I am very proud, privileged and honoured to share this blog edition. It’s written by a very special person. Laila, who is 9 years old, shares her experience of anxiety, what it is like for her and some of the things that have helped her to cope with it. Laila also regularly raises money for "Young Minds" a National Charity supporting young people with issues around emotional health. So whether you are parenting a child with anxiety or have anxiety yourself I am convinced you will really connect with this fabulous and personal account of anxiety seen through the eyes of a young person – I challenge you to read it and then be inspired by what we can all learn from Laila.
Hi my name is Laila. I am nine years old my journey with anxiety started before I was eight in early 2015. At first I suffered from ‘funny throats’ where it felt tight, then I felt like I would rather stay home with my mummy than go to school and I started to struggle to get to sleep. My really big worry came when I had a urine infection around May 2015. I was so scared of wetting myself after the infection that I needed to be close to a toilet. I needed a lot of help from worry teachers and from my parents to calm myself down.
How it all began
It was an ordinary day and we had gone to the local pet shop and I was feeling like I needed a wee so badly that I kept going and going and going to the toilet. My mum and dad thought I was being silly so they got angry with me, which did not help at all. Even after the infection had been treated I felt very scared and sad for quite some time. I went to a counsellor who helped me learn some ‘tricks’ to calm down such as deep breathing and I felt safer and more relaxed. After that, something bad happened. I didn’t feel right after that. I felt worried and scared again in case I wet myself or what happened on that day would happen again so, I had another counsellor trained in CBT who helped me even more.
Things That Have Helped Me With My Anxiety
Understanding anxiety is a normal human reaction. Usually your worry is helpful for example if your friend is stuck in the toilet or there is a fire it helps you take action and protects you from danger. That is when your worry is keeping you on guard and safe. Sometimes though your worry is the boss of you when there isn’t a true danger and this is when you might need extra help.
Deep breathing when I feel worried. You need to take in easy deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth.
Listening to meditation CDs
Talking to my parents
Naming my worry, mine is called Will. I found it really helpful to name my worry because naming it made it feel a bit more ‘human’ and less unknown me and was also quite fun.
Making a worry tree. Draw a tree on a big sheet of paper; it can be any shape, size or colour, decorate it how you like. Cut out lots of leaves. Write out each worry on a leaf and stick them on the trunk, if they are worrying you a lot you put them at the top of the trunk, if they are only worrying you a little you can put them at the bottom. Now, every time you do something good or happy you write it on the leaf and stick the leaf at the top of the tree and every time you feel less bothered by your worry you move it down the trunk and if it stops bothering you can take the worry off the tree and put it in the bin because you are not worried about it anymore. The idea is when you look at that tree you see how many positive things are in your life and that the worries are a small part.
3 good things. Everyday write in a book about the 3 best things that have happened to you today. This works like the worry tree helping you to see there are lots of good things happening in your day even if you have had an attack of the worries.
Thinking about a happy place. When I get worried I visualise being in the clouds all alone.
Having a diary is very helpful too. You can tell it all your secrets and how you feel. I have got one myself and it really makes me feel relaxed and calm because my diary is something I can talk to even more than my parents sometimes.
Getting outside help. This has been the biggest help of all, my ‘worry teacher’ Sarah has taught me so many techniques, understand what I am going through and I can talk to her about everything.
How I am now
Help from my parents, worry teachers and using my techniques has made me come so far in life. Even though it has been extremely hard I have made it but I do get worried from time to time which is okay because I am ready for anything.
It is like you are on a journey a bit like a rollercoaster going up when you have good days and down when you have bad days. All the help you get you must practise to improve. You are the person who is making you get better and better each day.
You might feel weak because your worry is beating you but you are actually strong because you are fighting it and getting help is also not a weakness; you would be weak if were to ignore it.
Whatever it takes, no matter how many times you fall do not give up.
Sharon's note: We are delivering a Saturday Parenting Masterclass in February 2017 on Supporting a Child With Anxiety - for more info or to book email: Bookings@natural-flair.co.uk
Footnote: Laila has now progressed to the stage that she need's to let "Will" go and so from now on her "worry" is just "worry" - this is the next step in her journey and we all wish her well.