Parent2Parent – Episode 2 – “She’s just shy”
September 30, 2019
Emily didn’t speak for the first six months she was at nursery and everyone, including me, said “She’s just shy!” We all thought she would grow out of it, but I realise now, even at such a young age she was struggling with anxiety.
Anxiety tends not to go away unless you find a way of coping with it, so inevitably Emily’s anxiety got worse. At school the bullies saw her as a target, because she was so quiet and there have been several incidents of bullying throughout her school years.
Watching your child/teenager struggle with everyday things, like leaving the house, going to school, getting on a bus, shopping in a busy town, is heartbreaking. When they appear to be coping well, you can’t help thinking they’ve turned a corner and things are getting better, but then something triggers the anxiety and down they go again, emotionally taking you with them. It’s exhausting. The word rollercoaster springs to mind!
The worst years were definitely 12 to 15 when Emily was bullied relentlessly and excluded from various parties etc, they even told her she should go and kill herself. Emily became about as low as anyone can get and frequently told me she just didn’t want to be here anymore. I watched her like a hawk, terrified I would wake up one morning and find the worst. She was self- harming badly, and then she attempted suicide which resulted in hospital admission. The GP had already made a referral to CAMHS and they had a waiting list of 12 months but as Emily had reached crisis stage she was seen in hospital and diagnosed with chronic anxiety and depression. She was given antidepressants which I hated the idea of, but to be honest, they helped to balance things out, certainly enough to give her a chance to learn some coping skills.
Once we were back home it was apparent the anxiety was still an issue and she was barely leaving her bedroom, school attendance was extremely low and we were all worried sick for her future. The bullying continued at school and when she was strong enough we moved her to another secondary school, which seemed to be better equipped for children who are struggling with anxiety and the school environment.
Miraculously, with lots of support she went on to do some GCSEs and even got through Sixth form.
Emily is now an adult and coping well with everyday tasks that still on occasion trigger her anxiety. She can lead a fairly normal life, but she still has the odd bad day, at which point she uses the coping strategies that we have put in place, but she’s still terrified of getting too low again. She now has a bright future ahead of her and it’s amazing to see how strong she has become.
It’s been a tough ten years or so but we take each day as it comes and we definitely have more good days than bad. I feel as though I’ve aged 20 years in the last 10, but watching my daughter turn into a fantastic young woman means the world, I honestly didn’t think she would still be with us now.
If I could go back in time and give myself advice it would be: stop worrying about things that haven’t happened yet, don’t look too far ahead, take each day as it comes. Educate yourself on your child’s symptoms early on. Early intervention is key.
I’m delighted to see that there’s more support and help in place now for young children and teenagers struggling with anxiety and depression.
And talking to like- minded parents through Parent2Parent has helped me enormously.