When our youngest was in kindergarten, I went to pick him up from school and saw the teacher shaking her head at me from across the long hallway.
It wasn’t an angry shake or even a disappointed shake. It was really more of the sad, I-wish-this-world-was-less-hard kind of shake.
You see, our sweet Zeke is on the Spectrum. Most days we don’t even notice it. Zeke thinks different, responds differently, I’m convinced even tastes differently, but you never know when it’s going to kick in. Our life looks more like, “Surprise, it’s Austism Day!” than “My name is autism, I have settled her for a long winter’s nap.”
Everyone’s experience with special needs is different.
This is ours.
That day with the kindergarten teacher, I listened to her tell me a story of my son’s experience in the world that doesn’t always understand frazzled nerves and pinched sensory systems and too bright, too loud, too soft, too…everything.
As the tears rolled down my cheeks, she told me the story of a small child so overwhelmed by the swirl of life around him that he hid himself in a cubby, folded himself right up into it, because it felt safe.
Zeke’s teacher was nothing short of amazing and she expressed perfectly my sentiment –
I just wish life was a little less hard. I wouldn’t want Zeke to be any different. I just want it all to be less hard for him.
Once I stepped back from the situation, I realized there have been many a day in my own life I’ve wanted to hide in a cubby…and for all the same reasons! Too much noise makes me grind my teeth, I’m easily irritated if I’m hungry or tired, and goodness knows I have lots of opinions about colors, lights, and textures.
As a grown-up discovering how to wander through my own journey of life with anxiety, I was struck by how often our medical and scientific definitions don’t quite fit for anxiety, each missing a piece. Nothing offered as a definition ever felt full enough to me.
Today on the podcast I offer a fuller definition of anxiety. I’ve been researching and compiling this definition since graduate school, through the wisdom and research of books and academic articles, observation in my own life and therapeutic treatment for anxiety, and also my observations as a therapist. It’s not meant to be a complete definition, but an open conversation, a re-contextualizing of the pieces of our experiences with anxiety and how we understand it.
I’m hoping that this work will help us to:
– be more mindful for the sake of those around us with anxiety or sensory struggles
– help individuals understand the “why” of different components of treatment – in particular medication, therapy, and connection
– move toward better long term treatment of anxiety by encouraging expanded research concerning the definitions we utilize
– offer better spiritual care for anxiety, mental health, and working toward ending the stigma associated with both
The Truth about Mental Health….some days we all want to hid in cubbies.
Episode 43 – Defining Anxiety: A Recontextualization
*No small children were harmed in the writing of this article. Permission was granted by my son to share his story.