The below article is a recollection of my days in elementary school. I write this article so parents of children with anxiety can try and understand why their child starts to cry at 3 the day before school or why they cannot talk to anyone while at school. I went to school over twenty years ago when children didn’t receive the help they needed and teachers and professionals did not understand anxiety. My symptoms may be different then someone else’s or may be similar. My daughter finds it hard to talk and feels frozen in her spot when overwhelmed. She stands still with her hands at her side and her head down. We call it her shutdown stand. She is just shutting down when feeling pushed to do something that is a big challenge for her. Over time I begin to desensitize to my class and interact with the other children keeping my big secret that I am an anxious child.
It is Sunday afternoon around 3:00 p.m. and I am beginning to feel waves of sickness come over me. I feel sad and like crying. I know that tomorrow I will have to go to school and I feel too scared to go. I watch TV to try and feel better. My mom is now cooking dinner and I know that I will soon have to try to eat dinner, bath and prepare for bed. I feel sick and am not sure how I am going to eat at all. We sit down for dinner and I pick at my food. After my bath I crawl into bed crying and feeling like I must have the flu. My parents tell me that it is just nerves. I lay in bed crying and feeling as if I may throw up waiting to fall asleep. I am sure I have the flu! Morning arrives and I am crying and feeling out of control with fear. Breakfast is a complete waste of time and my mom makes me hot chocolate and packs my lunch. I leave the house feeling very sick and may have even thrown up or had diarrea before leaving. I feel as if I cannot possibly make it through the day and wonder why my parents are doing this to me.
I arrive at school and put my coat away and sit at my desk. The next 2 to 3 hours will consist of sweating, my heart pounding and I feel very sick wondering if I will throw up. The teacher is talking and I can barely understand what she is saying. It is as if she is far away and sounds tin like. I have my head in my hands and am in my own little world of anxiety. I notice the other kids getting out a book and look for mine. The bell for recess rings and with weak legs I walk outside to stand and watch the other kids scream, run and play. The sounds around me sound a hundred times louder than what they are and the screaming feels as if it is jolting me. The bell rings and I go back to my desk. I know that once I am at my desk I will be fine. Around 11:00 a.m. I start to feel better and can listen to what is going on in the class.
I dread lunch and having to try to look interested in what the other children are doing and eat my lunch very slowly finding it hard to swallow. No one takes interest in me. It is as if no one can see me. It is a nice day and we have to go outside again.
After lunch, my teacher is irritated with me. I wonder why. I not disturbing the class or even talking to anyone. I begin to cry and am sent to the coat room. I feel very sad. I have to sit at the front of the class because it is thought that I cannot hear. The teacher talks in an exaggerated slow way with me as if I am deaf. My day ends and I run all the way home. I am instantly relieved as I enter the door with a big smile on my face because I am finally home. I will wake the next day and relive my day of horror all over again. What is wrong with me.
I would like to say that this is what happens to a child with anxiety with no support. There is a better way. With understanding and support anxiety can be overcome.