I need help. Can we talk?
So often as adults we read columns written by other adults; in this column, we flip the script and hear from a child’s perspective what it’s like to be anxious and live in uncertainty. We invite you to insert any child’s name into the byline as these reflections cross ages, cultures and experiences.
I like to have a plan and know the plan. It gives me comfort to know what’s coming. I spend a lot of time thinking and coming up with alternatives for what will happen next. Yep, I know that’s not realistic – especially because of COVID-19. No one knows anything about what’s next.
But here’s the deal: not knowing creates so much anxiety in me that my chest feels like it’s going to burst. For the first 10 years of my life, I often didn’t know what would happen next. I didn’t always feel safe. I didn’t know how to trust the adults in my life. What I didn’t know then is that fear turned into anxiety — which turned into frustration and anger.
Before I started going to Washburn Center to sort out all the tough thoughts and feelings bouncing around in my head, I just couldn’t use words to express what was going on.
When I said: Just let me take my blanket on the bus.
I meant: I’m afraid to leave home; it’s scary out there.
When I said: I need a snack I’m hungry even though I just had lunch.
I meant: Food is comforting for me, and I’m nervous if I wait there won’t be any there.
When I yelled and slammed the door.
I meant: I’m scared, and I don’t feel comfortable showing it. Anger’s the way it escapes.
If I had a chance to talk to all the grownups who could’ve helped me earlier, this is what I’d say:
- Listen to what’s underneath my words and actions. My auntie always said: don’t search in the branches for what’s only in the roots.
- Watch me. And I mean really watch, even if I don’t or can’t say the feeling. I’ll show it.
- I need help working through this. I need you to help me make that connection, even when it’s hard.
Help me find the support so I can get through this time and be stronger; I want to be prepared for anything.