#Anxiety is not just a #parentproblem. It is a #writerproblem, too.

“But I don’t KNOW what to do, I don’t KNOW!” Bash sits between me and the occupational therapist, head in his hands. Tears run down his nose and splatter on “Glass Man,” the Unthinkable that blows a small problem way out of proportion.  The space after I can defeat Glass Man by____ is blank.

Click here for more on the Unthinkables, a unique approach for kids to overcome behavioral/social issues.

“All I know is ask the teacher for help!”

The therapist and I trade looks. Bash was all fun and smiles for the initial physical activities, but now that we’re talking about tackling disruptive behaviors, he’s shrinking in his chair. The kid so fearless on the trapeze and crash pad is curled up and shaking, his glasses on the table streaked with dried tears.

Inside I ache, on the verge of crumbling just as he. His hands are too small to be holding his head like that. He shouldn’t feel the Fear like this so soon in life. This is the kind of Fear that crushes imagination, courage, hope.

I should know, carrying the burden as I do now. But not then. Back then I feared climbing a tree, sure, but not reading with my classmates. I may have feared taking my bike down that vertical drop of a gravel road to the park, but I never worried so much about my math that I threw away my test and hid in the school basement, only to find out later I had gotten every answer right.

 I cannot solve this for him, I tell myself time and again as I stroke Bash’s back, doing my damndest to keep my outsides calm as the therapist tries to look into Bash’s face.

“But you did such a great job on Energy Hare-y!” she says, her voice just bubbly enough to be excited without patronizing. Her freckled face and ponytail give her the look of a high school baby-sitter, though her diplomas on the wall reflect a solid ten years of medical education.  “You said you should take a break, and that’s just the thing to help a body get the wiggles out and find new focus.”

“This sounds an awful lot like Rock Brain,” I add, pointing to another Unthinkable. “He’s got you stuck real hard.”

Yup, there’s a whole Rogues Gallery of these guys.

Stuck is right. For every tough behavior—inability to sit still, outbursts over small problems, fleeing in fear of failure—Bash’s answer has been, “Ask the teacher for help.”

Sounds like the right thing to do, doesn’t it? Ask for help. I tell my students that every week. I’ve told Blondie, Bash, and Biff to do this when tackling something new and/or hard. Never be afraid to ask for help!

This is even truer when it comes to matters of mental health. Illnesses like depression and anxiety can isolate a person and make them feel incapable of connecting to another human being. I experienced this first-hand during my years of post-partum depression. Holding one baby boy while another slept, I’d stare out the bedroom window to see other people walking dogs, grilling food, swimming in pools. They were all neighbors, yet impossibly far away. The walls of the house seemed impenetrable. I felt like I was losing my sense of Self, of hope. I’d pray to get through the day, hour, minute without succumbing to the voices inside telling me how easy it was to just walk out of the house and not come back, to make the boys cry for a reason…

Though my sons’ birth cracked open the darkest pieces of me, they were also my inspiration to hammer those pieces to dust. Now Bash is facing his own darkness, one that tells him over and over that he is stupid, that he can’t do anything, that his teacher will be mad because he’s wrong, he’s wrong in everything, that he can’t do ___ because he’s never done it before so he’ll fail and everyone will laugh.

I want so badly to lift the Fear off his shoulders and carry them myself. I want to hold his hand and guide him to the right answers at the right time. I want to see him succeed…

But he will not succeed if I do everything for him.

Some battles must be fought alone. We can provide the tools, the support, the whatever-else-needed, but in the end, the fight is Bash’s and only Bash’s.

It’s not an easy truth for writers to face, either.

Fear looms over us with every submission and book review. For some of us, Fear grips us before we even put the story to the page. I don’t have the time to write well like real authors. I can’t afford to spend time on something that’ll fail. It will fail. No way anyone could like something I write.

It’s a Charlie Brown moment—we just can’t do anything right, not even what we love.

Better to run and hide our creative selves from the world than face the disapproval and derision sure to come.

The therapist gently tugs on Bash’s arm. “Let’s do another break, huh? How about riding the scooter down the ramp five times, and then we’ll try beating Glass Man?”

Bash slowly rolls off my lap. His body’s bent forward so low his hands practically touch the floor as he approaches the scooter. He flops belly first onto the scooter, his legs crooked up into the air. He grunts little grunts, his fingers tap little taps on the scooter, floor, ramp.

He pulls. Just a little. Pulls more. Just a little. Pulls the first two wheels onto the ramp. Just a little.

“Let me help you,” the therapist says, but Bash moves past her hands. Back toward her hands. Away from her hands again. The ramp’s only four feet, and Bash covers those first three feet a lot—up and down, side to side. Yet he does not give up. When he slaps the sticker at the top of the ramp with his palm, he gets there himself.

Bash and Hoppy almost gave me bunny ears for this pic, the goofs 🙂

It’s just a few seconds down the ramp and across the room. But it’s enough to crush the sadness and fill Bash with wild and happy giggles. He runs back to the worksheet, “I can breathe!” he says, and shows us how he can fill his tummy with air and blow out his fingers like birthday candles.

The therapist claps. “That’s great! Say, that’s the perfect way to beat Glass Man.”

Bash grins and hops over to his sheet. He writes BELLY BIRTHDAY BREATHS so big it covers the picture of Glass Man completely.

It’s another Charlie Brown moment, when one’s determination finally eclipses the Fear.

We find the breath in us to move forward across a land of glass and rock and discover we are not such fragile stuff at all. We are capable of incredible feats of imagination and bravery, for there is no greater Fear than the Fear we carry within. Only when we shirk that Fear can we share stories from the deepest, truest places, the kinds of places readers yearn to find.

So take up that kite, writers. You may get tangled, the kite may get torn, but there is always tomorrow and the promise of another chance to fly, and fly far.

~STAY TUNED NEXT WEEK!~

Shall we try a little music by Max Richter? Or an interview from yet another lovely indie author, mayhaps? There’s always the difficult discussion of character traits and thrusting abnormal changes upon established characters for the sake of corporate whimsy. Or maybe, just maybe, Blondie will finally get off her duff and WRITE SOMETHING!

Oh, I kid the kid. She’s been working very hard at school and on the piano. Considering she has a few days off coming up, though, I may very likely put her to work here. Mwa ha ha ha!

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

30 thoughts on “#Anxiety is not just a #parentproblem. It is a #writerproblem, too.

  1. The trials and tribulations when bringing up a child have no boundaries. Each one is different…I am father to four, all grown up thankfully…each one seems impossible to mend at times. I’m with you on this and best of luck, The Old Fool, defender of little kids and worn out mums.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Deepest thanks, Old Father. 🙂 For all the difficult moments like this, I could never ask for more creatively beautiful kiddos. Just last night, Biff and Bash were telling a story together–playing different characters, building plot twists of all sorts. They did this for over an hour! Neglecting their supper in the process, yeah, but still. I’m so thankful they love storytelling as much as I do. xxxxx

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sending you both all the hugs in the world. That’s you as well – I know that awful, helpless feeling so well. Watching your little angel shrivel in front of you, saying he’s stupid and so at odds with life. You so want to carry that load but it never happens. I won’t witter on – if you ever need a virtual shoulder my email is a always open to you. All you can do is try to help build bridges between worlds. And above all be there for them. He’s a such a great kid. Your a great parent. Your family is wonderful. Yes we can do this. xxxxxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Friend. I know you’ve got your own little wonder beneath your wing, and it’s so difficult to send them to school knowing what battles they face. We must help them tap their own strengths and help them see they are much stronger than they think! xxxxx

      Liked by 1 person

      • At his last school we put in place his own little safe zone. It was a little indoor tent in a back room. If he ever needed time then he would just go to his place. He didn’t use it for long. But it helped smooth a bumpy patch. It also helped the teacher find out when he was struggling – it’s not always easy to put your hand up. He got to choose his tent which made it work – batman if I remember. x

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I really don’t know how you manage to do all you do and do it so well, Jean. Hats off to you and your lovely family!

    But don’t we all have our demons? Don’t we all fear? Isn’t everyone gripped by anxiety? Some push it down. Some rises above it, ignore it, or maybe they just don’t recognise it. Or won’t verbalize it.

    To fear is to be human and I will write through it (or try to).

    Liked by 1 person

  4. ‘Some battles must be fought alone. We can provide the tools, the support, the whatever-else-needed, but in the end … ‘
    How true, my respect. It’s hard to step back when all we wish is to make it better, and protect.
    Yet with loving patience, such struggles hugely empower a child’s self confidence. ☼

    Liked by 1 person

    • YES, exactly! Especially when I see the kids who *haven’t* learned to cope on their own, these twelve-year-olds, thirteen-year-olds crying like they’re in preschool just because they didn’t kick a home run at recess. EVERY problem is impossibly huge to them.

      Like

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