Sunday, September 11, 2011

Dropping the Donkey

Aesop has a fable about a miller and his son who take a donkey to the market.  Along the way, they receive repeated criticism and advice for their handling of the donkey.  In the end, the donkey falls into a river and floats away. 
Some days I can really relate to that miller. 
With the food allergies and the migraines, I kept circling back to square one, but at least I felt in charge.  We were solving a puzzle.  Most of the pieces fell into place under the headings of either "corn" or "gluten". 

I still deal with the whole donkey-in-the-river scenario sometimes.  I feel like I need to use mind over matter to deal with symptoms rather than the simple (and sometimes not so simple) act of avoidance.  It's not entirely rational, but I spent a long time working with professionals on the premise that my symptoms were just stress related.  Just because they aren't doesn't undo that work.  

You'd think I'd have learned. 
The trouble is, when you are in over your head, you turn to others for advice.  Sometimes, you get lucky and stumble into people who know the best next steps.  And sometimes, you don't. 
This is what seems to have happened to us with Bumblebee. 
We've spent 4 years working with professionals who felt that labels hurt kids.  That anxiety is rational.  That we, as a family, were doing something wrong. That we needed to really think about it.  That we should analyze our actions. 
We've been told to and tried rationalizing, bribing, and taking away priviliges.  We've tried encouragement and sticker charts and good-will offerings.  We've tried starving her into verbalizing if she won't touch dinner, and we've tried being a family of short order cooks.  We've stood firm.  We've given in.  All on the advice of others because what we were doing wasn't working. 
It turns out that rather than getting advice on how to TREAT anxiety, I should have been learning about how, exactly, Anxiety Disorders work.  (And it is worthy of those capitals, believe me)  Because the current belief is that they aren't rational, by any stretch of the imagination.  There isn't control over her feelings and since those feelings are overwhelming, she didn't have control over where they led her. 
By treating her like she did have control, or bending over backward to 'compromise' and then being frustrated at her refusal to cooperate; we've got a child who's no longer in tears.  She's angry, she's sullen, she doesn't want to treat us with respect because she doesn't feel respected.  She put up with food allergies, and dietary mayhem for years.  And us?  When she felt 'sick' we dragged her off and abandoned her at school, where she was overwhelmed and didn't have the tools she needed to deal with those feelings.  It doesn't matter that I was dying inside each day I left her, or that everyone told me it was the right thing to do.  To her, what matters is that she felt alone and overwhelmed.  And then once in awhile, she is terrified and needs us again...and at the same time, she hates us for being needed. 
Rather than getting her through with our own problem solving techniques, we asked for advice.  And based on the results, I feel like I'm watching my daughter floating down the river on Aesop's donkey. 

The good news is, we're no longer looking for what's wrong with us.  We aren't hunting in the dark for a magic cure.  There isn't one.  We just need to fish that donkey out of the river, dry her off, and set off again.  And maybe this time, we'll make it to market unscathed. 

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