Given how many posts I devoted to my daughter’s anxiety issues, I figured it was time for a brief update on the situation. After pulling out of the high school experiment, she eventually decided to go back to the day-program she had been attending in the previous term (a therapeutic program for kids with autism that includes light academic work and social experiences).
At first, I was adamant that she embark on a program of therapy for her anxiety. I made her commit to 2 sessions per month with her clinical counsellor, and when her doctor suggested adding psychiatry to the team I went ahead with the referral process.
We have been seeing our counsellor for a few years now, and Miss Em has a good relationship with her. She trusts the counsellor, and has no problem opening up about her feelings. When she has a situation that she is struggling with, she will sometimes ask for a session to work things out. But she was resisting the mandatory every-other-week plan, and one day she asked if I could sit out in the lobby while she had her session. I had no problem with that, and was pleased that she was taking more ownership over her therapy.
When she emerged from the session it was obvious she had been crying pretty hard. But she gave her counsellor a big hug as we left, and said “It felt good to get that out”. Eventually I learned what “that” was (she told me, and then I had a session with the counsellor myself) – my daughter was getting increasingly upset with the “medicalization” of her condition. She did not want to start seeing a psychiatrist and having to open up to a stranger about deeply personal feelings and experiences, especially when she felt her clinical counsellor already filled that role adequately. She was upset that I was pushing her into this, as if she did not already appreciate the effect her anxiety was having on her own life and goals. Finally, she let me know that talking about this stuff was not the way she wanted to handle it, and that it actually created more anxiety for her. Instead, she wanted to tackle the problem by “doing” rather than “talking” – coming up with plans for addressing situations as they arose.
Once I got past my initial panic that she was simply avoiding the things that made her anxious, and I was able to truly listen to what she was saying, I realized that she was on the right track. I was proud of her for taking ownership of her anxiety, and of wanting to handle it in the way she felt was best for her. It became apparent that she did have plans for how to progress and wasn’t just trying to avoid the situation. I couldn’t help but feel proud of her, and wonder at how much she is maturing. After confirming all of this with her counsellor, her father and I have decided to give her a chance to handle this her way. I cancelled the consultation with the psychiatrist, and she will just visit her counsellor when she feels the need to do so.
Around this time, it also seemed that her medication was finally starting to kick in. I’m not sure yet, but she handled two trips away from home (with a few social challenges thrown in for good measure) much better than she has in the past. I’ve also been noticing less resistance lately (her degree of resistance is directly proportional to the degree of anxiety she is experiencing), and so I’m feeling fairly good about this new plan.
I realized that in my panic at seeing her struggling so much with the high school experiment, that I may have over-reacted in terms of wanting to “do” something about it. I didn’t take into consideration that the “something” that would be my first choice might not be a good fit for her. I will continue to watch closely, but I’m also happy to let go a bit and allow her the opportunity to take greater ownership of this. After all, she is ultimately the one who is most affected by it and has the most to gain or lose.