Friday, January 4, 2013

The things you don't expect

     We have been in Michigan for five months now. Happy months, for the most part, up until a few weeks ago, when our boy started having panic attacks. After dinner one night, he was restless, pacing and then he was terrified, his blue eyes huge in his pale face. He said his heart was racing, he felt like he was dying, convinced that his food had been drugged. The look of desperation on his face, the horror of his gasping, whispered fears, these are things I never dreamed could come from him. Finn could be intense, obsessive in his interests, but has always been a sunny guy. The kind of kid who sings while he's alone in his room. The kind of boy who will make up a crazy dance to see someone smile. But his face became tight and drawn. He became increasingly afraid of eating and lost weight rapidly. He was afraid to be alone.
     His fears expanded to the point that anything could set him off. He heard about someone overcoming cancer and was immediately certain that he had it. He was afraid he would get blood clots from sitting. He was afraid that mercenaries would blow up the building when we went to the doctor. Smells, sounds, lights were all potential threats. It was heart breaking and maddening to see his fingers begin to twist and pick and squeeze uncontrollably as the tension mounted in his body.
     I searched the internet for information on panic attacks in children, panic attacks after eating, panic attacks in adolescents. There was a comforting amount of information. Panic after eating was especially common. We went to a pediatrician who was very reassuring, but who also prescribed a low dose of xanax to be used when the panic was overwhelming. I was thankful to have something to use as an assist when things were bad, but gutted at the thought of actually giving him the medicine.
     The night after Christmas, the wave of anxiety built and crashed down on him. Finn was convinced he had diabetes from eating cookies and that if he didn't get medicine, he would be dead in three hours. I talked to him, explained that diabetes didn't work like that, you couldn't get it from one day of eating, but he was already crying and my words didn't help. I asked if he wanted to try his medicine from the doctor. He said he would try, but when he saw the pill, he erupted in absolute mortal terror. This was DRUGS, his biggest fear. Even though Shawn and I and the doctor had all explained the difference between medicine and street drugs over and over, in that moment, he was confronting death in his mind. I bit the tiny pill in half. It crumbled in my mouth and I said,"See, I took half and I'm fine." He was screaming and crying and crouching in the corner of my bed. Shawn came in and tried to help. To see your child helpless with fear and have the thing that would calm them be the thing that drives them nearly insane is unbearable. I told him I wouldn't force him. I left the room and let Shawn try. 
     Three hours later, Finn took half a xanax and went to sleep saying he felt so much better. I don't know if it was the xanax or just the physical release of crying and screaming for hours that brought him relief. His body was telling him to fight or run all the time, but with no real threat to overcome, there could never be any resolution. Fighting us was something to aim that adrenaline at. And something that could be over, resolved, so he could feel calm for a while.
     So now, we work on it. Homeopathics, diet and exercise, doctor and therapy appointments. We work through his anxiety workbook and talk about how the kids in the book felt just like he does and they learned how to feel better. Will he? Will he ever be silly and sunny again, or will that tickle of fear live in his heart forever, something to be managed, tamped down? I try to stay here, with him, and not get lost in imagined futures. This is not a present I could have imagined, but here it is, and I will not leave him alone in it.


Blogger Gaea said...

You are such a good mama. I was sad to hear about this and have a hard time picturing your sunny guy distressed. I know this is from weeks ago and we've talked since then, are things still going in a good direction? I am so glad you are writing.

February 1, 2013 at 3:50 PM  
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