Archives for posts with tag: childhood

In a weird way, it’s a good thing you have anxiety so that you can recognize when it’s happening.

I’m paraphrasing above, but I had that conversation with a mental health professional about my child. I’ve been mulling over writing about this, because its part my story and part not my story. But the more I think about it, the more I want to normalize this.

I have anxiety. I have panic attacks. I’ve had bouts of depression. I didn’t fully understand all of this and what I’d been living with most of my life until my thirties. Imagine, living most of your life, in that state, and just accepting it, struggling, and not always understanding why your brain functioned the way it did. I lived in my own head a lot.

Then, I hit bottom. It was ugly. It wasn’t glamourous. It wasn’t fun. Then I sought help. My loved ones begged me to. They staged a impromptu intervention. They demanded I do something to save myself. Talk therapy. CBT therapy. Meditation. Holistic medicine. Acupuncture. And finally, after exhausting all of those and only seeing minor improvement, I made the tough choice to go on a regular anxiety medication.

My life has improved immensely. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life. I wish I’d done it sooner. I may need to stay on it for the foreseeable future, or maybe not. Who knows. But I do know, I like me with balanced brain chemicals. I love me with balanced brain chemicals.

That’s my story in a brief nutshell. Without the nitty gritty details. I’m not here to talk about me so much though. Anxiety and depression, it can be and often is hereditary. So here we are, me a mom, and seeing this manifest in one of my children.

Have you ever watched your child have a panic attack? Not a tantrum, but a genuine panic attack. It’s gut wrenching. I’ve seen my child believe that their legs cannot work because their brain is lying to them in the middle of a panic attack.

I’ve seen my child struggle with not being able to stop their obsessive worrying thoughts. I’ve tried to talk my child down from the cycle of viscous thoughts that they’re not good enough, smart enough, perfect enough.

I’ve seen my child be me. And I hate it. It’s grossly uncomfortable. It makes me mad at myself. In this circumstance, I hate that I gave something to my child. If I could absorb all of their anxiety and panic, I would add to my own in a heartbeat.

And now, I’m seeking guidance for my child. Working with a counselor to provide my amazing child with the tools they need to challenge their own brain when these moments arrive. Not with medication, but cognitive tools and talking through any issues or worries. We have a plan. We have a team.

I’m going to leave it at that, it’s not entirely my story, only a little bit mine. But I wanted to write about it because, there is nothing wrong with me or my child. There is nothing wrong with being open and honest that human experience these issues.

Let’s talk facts:

  • Anxiety affects 18.1% of the population 18 years and over. That’s around 40 million adults.
  • Anxiety affects 1 in 8 children. 80% of children with an anxiety disorder go untreated.

This makes my jaw hit the floor. I was one of those children. Not by any fault of my parents. I internalized a lot. Confused as to what was happening or why I felt the way I did, maybe a little embarrassed, but not understanding things. And, in all honesty, mental health is becoming more common to talk about today, not twenty years ago. I don’t even think I knew what the word anxiety meant when I was in my formative years. Certainly, not the symptoms.

But, I see it in my child. I know what they are experiencing. If you have anxiety, depression, or panic attacks, sometimes it’s easier to see in other people. I won’t say always, but when it’s your child and you know what you’ve gone through, and you look at your child unable to manage what’s happening in their brain, well, for me, it was clear.

I suggest this: Let’s talk about childhood anxiety. Let’s talk about childhood mental health. Let’s keep that conversation open and judgement free. Let’s start to understand that, yes, we are talking about adult mental health, but we need to talk about the kids too. And to seek help when and if we notice something.

I have told my child that I suffer from this too. That I know what they’re going through. That sometimes my brain doesn’t turn off either. And that means, I’m always here for them to talk to. That I can and will listen. That I know what a panic attack feels like and how scary it is. I’m just, honest about it.

I was told today that Early Intervention is actually one of the best ways to tackle this. And can make a lifelong difference. So maybe, understanding that children also experience mental health struggles, we can change the world and make it a little easier for them to live life to its fullest.

I thought about my low point in life, when I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to wake up at all or if it was worth it to keep going. Then I look at my child and think, “I never want my child to get to that point.”

I will fight for my child. I will give my child the tools to battle this today, tomorrow, and twenty years from now.

Its easy to say if you need to talk, reach out! But one thing I’ve learned from experience is that anxiety and depression force you to live in your own head, and reaching out is often the last thing you consider.

So, I plea with readers and loved ones, if you notice something about someone you love, reach out to them! Reach out to mental health professionals. The onus might be on those that love people with mental health battles. You might need to have an impromptu intervention at a kitchen table at seven pm at night. It might be the push your loved one needs, even if they don’t realize it.

 

Reference: https://adaa.org/

Every year my husband and I usually end up watching the anniversary coverage of 9/11 in some capacity. The news, specials, documentaries, etc. I think that the events of that day impacted us equally as teenagers. We didn’t know one another then, but we both lived through that devastating moment in our nation’s history. I can close my eyes and still picture that day with such clarity. I can come close to remembering every moment, like a slideshow in my mind. I can channel the intense and fluid emotions I had that day. I have shed many tears over the years for the pain and suffering everyone involved and impacted has and will continue to go through.

This year I am taking great pains to keep the television off. A few weeks ago I was on a run/walk with my boys. The oldest is five and a half, so he is not in the jogger, which is why we take a lot of walking breaks. There was a plane flying low over the forest preserve. It was making that distinct landing sound that planes are wont to make. He said “I think that plane is crashing.” I assured him it was not crashing, it was just getting ready to land.

He followed that up with a statement that shook me to my core. “You know that there were planes that flew into buildings? Like an office building. There were people on them. It’s burned into my memory.” Let me repeat his age, he is 5 & 1/2! I stopped in my tacks and gathered my thoughts as quickly as I could. I decided to be a bit transparent and admitted that was true. That did happen. However, it was a very long time ago and it is not something he needs to worry about now. I lied a bit with that last part. The world is arguably less safe now. We have been in kind of a downward spiral of chaos lately. I wasn’t ready to crush his innocence just yet. I wasn’t ready for him to worry about the kinds of things I take into consideration. He is 5. There is plenty of time for him to have a broken heart over another mass shooting or intentional plane crash, but that time is not this year.

Since that day I have pretty much stopped watching the news around him. Which is odd for me, because I am a news/politics nerd. It wasn’t as difficult as I would have imagined though. That momma bear instinct kicked in and I simply didn’t want to expose him to more frightening events if I could avoid it.

So today, the tv will stay off. Unless they happen to get to watch a cartoon. I will also probably try to shield him seeing any social media I am on. He can’t read 100% yet, but he is starting to read. He has some sight words. And then there are the images, those are not something you can hope that your early reader doesn’t grasp. Because our walk in the forest preserve taught me that my five year old understands some pretty scary and heartbreaking things that have gone on in this world. Today, I will try to keep him oblivious a little bit longer. Today I will try to keep him little for one more year. Today I will try to keep the light in the world aglow for him.

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I have been rather nostalgic lately. There are a couple reasons. Jackson will be turning 4 in three weeks. I have been looking back at his baby photos comparing how he and Alex look as infants. Both of those together have supercharged my mommy emotions. I simply cannot believe how much Jackson has grown. I don’t even remember when his face stopped being so pudgy, round, and baby-ish. Did he just wake up that way one morning? Or did that sweet baby chub slip through my fingers one hour at a time like tiny grains of sand?

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My heart melts looking over these old photos. I truly cannot place how he grew. I cannot believe he is nearly 4. That he is this little boy who likes to arrange his toys and then ask me to take photos of them. He is going to be really good at whatever field he chooses one day because he spends 99% of his time debating me and trying to strike up deals. “That’s a good deal mommy.” Which, is debatable! Ha! He is a very passionate person. Whether he is loving on me or angry at me. Passion seeps through his pours. He gives his all to whatever he is feeling. He tells me I am beautiful. The most beautifulest mommy in the world. He loves to sing and dance. Then he likes to switch it up to “shooting guns” and ninja skills. He recently started getting into fashion. He has been picking out awesome shoes and shirts that do not have characters on them.

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His fingers are still pudgy, but they are much bigger. His feet are still adorable, but they actually get dirty and stinky. His face is still round with squishy cheeks, but it doesn’t have the look of a baby. It has the look of a little boy.

He loves to help me. If it is cooking, helping with Alexander, picking up things that are not his, shopping, everything. Well, everything except cleaning up his own toys. That he hates with that passion I mentioned. He tears up at ASPCA commercials, sad shows or movies, or anything that evokes a sad emotion. His empathy is boundless.

I look back on him being a baby and I understand those moments a lot more. His personality has always been similar to how it is now. Sometimes he doesn’t like to try new things. It freaks him out. I used to get so frustrated at infant and toddler mommy/me classes. He was so frustrated and I never understood why. That is just him. Change and people he doesn’t know well trying to touch him isn’t his cup of tea. I can now reason with him regarding trying some new things. But looking back, it all makes sense. It just takes him a long time to warm up to certain situations. As I parent him now, I have that voice in my head reminding me of that. I have to give things time with him.

I am sitting in the kitchen with him as I write this. He is watching Octonauts. His mouth is slightly open, eyes are wide, and he occasionally smiles at what they say. He keeps catching me staring at him. He asked me for a snack. He didn’t finish his lunch carrots. We just struck a deal, he has to finish all of them, then he can have a snack. Always a deal to be made.

I know he is only 4 but I already feel the time slipping through my fingers. I fully understand how fast it goes. I think it took birthing Alexander for me to realize this. I am now elbows deep in all things infant again. That phase had faded out a long time ago. I hadn’t noticed one hour, one day, one week, one month at a time. No. It just was business as usual. I was raising a little boy. I am afraid of what I will be feeling 4 years from today. How will 8 year old Jackson be? Even typing that sentence made my heart drop. One day he WILL be 8 years old. 8 years away from that tiny little babe I birthed during Snowmageddon! Terrifying.

Alexander is our last child. I think this fact has made me hyper aware to time racing forward while I try to hang on. I don’t want Alexander to stop being this squishy little babe (he could go ahead and sleep through the night though!) I don’t want Jackson to age another 4 years and be an 8 year old BOY!

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I want to hit pause. I want their faces to stay round, soft, creamy, and so squishy. One day I will kiss those cheeks and there will be stubble on them. Stubble. Ok, I have to slow down now. I am getting way ahead of myself.

For now, I will have to keep on kissing those cheeks and staring in wonder at those chubby little fingers. And requesting big passionate hugs from my little passionate guy.

Halloween is my favorite holiday. Hands down. I normally go all out with decorating. Inside and outside. Unfortunately this year I gave birth during the window of time where I start decorating. I did not get to go all out. I supposed I could have mustered up some energy to decorate from top to bottom, inside and out, but, well I didn’t. A couple weeks after giving birth, I did muster up some energy to decorate a little bit with Jackson.

IMG_9567So at least our home was a touch festive. Next year though, I will be back. With a 4 & 1/2 year old and a 1 year old to help me go all out. Last year we had a big Halloween party. Hopefully next year we can throw another.

Then came the big day. The most wonderful day of the year. Halloween! I always dress up too. I have so much fun getting all dressed up and carefully selecting that costume.

I will let our photos from this year do some talking.

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Our daytime attire. Jackson went to school for half of the day. I picked him up early.

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Alexander doing the monster mash!

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Alexander was The Very Hungry (angry) Caterpillar

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Jacky was Jake from Jake and the Neverland Pirates

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My boys with their cousin Zoe. She was an Owl!

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Rosie the Riveter with her boys! 🙂

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Hey Jake!

It was very very very cold for Trick or Treating. There were also massively strong gusts of wind. So we had to bundle up for our Trick or Treating adventure. We also did not stay out as long as I would have liked. We were all ready to get back inside after about an hour. I hope next year is a little warmer. I would be happy to take my boys door to door until it got too dark out.

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So many houses, so little time for Jake!

I hope everyone else had a spooky and frightful Halloween!

Being a mom is one of the most adventurous things I have ever done. I have traveled. I have gone all over. I have had adventures close to home. I have seen some crazy things living when living in downtown Chicago. But I will say being a mom is still the most adventurous thing I have done. Every day is something new. The moment you feel like you have everything figured out, things change. That doesn’t mean in a bad way either. Life is just always evolving when you have kids. Your kids are always evolving, growing, learning, and changing.

I LOVE to have adventures. I love doing things with Jackson and soon with Alexander as well. I do not think there is a week that goes by where Jack and I don’t leave the house and do something, anything, just enjoy the world. We stay busy on a regular basis. Last week alone we made a trip to the park, Navy Pier in downtown Chicago, a local fest, and a Chicago White Sox baseball game. Spending time with him is truly one of my favorite things to do. I miss him if I go to the grocery store by myself. He loves to help me and is a fantastic helper. I know I see a lot of sarcastic things out there saying something along the lines “you know you are a mom when going to the grocery store is a vacation” I don’t really follow that motto deep in my heart. Sure, there are moments where I need a breather, but give me 20 minutes by myself. Even quietly sitting on my couch, and I am usually able to reset.

We have had so many adventures together in the 3 and 1/2 years he has been my little partner in crime. I had so much fun downtown this week. He is getting to the age to finally understand the city. He was so observant. I have taken him down there before, all over. In fact, he has been to Navy Pier many times already. This time though, he had a million questions!

We went to the Dinosaur exhibit. It was a temporary thing going on. It was not our favorite part of the day. I don’t think it will be something we jump at going to next year if it comes back, but we made the best of it. Then moved on to other cool things at the Pier.

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As you can see in the top photo, he was not impressed! Ha! Mostly he didn’t want to stop for a quick photo. We really didn’t spend much time here. It wasn’t as cool as the commercial made it seem.

We went and ate our lunch. I was the only crazy (smart?) parent who packed her own lunch. There are so many restaurants to choose from that people usually eat at those places. We love our picnics though. I even offered to skip our packed lunch after he saw all the places to eat, and as always, he picked my lunch! Then we made our way to get some ice cream for Jackson. In a waffle cone! It was messy and delightful for him. I don’t eat ice cream, but I enjoy watching him eat that special treat once in a while. He loves it so much and the delight on a child’s face when the eat a big ice cream cone is something you can easily get lost in.

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We made our way to the carousel and HUGE ferris wheel. That ferris wheel is so big! I was proud of him for being brave enough to want to try it. He was so excited. We talked about how we could see all the different things over the city. He was pointing out different boats he saw zipping around Lake Michigan. I had to keep prepping him for the exit, because you have to get off while it was still moving. That was a little tricky for him but mostly because he was in his own world still wanting to observe everything. Ha! IMG_6692 IMG_6702 IMG_6695

 

Our plan was to next head to Build A Bear to make a Ninja Turtle. They recently started carrying them to promote the new movie. We saw the display when we arrived that morning. We made our way behind all the action and ended up walking through the Crystal Gardens. It was nearly empty and very quiet in there compared to the rest of the Pier and to the rest of our day! Jackson was enamored with what he called “the jungle!” He wanted to see the plants and wanted to see all the cool different water fountains they had. We were in there for quite a while. I know where we will eat lunch next time. They even had tables and chairs for meals set up and they were nearly all empty. He sat watching this one fountain for quite sometime. I asked if he wanted to take a photo with the cool fountain and he said yes. Then instructed me he wanted it like this:

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He is such an old soul. I had a hard time getting him out of there. He probably could have spent an hour in there. Next time, I know we will hang out in there a bit longer.

Eventually we made our way to Build A Bear and he made his Turtle. Raphael. He hasn’t slept without him since that night last week. He thinks it is the coolest thing ever. He has made animals there before, but again, something about 3 and 1/2 makes a difference. He gets it now. He is excited. He is inquisitive. He remembers.

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Our plan that day had been to just go to the Dinosaur adventure. I figured on a lunch break, then we would head back inside and keep doing fun Dinosaur things. My plan didn’t include many actual Navy Pier attractions. But, life is an adventure! I was so happy that we just went with the flow and ended up having a blast all day long. Doing all the cool things we wanted to do, even if the initial thing wasn’t as cool as we hoped.

I have been getting out and about with him since before he was a month old. I started mommy and me classes when he was 7 weeks old. I love keeping active and busy. I know things won’t change once Alexander comes along. We might get out the door a little slower at first, but I know we will still be getting out the door on a regular basis. As a matter of fact, Alexander will be born smack dab in the middle of Jackson’s fall soccer time!

What does this week hold for us? I am not sure yet. We might go to the park today. Possibly go see Planes tonight. Monday, Tuesday, and Thursdays are usually our adventure days. But today I have a Dr appointment and tomorrow night we have a Natural Childbirth class (I hope to write about that!) So Thursday will have to be our big day out, but what shall we do? All I know is, I will be spending time with that little man. Holding his hand and being adventurous together.