I am ashamed to admit this, but for many years I was embarrassed by my daughter’s behaviour.
We would arrive at a friend’s house to watch a football game, and she would sit next to me on the couch and cry while other kids ran around and played. At school, teachers would have to pull her off of me while I attempted to head off to work. Parents were talking about us when we left the room. Teachers thought my husband and I were awful parents. I was embarrassed that people thought I was a bad mum and that my actions led to my daughter’s behaviour.
Finally, when we started treatment for my daughter’s severe anxiety, I realised that my daughter had a disorder. You can read all about our journey with anxiety here. Her behaviours and actions were not a result of our parenting or a result of her choices. Once I gained an understanding of what my daughter was dealing with, I started to get angry at people around me for being so naive, for making assumptions about my daughter and our family. Suddenly, I realised how unrealistic it was for other people to have a true sense of what was happening if I didn’t even realise what was happening until we got help.
A guide on how to talk to people with anxiety:
This is the truth about parenting a child with anxiety. I hope it helps you understand our situation, and makes you realise how harmful supportive comments and assumptions can be.
Anxiety makes my daughter say and do things she wouldn’t normally do. She is the sweetest, kindest girl, but she lashes out and will go to great lengths to leave an anxious situation. When she starts to feel better, she’s told me she feels some guilt and embarrassment.
Anxiety is real. My daughter is not a brat. She does not run away and avoid situations to take it easy. She is genuinely scared to death.
Yes, there are times she can appear “typical” or anxiety-free. This does not mean she no longer has anxiety. It means that she is not triggered because she feels safe at that moment.