Raising a teen is hard. Being a teen is hard. I know a lot of us parents complain about our teens and how inconvenient their ever-changing moods are. We wonder where our sweet little children have gone and why in his/her place a grouchy, nonverbal awkward almost adult has arrived. Maybe we need to look a little deeper and exercise a little more patience.
Sometimes, I can be overbearing and dismissive. I’m tired and my life is pretty monotonous. I know after 14 years, sometimes I run on autopilot. We get so caught up in our own inner dialogue that we forget that everything our children do is not always just to make our lives harder, even though it may feel like it at times. For example, my girls bicker almost constantly and it’s become something that I’ve begun to take personally because I feel like they do it in spite of my requests for them to stop. It almost feels like a collateral act of defiance. I’m trying to step back and see the whole picture, take into consideration that maybe they’re going through something that I’m missing.
Which brings me to the entire point of this post. Children of all ages who are experiencing anxiety and how they express those feelings. My daughter has been suffering from chronic sinus issues for the last couple of years. This year, it has been particularly bad. She’s already had 5 sinus infections since the beginning of the school year. Per our pediatrician, she is on meds to control her allergies and prevent the subsequent sinus infections that follow any sort of congestion, but that no longer seems to be helping.
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It’s gotten so bad that she is getting migraines which, if you’ve ever had chronic sinus issues, you know, is debilitating. She’s starting to feel like she’s sick and she’s not getting better. She doesn’t understand and neither do I. We do what we’re supposed to. We go to the doctor. We follow her instructions and still my child is sick. Today, we are seeing a specialist, an allergist, because we have to get to the bottom of this.
We love our pediatrician and I trust doctors. I have close friends and family members who are doctors, so I have no problem with doctors. But when your child isn’t getting better, you have to advocate no matter who it is or whose feelings it might hurt. This is where I am today.
The thing is we’re at a point now where my daughters is in such pain that the thought of being at school with no one to help her sends her into a panic. Her anxiety kicks in and she is practically immobilized. I’m talking, gets to the office at school and goes into flight mode. The other day her sinus infection was so bad and she couldn’t be medicated because of tests, she cried for 3 hours in the nurse’s office before they called me to bring her home.
How can I send her to school when she is so obviously in pain and, on top of that, terrified of not knowing why it won’t go away. Which, I won’t lie, I am getting concerned myself. I’m thinking if this appointment with the specialist doesn’t give us answers, maybe we need an MRI. I won’t say that to my daughter and I can’t lead on that I’m more worried than she thinks I am. As her mom, it’s my job to keep my shit together while handling business on the backend.
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I’m trying to stay cool but I get why she is having this anxiety of the unknown. I try to keep her comfortable. I have chronic sinus and allergy issues too. I get migraines. I know how painful all of this is but when I’m sick, I have the luxury of burying myself in bed. When she’s sick, she still has to show up but lately, even when she’s showing up, she’s not really because she’s so preoccupied by the pain.
I guess what I’m saying is that sometimes kids and teens are not jerks just for the sake of being a pain in the butt. Most times, there is something behind it. Whether it be anger, worry, fear or embarrassment. Sometimes even teenagers can’t use their words to tell us how they’re feeling. They are like toddlers in that way.
They say things like, “I’m tired”, “My head hurts”, “My stomach hurts” all very non-specifically and for a parent that can be frustrating because you feel like maybe they are trying to get something over on you. A long time ago, I started going deeper on my questioning (once we rule out that it’s not an actual physical ailment) I ask, “has anything happened at school?”, “Did a friend say something that hurt your feelings?”, “Did a boy say something that made you feel weird?”, “Did a teacher get too close?” “Did anyone make you feel uncomfortable or compromised in any way?” Sometimes, the answers will come out without them having to find the words.
But in this situation, my daughter is actually sick. I’ve been to the pediatrician so many times this year that I feel like I should get frequent flyer miles. I’m also not too sure they don’t have me on some weird mom Munchausen by proxy watch list. It’s embarrassing but every time I take her in, there is actually something wrong with her. So it’s not in either one of our heads. I know how to advocate for my children and I’ll do whatever I need to get them healthy but how do I help them deal with their anxiety?
As a mom, how do you differentiate between your child being legit run of the mill fear of something and having brain chemistry induced anxiety attack about it? One might only need a hug but the other might need a professional. What would you do if your teenage girl was experiencing anxiety while suffering a physical illness?
Update: Allergy tests showed that she is allergic to every Midwestern allergen except cats. We have a dog. The allergens are triggering sinus infections. If your kid keeps getting sinus infections, it might be worth a trip to the allergist. Also, I will write some posts next week to help your kids deal with sinus issues, give you the low down on allergy tests on kids and teens and the symptoms of anxiety in teenagers. Basically, I’ll help you understand the secret life of the American teenager. We’ll all get through this together.