First and foremost, please know my son has approved this post. I would like to continue to honor and share his journey as I know our words have previously helped many adults and youth , and will do so only with his permission. As he grows, I want him to know that he has the power to help through sharing and educating – but should he choose to stop sharing at some point, I will honor and respect his wishes.
For those new to my blog, here’s what you should know: I’m a Mom to two wicked kids, I used to own a business but now I happily work for others and I’ve battled my own mental illnesses in the past, present and most definitely future. My adorable and smooshie son was diagnosed with four mental illnesses at the age of 10: generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, panic disorder (this one is a real bitch) and depression (also a real sneaky shithead).
Anxiety & what we’ve learned
We’ve learned in counselling (about a year of it now), that anxiety is slippery and sneaky. We’ve learned we can shrink anxiety and worry, but we’ve also been educated that it’s always there, making plans and scheming how to take over again. Sneaky fucker.
For many kids with anxiety, Covid-19 was a blessing. No school, no sports, no problem. This was true for my son. He thrived at home. No panic attacks, much less worry, no depression. Now granted, for others, anxiety increased during Covid because well – HELLO GLOBAL PANDEMIC. But, for my son, it seemed to give him a chance to rest his neurological system, his physical body and worry was just a shadow of who he used to be.
Oh, FYI…my son named his anxiety “Dickson”. So, if I talk about Dickson, we’re talking about anxiety.
Fast forward to present day. School is back in session for us, full-time. Hockey ice times and now assessments are running. And Dickson is back and PISSED he’s been quiet for months. He’s now puffed up his chest like the total dickhead he is and forced himself to be heard, seen, felt and feared.
Panic has been back in our house now for a few weeks and it’s exhausting. My son has “high level” anxiety, says his counsellor. And when she says it, she looks at me like “Linds, babe – he’s got it bad. You’re not wrong that he battles – his anxiety is mucho mucho grande” – probably not those words – she’s a professional – but that’s how I read her face.
Panic attacks have occurred numerous times over the past few weeks. The fear and dread of seeing these come on for my son is all-consuming. I knew they would come. We all did. But DAMN, did we all wish he would be the one that it wouldn’t happen to. DAMN if we didn’t all hang on to the hope that maybe, just maybe, he was the kid to outgrow it.
Erm. No. Not gonna happen, Linds. Nice try.
So, we see Dickson coming – all puffed up, furious that he’s been ignored, DEMANDING to be heard, seen, felt and fear – and my son and I – we strap on the battle gear and stand our ground.
The difference now though is that these attacks are bigger, harder, tougher than before. Dickson is mad at being ignored and forced into the background so he’s grown, gotten sneakier, gotten stronger. The attacks are also bigger because now WE are mad. We’re pissed it’s back. So now we have panic AND we have rage.
That’s not good, fyi.
Hockey is a big trigger for my son. We can’t pinpoint exactly what it is about hockey, but currently if we mention it – my son’s anxiety “tells” begin. Dancing feet, tongue moving side to side, fidgeting – they show up. I strap on my armour of strategy and get ready to work with Dickson and basically tell him to “fuck off and leave my kid alone”. Dickson doesn’t want to listen right now. He ravages my son and leaves him exhausted, depleted, apologetic (that one kills me) and yup – pissed at the fact that this is something he has to deal with.
“Why me, Mom?”
Aw man, buddy. Because you’re strong enough to handle it? Because it’s actually a gift you’ll understand later – this sensitivity of yours? Because you’re a mother fucking warrior and will get through this?
Nah. I just say “I don’t know, pal. I would take it away if I could”.
Back to the subject of hockey. If hockey is such a trigger, why not just quit?
“Because I love it with all I am, Mom”.
Good reason. Got it.
And that has worked for a few years now. We agree to play hockey. Our family supports our guy as he panics and we cheer and shimmy-shake when he gets on the ice.
The big decision
But this year is different. Covid has added an extra stress to a place we don’t need extra stress and Dickson has taken full advantage of this and is running rampant through my son’s mind and taking over his body.
If I may just quickly: Fuck you, Dickson.
My son and I have had numerous conversations about hockey this year. My husband and I have, too. It’s a constant thought in our minds – is all this suffering worth it?
For awhile, from my son, the answer was yes. But recently, there’s been hesitaton.
I feel my son worries about letting us down, feeling like a failure, “letting anxiety win” and there are a few things he should know:
- As long he does what’s right for him, he won’t let us down.
- There is no failure when you make a decision based on personal health and happiness.
- Anxiety isn’t winning, we’re just controlling it – that little beast doesn’t get the best of you, O, you get to control him and the decisions you make to shrink Dickson back down? – THAT is winning,
We are in assessments right now at hockey. We haven’t been able to get to any ice times yet because – because well anxiety/panic. A few days ago I let our son know he had a practice coming up. The immediate panic response was visible. As we watched tv that night, my son turned to me and said “I’m getting really nervous about hockey”, and so began our conversation on the option to continue on or to not play this year.
We left it at “Let’s just table if for tonight and see how you feel in the morning”.
That night at bed, my son let me know again that he was nervous. It was all over his face. I said to him “O, why don’t we just take hockey off your plate tomorrow and see how you feel after that?”.
The visible reaction was incredible. You could SEE the weight lift off his chest and he took the biggest breath I think he’s ever taken in his life. A moment later he said “Whoa. That was a big breath”. I smiled and said “Yeah, I saw that and I did the same, buddy”.
We smiled at one another in that moment of knowing and, our continued support of one another grew again. As I left his room that night he quietly said “Mom, I don’t think I’ll play this year”.
“Sounds good, pal. How does that feel?”
And we both took another huge, cleansing breath and he said “Those were some big breaths for us both. I feel good”.
So, friends. No hockey for us this year. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t love the sport. It 100% doesn’t mean he’s given up on managing anxiety. It means he’s chosen to put suffering away and choose a path he can manage and as his Mama – I COULD NOT BE PROUDER of that hard decision he just made.
Most adults I know aren’t as mature when it comes to doing what they need to do for their mental health as my 11-year old son.
This year, we play basketball. Practice last night was “the best basketball practice ever”. There was some nervousness going in – but hey – everyone gets nervous going into their first practice of the year. That is normal anxiety.
I’ve had a lot of people asking how our family is. To answer – we’ve been through the wringer the past month – but we’re growing, learning and managing. We’re happy and supported. My son is finding his voice when things bother him and THAT is worth it all.
Thanks for being here. Thanks for supporting us. Thanks for caring and asking. Our journey is not over and together we can do anything. From supporting one another, to knowing I have support from my husband at home to knowing I have a ray of sunshine from my daughter always waiting for us – we’re okay.