As promised, here is the follow up to Tre’s bout with anxiety in early July. Disclaimer- While I am sharing his/my/our very real experiences and I am being open about strategies I have tried, I am always open for more. Feel free to offer any and all tricks of the parenting trade.
We made it through Turkey Hill and the following Wednesday came with yet another camp trip day. It fell off my radar to check into all the specifics around where they were going and what time they’d be back. So you can imagine my surprise when I got a phone call around 11:25am to hear Tre on the other end crying, moaning and unable to gather himself. I was right in the middle of following up on some things at work and told him that he’d be fine on the trip [to Players Fun Zone in Westminster] and I would see him when they returned. This time it wasn’t going to another state that threw him into panic, it was that he didn’t know they were returning at 5:00pm and he worried I wouldn’t know. I was later told that he saw the information about the arrival time and began to pace the floor, rub his hands together, take deep breaths and that he was saying he didn’t think he could do it.
The phone call lasted close to thirty minutes. I went in between talking to him and 2 different staff members who expressed genuine concern for the heightened anxiety he was experiencing. Just when I thought he was going to be able to ‘make it,’ he would go right back into the swirl of thoughts he had about going on the trip. My stomach hurts…my head hurts…I just don’t think I can do it…I feel like I’m going to throw up…my stomach really hurts…I just don’t want to get sick on the bus. Can you just come and get me. As much as I can be a ‘Tough Tony’ kind of mom, I did not feel good about the panic attack he was having. I knew exactly what it was and I knew if he went on the trip he would have fun, but he was not buying the happy ending I was so desperately trying to sell him on.
After my failed attempts, I grabbed my wallet and keys, and left my belongings right where they were and did a fast paced walk to my car. Thankfully my summer work location was super close to his camp so it didn’t take long to get there. Just as I was turning the corner I got another phone call to tell me the buses were about to pull off. I swear it was like something out of a movie: I skidded onto the street, put the car in park in the middle of the street, got out, left the door open and went to get him. As he was escorted off of the bus his little face said it all. We got in the car and I felt a lot of different emotions. This is a safe space right? Hell it’s my blog so I’ll say I how I felt (in no particular order). I was embarrassed. I was angry. I was frustrated. I was confused. I was sad. I was irritated. I was worried. Most of all I was concerned.
We rode in silence long enough for me to calm myself down and fix my face. I really wasn’t sure what to say, so I did the other thing I know to do with Tre- I reached back and held his hand. While not the safest thing to do while you’re driving [sorry Mom], it was the thing that made him feel safe at that moment. I think you were right. It was my nerves [insert big tears here]. We started talking and he told me his stomach was starting to feel better and he really didn’t think it was his nerves at first. He felt bad that he had given into his nerves and wasn’t able to go on the trip. Because I was in the middle of my day Daddy and I coordinated for Tre to finish the rest of his day at Daddy’s job/school.
By the time we got there, if you had not known about his panic attack, you would have never known that just a few minutes prior he was close to being in the fetal position from fear. Daddy and I talked [amongst ourselves] and we both agreed that it was time for a new plan.
The following day I met with the Director and several staff members who, again, expressed their genuine concern and offered a few suggestions. I asked for the information about the rest of trips and all of details so we could prep Tre prior to the day before. A suggestion I received from my therapist was to talk to him about his anxious moments and what he experiences during non-anxious times. Over dinner. In the car. During breakfast. Another powerful tidbit my therapist gave me was some education. She ‘learned me’ about the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is a large and long nerve that starts in your brain and ends in your gut. Butterflies in your stomach= Vagus nerve. The feeling you have to go to the bathroom when you’re anxious= Vagus nerve. So when Tre said his stomach hurt- it really did. His fear and anxiety caused his body to react in such a way that he was becoming ill. That’s a lot for a little kid.
We are now one week away from the end of camp and several wins in with Tre having attended all of the remaining camp trips and he is on the final one today at an amusement park [insert ???]. What have I done different? I start talking to him a few days prior and share the name and location of the place. He then gets on his tablet and does the research. For real! He will look up the weather for the day, the address, length of time to get there, images of the location and he will search around on the website to become familiar. Today (8/7) he checked the weather and told me there was a 20% chance of rain during the day so that lessened his fear of being rained on at the park. Hey- whatever works!
This was not the place I expected to be in my motherhood journey when I envisioned summer 2019. Not that I was going for a Hot Mom Summer, but I was going for a little more zen. Regardless of how I thought life was supposed to be, this is how it is/was. Yes, it threw me for a loop. Yes, it concerned me…it even made me cry a little. I don’t know if this is a phase for him or if it will continue. Either way working through Tre’s anxiety will be a process and a process I am committed to helping him through. –krystal