Learning Anxiety Management

We sat in the therapist’s office with nothing to discuss. Three weeks and there had been no meltdowns we could talk through, no major stress episodes, no panic. It was as if the troubles ceased the moment we attempted to observe them. Whatever the reasons for the vanished anxiety, there did not seem to be much point in paying out of pocket week after week so we could sit on a leather couch with nothing to discuss. All parties agreed that perhaps therapy might be more useful again in the fall with the stresses of beginning junior high. So we walked out and cancelled the remaining appointments.

Ten minutes after arriving home Gleek shrieked and panicked because a wasp got into the house. Twenty minutes after that she saw another one outside and plunged again into fear, but channeled it better. During homework time she pulled out a familiar array of stress tactics such as whining, flopping, singing out loud, making random noises to annoy her brother, dropping pencils, and resisting the help she asked for one second previous. My job was to stay calm, expect her to get a grip on herself, and wait for her to settle down and do the work, which she eventually did.

I am left with questions about coincidence and causation. Ultimately I think that Gleek would have been alarmed by a wasp in the house whether or not we’d decided to discontinue therapy. It also makes sense that her first big panicky event would dredge up all the old tactics out of storage. Or it could be that some part of her considered the therapy sessions as a sort of safety net and discontinuing them raises her ambient level of anxiety. In which case, discontinuing is exactly what we need to do so that Gleek can practice managing her stresses and fears.

Even with the resurgence of old coping strategies, Gleek still had a better handle on herself that she would have a month ago. She faced the second wasp without shrieking. She completed her math assignment before curling into a ball under a blanket. Then when I requested that she emerge so we could plan for the remainder of her homework, she used a visualization technique to bring herself back into a planning state of mind. We’ve come quite a long way since March. Now we just need to hang tight for the next four weeks of school.