The Anxiety I Don't Talk About as a Special Needs Parent


As we begin the “eligibility” process to classify my son who will turn 3 in a few short months, I’ve never felt such feelings of sadness, fear, anxiety and a desire to fight.

My son was born at 35 weeks and has been fighting since day one. He is diagnosed with “failure to thrive,” low tone cerebral palsy, global developmental delay and possible seizures, and there’s a diagnosis yet to be determined. We go to countless hours of therapy, which he always takes like a champ, and every week he learns something new or perfects a skill. He’s constantly making progress and eager to be independent.

We have had multiple, what I call, “bang your head against a wall” conversations with our school district. I was informed my son “will be considered truant” if I pull him out to go his outpatient therapy. When talking to the social worker about alternative placement, she assured me their schools and staff are “trained to handle all kinds of children and disabilities, and they are not outsourced until they fail within their program.” And then the incident that began feeding my doubts — I observed other preschoolers yelling at my son to hurry up and get out of the way during an evaluation on the playground.

Based on these experiences, I believe this school district is not an appropriate place for my son to attend. Every time I step foot on the campus or see the phone number of the social worker come up on my phone, or anyone asks how the process is going, I start having a panic attack. A proper tour of the facility could probably ease some of this anxiety, but I’ve been denied this. I can pinpoint where my anxiety starts to come out and take over. And yet, I can’t stop it.

I’m defensive about what’s best for my son, whether I’m conversing with a friend, professional or most importantly, my husband. I want to apologize to the people who are willing to listen to me, and to my husband, who I feel like I’m alienating. But I don’t think it’s me. I think it’s my anxiety. The anxiety of being a special needs parent, and the fear of what the future could mean. I know most parents worry about their children, but I think there’s a special anxiety that comes along when you have a child with special needs. The fear that you don’t know where their life will lead. The fear that you can’t be in control constantly. The fear that no one can do it better than you. And ultimately, the fear that tomorrow is never promised.

I realize I probably sound neurotic to some people, but I pray someone else reads this and says, “No, I totally get it.” I go to therapy and I’m on medication, because Lord knows what I would be like if I didn’t get this out or have help to keep most of it at bay. But to anyone else feeling this, please know this: You aren’t alone. The anxiety doesn’t define us, and our kids are lucky we care so much we would move heaven and earth and fight to the death to get them everything they need and deserve.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability and/or disease, and what would you say to teach them? Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

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17 Offbeat Ways People Relieve Their Anxiety


A lively discussion popped up on Reddit when someone posed the question,”What’s your best anxiety relieving technique?” to the site’s “Ask Women” subreddit. Reddit users quickly began submitting the tactics they use to self-soothe, and we loved hearing about the unconventional ways they practice self-care.

We decided to compile some of our favorite out-of-the-box responses to see if any resonate with you, too. Take a look:

1. Coloring books for adults are seriously amazing.”

A close-up of someone coloring. Accompanying text: [Coloring books for adults are seriously amazing.

2. “Audiobooks. [They give] my mind something to focus on instead of the repetitive thoughts I get when I’m anxious.”

Headphones on a book. Accompanying text: [Audiobooks. [They give] my mind something to focus on instead of the repetitive thoughts I get when I'm anxious.]

3. “Knitting. Usually my anxiety is triggered away from home, so I bring a small knitting project with me everywhere I go. I consider it on-the-go self-care.”

A basket of yarn and knitting needles next to the text, [Knitting. Usually my anxiety is triggered away from home, so I bring a small knitting project with me everywhere I go. I consider it on-the-go self-care.]

4. “I clean. Seriously clean.”

Two sponges stacked on top of each other under the text, [I clean. Seriously clean.]

5. “Puzzle games. My mom’s technique!

The text [Puzzle games. My mom's technique!] over a background of colorful puzzle pieces

6. “I take a big fluffy makeup brush and stroke my hand or my face with it. So soothing. I keep a small size one in my purse for emergencies. It helps a lot if I’m out.”

A photo of makeup brushes of various sizes next to the text, [I take a big fluffy makeup brush and stroke my hand or my face with it. So soothing. I keep a small size one in my purse for emergencies. It helps a lot if I'm out.]

7. “If I find that I’m freaking out over something, I have to distract myself. Optional ideas are to try to name all of the U.S. presidents or recite the prime numbers backwards from 100, or to count things like light posts or street signs or the number of vowels in a paragraph.”

A photo of dice and board game pieces next to the text, [If I find that I'm freaking out over something, I have to distract myself. Optional ideas are to try to name all of the U.S. presidents or recite the prime numbers backwards from 100.]

8. “The act of taking my hair down and then braiding it always soothes me. So does someone else braiding or brushing my hair.”

A photo of a pink hair brush on top of a blue hair brush. Accompanying text: [The act of taking my hair down and then braiding it always soothes me. So does someone else braiding or brushing my hair.]

9. “Cooking. I can really lose myself in cooking; it’s great.”

A photo of prepped baking ingredients (flour, butter, egg yolks, sugar, milk, wooden spoon and roller). Accompanying text: [Cooking. I can really lose myself in cooking; it's great.]

10. “Making a cup of tea, adding cream and watching the clouds rise.”

A photo of a teapot and tea cup filled with steaming tea. Accompanying text: [Making a cup of tea, adding cream and watching the clouds rise.]

11. “Making lists. I start with the huge stuff I want to accomplish, then list all the little individual steps I need to take. It gives me a starting point for getting big stuff done, and checking little things off feels so good.”

A spiral notebook on a wooden table with the text, [Making lists. It gives me a starting point for getting big stuff done, and checking little things off feels so good.]

12. “Telling myself a story to get my mind back on track.”

Image of a journal open to a written entry and a pen. Above the image is the text, [Telling myself a story to get my mind back on track.]

13. “Wiggling! When I feel anxiety in my chest [and] it’s really bad, I’ll put on a song and literally dance it out. I pretend that I’m physically pulling the anxiety out of my chest, pull it or shake it out of my fingertips and slam it on the ground. This method has gotten me out of a lot of panic attacks.”

A woman in a white shirt and hat dancing next to the text, [Wiggling! When I feel anxiety in my chest [and] it's really bad, I'll put on a song and literally dance it out. This method has gotten me out of a lot of panic attacks.]

14. “Totally counterintuitive, but [listening to] death metal… I listen to other genres of metal all the time, but don’t really enjoy death metal unless I am anxious.”

A pair of headphones. Accompanying text: [Totally counterintuitive, but [listening to] death metal... I listen to other genres of metal all the time, but don't really enjoy death metal unless I am anxious.]

15. “Building a blanket fort.”

An image of two kids under a blanket fort with pillows. Accompanying text: [Building a blanket fort.]

16. “Playing “Candy Crush” on the toilet (with the music). Seriously.”

An image of two hands holding a smart phone with Candy Crush on the screen. Accompanying text: [Playing 'Candy Crush] on the toilet (with the music). Seriously.]

17. “I sit down and sequentially tap each finger of my right hand to my thumb to a 6/8 beat, and I match my breathing to every time my index finger touches my thumb… And Taylor Swift has dragged me out of more than a few panic attacks.”

A photo of Taylor Swift singing in concern. Accompanying text: [Taylor Swift has dragged me out of more than a few panic attacks.]

Do you have an out of the box technique for relieving anxiety? Tell us about it in the comments.

*Some responses have been shortened and edited.

13 Things People With Anxiety Are Tired of Hearing, and What You Can Say Instead


People who live with anxiety often have the pleasure of hearing unsolicited advice and words of wisdom from others. Even when people have the best intentions, this can be somewhat annoying. The Mighty decided to ask people who live with anxiety two things: 1) What’s something you’re tired of hearing? And 2) What’s something you’d like to hear from others?

Here’s what they had to say: 

1. Don’t say: You can’t control what is going to happen, so why are you anxious about it?

Instead, try this: “I understand that you are anxious because you can’t control this situation, but maybe you could try to focus your energy on what you can control.”

Meme that says [I understand that you are anxious because you can't control this situation, but maybe you could try to focus your energy on what you can control.]

2. Don’t say: What do you have to be anxious about?

Instead, try this: “Wow. You’re suffering from anxiety disorder? What exactly is that for you, and what does it mean to be anxious?”

Meme that says [Wow. You're suffering from anxiety disorder? What exactly is that for you, and what does it mean to be anxious?]

3. Don’t say: Get over it.

Instead, try this: “Are you OK?”

Meme that says [are you OK?]

4. Don’t say: It’s all in your head.” 

Instead, try this: “I’m here for you with whatever you need right now.”

Meme that says [I'm here for you with whatever you need right now.]

5. Don’t say: It’s not that big of a deal. Stop worrying too much.” 

Instead, try this: “What can I do to help?”

Meme that says [What can I do to help?"]

6. Don’t say: Don’t worry, things will turn out fine.

Instead, try this: “It will pass. Just keep breathing.”

Meme that says [It will pass. Just keep breathing.]

7. Don’t say: Just trust God. You should have more faith.

Instead, try this: “I’m sorry you are struggling with this.”

Meme that says [I'm sorry you are struggling with this.]

8. Don’t say: You don’t know what will happen so stop freaking out about it.” 

Instead, try this: “It sounds like you’re having a hard time. I’m here if you want to talk, or I’ll just stay with you.”

Meme that says [It sounds like you're having a hard time. I'm here if you want to talk, or I'll just stay with you.]

9. Don’t say: It’s all in your head.”

Instead, try this: “It’s OK to feel this way.”

Meme that says [It's OK to feel this way.]

10. Don’t say: I know, I worry about things too.

Instead, try this: “I don’t know how you feel right now, but I can tell you’re overwhelmed. What can I do for you, or do you need me to do anything?”

Meme that says [I don't know how you feel right now, but I can tell you're overwhelmed. What can I do for you, or do you need me to do anything?]

11. Don’t say: It could be worse.

Instead, try this: “Just don’t give up.”

Meme that says [Just don't give up.]

12. Don’t say: Think happy thoughts.

Instead, try this: “That’s got to be tough.”

Meme that says [That's got to be tough.]

13. Don’t say: Just calm down.

Instead, try this: “What do you need?”

Meme that says [It may have conquered my body, but it shall not have my soul or my mind. Those remain mine.]

What do you like to hear when you’re dealing with anxiety? Let us know in the comment below.  

Related: 31 Secrets of People Who Live With Anxiety 

For more resources on anxiety disorders, or for more information about getting help, visit Mental Health America.



13 Things People With Anxiety Are Tired of Hearing, and What You Can Say Instead

What I Want Others to Know About Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder


“Just eat the food. All I am asking you is to try it,” my father badgers me as I stare at my food. I’d consumed my noodles, and there was a bowl of strawberries dangerously close to my plate.

I raise an eyebrow, an internal dialogue going on in my head. Part of me (the part I call Eddie) is telling me I will only get sick and gag if I try to eat the strawberries. I will only get sick the moment that strawberry touches my tongue. The other part of me is saying, “Just taste it, you won’t gag.”

Every single time I’m faced with trying a new food, this internal dialogue runs through my head. I’m hypersensitive to the taste and texture of foods. It is paired with my eating disorder known as selective eating disorder, also known as avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder. The short version is ARFID. Those who have ARFID can’t just “try new food.” A dialogue, similar to the one I described above, might play through their heads. Imagine going to a restaurant with a five-page menu and finding none of your safe foods. Safe foods are foods people with ARFID feel comfortable with eating because they are familiar with them.

The exact cause of ARFID is unknown. Some believe it is born out of a fear of choking or vomiting. For me, I believe it came from my birth circumstances. Before I was adopted out of Russia at a very young age, the baby food given to me wasn’t good. My parents told me that I was pasty and in general not healthy-looking.

ARFID has only officially been recognized as an eating disorder recently (the DSM-5 addition). It’s not simply “being a really picky eater.” I’m well aware of starving children and am not trying to be “selfish” with my eating choices, so please don’t try to guilt or shame me into eating. I’ll sit there at the dinner table for hours just staring at the food. I’m hungry, but my eating disorder has so much control over me that I simply can’t eat. Picky eaters typically outgrow their picky habits by the time they’re in their twenties. For someone with ARFID, this problem might persist beyond that age range.

From my own experience on social media with groups dedicated to selective eating disorder and ARFID, some people report hypnotherapy works wonders. Some psychologists and psychiatrists also treat this more like an extreme phobia to try to help their patients. It’s possible to get help, but it requires a lot of hard work from the person with ARFID.

I hope people understand that selective eating disorder/ARFID is not just someone being picky. It is a legitimate eating disorder that’s only now getting the attention it deserves from both the media and scientific communities. I also hope someone reading this has a light bulb go off in their head and realizes they, too, are not alone in their eating disorder.

If you or someone you know has an eating disorder and needs help, visit NEDA.org.

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These Temporary Tats Offer People Little Reminders During Their Darkest Moments


One woman created a unique way of reminding herself and others of what’s important during life’s dark moments.

Janelle Silver, from Australind, Australia, runs an Esty shop called Heart and Hands. Silver, who lives with depression, found that temporary tattoos were a helpful way to give herself positive reminders when she’s feeling down.

The idea came to me as I was putting plans in place for my own self-care,” Silver writes on her Etsy page. “I am a visual person. I am always writing things on my mirror or sticking notes on the walls. I’ve found that when I’m in a dark place with depression, having a challenging moment or day, am stressed, etc., a little visual reminder of what’s important can work wonders in bringing me back to centre and helping me to keep going.”

 

The temporary tattoos are hand-drawn and say things like, “Breathe,” “You are loved,” “Be kind to yourself,” “It will pass” and “No feeling is final.” They’re available for sale on Silver’s Etsy page.

bag of tattoos

Whenever I start to feel myself hitting a low or I’m anxious, I pick the reminders I need or want and then they’re there if and when I need them,” Silver told The Huffington Post.

Check out some of the photos from Silver’s Instagram below:

temporary tattoo of a heart

tattoo that says breathe

tattoo of a band aid

Due to recent publicity, Silver is currently sold out of stock, but the tattoos are available “made to order.” For more information, check out her Esty page here.

h/t HuffPost UK

What You Should Know Before You Judge My Son’s Mental Illness


About a year ago, as we were in the throes of begging a Dallas psychiatric hospital to treat our 15-year-old son, a family member made some interesting comments. In a conversation that took place on Facebook, I was accused of spoiling my child, not parenting properly and, in my attempt to obtain treatment, relying on the government to take care of a responsibility that was ultimately my own. The words were harsh, judgmental and they stung. My feelings were deeply hurt.

I engaged in the conversation to defend myself and help my family member understand the entire situation. Unfortunately, I was met with more judgment and even greater hostility. In an attempt to salvage our now deeply fractured relationship, I left the conversation.

A year has passed since that hurtful event took place, and I’ve sincerely tried to move forward in a spirit of love and grace. I believe my family member simply doesn’t understand.

But a whole year later, I woke up to another upsetting comment from my relative. Although this time the words weren’t targeted directly at me, they were just as harsh and judgmental. The hostile nature of the post and the similarities to last year’s dialogue stirred some deep emotions within me.

As I’ve been licking my wounds and processing the situation, a revelation came to me: My relative’s lack of understanding, lack of empathy, lack of compassion and false perception of my family’s situation represents the way most of our nation views mental illness.

I am blessed to be surrounded by a community of people who are supportive, empathetic and who have stepped up and stepped in to walk this horrific journey with my family. As a result, I live in a bubble. I’m protected and therefore sheltered from the harsh critics in our society.

But the harsh critics exist, even in our own families.

Through my tears and in my attempt to understand my relative’s point of view, I found myself filled with a greater desire to bring awareness, provide more education and move our society forward. I’m actually thankful my family member attacked. His words served as a great reminder: People do not understand.

And how can they?

For all of history, society has done everything in its power to sweep the issue of mental illness under the rug. No one wants to be associated with mental illness. No one wants to admit mental illness exists. Certainly no one wants to have a mental illness in their family. No one wants to be mentally ill. Nobody wants to be “crazy.”

But I refuse to walk in shame.

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Before you judge my son and our journey of treatment, know this: 

My son has a physical illness that affects his brain. He has severe bipolar disorder, which can be extremely difficult to treat. This illness is as real as another person’s heart disease, diabetes or cancer. This illness is not a result of bad parenting, too many video games, being spoiled or lack of faith. This illness is biological. It requires medication and intensive treatment. If left untreated, Cody will get sicker, will likely end up in jail or on the street and his life expectancy could decrease by up to 20 years.

My family is not alone. One in four people worldwide have some form of mental illness. Five percent of Americans have a “serious mental illness,” such as schizophrenia, severe bipolar disorder or severe depression.

Are families looking for a government handout? No. Insurance companies do not cover mental health the same way they cover medical health. In our experience, insurance companies are only willing to cover up to 30 days of inpatient treatment. For a person with a severe and persistent mental illness, like my son’s, 30 days is the equivalent of putting a Band-Aid on stage IV cancer.

No other illness is treated this way.

We’re receiving treatment through our school district. Yes, the school district. Not from insurance and not from any other medical coverage. This is the way our current system is set up. It’s our only means to receive quality care. We have fought for this treatment. The cost for intensive residential treatment that our son’s illness requires is in excess of $8,000 per month. That does not include medications. I don’t know of any family who can afford these kinds of medical expenses out of pocket. It’s not our desire to receive financial assistance, but under our current system of care, we are left with no other options. We are thankful to be receiving help. There are many families who are not so fortunate.

It’s my deepest desire to bring mental illness out of the darkness and into the light. We’ve got to change the way our society views mental illness. We must eliminate the myths and focus on the facts. I long for the day when people who have mental illnesses will be added to church prayer lists instead of being criticized and condemned. I long for the day we will be less critical of one another and more understanding, empathetic and compassionate.

Wouldn’t we be better off trying on the other person’s shoes before offering judgment? Wouldn’t it be smarter to learn the facts before we offer criticism?

I do hope you will not post anything harsh or unkind about my relative. I didn’t write this to invite any more hostility. Instead, I invite you to share anything new you have learned from this information.

How has this helped you be more empathetic and understanding of mental illness?

What can you do to bring change?

If you’re in a family that’s affected by mental illness, how can this help you educate others? Can you find the courage to share your story?

Please post your positive comments. I would love to hear from you!

A version of this post originally appeared on Bold Faith Ministries

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