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#1 of 43 Old 03-07-2010, 04:56 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi everyone. My DD is 13, an eighth-grader in a large middle school where she has a big group of friends who lunch together, then within that, a smaller group of three or four very close girlfriends who she's been with since first grade, who she regularly sees outside of school. She also has made some new friends in her classes this year, girls who have been inviting her to do things outside of school.

She has a long history of separation anxiety. Since birth, really. New environments and new people stress her out. Watching me leave, from birth through age 3 = crying. Preschool = crying. Kindergarten = crying. New school in first grade = didn't speak for first month of school. First sleepover in third grade = success. (Surprising.) Other sleepovers with beloved friends = no problem. Two nights with Grandma, several times as a young child = no problem. Two nights with beloved auntie and cousins at age 8 = no problem. Three nights with beloved auntie and cousins at age 9 = no problem. Four nights with beloved auntie and cousins at age 10 = crying on third and fourth nights. Sixth-grade camp for three nights = disaster despite excitement about going. So much crying they nearly sent her home. Two-week period of time during sixth grade when something wasn't right (undefined to this day) = crying all day long on days she went to school. (She said she just wanted to be at home, so I brought her home until she felt secure enough to go back.) Seventh grade at new big middle school = crying every night for two weeks. One night, at age 12, even with beloved Dad, at beloved auntie and cousins' house while I was out of state on business (rare) = crying. Sleepovers with close friends in neighborhood = no problem.

Today: Birthday party with new friends, excited about going, eagerly packed bag, put on makeup, rolled sleeping bag up tight. Two hours later, on the phone to me, sobbing, saying she "didn't feel very good." In keeping with our policy, which is that I will come to get her, no questions asked, anytime she calls, I told her I'd be right there to get her. Picked her up from a friendly-faced bunch of young teenage girls and took her home, where a couple of Motrin killed the headache she said she had, and the cold symptoms she claimed at the party haven't really materialized. She's reluctant to admit she was psychologically uncomfortable, beyond saying that it was hard to be with a bunch of revved up girls when she had a headache, and the idea of going to the mall (where they were headed for a scavenger hunt) with a headache was too much.

It was eight girls, all but two of whom she knew, three of whom she calls friends, who have been to our house (including the birthday girl who invited her). DD had not been to this girl's house before. Had not spent more than a car ride's worth of time with her mother. DD insisted everyone was nice to her, that nothing "went wrong." But her demeanor suggests that she was uncomfortable there. Like the two-week stretch two years ago when she was uncomfortable at her beloved elementary school (a mystery we've never solved and have since written off to a huge hormone blast and some generalized anxiety disorder leftover from trauma of sixth-grade camp), any physical symptoms and distress completely disappeared when she got home, into familiar and safe surroundings. She's always been anxious about new situations, but once she's had time to warm up and get comfortable with the people involved, she's usually good. Usually.

In this case, I think it was too many not-beloved faces and a strange environment, plus the activities planned sounded overwhelming. (She's never been a big mall kid. "Too crowded," she says.) She's always had some level of people-fear: Doesn't like crowds or unfamiliar faces.

I'm seeking insight, if anyone has had similar things come up with young teenage kids. I think I just want some reassurance that she's not in need of more help than we can give her by just bringing her home and getting her comfortable. She functions perfectly well in school and within a world of friends who she knows and loves. She's polite to my co-workers, who she sees only a couple times a year. She talks and talks to her grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins, who she also only sees a couple times a year (and keeps up an e-mail relationship with in between visits). She gets good grades, swims on the local team, has a wicked sense of humor and a gentle, easy-to-be-with nature that makes her a favorite among her friends. She's not socially challenged, in other words. She just gets anxious if she's plunked into new situations too quickly.

I keep waiting for her to outgrow this, even though I am not eager or in any hurry to shove her out of our embrace. She does definitely seem more attached to home and family than her peers, and usually I think that is a good thing. But when she calls crying from a birthday party, at age 13, when everyone else there is coping and (as far as I could see) having fun, I worry a bit about my girl.

As I've thought so many times in her life: Will she ever be able to go out into the world?

I don't think I could bring myself to actually PUSH her to do things she's uncomfortable with, but is there more we should be doing to help her get comfortable? Or is it okay to let her try at new ventures, even if we end up having to bail her out?
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#2 of 43 Old 03-07-2010, 05:11 AM
 
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You sound like a very loving and attached mama, and that is awesome that you are giving her that home base and meeting her needs. I truly believe that we have to really embrace what our children's needs are, in reality, and not think about what they "should" be able to do. Have you asked her how she felt about leaving the party? Was she okay with it or did she feel disappointed later? I think some people are just a lot more introverted, and a party of 8 girls would be too much for them.

However, all that being said, I think I would definitely look at health issues too and be sure I was addressing anything that could be out of balance there, like hormones, gut issues, etc, that could be making her irritable, anxious, etc.
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#3 of 43 Old 03-07-2010, 05:23 AM
 
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Short 'cause baby does NOT want me to type, but I just had to say what a wonderful Mama you are! Your daughter sounds just like me as a child/teen, except I rarely had the guts to call my Mom to bail me out. I'd be willing to bet that some of her peers are in the same boat; not comfy but not wanting to admit it.

I'm positive she will be able to go out into the world! I think I turned out ok even though I'm still introverted and being in a large group at the mall sounds like hell. The early teen years are hard no matter what kind of personality, and I think letting her try new stuff with a safety net is the best thing you could do.
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#4 of 43 Old 03-07-2010, 06:01 AM
 
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I agree with momofmine on checking possible health issues if you feel it's needed.

I think it's probably nothing though. Some people have a hard time with being in unfamiliar places, especially surrounded by people if they don't know everyone. My guess is she will out grow it in time and it's probably best to not push the issue. I think by having the agreement that she can be picked up no questions asked when things get to be too much is the best thing you can do for her. It gives her the security she needs to actually try these things. With out it she would probably not be willing to attend these sleepovers at all.

To ease your mind, I do have a friend who was much the same way at 13. She could go on over night trips to friends house and family, but occasionally came home early because it was too much. When she was 17 she was comfortable enough with being away from home that she was able to make a rather massive trip to Asia without her parents and a small group of people she didn't know very well. So a few years in teenage-hood can mean a lot.

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#5 of 43 Old 03-07-2010, 11:55 AM
 
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I'm hearing enough red flags in your post to warrent your concerns for her. I think you are handling things well, but it might be helpful to her to start learning some strategies for coping and riding out her bad feelings. Don't get me wrong -- I would never leave her at a sleepover, camp etc.. when she is feeling like this! (Having to take her out of school for 2 weeks does concern me a little bit.) But in the interest of feeling better and being able to handle new situations with less grief, I don't see how it would hurt to learn some coping skills other than simply returning to her comfort zone.

Maybe you've read it, but "Freeing Your Child from Anxiety" is a great book. Its written by Tamar Chansky. A good book for her to read is "What to do when you worry too much" by Dawn Huebner. It teaches breathing skills, etc. in addition to cognitive strategies for calming yourself down and feeling better.

I would not push for her to do big hard things to the point that she's on overload, but I would push for her to do parts of big hard things with lots of support. Ie -- if she's crying at school everyday, I might not pull her out completely -- but instead agree to pick her up at lunchtime everyday until she feels better. Or agree to stay at school with her (even if that meant sitting in the office with a book all day.)

Finally -- I think finding a therapist for her who specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) could be really great for her. Girls this age have enough normal developmental concerns on their minds to warrent a counselor even without the added stress that she's going through. And if this person could teach her some CBT strategies that could really make a difference in her life going forward.

I hope this post didn't upset you. I'm not suggesting that she won't be able to cope with life -- I suspect she'll be fine. But I do think she suffers more than the average kid, and could continue to experience suffering as she grows up that isn't necessary. So I would take some steps, kwim?
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#6 of 43 Old 03-07-2010, 12:11 PM
 
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I'm not suggesting that she won't be able to cope with life -- I suspect she'll be fine. But I do think she suffers more than the average kid, and could continue to experience suffering as she grows up that isn't necessary. So I would take some steps, kwim?
I agree with this completely. And I feel like a birthday party here and there, or leaving camp early is no big, but staying out of school for two weeks is a big deal. And it seems as if her sense of discomfort is increasing over time.

You want to build her confidence by supporting her to succeed - the need for constant bail-outs suggests that the challenge is too hard. I wouldn't deny her the bail-out, but before I sent her off to another sleep over, I would want to arm her with coping strategies that might help her enjoy it more and stay longer.

I would definitely look for a referral to a therapist on this.
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#7 of 43 Old 03-07-2010, 01:08 PM
 
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I completely disagree with the previous posts (no offense) I have a 13 yr old who is really outgoing and travels alone etc etc.
I think that we ask entirely too much of girls in the early teenage years. If she likes being home, let her be home. 2 weeks out of school seems perfectly reasonable to me, especially if you 2 were able to keep her grades up. Unless she is expressing some sort of nervousness about her nervousness I would not worry!! At all!! She is a child! Let her be a kid and grow up in her own time. 13 yr olds don't have to sleep over and go to the mall, they can stay home and hang out with parents and it's probably better that way IMHO.
I honestly cannot believe anyone is suggesting therapy of any sort for a sweet successful girl who feels more comfortable at home than at a party!
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#8 of 43 Old 03-07-2010, 01:23 PM
 
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I have to say, I fall into the therapy camp. Not because there's anything wrong with her the way she is, but because we live in a society which strongly favours extroverted people who are capable of taking social risks and putting themselves out there. Also because humans are social creatures, and even those of us who need a lot of alone time also need other people. I advocate therapy only because it will provide her with coping strategies and confidence that will be valuable to her for a long, long time.

I am not without sympathy or empathy for your daughter. I was (am) a lot like her, and I wish someone had taken me aside at 12 or 13 and showed me positive and effective ways dealing with the anxiety, rather than the methods I came up with on my own, that were very effective in the moment, but rather maladjusted over the long term.
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#9 of 43 Old 03-07-2010, 02:11 PM
 
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I honestly cannot believe anyone is suggesting therapy of any sort for a sweet successful girl who feels more comfortable at home than at a party!
Well, if that were the only complaint than I would agree with you. What worries me is:
1) A persistent pattern of anxiety from young childhood that has not resolved on its own.
2) Daily crying that lasts several weeks and cannot be explained.
3) Missing school.
4) The fact that her emotions are taking on severe physical form, to the point that she literally feels sick.
5) That her safety zone is narrow and limited to one person and place.

I don't think therapy need change the fact that she is sweet and sensitive and has a close relationship with mom. Indeed, I think those qualities will make therapy easy for her. Anxiety has a way of growing, particularly through the teen years, and its much easier to address in short-term therapy without medication when it is still small and manageable. There are real, tangible skills and strategies available that she could make use of the rest of her life. I don't see how it could hurt, and if she could learn some skills to feel better, I think that would be a good thing.
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#10 of 43 Old 03-07-2010, 02:20 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you all so much for your feedback! The variation among posts is exactly the stuff that's going on in my own head. Why put a sweet and attached girl in therapy just because society insists she should be different? Why not put an anxiety-prone kid in therapy if her attachment makes her anxious in society? I come down so firmly on both sides that it's mind-spinning!

I feel I should clarify the two weeks thing. At age 11, she had a period of two weeks when she wasn't comfortable at school. I did not keep her home for the two weeks, but I brought her home on days when it became too much for her, if she couldn't get over the crying feelings by around lunchtime. All in all, she missed two full days of school while we tried to assess whether she was ill (because she claimed to have headaches) and another couple of afternoons when the days were just too hard. Out of the 10 schooldays in question, she rode it out, sometimes with difficulty, for the whole day.

I also had her physically assessed at that time. Her pediatrician, who specializes in adolescent medicine, spent two hours with us in the middle of that period of time, and he talked with me and with her, and his assessment was that she "has an anxious brain" and that it is triggered by some very specific things. At the time, she was clearly having a hormone storm--she was suddenly zitty and growing like mad--and she'd been caught off-guard by the strangeness she felt at sixth-grade camp, which had unfortunately been scheduled for the third week of school. So new class, new teacher, three days away from home, weird food (she's picky) and, worse of all, strange grownups in her face trying to comfort her. She came home and went immediately into a high-level swim workshop. A month later, as her pediatrician explained it, something must have happened to set off her already-overwhelmed anxious brain and she skidded into a huge regressive episode. He ordered some physical tests--blood, a 24-hour urine collection, looked her over good--and suggested we consider some therapy if it were to continue. At the time, we felt like she already felt "damaged," simply by the virtue that she knew it was unusual for a kid to have trouble getting through a schoolday and it was unusual for the doctor to spend that much time with her, just talking. We read some anxiety books together at the time, and the thing that really seemed to help was . . . wait for it . . . Christmas vacation. Two weeks off school. By the time she went back, she was fine.

If I could figure out how to get her into therapy without her knowing that's what it is, I'd do it. But I do not want her to feel that what she IS is wrong. If anything, I'd like her to understand what to expect from herself and to be ready to employ some coping strategies. For example, she was so excited to go off to this party yesterday, but I feel like she's getting old enough to recognize that eight girls, five of them near strangers, a not-that-familiar mother, a mall, a strange house, is going to set her off. I don't want to be the one to tell her it's a recipe for anxiety, that she shouldn't even try it or that she should go off armed with a bagload of crisis-management techniques, but I'd like her to have that self-awareness.

Compounding this is that she's not a talker. She's never been very effective at relaying her feelings. "I don't know" is her most common response to any questioning about what upset her or even how she felt. Her younger sister, who talks about feelings more than anyone really wants to hear it, often ends up speaking for her. I sometimes use Younger DD to have a conversation about social situations, and she, at 10--and as she always has--can verbalize anxiety in very detailed terms. Oftentimes she'll relay a playground story, something that made her feel all hot and tight inside, and Older DD will nod and say she knows exactly what she means. Older DD can't say it, or initiate the saying of it, but Younger DD can. Older DD is also not a kid who will open up to people she doesn't know and love. I could hope a good therapist could help Older DD with this and draw her out; otherwise, I might have to send Younger DD, too!

At the time of the two-week anxiety spell two years ago, I felt that to put her in therapy would only compound the problem--it would be yet another stranger getting in her face. She's older now and much more in line with adults than she was then. For example, she was honored at school recently for helping during a classroom emergency. A kid passed out and she had to go to the office, interrupt a meeting of administrators and ask the nurse to come to the classroom. The principal later honored her for staying calm and helping others stay calm. So her anxiety is not classic, if there is such a thing. She keeps a cool head and is friendly to adults, even those she doesn't know well. She just doesn't want to be trapped somewhere with them.

Keep it coming! I'm loving the feedback and will use it to help me think this through. Love the suggestion to ask her how she feels, in retrospect, about leaving the party. I'll ask her that this morning. (I can hear her now. "I don't know.")
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#11 of 43 Old 03-07-2010, 02:30 PM
 
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Having worked with a lot of anxious kids, I will say that most of them really liked therapy, and that a lot of talking isn't really necessary. If the therpist is decent he or she will have a variety of activities on hand that involve drawing, writing, playing etc..

I will say though, that in order to tackle anxious feelings it is important to recognize them for what they are and to label them. I don't think the message needs to be "something is wrong with you" but she will need to know that she is wired a little differently than most other people. She may need to be taught to think in ways that come automatically to most people. Kind of like a kid with ADHD may need to be taught organizational skills that come naturally to other kids. But it should be emphasized in no uncertain terms that her sensitivity is a gift, and that every part of her temperment has purpose and value in this life.

I wish therapy didn't have such a stigma. Most people can benefit from therapy at one point or another in life. Seeking therapy can be viewed as a way to take care of yourself.
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#12 of 43 Old 03-07-2010, 05:07 PM
 
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I'm going to agree that it's not the best idea to try and figure out how to get your dd into therapy without her knowing what it is. Obviosly, I agree w/the thereapy camp here.

Knowing yourself, and how to obtain the support and help you need in life is a huge gift we can give our kids. The message that you don't have to go it alone is very powerful. And, we need to be able to support our kids as thier moms, not as their therapists. At 13, your dd is well old enough to understand that what's happening to her is making her uncomfortable, and impacting her life in a significant way. It's really hard when mental health issues have such a stigma attached, but you can combat that.
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#13 of 43 Old 03-07-2010, 05:17 PM
 
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She sounds introverted. Meaning she gets drained rather than refreshed by parties and will prefer to deal even with close friends a few at a time. And then going to the mall when she doesn't even like the mall?

It's fabulous that she recognized that she'd feel worse doing that and bowed out rather than forcing herself to go. It's even more wonderful that her friends were cool with that.

Really, the act of talking to a therapist would be a great first step in a desensitization therapy for her. How about presenting it to her as looking for a way to help her headaches and with getting sick? And then explain more fully as she's more comfortable with the therapist?
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#14 of 43 Old 03-07-2010, 05:42 PM
 
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Your DD sounds like me at that age...

I have an anxiety disorder that pretty much made me worry about EVERYTHING and made me homesick and grief stricken anytime I was in a new setting or away from my home for extended periods of time. Middle school, was at times sickening bc I felt so homesick. Highschool was better but college brought on a weeks worth of crying at night... It got better though.

I would urge you to seek out a sweet counselor who can help her learn tecniques to talk herself through her anxiety. I know you don't want her to think this is her fault but you really need to let her identify that this is a problem. It won't get better if she cannot begin to explore it. If it is an anxiety disorder, which I think it is, its only going to continue and no amount of you bringing her back home during these episodes is going to fix the long term worrying.

As an adult I have had episodes of needing a low dose anti anxiety med but luckily nothing long term. I STILL feel homesick at times (which is just anxiety not me NEEDING to be at home) and that's my cue to do my calming techniques.

LoL I could write for the next hour about anxiety... But the point is, I was your daughter and I can empathize. Please explore getting a professional to assist her with this.

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#15 of 43 Old 03-07-2010, 06:26 PM - Thread Starter
 
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It comes and goes with her. In the past year, she has had two episodes. Yesterday's, and the one last spring when I was out of state. And in each case, in retrospect, the triggers were obvious. So except for the two-week crisis two years ago, what causes her anxiety isn't a mystery. And it is definitely not getting worse. It was at its worst when she was 5 and younger. Then she had a bad year at 11 and then one or two episodes each year for the past two years. Her pediatrician explained that puberty is, psychologically, very much like toddlerhood and didn't seem surprised by a ramp-up in symptoms at age 11.

I would never put her into therapy without telling her what it is or why. I fantasize about that, just because I don't wish for her to get any message about any stigma with therapy. (I've been in it and actually loved it, and I would tell her so.) But she's a smart kid and would see right through any attempts to sugarcoat. I'm a little reluctant because at the same time as I want her to feel more comfortable in new situations with new people, I also appreciate that her inner compass has, so far, steered her toward people she's comfortable with. Her close friends are lovely people who she's gathered on her own and there was been none of the expected "mean girl" stuff between them. Some crabbiness occasionally, sure, but they truly are a respectful group of kids who so far stay out of trouble. I feel like I want just enough therapy to keep her comfortable, but not so much that she begins to question her gut feelings about people she SHOULDN'T feel comfortable with.

For example, one of the girls who was part of this group yesterday is a kid who refuses to make eye contact with adults. She was over here one day to work on a school project and she regarded me with near-disdain. Everything I said, eye roll. Lots of whispering. Lots of shutting the door. DD has told me she's not always sure she likes the kid, that she's "a little slippery." Well, that's not unreasonable, IMO. I'd hate to put her in therapy and have her come out with the ability to put up with a whole bunch of slippery people who might've previously made her anxious but now she believes she should put up with. In many ways, I trust her gut and appreciate where it's gotten her. I don't want her to believe she's going to therapy to figure out how to get comfortable with people she shouldn't.

But I also agree that she's got some GAD that can be triggered unreasonably by strangers and crowds. Not always, but sometimes. She's been known to go off on daylong field trips, like to a giant amusement park with the orchestra last year, with no difficulty whatsoever. Or sleepovers with other large groups of not-so-close friends with no problem. Even the first couple weeks at the big new middle school, she coped at school, but was a little tearful at home in the evenings, saying it was "too big" and "too crowded." She still says it's too big and crowded, but it is what it is and she's used to it now. I expect she'll have some transition issues next year into high school, and maybe I'll use that as an excuse to get her talking to somebody.

Because she is, by and large, very functional, and 98 percent of the time seems content and very happy, it's hard to get TOO motivated to put her in therapy. But I do hate to think she's suffering. And it probably couldn't hurt.

Many of you describe yourselves as anxious, or as having had similar feelings as young teenagers. Has therapy helped you? Not helped you? Those of you who wished for "better coping skills," what would you have liked to have learned? And what do you feel might have helped?
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#16 of 43 Old 03-07-2010, 06:44 PM
 
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Anxiety.

I was the. same. exact. way.

I often cried at school, even into my teens. I often had to leave sleepovers and parties. My mom was like you--she would come get me, no questions asked. She tried to keep me from missing too much school--some days I'd have to be on the payphone with her all through lunch to be able to get up the nerve to finish out the day. She convinced the office staff to let me use a phone in the office if the payphone was occupied, because I literally sometimes couldn't get through the day without a pep talk.

As an adult, the anxiety has only been debilitating at certain times and that's been rare, that it's a big issue, but those times when it is, really are hard. But it's always there in the background and really, that sucks.

My advice with your dd would be to get her help, now. Tell her why she's going to therapy and have her continue indefinitely. I believe that my anxiety issues would not be as big of an issue now if I'd had help as a child and in my teens. I'm not talking medication either, but behavioral and cognitive therapy and leaning coping techniques, stress relief, etc.

And big hugs to both of you.

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#17 of 43 Old 03-07-2010, 06:46 PM
 
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She's been known to go off on daylong field trips, like to a giant amusement park with the orchestra last year, with no difficulty whatsoever. Or sleepovers with other large groups of not-so-close friends with no problem. Even the first couple weeks at the big new middle school, she coped at school, but was a little tearful at home in the evenings, saying it was "too big" and "too crowded." She still says it's too big and crowded, but it is what it is and she's used to it now. I expect she'll have some transition issues next year into high school, and maybe I'll use that as an excuse to get her talking to somebody.

Because she is, by and large, very functional, and 98 percent of the time seems content and very happy, it's hard to get TOO motivated to put her in therapy. But I do hate to think she's suffering. And it probably couldn't hurt.
I was/am the same way and in a way, that's what makes it so hard. Things will be going along great and I'll be living life "like a normal person" (which is the way I think of it when I'm not overly anxious) and then suddenly I'll be slammed with a panic attack in a situation that shouldn't bother me. That 2% feels like more because it's so debilitating.

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#18 of 43 Old 03-07-2010, 09:32 PM
 
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Do you have reason to believe that she would attach a particular stigma to being in therapy? Kids don't always have the same judgements and assumptions that adults do.

If you do bring it up, prepare yourself to be matter of fact and "not scary" about it!
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#19 of 43 Old 03-07-2010, 10:27 PM - Thread Starter
 
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No, not that she would attach a stigma, exactly. But that any process of taking it out and examining it ("it" being her potential for anxiety and homesickness) would shine a bright light on it and cause her to feel defective, like it's something she needs to change. Like why, if this is such a small portion of her character, are we casting such a spotlight on it? Especially since it's something she'd prefer to ignore.

Because she does not ever want to talk about it, and isn't that what a therapist would require? Talking about it? I suppose it's possible she would be more open to talking about it with a therapist, but she historically has not been able or willing to discuss it. She claims not to know how she felt (besides describing some nebulous physical symptom that'll give her plausible excuse to come home--I'm not convinced the physical symptoms exist. I'm not convinced they don't, either. I just don't know.) I envision her sitting in a therapist's office, crying and saying "I don't know" for 50 minutes on every Thursday afternoon! Then getting a "headache" before the next appointment. To some degree, I feel that our overfocusing on it all during that bad two week period two years ago caused it to worsen before it got better. Because after that two-week period, during Christmas break, we set a policy not to discuss it. No questions, no analysis, no doctor's appointments, no telling the extended family what was going on. We just let her be her regular self. And by the time she went back to school, she was a little nervous and tearful the first day back, but had no trouble once she actually got through the doorway and on with her day.

So it's not a stigma that concerns me. It's my fear of the response she may have to our focusing on this as a "problem." Or as something she needs help with. She hasn't asked for help, other than to be picked up because she "doesn't feel very good." I'm really not sure she views it as such a debilitating thing. She may someday, but at this moment? Maybe my head's in the sand, but I'm just not seeing it.
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#20 of 43 Old 03-07-2010, 10:43 PM
 
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My sister and I have been like your dd all our lives. My mom, while no doubt loved us very much, was not as understanding as you. Pretty much telling us to "get over it". In her defence, she never had anxiety, so she probably just didn't know the extent of our discomfort.
I would suggest getting her some help. While I've been doing generally well, my sister is still a nervous wreck. I think she actually wanted some help, but a person with anxiety will not put themselves out of their comfort zone! So, no, she most likely will not say she wants this. While I agree with not going along with society's expectations of teenage girls, I have to say anxiety is paralysing in many aspects, school, jobs, interviews, dates, etc. The sad thing too in my case at least, some of the things I missed were actually things I WANTED to do, but my anxiety prevented me from doing it. Nothing like hating yourself for "wimping out" from something you really wanted.
Get her to talk to someone, please.

ETA; at 13 she is still very young and under your protection. But in my experience anxiety only gets worse with age. So high school, first boyfriends, parties, college, first jobs... can turn into nightmares. Another sad thing that unfortunately I went through (not to say you will have to of course) is "medicating" with drugs to feel braver and more social. I was also anorexic and suffered from depression. I'm not trying to scare you, but I think anxiety was the real root of all my problems.

SAHM to one moody son J hat.gif(06-27-03), one super-girly daughter M hearts.gif (02-23-06) and welcome Sophie! energy.gif(05-23-10) expecting fourth in July baby.gif

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#21 of 43 Old 03-08-2010, 01:16 AM
 
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No, not that she would attach a stigma, exactly. But that any process of taking it out and examining it ("it" being her potential for anxiety and homesickness) would shine a bright light on it and cause her to feel defective, like it's something she needs to change. Like why, if this is such a small portion of her character, are we casting such a spotlight on it? Especially since it's something she'd prefer to ignore.

...

So it's not a stigma that concerns me. It's my fear of the response she may have to our focusing on this as a "problem." Or as something she needs help with. She hasn't asked for help, other than to be picked up because she "doesn't feel very good." I'm really not sure she views it as such a debilitating thing. She may someday, but at this moment? Maybe my head's in the sand, but I'm just not seeing it.
When our children reach adulthood, we have to stand back and wait for them to ask for help, but when they're children, when they're learning how to cope with the world, we get to step in and assist without waiting for permission. If it were my kid, I would be trying to get her help now, while she's young, while she's under my roof and on my insurance, and while the problem *isn't* debilitating. You're not getting her help because she's broken, you're getting her help because she appears to be suffering.

I have clinically mild, generalized anxiety and most of the time, I'm fine. When I'm fine, I don't feel like I have a problem, but that doesn't mean I don't need help. That doesn't mean that the tiny fraction of the time when I feel debilitating anxiety isn't a problem or that it doesn't have to be addressed. Of course I'd prefer to ignore it! And most of the time, I can get away with that, but if I do ignore it (believe me, I've tried), I will get *slammed* when the anxiety resurfaces. Paying attention to the problem is a necessary part of fixing it. (And yes, it does need fixing. I need a handle on my anxiety so that I can hold a job, drive a car, deal with my kids, know what to do when I wake in the night convinced that the monster under the bed will eat me if I put my feet on the floor.) One of the reasons that therapists exist is to hold our hands and watch our backs while we face things we'd rather ignore.

A good therapist will be able to work with your daughter and gently draw her out. It may take a few sessions, even with the right person, but if the pre-session headaches persist, by all means move on to a new therapist.
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#22 of 43 Old 03-08-2010, 02:20 AM - Thread Starter
 
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All of you who are pro-therapy . . . I assume you've done it? Or had your children do it? How does it begin with kids? I'd like to be able to explain to the therapist the history and current situation, without DD there, then let the therapist pick it up from there with DD. Our insurance coverage is minimal for this sort of thing and I'd hate to waste the full 10 sessions (or whatever it is) on "I don't knows," which is all a therapist is likely to get from DD without asking the right questions. I'm assuming parents are allowed to give the therapist something to start with?

I told DD tonight that I'm considering this. She just looked at me and said, "Okayyyyy." Like "whatever, Mommy." I put it in the context of her starting high school next year and how I'd like to see if someone could teach her some strategies for staying calm when the anxiety creeps up like it did yesterday. "You're going to have lots of opportunities to try new things in high school," I told her, "and I'd hate for you to miss out on something you really want to try." And I told her how I hate to fly, how it makes me anxious and how my first instinct is to just not do it. But then I wouldn't have been able to go to New Orleans last year, or Boston a few years ago, or Hawaii or Mexico. . . So I told her how I took an online Fear of Flying course so I could have some tools to call on when it was time for takeoff. She's got a huge sense of humor and thought this was just goofy enough to be hilarious, envisioning me in front of my computer with headphones on, listening to engine noise. We did talk more about her experience yesterday. She's not sorry she didn't stay at the party; said she knows now it was anxiety, that she did have a headache, that she thinks it was because she didn't know a lot of the girls all that well and didn't want to go to a crowded mall with a bunch of girls she doesn't know that well. She said she couldn't believe that I'd let airplane anxiety keep me from going to Hawaii, and I shot back affectionately that I couldn't believe she'd let a few strange girls stop her from going to the mall. "But Mommy," she said, laughing, "the mall is stupid. Hawaii is not." I asked if she'd be willing to see someone and she shrugged and said, "I guess so." We also talked about her paternal grandmother, who is absolutely crippled with anxiety, and some of DD's friends who also have some degree of anxiety. She and one of her closest friends have little dry jokes about it with each other. "If you weren't afraid of falling off your bike," DD will tell her friend, "we could ride to get ice cream." And her friend says, "Yeah, but then we'd get there and it'd be too crowded and you'd want to leave." And they laugh and laugh. (And they DO ride their bikes to get ice cream and come home with little funny tales: "She hit a rock going down the driveway, her tire wobbled and we almost had to call off the trip!" "There were six people in the ice cream place and you know seven's the limit. Whew!") This friend, by the way, has been in therapy and told us all about it at our dinner table one night. I think their humor about it is a coping strategy, and one that DD has employed many times in her life. I think I'm going to need to find her a therapist who is at least a little bit funny and will let her have some latitude with humor on the couch.

I don't think I've thanked you all for sharing your tales of anxiety. I didn't expect this post to get much response, and I'm so grateful you've all taken the time to respond.
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#23 of 43 Old 03-08-2010, 09:25 AM
 
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A good therapist is going to take history from you, and be looking for your perspective on why you are seeking therapy for your dd. This could be in a session w/you, it could be a phone interview, etc. Your perspective is very important, and you need to feel comfortable as well. It's also a good time to ask how the therapist would be proceeding, and their ideas or philosophy of treating adolescents with concerns such as your dd's.

If the anxiety is really serious, a therapist may have a joint session to begin with (you and dd) and then finish up alone w/your dd if she's feeling safe. But it doesn't sound like your dd is without coping mechanisms for new situations, so I's guess that she might be fine.

I so applaud you for pursuing this! I don't at all think that anxiety or depression is uncommon in the adolescent and pre adolescent years. My own dd has used therapy to deal with a big transition, and it really helped her, and me. I would guess we'll use therapy again at some point. I see it as a strength, and frankly there are lots of ways that kids deal with their issues-this is one of the healthiest.
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#24 of 43 Old 03-08-2010, 02:23 PM
 
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I'd like to be able to explain to the therapist the history and current situation, without DD there, then let the therapist pick it up from there with DD. Our insurance coverage is minimal for this sort of thing and I'd hate to waste the full 10 sessions (or whatever it is) on "I don't knows," which is all a therapist is likely to get from DD without asking the right questions. I'm assuming parents are allowed to give the therapist something to start with?
My DD (who has intense anxiety as part of her high functioning autism) sees a therapist who works mostly with adolensents and teens. I talk to her for the first 10 minutes or so of every session without my DD present, and then my DD goes in and talks to her for the rest of the session without me. I'm sure different therapist handle this differently, so it's something to ask about.

Expect it to take a while to get an appointment after school or on a Saturday.

It's really normal for parents to fear that their child will not talk.

Either way, a good therapist can teach her techniques to deal with stressful situations. It's one of the main things my DD works on in therapy. They talk about different tools and how they apply in different situations, what DD tried that week, what worked and what didn't.

some of it is stuff that I could tell my Dd, but that she hears better from someone else.

Quote:
I'd hate to put her in therapy and have her come out with the ability to put up with a whole bunch of slippery people who might've previously made her anxious but now she believes she should put up with. In many ways, I trust her gut and appreciate where it's gotten her
One time in my own therapy I was talking about a friend of mine that I was frustrated with and my therapist was quiet for a minute. She asked why I was friends with the person, what I liked about them. Those simple questions really changed the way that I dealt with difficult people and how emotionaly close I let them get to me.

I doubt that your DD will come away believe that she should *put up* with people but perhaps better ways of not letting them get to her. May more clarity about making choices to not spend time with people who are slippery.

but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#25 of 43 Old 03-09-2010, 03:42 PM
 
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Just a few things I wanted to respond to, both falling under the category of communication. First, you mentioned that you weren't sure whether your daughter's physical symptoms were real; and second, you mentioned that she is a poor verbal communicator, especially when it comes to feelings. Her physical symptoms ARE real, and they are a method of communication in and of themselves. This is how I would express my anxiety (unconsciously, btw...if you'd have asked me what was wrong I would have said the same as your daughter: I don't know), and over the years it took many different physical manifestations. I finally figured it out when I had to take an extended medical leave (with symptoms real enough for specialists to be called in, and an insurance company to approve long-term medical payments). It was at that time I received therapy (took me almost 40 years to get there!) and the counselor saw right away what was going on...it was her job to clue ME into what was happening.

Which brings me to my second point. Therapists who deal with anxiety, and therapists who deal with children, understand that communication comes in many different forms. Therapy will not necessarily be a waste of time if your daughter can not communicate verbally -- that is a tool that a good therapist will teach her.
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#26 of 43 Old 03-09-2010, 04:33 PM
 
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I have to admit that I would be concerned about the sobbing portion of it. At 13, I would kind of expect a kid to be able to recognize his/her discomfort level and know to call Mom (especially one so understanding) and ask to be picked up w/o the extreme emotional reaction.

That alone would make me think that some sort of counseling to help her learn coping techniques would be a really good idea.
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#27 of 43 Old 03-09-2010, 05:15 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I put in a couple calls yesterday--one to the insurance to determine our coverage and get some names, and a couple more to the therapists that were on the list. I'm waiting for some callbacks.

This has all been great feedback, especially the stuff from those of you who have dealt with anxiety yourselves or whose children have. There is some scary stuff here--medical leaves, self-medicating with drugs, anorexia, the statements that "it gets worse." I will say that, so far, the experience with DD has been that she's gotten much better, that the episodes of anxiety are far fewer and farther between than they were when she was little. But she's a young teenager and I don't know what's to come during what may be more-tumultuous teen years. (So far, boys haven't really entered the picture, or the pressures of high school.) And her triggers remain the same, even if they don't hit her as often. That tells me that she could use some help coping with those particular triggers. Also, that two-week stretch two years ago continues to stick out as a red flag. To this day, she cannot identify anything specific that set her off, and the prevailing thought after it was all thought out and assessed was that it was a combination of her common triggers, thrown at her in the extreme, that threw her over the edge. But that concerns me for her future, when there will be plenty of times in her development when her unique collection of triggers will converge again, and I'd like her to have more ammo when those times come.
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#28 of 43 Old 03-09-2010, 05:56 PM
 
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I didn't read everything, but there is no way I'd want a teen of mine going to a mall for a scavenger hunt birthday party game. It doesn't really sound safe to me.
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#29 of 43 Old 03-09-2010, 07:28 PM
 
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Good idea to talk to feel her out about therapy. I was going to suggest that but you beat me to it!

I would ask potential therapists about their approach. It is difficult to find someone certified in CBT, but plenty of therapists are familiar with the techniques. Therapy for anxiety should have at least a little bit of structure to it -- not completely client directed. CBT techniques are generally acknowledged as the best approach for anxiety. If it were my child, I would go to the behavioral health division at a children's hospital, or seek out a therapist who interened in such a setting.

You really don't want long, unstructured sessions where your daughter is expected to spill her guts or is "validated" while she wallows in misery. There is no reason it should be like that!

I do think that intense anxious periods of time are common around 5th or 6th grade, and then again in early adulthood (18-19 years old.) Seeking help for her while she is in a relatively good place emotionally is not a bad idea -- it is more difficult to treat an anxious person in crisis than to help teach coping strategies to an anxious person who is in a stable place emotionally. Therapy now is like an investment.

I don't push therapy for every little thing btw, but I do think anxiety disorders professionals know how to tackle -- there are solutions. So why not seek them out?
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#30 of 43 Old 03-10-2010, 12:53 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Mamaduck, thank you so much for sharing your insight--you must have at least one foot in the professional therapy world? It sounds like it.

The therapist I'm really waiting to hear back from is CBT certified. So far I'm not exactly impressed with her follow-up, given that I left a message yesterday and haven't heard back yet. But it also is true that I didn't make it sound urgent and I did give her a number where she could reach me "all week". Maybe she gives priority for return calls to people who are actually on her current list of patients!

Pranamama, are you suggesting that DD's reaction to the party was appropriate because of the mall scavenger hunt? (I did ask the birthday mom how that was going to go and it didn't sound unsafe, exactly, to me. They were going to be in groups of four, with a certain amount of time to "find" certain items and take photos of them, then meet back at a designated spot. It did, though, sound a little overwhelming for my girl to be involved in it, given her relative dislike for malls.)

I didn't think of this til later, but these girls also all were older than DD. She's got a fall birthday, and in our community, many kids with fall birthdays were held to start kindergarten at almost 6 rather than almost 5, so 90 percent of her grademates are older than she is, some a year or more. Interestingly, two of her dearest friends have birthdays the same week as she does, and their moms and I agree that there are times when we feel our girls "aren't quite there yet." Those times get fewer and fewer as they get older and that age gap becomes less important, but once in awhile, I have to step back and remember that my girl is young for her grade and for her academic level.
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