Anxiety: A Mother and Son Perspective
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 situational anxieties but can 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 breaks this mom’s heart. Jackson, now 20 years old, has been victim to, sometimes, debilitating anxiety for as long as I can remember. I remember him vomiting while spending the night at a friends house when he was 5 years old, this was the first sign. Later, playing baseball, which he loved, vomiting before every game. Once on my feet at the sideline. 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 had, and still 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. But, 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 and never stop 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, Mom is right, anxiety is a terrible. 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.
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.
This is Nicole again. When it comes to medication and supplementation, yes, Jackson needs those too. There is no shame in getting help from every source necessary. Find a doctor, therapist, psychiatrist, naturopath, herbalist, whatever you need and figure out what works to help you or your child. It is often a combination of things.