Jacob is angry.
Jacob is crying all the time.
Jacob is yelling.
Jacob is picking his skin until it scars.
I am worried about Jacob and also at my wits end with him. It’s a strange place to be. It’s a strange place to parent. As you know he has been through a lot, but also he is six and driving the rest of us INSANE.
And everyone says…you know…the “E” word. And I get it. He has had quite the year (dad’s cancer and then his own) but we all need Jacob to bring down the noise a bit. We all walk on eggshells around him. Worried that he will lose it. Just pointing out to him that his number 6 was backward in school, was an hour of screams and tantrums.
I’ve talked to doctors. I’m not rewarding nor giving attention to negative behaviors. I really am not. Ignoring is really the only option for survival! And therapy is just not possible right now with the virus and teletherapy is a disaster.
But the picking is getting worse. Jacob is mutilating his face and fingers. So I looked up this picking and spoke to some experts and there is was… the A word. ANXIETY. The number one most prevalent issue in society, but yet no one talks about it.
And we realized. I’m on Lexapro, Benno is on Lexapro (anxiety disorder diagnosed at 5 years old), but yet the child going through cancer NOTHING. Jacob has never come off as anxious. Angry yes, anxious? Never. This is a kid who can sit in a machine that closes in on him and stays still without a problem. This is a kid who thinks he is “lucky” to have cancer.
Just last week he asked me while skipping down the hall if I think he had cancer for years before we knew it. Before I could answer he did. “I don’t think we will never know that answer. Do you want to play?” And he launches straight into Snuggle Puppy, his favorite. Even today he was ranting how lucky he is that he had cancer. “I got to meet the Imagine Dragons.”
But is that what is really going on inside that brain? Who knows!
It never crossed our mind that he could be anxious. It looks so different than Benno’s anxiety which is clearly about fear of things new and anything that may seem dangerous (which can be anything from a train to a birthday party). But then I think about my anxiety, which I didn’t understand was anxiety until I was 36 years old. It is not like that. It is rather racing thoughts, etc. I don’t fear much. I am perfectly willing to partake in dangerous activities. Bring them on! So its clear anxiety comes in many forms.
So today Jacob joins the club. Today I medicate him and the decision is PAINFUL even though I know logically that this medication is not the end of the world and has no long term sides. That this is a true gift to give Jacob who has had such a tough childhood and that there is a high likelihood that he may have needed it regardless of circumstances due to family history. But it’s hard. I reread all the studies I did with Benno. Looking for long term health concerns even though I knew that didn’t exist.
And its funny. This is a kid who pops narcotics like candy when in treatment, but the idea of getting him help for his anxiety is full of shame and second-guessing. This I second guess.
So I share this story for anyone else who is considering a medical route for their children’s stress and anxiety, especially during this time. You are not alone.