My girl is gone. And it happened so slowly, so insidiously, that I hardly noticed it taking place. Just like in one of my favourite poems, she has been carried away almost, it seems, by faeries…
Come away, O human child!To the waters and the wildWith a faery, hand in hand,For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.–W B Yeats
She used to be so adventurous – she’d try almost anything! She climbed trees, climbed rocks, swam, skateboarded and took up snowboarding. And when she skied…she was a brilliant skier! Fast, fierce and agile, she’d take on any slope no matter how steep; she’d whip through the bumps like a pro. Nothing could stop her. Certainly not fear.
And then the anxiety struck.
Slowly, she began to be afraid. Afraid of things she’d done with confidence and pleasure in the past. She was afraid of sleeping over at friends’ houses. Of sleeping on her own. Of going to school. Of disease, and germs, and dying. And most of all, of what other people would think.
And it all happened so slowly that it took years to put it all together. It seemed no big deal that she didn’t want to go on sleepovers, and bedtime fears seemed to be a phase. I blamed the school refusal on a series of different causes over the years. And although I knew the problem was serious, it wasn’t until this weekend that I realized how TOTAL the effects of this illness have been on my girl.
My oldest, my adventurous girl, my try-anything kid is gone. The kid who once did this:
…stood paralyzed on the ski slope yesterday, terrified to make a single turn. On an intermediate run — groomed and smooth and wide open — my former mogul-masher froze. She was, quite literally, petrified of what would have been a mere bunny hill for her in the past. No amount of encouragement would help, and the only way she was able to make it down was to side-slip, slowly inching her way down the pitch.
In the end, after five years of anxiety slowly constricting its noose around her, it was this one day of skiing that brought it all home to me in a rush. More than all the days and weeks of school that she’s missed, more than all the sleepover party invitations she’s declined, more than her new and freaky hand-washing obsession…somehow it was that one hill that shocked me into the realization that this disease truly has stolen away my child.
And that’s how insidious anxiety really is. It starts slowly, and it strikes in different areas at different times. It’s not until something shocks you into perspective that you see how much it has swallowed up your child’s spirit and, indeed, her life. In a very real way, anxiety has stolen my child from her family and her friends. And worst of all, it has stolen a big part of her childhood from her.
The good news is that after five years of searching, lobbying, and suffering, she is finally in the right hands. It has been a long road to get here, but now she’s in the care of an excellent team of psychiatrists, psychologists and therapists at a specialized Mood and Anxiety Disorders Clinic and I hope and believe we have found the team that will help her get back. Back to her family. Back to her friends. Back to herself.