I always wanted little girls. I would, of course, have been over the moon to have a boy too but privately I had always envisaged a rose-tinted dream of myself running around a beautiful English country garden with a ‘mini me’ in tow. Seven years ago, I was blessed with my first mini me and then three years ago a second, someone should have told me the most unlikely part of my dream was standing on a well-manicured lawn, seriously, does anyone have time for gardening? As the girls grow their unique personalities are developing, they have their own dreams, their own desires and are very much their own people. However, despite their individuality they both have traits that can be, very much, linked back to me.
At seven years old little S is the bookworm I always was, she is devouring Harry Potter books at a rate of knots and when she isn't reading she is acting or drawing or painting in the way that I always did. Most days I burst with pride seeing the things I love most about myself replicated in one of the people I love most, but then along comes a trait you wouldn't wish upon your worst enemy and instead of pride you are, instead, burdened with an overwhelming sense of guilt.
My daughter suffers with anxiety. Anxiety has been my biggest challenge as a human being. It seems to rear its ugly head whenever I want it least. I have travelled less because of it, I have not gone for certain jobs because of being plagued by ‘what ifs’ and it regularly puts a damper on days out that should be the best days of my life. When my daughter first began showing tell-tale signs I so wanted to ignore it, to tell myself I was just being paranoid… just being anxious. I had always made a concerted effort of not displaying my anxiety publicly for fear of it rubbing off. Hypnotherapy has enabled me to control panic attacks well enough that no one knows I am having them (except my husband who knows me a little too well). When I am troubled by something I largely keep it to myself and only voice it later once the children are in bed. It seems you can do your best to cover your own anxieties but if someone is going to be a sufferer then there is nothing you can do to stop that.
S broke her leg over the summer holidays. This was always going to be a huge thing for a seven-year-old to go through, not to mention the best summer (weather wise) of her life and she was stuck in a full leg cast. By the time we arrived in France for, what should have been, a fantastic break she was feeling queasy, having trouble sleeping and generally not feeling her usual upbeat self. As she found her comfort zone once more she generally improved but upon returning to school the tummy aches began again and a trip to the doctor confirmed our suspicions, the physical symptoms were being caused by anxiety, largely due to post traumatic stress from the leg. At first, I sighed in relief that the stomach aches were not something ‘serious’ until it quickly dawned on me that actually, it’s not to be sniffed at. A diagnosis of anxiety now, at seven, will probably mean she will battle it, albeit on and off, her entire life.
As my darling little girl faces this enormous challenge I would like to start by saying to her that it’s OK. It’s completely normal for your tummy to feel in a spin when a situation you are uncomfortable with presents itself. It’s ok to feel frightened when you are not sure what you are scared of and you are always welcome to chat to us when something is stressing you out, no matter how small it is, if it is stressing you out then it deserves to be talked about.
The doctor has recommended we use distraction techniques to help improve her symptoms and having attempted this before the diagnosis we have found that it does help. Reading to her will distract her from the pain. Listening to story tapes eases her to sleep when otherwise she can’t doze off. While I am more than happy to do whatever helps her I am equally conscious however, that sometimes easing the symptoms doesn't make the problem go away. I am not certain of what route to go down at this stage, we are simply taking each day as they come, but I know that in future I may not be quite so quick to hide all my anxieties from her, letting her know that there are a few things troubling me, or that I have a nervous tummy or I am just a little overwhelmed will at least help her understand that anxiety can be a normality, an uncomfortable one, yes, but a normality just the same.