Sunday, May 22, 2011

The ugly side of anxiety

What most people don't talk about is the toll that Selective Mutism takes on the child. Imagine what school is like, spending six hours for five days a week in complete silence. Worrying about what others are thinking, saying. Some days he can't complete exercises because he struggles to understand the topic and can't express himself. Often he can't do the exercises because a verbal response is required to complete the task. When he is playing with kids I imagine that he can't ask for a turn or ask to join in. The silence would feel like a prison that he would wonder if he can ever break out.

Fast forward to the afternoon when we pick him, he is tired his senses are exhausted and he has been on constant alert. So when he asks for something to eat and we can't give it to him straight away, he loses it. Sometimes he will have thrown a major tantrum before he gets home. Or if we ask him to pick up his toys (how unexpected?!) pick any combination of situations and they can represent a problem. Even in the mornings we can often spend an hour waiting for him to get dressed. He often will sit there frozen, or hiding because he is so anxious.

What happens next I go back the parenting board and get as many strategies as possible so when the tricky days come I might have an idea that works. For example one thing we found that was happening was that we were using our words to sabotage our efforts. While he is supposed to get dressed we bug, yes we nag him and in the middle of something my husband was saying, I said just stop. And then we tried something new. The timer we use to help him get dressed, we will use it to also do something new SHUT UP!! And not say anything at all until the timer goes off, and surprise surprise it actually made a difference. Who would have thought?

Some days we understand what is happening and why he behaves the way he does. But it doesn't change the fact that we have to fight with him, deal with his anger, the yelling and screaming and the tantrums. On the other days we can be tempted to think, I didn't raise my son to act this way, to disrespect me nor did I expect to raise a child with an anxiety disorder. At the end of it all I still have a little man who trusts me to understand even when he can't understand himself. Who even after all the fights will curl up on my lap for half an hour just for a cuddle. Who begs me to put him to bed and read him a story. And we still have to endure the endless chatter of a whole day's worth of talking in a few short hours.
On a separate note for those who are in a similar situation it is important to look after your self pay attention to the signs when you aren't coping. This week I rang a helpline from Carers WA it made a difference. Remember we are not just parents we are carers too, it is important to acknowledge this role.

Also what we are going to try and do is to look at what is happening every day even the Psychologist tries to tell us that it is just behavioural, that it is normal. But we know that his behaviour is over the top. So let's see what the diary is going to tell us, this can also help us to prevent behaviour as well.


  1. Oh my dear sweet Kerry, when did you grow-up and become so wise??...Sister you are an inspiration other mums stuggling with our own childrens misbehavior.

    Love, Blessings and Prayers
    coming your way

  2. PS: You need a follow button so I don't miss your next post :)

    Love ya K