Yesterday was a difficult day for me. I learnt that I cannot save my daughter from anxiety. And when anxiety has crippled you throughout your life that is a very hard lesson to learn. She told me on the walk to school she had a pain like someone was squeezing her insides. She said she thought it was because she was worried. “Worried about what?” I asked her. She said something about being worried about hospital if the pain didn’t get better.
“Do you think the pain is because you are worried?” I ask and she nods. So we find a little shelter from the pouring rain and I tell her my technique.
“When I am worried and my insides have pain like that, I stop, and I breathe out for as long as I can. Like this …”
I demonstrate and she copies until we are both exhaling loudly. She smiles a little. I ask her if she is ready to go into school. She nods. I tell her if she needs me to get the school to ring me.
The school day goes by without a call but the teacher sends a message home via her Dad that she had a chat with my daughter about anxiety and emotions. She is worried but not sure what about. Her teacher thinks the transition to Year 1 may be part of the reason. I have noticed now that my daughter has developed a concern to do things ‘right’ and to have the ‘right’ answer. I am crushed. I have failed to protect my precious little girl from the very thing that has plagued my life. Anxiety.
But one of the engineers I work with shared a pearl of wisdom that I had not thought of before. Anxiety is evolutionarily necessary. We need to be wary of change, of new things, and new people. Not so afraid we miss out, but a sensible level of caution so we don’t end up getting hurt. Physically or emotionally. I cannot save her from anxiety any more than I can save her from the evolutionary desire to eat, sleep, and eventually reproduce.
Instead, I can teach her how to manage it. And she is lucky because I will be a great teacher. Anxiety and I have such a close relationship that I feel I know her and her tricks inside out. And that is knowledge I can pass to my little girl. She can make Anxiety her friend not her enemy.
And so can I …