When Your Child Shares The Worst Part of You

It’s bad enough that I have suffered from anxiety for my entire life, and depression for the last 3 years, but the worst part of having mental illness, is being aware that it could be passed to my children.  Well, I thought the worst part would be being aware of this fact, but the worst part is actually seeing it happen and not knowing what to do about it.

My daughter, E, has been struggling for the past couple months (and as I write this, I’m realizing that’s how long she’s been going to occupational therapy… I’ll think on this as I write).  She started picking the skin on her lip when she was sick with a cold.  You know how it goes, your nose is stuffy, so you mouth breath all day and night and dry your lips out until the crack and peel.  When this happened, E realized that she could pick the skin off, and she started doing it.  No big deal, right?  I’ve done the same thing.  Then she started doing it when she was better, and her lips began to bleed.  Both top and bottom lips were picked to excess, and she kept doing it.  She’d do it in bed at night, at school, and at therapy.  It looked awful, and I knew it had to hurt, but she kept at it.  Then she started picking at her fingers….

First she just picked the skin around her fingernails when she had a hangnail.  She’d bleed and whine about the pain, asking for a bandaid.  She fell in love with bandaids and would ask for one every time she got even a little scratch.  Soon she started picking at the skin so much she was picking off chunks of skin.  The bleeding was bad, the fingers looked awful.  We tried everything from asking her why she was doing it, to telling her that was not a good thing to do, to pleading with her to stop hurting herself.  Nothing has worked, and now all ten of her fingers are picked raw and bleeding.  Still, she picks.

I’ve had to send her to preschool with six fingers in bandaids.  The teachers are aware of what’s happening, and they are trying to redirect her attention when she’s doing it.  I know a lot of the time it’s just something she does.  She’s not actively thinking “okay, time to pick the skin til it hurts!” She’s just doing it.  It’s just something to keep her hands busy when she’s bored, nervous, anxious.

(I did think, for a few days, that she was doing it just because she wanted bandaids, but after offering her a box of bandaids all to herself if she stopped, and still not seeing her stop, I knew it was something else.)

…but what can be done?  Is this a phase?  Is it something deeper?  If it is, what set it off?  Could she be suffering from my depression, anxiety, and anger?  Are my outbursts and crying getting to her?  Is listening to her brother scream all day (because I’m not holding him) grating on her nerves as well?  Does it bother her that I have to hold him and give him more attention BECAUSE he will scream if I don’t?  Does she feel left out?  If so, what can I do?  How can I help her if I can’t help myself?  When will S be easier so that I can give equally to them both.  Or, can I?  Is that ever going to be a thing?

I want to help her, but I don’t know where to start.  Should I start with myself and hope that helps her? Or is this something that also lives inside her and has nothing to do with me or S?  Is this something that therapy set off?  Does she feel odd, knowing that we are taking her somewhere because she thinks we think there is something wrong with her?  I never really have been completely on board with the therapy (it’s for social and gross motor skills), but is 50 minutes a week doing exercises and interacting with other kids something that could set off her genetic anxiety bomb?

I’m not sure what we are going to do, but my husband definitely wants us to take her in to the pediatrician.  I assume they will want us to take her to a child psychologist, but I just can’t believe that it’s to a point like that.  Isn’t there anything that can be done by me first?  Can’t I help her?  She’s my little E, and all I want is for her to feel happy and safe and loved.  Can’t I push aside my own issues and do that?  I think I can…. and I will be better for her.  She needs me, and I can do this.

Right?

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Anxiety Mommy

It’s hard having anxiety.  Crippling, overwhelming, hard to breath anxiety.  I’m lucky to only have anxiety that bad a few days a month, but that’s not all anxiety is.  Anxiety is always with me.  It is in every decision I make, every event I am planning, every future I foresee, and it is not nice.  Anxiety does not give me visions of seeing my daughter in high school, it gives me visions of something terrible happening to her.  I see every way in which she or my husband could be taken from me.  I even see ways that I could be taken from my family, never able to see my daughter grow up.

Every day I make sure she doesn’t pull on dressers, because I read a story about a three year old who pulled a dresser on herself while her parents were still sleeping and died while they slept.

I didn’t buy her a cubbie shelf (per the suggestion of her grandmother) because I had just read a story about a 13 month old girl dying from pulling one over and being knocked unconscious and suffocating.

I make sure the blind cords are up too high for her to reach because I read something about a five year old boy hanging himself accidentally in blind cords.

Everything I hear or read stays with me.  Forever.  Anxiety doesn’t let me forget.  It dwells inside me.  It lives there and breeds and grows and envelopes my brain.  The older my daughter gets, the worse it gets because the more she’s doing, the more danger shes’s in from the world.  I know these events are rare, but they are so incredibly tragic that I cannot ever forget.

…and it doesn’t even have to be something in her age group.  I just sobbed in the bathtub as I read comments on a post about delivering a stillborn baby (I couldn’t bring myself to read the post).  There were mothers talking about the heartache of losing their children to SIDS at two, five, six months old.  I flashed back to that age where I was so terrified of the same thing that I would wake 10-20 times a night to check my daughter to make sure she was still breathing.  She slept by my bed until 10 months.  After that I woke 10-20 times a night to watch the monitor and make sure she was breathing.  I still check her monitor 2-3 times a night (she’s 19 months old).

I worry about everything constantly.  It will most likely wear off on my daughter, as my mothers anxiety wore off on me.  I like that is makes me cautious, that I understand that bad things happen, but I’d really like to not fear walking along the sidewalk with my daughter because I’m scared a car is going to drive over the curb and hit us.  I’d like to leave the house without her without worrying that I’m going to die in a car wreck and never see her face again.

This anxiety is with me forever.  Medication will probably help (and i’m discussing this with a doctor soon), but it will never go away.  And that is exactly why I cannot fathom having another child.  How could I make it through another pregnancy, another year of SIDS watch, another full life of another human that I made, without completely losing it and locking everyone in the house and never leaving.  I can’t do it.  I can’t do it and take care of myself and take care of my daughter.  I know that, my husband knows that, and my daughter will know it one day.  I hope she can forgive me for my anxiety, and know that the decisions I’ve made to keep us a three person family were the best for not only me, but also her and her daddy.