Saturday, April 30, 2011

Anxiety: Understanding Limitations and Self-Help

Have I ever told you that I hate anxiety? No not mine, the boys. It never fails that whenever there is something that occurs the anxiety will overwhelm them and eventually they will shut down. It’s not so much that they have not learned to deal with a lot of their daily anxiety, that has been a long and hard road for them. It is the times when there is a confluence of events that cause them to have an overabundance of anxiety provoking situations all at once and they have no way of dealing with it all. On these days their pain is acute. However, also using these episodes as learning experiences by teaching them to understand the triggers and what they could do for self-help is very important for their future well-being. But these days still make me terribly sad. We have been dealing with them for two decades now and I ask my self when is life going to get easier for the boys? When do they get a break?

We recently had collegeman retested. It is important to have the boys retested every few years just to see how they are truly doing and what areas may still need more support than others. (Yes now that they are out of the school district it is all on us once again to pay for it.) The boys are changing and growing and developing and there is no reason to think that what was appropriate or what the tests said three years ago is applicable today. Here is the problem that occurred: The testing therapist (not his usual one) even suggested that the anxiety for law school may be too much for collegeman. I hate it when that happens. Because they test him on one occasion they decide to throw out his life plan. We actually called them and said that we reject their assessment. How do you take a life goal and destroy it because of one test and a few hours of interaction? You take the information given to you and find a way to accomplish your goal not throw it out.You figure out a way to accommodate the anxiety into what he wants to do with his life. You slowly transition him into his future, just as we slowly transitioned him into every aspect of his life.

I understand that for many in the psychology field it is hard to watch the anxiety trepidations of the boys. I understand that they have a desire to make the boys’ lives easier. But as hubby said, life has anxiety in it. They need to learn to deal with the anxiety in order to survive. If you teach them to run away from every situation that upsets them in some way they will never leave their house and they will never be able to stand on their own two feet.

Well the psychologists did retract somewhat. We told them that it would cause more anxiety to take from collegeman his lifelong goal of helping people. That to tell him to sit in a room and do research on the holocaust or become an archivist is not the way to go. History, holocaust is a good hobby (no offense to history teachers and professors and museum curators), but there just aren’t the jobs out there and if there are jobs they do not pay enough so that a person can survive.

I also told collegeman that it is fine and good to worry about remembering the dead and murdered Jews in history, but that there are many people in the world today who would like to kill those of the Jewish people who are alive today. Maybe he should find a way to protect the living and bring justice for those less fortunate. In his inimical way collegeman didn’t say anything but I know he is listening to me. When he doesn’t argue it means he is pondering what you say, analyzing it and seeing how it fits into his worldview. I found a list on the internet with over 300 jobs for those with law degrees that does not include the practice of law, many of those jobs are in criminal justice (besides being part of the district attorney's office). Hubby also said, that with collegeman's love of research and his talent for writing what makes anyone thinks he can't be a constitutional scholar when all is said and done. Besides from what I understand, collegeman has given some "wicked" presentations in his classes this semester and is becoming quite the public speaker.

Meanwhile, anxiety once again did rear its ugly head last week for collegeman. But as hubby and I knew he would, collegeman handled it wonderfully and to the best of his ability. I guess the psychologists don’t always know everything. Case in point:

Collegeman waited until the last minute to write two major papers needed for one class. We had thought that he was caught up and that he had it all organized. We had thought that the classroom coaches were helping him with his all executive functioning skills. Unfortunately we were wrong on all accounts. He was up to speed with the basic work, but as with all ends of semesters, the professors seem to fit extra work and papers into the regular schedule.

He worked through the weekend on both papers and even awoke early the day the papers were due in order to finish them. I hurried him to the college to hand in those papers and even walked him to the right mailbox and made sure that everything was copasetic. Now he did finish the papers. He did write them the way they were required to be written, however, he was a little disappointed in himself. He said that they were not his best work. Of course, "not collegeman’s best work" means they were still done quite well however.

On the way home from the college, collegeman actually elicited a moment of self-satisfaction. “I work great under pressure, don’t I?” He asked me. “Absolutely,” I said. Heck, he certainly did. He got the papers done and the necessary classwork for the upcoming week. But there is still a lesson in there about his executive functioning and staying on top of everything that he is doing. I know that for many students this is typical but it takes a toll on him.

After we returned home from our sojourn collegeman sat down and finished off another homework reading and writing assignment. A few hours later I found him sitting on his bed, watching his yugiyoh videos on You Tube. He had a little sweater on and told me he was cold. I brought him his blankets and his pillows and wrapped the blankets around him.

I went into the room later to just check on him. He had cocooned himself into the blankets (only his face was visible) and was laying down watching the videos with headphones on. He let me kiss him on the forehead and told me he was not hungry. He assured me that he was comfortable and that he just needed to rest. So I left him, wrapped up in one down and one fleece comforter, with his head on three pillows engrossed in his little fantasy anime world.

He may not have realized it but his body needed a break. He had pushed himself to his endurance level and his body had told him he needed to rest. The chills were the first indication and the mushy brain, as he described it, was the second. Luckily he knew that he had to lay quiet and he knew what to do to recoup himself.

Even when hubby came home from work, collegeman was still ensconced in his cocoon, happily watching his videos. He did not come down for dinner and laid quietly for the rest of the evening. Hubby told me he came out of his room around midnight and wanted some food, so he made him some frozen PF Chang’s. Not the most nutritious meal, but something comforting.

Interestingly collegeman is tremendously proud of himself through this entire episode. Honestly so are we. He rose to the occasion and handled the pressure the best he could, which was right on target. He also knew that he needed to withdraw and reenergize himself and his brain afterwards. In fact he is so proud of himself, when asking a professor when another end of the semester project is due, he told her that any date is fine, he wasn’t asking for an extension just a clarification. He knows he can work well under pressure.

You know what, we know he can too…

Until next time,


Meanwhile Sunday is Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Jewish holiday of Yom Hashoah in Hebrew....collegeman would want everyone to remember. This is different than the UN Holocaust Remembrance Day. (Yes the irony is not lost that the UN is the purveyor of some of the world's worst antisemitism at present.) Yom Hashoah was instituted in the 1960s and the date coincides (according to the Jewish calendar) with the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto. Here is a link to the Ghetto Fighters Museum in Israel. It is located at Kibbutz Lohamei HaGeta'ot.

In Israel a siren sounds and everyone stops. Traffic comes to a halt and people exit their cars, pedestrians stop where they walk and noone and nothing moves.