantly. We’ve learned that he needs his routine, or he falls apart, and we’ve just fallen in line beside him. We don’t always notice the magnitude of his anxiety because it’s our family’s normal. We have to schedule things. Nothing is impromptu. We are always talking, talking about everything. It doesn’t seem abnormal to us. Until it’s clear that this is bigger than just making sure our routine stays in place and talking through the worries.
And, that’s where we are.
My husband turned me around, and for a moment, we breathed in our loss, our inability to know how to help our son. A place that no parent really wants to be, a thing no parent wants to admit openly. He slipped from my arms, toward our son’s room. The door creaked, and air was filled with angry screams from our wonderful six year old. I heard my husband try to talk, to comfort, to ask. That was followed by a crash, and more yelling. The door creaked again, and my husband padded down the stairs, retreating. A confirmation, that we just had to wait this storm out. When it was finished, our son would come out, sheepish, and wanting to be held. We just hold our posts until that time comes.
Later that night, with my son, curled up beside me in my bed, silent, finally silent, and sleeping, I swallow the events of the evening. I think of all the things I could have done to prevent it. Why didn’t I see the warning signs that he was on the edge? Why don’t I know how to reach him when he’s gone? Why don’t I know how to make this stop for him? Why, why can I just make this stop for him? The tears fall fast, and hard, guilt intertwining through each stream. I’ve broken him, I tell myself. It’s my DNA, it’s my fault that he’s like this. I gave him, without wanting to, this monster. The same monster I deal with. Then, I hear my husband, and my best friend in my ear, “You didn’t do this. Stop.” So I do, for the moment. I stop trying to place the blame, trying to shoulder everything my son feels, and I try, with my might, to stop the guilt that only a mother feels when her child deals with mental health issues.
There are still no answers. We can only wait, and hope that everything we’re doing to help him, will be enough for him. For now, he can sleep. He rests. I rest. We all rest. He came back to us. I’ll be ever so grateful for that. Tomorrow, we’ll continue our talking. We’ll pick up the pieces, figuratively and literally. We’ll hope the phone rings with help on the other end, for him. For us.
It’s all just waiting. No matter the part.