Wednesday, April 25, 2007


So I don't really know what was going on with Brian. I am sure of a couple of things: he wasn't faking it; and ... well I guess that is all I am sure of.

He is feeling really well today. He has friends over and he is SO LOUD. He is thrilled to be able to breathe again. He is happy. No, he is joyful.

So here are some possible theories:

1. It was a subconscious (or conscious) attempt to get out of school. Anxiety attacks got him reduced to half days. Perhaps a new anxiety symptom would get him reduced to full days at home. Instead he found himself signed up for counseling, spending the mornings in an empty office working alone, and facing the possibility of going to the ED (emotionally disturbed) program. In other words, it became clear the behavior wasn't going to "work."

2. The symptom just resolved itself. Anxiety attacks don't last forever; muscles that are spasming don't typically continue to spasm. Perhaps it just lasted long enough that he stopped feeling afraid of it. He just got used to it, accepted it and when he stopped fighting it, the tension went away. Perhaps last evening when I pointed out to him that it had gone away when he was watching television, and for the first time he did not argue with me, made him realize that it was not going to be permanent. Again, he stopped being afraid of what was happening in his body and that allowed the cycle to wind down.

3. Several things happened that might have reduced his anxiety level: he became convinced that we did believe him; he realized I was going to see my mother and not going to see Carl without him; when I picked him up today I was really relaxed with him. I asked him how his day was and gave him a list (slightly long) of things I expected him to do while he was home for the afternoon. In other words, my anxiety level regarding his anxiety left.

4. Today was just a quieter day. Monday was when it started. He spent the afternoon at the physician's office. Tuesday and Wednesday he was asked to leave class, was picked up by an annoyed and concerned parent. He has been worried all this time that his father especially was angry at him for needing to be picked up at school and not getting better. Last night he and his dad played chess together. Today his teachers just gave him his assignments and sent him to a room to work alone. He spent the afternoon being expected to catch up on chores and homework. He spent lot of time alone, not talking, and not being hovered over.

Though it is tempting to see it as a failed attempt to get out of school altogether, I don't think that is right. That may have been in there, but I think his anxiety issues are real. I think that this symptom was not in his voluntary control, and a variety of factors combined to help him get out of the anxiety loop.

I still think he needs to start seeing counselor regularly so that he can recognize the signs when they start and take care of himself so that he can ride them out and not exasperate them any more than necessary.

I am not surprised by the way that the symptom went away suddenly. I figured that whenever it did disappear, it would go quickly. I was not annoyed at him because I thought he faked it or because he recovered suddenly. It was the eye rolling that left me torn between feeling like slapping him and hugging him. By the way, I just took a deep breath and asked him if he had got the mail.

Anyway, I want to make certain I am clear about one thing: this is what anxiety disorder looks like. They symptoms strike for no particularly reasonable reason and then they go away. Some things make both the beginning and the ending more likely. People who struggle with it can learn to respond to it more or less effectively, but it is not something that people make up to manipulate others or get attention.

It is what it is.

And thank you all again for being so supportive while I was panicking in my own special way.


  1. There was an article about this in this months Prevention magazine.,5778,s1-1-65-14-7882-1,00.html

    Anxiety issues aren't uncommon at all, so Brian has plenty of company.

  2. Being supportive is such a small thing when you are struggling so. Hugs to you and yours.

  3. Anxiety issues are very real, and especially hard for kids as they do not really realize what is going on. Hard for them to comprehend. My foster daugther daugther had them real bad before we adopted her and I thought it would ease once we adopted her but it didn't. It is a long process. You do have my prayers as I know none of this is easy on any of you.


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