I have never considered myself to be an anxious person. I’ve always been able to get through things relatively unscathed emotionally. My daughter’s illness changed all that. My parents’ illnesses also changed all that. Now, I feel like I have a certain level of anxiety most of the time. But, that anxiety is nothing compared to what my relatively tiny 9-year-old holds in her heart on an almost daily basis.
Actually, that may be an overstatement. Maybe it isn’t an almost daily basis. Maybe it isn’t even that often but every occurrence seems like a huge ordeal for me. Or maybe sometimes her being upset about going somewhere or doing something isn’t anxiety but just plain old moodiness or tiredness or too much sugarness. I don’t really know anymore, but I feel like I should know. I feel like everytime something happens that could be related to anxiety, I should be doing something about it, making sure that she does not become a statistic. She has been through so much already. She doesn’t need to be feeling like she is not on her own side in life. But, she is 9 years old. So, how do I talk to her about it without making it something else that gives her anxiety?!? Please, someone tell me. Because at this point, I’m a little lost.
My daughter has been exceptional. She survived an infant heart transplant, severe sleep apnea as a baby which led to a tonsillectomy/adenoidectomy, then a bump during a heart biopsy leaves her with a severely leaking tricuspid valve that requires her chest to be drained of fluid that had backed up and then several bouts of pneumonia and then an attempted repair that failed and probably led to her needing a pacemaker for irregular heartbeat. She has quarterly cardiac clinic appointments where she has to get poked for blood, examined with gel and a probing device on her chest and abdomen. So, to my rational mind, after all of that, what could possibly be scary? What could possibly make you feel threatened? Well, it seems that it is a lot of things. Places where she doesn’t know anyone. Places where she does know someone but for some reason feels like she doesn’t belong. Math. Sports that take place on a team. Someone being late to pick her up from school. Any change in classes and teachers. Staying overnight, even with family and friends, without us there. Sleeping in her own bed up until about six months ago. Going to bed without someone going with her, even now.
So, what do I do? I want to “fix” it, but I know that isn’t possible. I am not a mental health professional. And anxiety never really gets “fixed” it just is something people learn to deal with in a healthy way. But, I don’t want to put some other thing on her to be “dealt” with like her chronic condition of being a heart transplant recipient and having a leaky valve and having a pacemaker. She has to deal with so, damned much. I just don’t want her to deal with this. And maybe in some small way (or a large way), I don’t want to have to deal with this. It is yet another thing on the long list of things to be “concerned” about, to be “aware” of, to know how to properly “deal with” to be sure it is not something we make harder on her in the future. It is a lot. For her. For me. For us.
I don’t know the answer to the question in the title of this blog post. I don’t know what is her anxiety and what is my anxiety about her anxiety. I may never know the answer to the question. The best I can do is my best. That is the best I can do in any situation.