Tuesday, August 15, 2017

anxiety armour


A winter jacket. Water bottle. Sweets.

This is Lu’s chosen set of armour against life’s anxieties, of which she has in the last three months or so recently developed many.

The list includes:

* Going out (her comfort zone is solidly at home. Even going to Gong Gong and Por Por’s place makes her anxious)
* Going to school (similar to above)
* Singing the Majulah Singapura (she asks piteously in the morning: I’ll be OK, right? I can sing the Majulah, right?)
* Eating out (she prefers to tabao whatever we eat outside, back home to eat, even if that means she eats breakfast at 1pm.)
* Over-eating (these days she eats the same amount she used to as a three-year-old, maybe? Very bite-sized. She says, I don’t want to feel full, I don’t want to feel nauseous)
* Swimming
* Cold temperatures, that means every shopping mall, cinema etc.
* Rain
* Change in general. (She said she’d deliberately fail her GEP 1st round test so she would have no chance of having to go to a strange school to take the 2nd round)

Why did it start?

I’m not sure. I think it’s latent, flared up somewhat during our Penang trip, and then bloomed into horrific life during one outing to a swimming theme park in June when a combination of cold morning air and cold pool water led to her puking over my shoulder. Oh, she went on to have a good time that day, but the effect (at least I guess its from this episode) would manifest later.

Chiefly, she feels nauseous and cold whenever she encounters the above list.

She wears her jacket all the time. Even when skate-scooting to the beach in the hot morning sun.

She clutches her water bottle for dear life at all times, when its misplaced or unseen, she panics. The irony is that pre-June, she never cared for the bottle, and I frequently admonished her for being like a camel and never drinking water, so much so that her lips were patches of dry leafy skin. Now the bottle is her talisman and she fills it many times, all day long.

To be clearer, it’s not the bottle per se, but being able to take a sip at any time. For instance, she fills her mouth with water before singing the Mahjula Singapura so she can swallow anytime she feels anxious. (the teacher didn’t let her drink during the singing of the anthem, which I well understand)

And the sweets. They sort of act like the water, to quell “nausea”.

How are we responding to all this? Her refusal to go out, her panic attacks, the drama when she can’t find any part of her armour?

Day gazes at her like she's an alien and says, somewhat puzzled, She’s so Weird. Jo outright scolds, I imagine she sounds like how a less politically-correct Mum in the olden days would: “What’s WRONG with you? It’s just singing lah! You cannot stand and sing is it? You used to be much braver than me, what’s wrong with you?”

I don’t shout, I don’t scream, I don’t opinionate, I don’t take away any of her armour but I make her do what she has to do. If we’re going for some park and sunshine, she goes, tears streaming down her cheeks (she starts to enjoy it much later). If I want to go to someplace new, we go. If we go on an overseas holiday, she will go (she is now panicking at the prospect of flights and a change of environment).

If I wanted her to smile all day now, I’d have to home school her, home cook all her meals, and basically make sure she stays under our house roof.

So yeah, every day I make her cry a little.


Anonymous said...

Hi Shermaine,
I'm a long time reader commenting for the first time. I struggle with anxiety that came on in my late 20s. I only recognised it as anxiety when a foreign GP diagnosed it a year after onset. (I'm based overseas at the moment.) Local GPs always looked at me quizzically when I complained about the inability to breathe.

I'm currently seeing a counsellor almost 2 years after onset of anxiety.

I relate to Lu because I can't leave the house without my water bottle and jacket too. My security blanket.

I think that you're been doing an absolutely brilliant job as a mum.

I'll suggest that you read up about anxiety and teach Lu how to calm herself if she is on her own. A counsellor might help Lu if things don't improve.

Hoping that Lu would get better at coping with things soon.

Love, G

Renuka Raj said...

Hi shermaine
I am one of your quiet readers.
Just wanted to share something with you. My son who's on p4 had recently become moody. And then the vomiting started. He will be all fine when I keep him home. When it's time for school he threw up. I brought him to the doctor and even to the emergency as on an extreme occasion he threw up 20 times.
After which we discovered he was being bullied by a boy in school.
I discussed with his teachers and they were very supportive. He hasn't had an episode for about a month now.
I always keep remind him to talk about stuff and not to bottle it up.
Your daughter will overcome this too. Must be difficult for you and your family. Hang in there.
Sending loads of love to your little girl.

Sher said...

thank you both so much... i didn't expect such heartfelt comments!

i'll take both of your advice to heart. anxiety and psychological issues are things I don't understand very well, but I know it must be taken seriously.

i hope she'll ultimately learn how to cope with it better, and abandon the jacket and water bottle..

Grace said...

I was almost exactly the same when I was eight. I don't know what brought it on - you don't really think about these things when you're young - but I morphed into a very, very anxious child. My anxiety manifested in almost the same way as Lu's.

I became phobic about eating in public because I was terrified of vomiting. It was a fear that fed on itself because the more I fretted about eating, the more unhappy my belly became, and the more queasy I felt, the more I worried about eating. It got to the point where I couldn't even stand to be around food in public. I remember with great clarity standing outside McDonalds refusing to join my Mum and baby brother inside because the mere sight of food made me feel like vomiting.

Like Lu, I toted around things that made me feel less anxious. My security item was a little hand towel. I needed to be constantly touching it. My teacher spoke to my mum about my 'dirty rag' once and I was forbidden to bring it to school the next day. I remember crying in the school bus because I was so afraid that I might need to wipe my nose and not have anything to wipe it with.

I don't know how to make you or Lu feel better but if it's any consolation, I eventually outgrew most of that anxiety. It took me an embarrassingly long time but I've since learnt to cope. I still struggle with it but it no longer overwhelms me in the way it did when I was eight.

Sending good thoughts your way.

ZF said...

I have anxiety issues too.
I shun crowds and avoids conversation.
I cant go out without my hair clip.
I always ensure I have water in my bottle when I leave the house.
I eat same stuff whenever I go same place as I like familiarity. Even ordering food from new stalls make me uneasy.

Even my boy will tell me "mum, calm down, don't gan chiong" when I get anxious over something he said.

It doesn't help that I am a housewife. I closed my front door and coop up at home reading blogs like yours.

You need to encourage her and nudge her to come out. I was ok for a while when I was working. But I am happier facing my 4 walls and surfing the internet. But I do not wish my son to be like me so I will encourage them to be more adventurous. I like going out with them as they will do all the talking and I just hang on to them for comfort.

Sher said...

wow ZF... i don't really know what to say! thanks for sharing such personal experiences, lu reads and i think it helps her (and us) to understand what it is. because she'll say, to each comment, "i'm not like this person, or i'm like this..."

but i will encourage her, patiently, to go out.

i also think its good that kk completely goes ahead as if there's nothing wrong with her. like, there's no such thing as anxiety... dont talk and think so much.

Debra said...

Thought you may find this useful: http://upliftconnect.com/8-things-not-to-say-to-someone-with-anxiety/

Anonymous said...

Hi, I've read your blog on and off over the years. Something you may want to check out are her hormones. It could possibly be a thyroid issue. It's something my family has had to deal with Mum, aunts, sister, cousins and me. A good friend's daughter was diagnosed at 9 with similar issues. No harm checking and ruling it out or getting treatment. the symptoms are often confused with anxiety but the feeling cold all the time seems to be more than that.

Also, I'm all for natural approach so lifestyle changes as well as learning to manage stress is how I'm dealing with mine. Stress is a big one for me.

Good luck!

Sher said...

wow thyroid hormones is something i never considered... will keep in mind. thanks.

Anonymous said...

They do say that there's a gut-brain connection so anxiety can bring on stomach ailments and vice versa. However, I have similar physical symptoms without the anxiety. So, just to share this with you. Generally speaking, I have a sensitive constitution as do many others in the world although I might be different from those around me.

Sensitivity to temperature changes is due to difference in ability in temperature modulation. Just pack a sweater, water bottle and fan if needed. Lu is very clever to have prepared a pack! This sense of self reliance is admirable. (That's why I say I am not anxious. I look at the positives. So what if she's different. Everybody is different.) By the way, instead of a winter jacket, She can wear pants instead. That should keep her warm.

I have a sensitive stomach as well. Threw up as a kid. So be aware that food and lots of bumping in vehicles and physical activity don't mix. On busy fun days like theme parks, eat half full and walk/sit for an hour or so for digestion before running off. Children have a short mouth to stomach distance. It's common. She needs to know this. She figured out somewhat by herself (good job, Lu!) but Lu, trust aunty here, it can be managed. Don't need to swing to the other extreme of eating so little. Do some planning. If you eat too little, your stomach will churn. Avoid oily, beans, milk, chilli and onions on days you are, say, going to amusement parks.

I think positive talk will also help her. Being the youngest might have made her anxious about messing up in front of her older siblings.

Like I said, I have the physical symptoms but not the anxiety. I don't see anything wrong with packing these things to make myself feel comfortable. It also helps to know the day's plan in advance and be prepared. Bring heat pads and hot water flasks on holidays to cold countries. I wear 8 hidden heat pads on me at near zero temperatures. I think she needs a little understanding that its not a personal failing. I'm sorry if I sound harsh but I do feel for her since I have similar physical inconveniences.