May is Mental Health Awareness Month. It also happens to overlap with Tourette Awareness Month beginning May 15th.
You can expect to see a lot of posts about these two topics in the next six weeks. Both have significantly impacted our family over the past 6 years and surprisingly (ha!), I have a lot to say about it.
Let's talk about anxiety today. Both of my boys have been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and my oldest has struggled for years with social anxiety as well. Generalized anxiety is characterized by persistent and excessive worrying.
In fact, I can recall my oldest son's teacher and principal commenting on his anxiety all the way back in kindergarten. The principal said he had never seen a kid who worried so much. At conferences, his teacher, who was visibly annoyed, said, "He won't do anything without asking permission first. I wish he'd just take initiative and do things independently."
He didn't want to make a mistake or get into trouble. I wish we had been more of an advocate for him and taken him to a psychologist sooner to help with those difficult feelings. While some may want to brush it off, clinically diagnosed anxiety can be debilitating and should be taken very seriously. No amount of "suck it ups" or "stop worrying" will make it disappear. In fact, it will just make it worse.
Social anxiety, is a type of anxiety disorder, and causes extreme fear in social situations. As my oldest son says, "I suck around kids my own age. Put me with younger kids, older kids, or adults and I'm fine. Kids my own age. Forget about it."
He freezes and tells himself a lot of stories about how he is weird, no one likes him, he has no friends...the list goes on. Social anxiety can lead to isolation and spiral into a serious case of depression if untreated. In our son's situation, he also developed thoughts of self-harm.
Anxiety is a common comorbid condition for people with Tourette Syndrome and often exacerbates tics in children and adults. My boys' tics were through the roof when they were in school. They worried about ticcing in front of their peers and being made fun of. My youngest son was in a constant state of hypervigilance waiting to fight or flee because he was so terribly misunderstood and there were days when he ticced non-stop because he was so anxious.
Our treatment plan for our boys is a combination of medication, CBD, and therapy. They have made great progress in the past year once we added in the therapy component.
I, too, have generalized anxiety and can attest to how difficult it can be to function in daily life. Though I tried medication for awhile, I opted to wean off of it because I felt like I had the emotions of a brick wall. Instead, I have turned to walking every day, getting enough rest, and taking time to do things that fill me up.
Anxiety is not rare. It is nothing to be ashamed of or hide from those you love. It may just be a part of who you, or your child, are. Thankfully, there are many options to help treat and support those with anxiety.
To learn more, click here: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/