Wednesday, September 1, 2010

How B Developed Anxiety

     B did not always have anxiety. As a matter of fact, she was pretty go with the flow as a baby. Without formally deciding to when she was born, I just naturally practiced what is generally called attachment parenting. I picked B up every time she cried. I carried her next to my skin. We did, and still do, sleep naked together, ensuring tons of skin on skin contact. I breastfed on demand, anywhere, and cannot tell you the number of appointments I went through with her as a baby with one boob having been popped out of my shirt, and me completely not noticing because it is how I spent most of my time.  I certainly was not a perfect mom, I had and have many faults, but these things I did right, as did most of the moms I had and have as friends.
     When B was 2.5 I put her in daycare. She was enthusiastic, and had no separation anxiety at all. (She also toilet trained immediately upon entering daycare with no prompting, although I came to realise that this probably happened so that she could gain the freedom to pee on trees. That was a real problem for a while, keeping her from squatting on every block.) She loved daycare, and was so very excited to start school that even though I could've held her back another year, her birthday being December 31st, I just didn't have the heart to.
     The anxiety didn't start until grade three. In grade three she had a teacher that got it into her head that she could punish the forgetfulness and ADD out of B. She and B's aide would put B out in the hallway for not doing homework or listening. Also, when I came at the end of every school day, the aide or the teacher would have a laundry list of very minor complaints about her behaviour that they would launch into, in front of B. B would sit there and feel absolute shame, even though many of the complaints were about things out of her control or were minor things that kids do, that the other kids did, only B's mom came in every day, so she got to hear them.
     Now, it must be clarified that B is not, and never has been, a discipline problem. She is not rambunctious, she isn't disruptive. Her problems were about being able to focus and withdrawing into her own world, not about being in any way aggressive or petulant or rude. She can't follow directions because she can't remember them, because she can't negotiate the classroom, because she didn't hear them, because she is unable to ask for help, etc..
     All these are reasons why discipline does not work for B. Sure, I can send her to her room, but if she doesn't remember why she's in there, what is the discipline worth? And if the problems are caused by an organic brain injury, that she cannot control, is strictness and shaming going to somehow change her memory and attention problems?
     At first, to my regret, I allowed this teacher this leeway, mistakenly assuming that she had some experience that I lacked. It was the biggest mistake ever. Within a few weeks, B had developed massive anxiety about going to school. She was angry. And who could blame her? She started hitting me, screaming, slamming doors, and even hit her aide at school, which the aide and the teacher thought was somehow good and demonstrated trust! To me now, this seems so completely unbelievable.
     I forced them to stop, stop disciplining her, stop shaming her. I talked with the resource teacher, the principal, the social worker. And they did stop, although my relationship with the teacher became very strained. I increased my presence at the school, and B calmed down, but the anxiety remained. She doesn't remember any of it, but the anxiety remained.
     At the end of the school year that year, an EEG showed that B was having sub clinical seizure discharges at the rate of one per second. I was devastated. One per second. That means B's reality is something like sitting and flicking through the channels constantly on your TV. There is no continuity. So many times a day her channel is changed and she has no idea what is happening on the show. And I allowed that teacher to make her feel bad about that. How horrible for her.

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