Breaking the Rules

 

Early last week, I took my kids to the dentist for their 6 month check ups.  Afterwards, there was a promised stop at Starbucks for breakfast and we began making our way toward drop offs at three different schools.

High school was closest and our first stop. Then we took the youngest to her elementary school. And, finally the middle and I set off for middle school.  As we got closer, I saw one of our favorite parks.

I got quiet and my daughter instantly read my thoughts. (I do believe that’s one of her super powers!)

“Mom, what are you considering?” she asked with a smile in her voice.

“Hey, do you want to go to Maymont instead of school? I mean, what class are you missing right now? “ I said half joking, half serious.

“Science”, she responded, “but I’m ahead on my work and wouldn’t be missing anything.”

We laughed while I kept driving toward school, but then turned on my blinker and pulled into the park.

We both smiled big and talked about how we used to come here all the time when she & her sisters were little.

“How about we run around for about 20 minutes? That work for you?”

“Yes! Let’s go!”

I let Z choose where she wanted to go. We visited with the donkeys, goats and bunnies.  Walked past the cows, moo’ed loudly to get their attention and spotted deer hiding in the meadow.  The weather was gorgeous, so at some point we kicked off our shoes and enjoyed the feeling of bare feet on the warm ground.

We found the statue that the kids always climbed on when they were tiny, took it upon ourselves to climb it again and took photos.  I sent a picture of Z laying on the park bench to her Dad, saying, “Science class is the best!”

When it was time to go, I got a big hug from my girl.

“This was awesome, Mom!” she said.

“It was awesome. I love getting spontaneous time with my girl – and, well, sometimes you’ve just got to break the rules a little.”

“I’ll remind you of that quote when I’m older! “

—–

With anxiety, sometimes it’s important to let loose and break the rules as well. What kind of rules do you set for yourself?  You know the ones you create in your head to create the illusion of protection:

*I’m safe if I drive in the right hand lane, but might freak out if I get stuck in the fast lane

*Movie theaters are ok, but only if I get the aisle seat.

*Glass elevators are pretty safe, but I take stairs in all other situations, unless for some reason my anxiety is low and I’m feeling particularly confident.

*Yes to lunch dates as long as I can hide in a group.

*I’ll only fly if I have a few drinks ahead of time.

This week, why not experiment with breaking the rules?  Get curious. What happens when you do the opposite of what anxiety tells you to do? Drive in that middle lane. Say yes to lunch with a friend.  Release into the swell of adrenaline instead of tensing up to fight it. Keep going instead of running away.

It’s time to live a bigger life and break the rules. Join me?

 

 

 

Ready

“I’ll try it, but I may turn around and come back down. Don’t try to make me go!” I said with forced speech to my teenagers as we climbed the steps higher and higher. The water slide was in sight, but still about fifty feet away and up.

Minutes before, we were getting ready to go home. Walking past a big slide on the way out, I said nonchalantly, “Oh, that looks really fun. Too bad we have to get home. I’ll definitely do it next time.”

“Mom, there’s literally no line. We should do it right now!” said my older girls.

“Yeah, go on Kris!” added my husband and his best friend, smiling. They knew I hadn’t meant a word I said.  “We’ll wait right here for you.  Give me your stuff & have fun!”

Our eight year old spoke up with passion.  “Mom, you do not have to do this!” She and I had happily spent the day together hitting the lazy rivers and kiddie areas while the others sought drops and thrills.

The teens urged me to give it a try.  Grabbing a raft and heading up the first flight of stairs, I hesitated and looked back.

“Mom, just think of this as exposure work. This is good for you!” said E smiling and making sure I didn’t make a run for the exit.  My 15 year old, who had heard me a million times talk about how exposure work is the very best way to deal with anxiety, was pushing my own advice back in my face.

“Come on Mom, you can do this,” said Z, taking another angle. “You’ll love it. It’s so easy. I was nervous the first time, but it’s fun!”

“It’s just that this is not relaxing for me,” I said, still fretting and considering my options. “The lazy river is just my speed. It’s ok. We all have different things that make us happy.”

“You know, my little brother who is 9 AND my Mom did this ride last year and loved it,” added their buddy, upping the pressure.  “Come on Aunt Kristin, if they can handle it, so can you.”

“Girls, you cannot shame me into riding this water slide.  I’m not embarrassed. I just don’t like being up so very high.”

But I knew that the ride would be smooth and pretty easy once I overcame the anticipation of walking up the high, open air stair case.  Every other minute or so, I imagined what would happen if I panicked on the stairs. Would I run back down? Crawl? Would someone need to carry me?

All ridiculous thoughts, but typical of the anxious brain frantically searching for escape routes and answers to “what if” scenarios.

I also knew that making my way up the flight of stairs was good role modeling for all the girls – both the ones encouraging me to go and the one who also found it scary. Trying to look up and not over the edge, I kept climbing, making the decision to keep going with every step.

When we got to the top, there were four slide choices. The girls were quickly talking about which slide was best and which was the slowest, meaning a good choice for me.  I asked the ride workers (who were maybe 20 years old) which of the 4 slides was the easiest. “I’m a little nervous and this is my first time,” I said.

A young man, with a thick accent and name tag showing he was from Ukraine, smiled and said, “Yes, it is good. You sit here.”  And, with a little push, I was on my way.

I heard the girls cheering as I took off down the slide. It was relaxing and beautiful like they said it would be.  Late afternoon sunlight made it’s way through the tree tops and sparkled on the water.  I found myself smiling, feeling the breeze in my face and leaning into the curves with contentment. Going down the “big” drop at the end was exciting and, all in all, the ride was over too quickly.

Getting out, I received cheers from my family & friends. I was a little shaky from the anticipation, but genuinely happy.

There’s a scene in Lemony Snicket that resonated with me, reading it the day after my ride.

“Are you ready?” Klaus asked finally.

“No,” Sunny answered.

“Me neither,” Violet said, “but if we wait until we’re ready we’ll be waiting for the rest of our lives. Let’s go.”

I wasn’t ready to go on the ride or deal with being nervous.  Putting off things like that until tomorrow or the next time or when we’re ready is an attempt to feel brave without action.  But underneath there is a part of us that wants to experience all of life and urges us forward, whispering alongside the fear – yes!

Saying yes to my girls and to life felt good. Saying yes to anxiety and facing it almost always feels very good after the fact. It’s the saying yes part, the feeling of shaky legs and racing thoughts that has to come first.

We walked out of the park as afternoon turned into early evening, hand in hand retelling stories from the day.  Turning back toward the entrance, we saw our friends at the top of the Colossal Curl, a stair case rising 70 feet above the ground, waving like crazy and smiling.

“That was an awesome ride,” my teens said with their father agreeing.  I love that feeling of being both scared and excited, they added.  We all jumped up and down and waved back.  It had been a glorious day just being together, laughing and creating memories. We were good tired, happy and as we hopped into the car, I said, “Let’s go.”

Photo: watercountryusa.com

 

Movie night!

If you haven’t been introduced to Lynn Lyons yet, today is your lucky day. She & Reid Wilson co-wrote a book called “Anxious Kids, Anxious Parents” which is filled with skills building information that’s helpful for both kids and adults.

This video was filmed during a training she did for teachers and is just under 2 hours. I’ll wait while you go pop some popcorn, get a notebook & pencil. Go on. It’s totally worth your time whether or not you’re watching to build your own skills and/or those of your kids and family. I’ve forwarded this video on to a few friends with kids who struggle with anxiety and they’ve all raved at how much they learned and how excited they were to have a game plan.

Enjoy & let me know what you think!

Face it Fridays!

Good morning! So, I have to admit that I did my face it friday challenge yesterday. We’re heading out of town for a few days & I knew there would be no time today. Although, I should count (mostly) keeping my cool while we try to pack up the mini-van; negotiate. . .you know, who’s way to pack is the “right way”; and three gorgeous, but wild and excited, children scream & run through the house.

“Mommy – she hit me! Mama – look at my slip knot – woohoo, I’m a cowgirl! Mom – did you pick up the 3rd Percy Jackson book yet? I can’t clean that up – I’m too tiiired!” Thank God for a little PBS Kids in times like these!

Alright, so yesterday I chipped away at that bridge/roller coaster exit some more. I crossed the downtown bridge, took the first exit, came back across & then jumped onto the downtown expressway exit. I should videotape that for you – it really is a silly design – all loopy & rollercoastery right over our downtown area. Who thought up that design?

With exposure like this, I like to repeat it over & over & over again until I’m not getting rushes of adrenaline. Yesterday, I went in reminding myself of the attitude “I want this anxiety” & tried to increase symptoms. Turning around on the exit, I noticed that I, um, really didn’t want to be anxious after all, and had to talk to myself again when the rushes came back, “I do want this anxiety. This is how I get over it. I can handle it.”

I hope you have a wonderful weekend & take some time to get out there & stir up some trouble for yourself!

A Trip to the Zoo

“This bridge freaks me out, Mama,” says my 6 year old as we get ready to enter the National Zoo.

“I know baby. Sometimes I get nervous on bridges, too. What’s going on?” I ask.

“It makes my legs feel funny. It feels like we’re high up in the trees and the water is so far below,” she explains.

“You know what’s cool about that? I ask, getting her attention, “Your body is real smart & that’s your body’s way of asking – Is this safe?

And, what’s cool is that you can look around, make sure you’re safe & give your body an answer.

So, what’s the answer? Are you safe?”

My big girl looks at me, and then all around. “Yeah, but I still feel funny.”

“Let’s look at the bridge,” I suggest. “Hmm – looks strong – lots of people are on it – cars, too.

Let’s check the railing (we try to shake it). Nice and sturdy.

What can we tell our body now?”

“It’s ok body. I’m safe,” she tells herself out loud, smiling.

“That’s right & that funny feeling in your legs & tummy will slowly go away. Maybe it has already. And, if it doesn’t for a while, that’s ok too.”

“It’s gone already,” she tells me.

“Alright, baby. Let’s go to the zoo!”

“Yeah! I want to go see the monkeys!”

Some wisdom in anxiety

I wrote this late on Tuesday night and had saved it as a draft. Before you read any further, know that our daughter is home now and recovering. We’re keeping life as simple and low key as you can with 3 energetic kids, accepting the love & support of our tribe and readjusting to home life after hospitalization.

7/8/08
My little girl is in the hospital tonight. She’s 6 years old and her little body is working hard to get rid of a high fever, junky cough, intense stomach pains and all around malaise. Her doctor says she’s fighting both a bacterial and viral infection and is getting IV antibiotics to get rid of the former. The combination of medicine, body wisdom and time seem to be working and we hope to bring her home in two days.

I had many moments today where I felt a surge of adrenaline, wondering what was going on and when my baby would be back to her normal self.

Something I was reminded of is that, even in high stress situations, I can handle anxiety and that sometimes it serves an important purpose.

As the doctor told us that she felt that her symptoms needed to be monitored & treated at the hospital, my anxiety pushed me (and my amazing husband) to ask good questions to make an informed decision.

When I walked into the room and she was in a lot of abdominal pain, panting and looked terrible, I felt a big wave of adrenaline. This was no run of the mill panicky feeling, it was a signal that all was not right. My anxiety prompted me to get the nurse and ask what’s going on with my baby, when will we see the doctor & what can we do for her right now.

As we traveled downstairs to get x-rays, me in the wheelchair and her in my lap, my mind wandered to many dark places. My body listened closely and responded. I remembered that thoughts are not facts, just a collection of ideas, worries and imagination and decided to sing in my daughters’ ear instead, soothing both of us. I whispered affirmations – Everything’s going to be alright, baby; You’re body is so strong; I love you; You’re safe – I’m right here.

Today was a reminder that there can be wisdom in anxiety. The flush of adrenaline, welcomed, shouting, “Be alert, Ask questions, Protect” empowers us & gives us direction and energy to do what needs to be done. It’s part of a fine tuned alarm system that, at it’s best, is essential and serves us well.

Cat-like reflexes

I’ve got to be honest. One of the upsides of my anxiety is that I have cat-like reflex skills when it comes to my children. I can remember when my first child was learning to eat solids. I’d cut up her apple and cheese into tiny, mouse sized bites. Even when I was taking pre-cautions and being ultra careful, that “breathe, chew, swallow” function would derail from time to time. I’d go to give her another apple bit and she would start coughing and getting all red in the face. Before she knew what was happening, I had grabbed her from the highchair and turned her upside down, patting her on the back to dislodge the “foreign object” while my heart raced.

When I told my former therapist this story, she said that I should be proud. She added that in the olden days, clans needed quick reflexes to flee danger at a moment’s notice. When we talked about how anxiety runs in my family, she laughed and said, “See, it served its purpose then. Your clan survived!”