Last time I left you, with my complicated boys academic life sorted but still in an emotional mess (The Adventures of My Complicated Little Boy – Part 2).
My boy would cry at the sight of cucumbers and spiders – even pictures. This was a very gradual thing and sort of became part of our life. It was just part of him and I think we were thinking that he would grow out of it and it was a phase. So I ashamedly say we didn’t really focus on it as much as his academic life.
But it came to a head when we visited a lovely friend. She innocently placed a plate of cucumber on the lunch table. Now normally my boy would leave the room and go and hide in his bed until the coast was clear, but he couldn’t do that, as he wasn’t in his home, so he ended up in a sobbing heap in the corner. I realised then that I had to tackle this, as it had escalated beyond “a phase.”
The next day I went and saw our doctor. She listened kindly and asked me to bring my boy in. On that visit, my boy was obviously visible distressed, but she felt that it was just “a phase” and he would grow out of it. I wasn’t pleased, but didn’t really know what else to do. The next day my boy came home upset and he explained that some boys had come out of the lunch room to the library, where he was eating his lunch alone, and chased him with cucumber.
Oh my word – I had no idea he was eating his lunch alone in the library – how long had this been going on and why hadn’t I been told!!!!! I was horrified with myself and made another appointment with the doctor. This time I demanded and stamped my feet (well not literally, but you get the idea). I explained to her that my boy’s problems were seriously affecting his life and is definitely escalating to become a serious concern and she needed to refer us to someone that could help. I stated that he was isolating himself from his peers both at school, in play (he wouldn’t go to parties, because there was always cucumber batons – on a side note, why do mothers do that, no one ever eats them!) and he wouldn’t read books or watch movies that I hadn’t read or seen in case there were spiders in them.
Well, she finally agreed and referred us to Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMHS). They contacted me straight away and said that they were really inundated, but please could we come in and see them in a month. Thank goodness.
Our appointment with the lovely psychiatrists at CAMHS was a balm on both of our battered souls. They agreed strongly that something was wrong and that we needed to do something. They put forward that my boy was an Anxious Child and his general anxiousness was expressed in his phobias.
So in simple terms my boy was generally wary and anxious of life, he couldn’t explain or express to me what was up – because he didn’t know and there is no real explanation, so his brain focused on certain things to be upset about. We found out that he had never liked cucumber (which I knew and had never made him eat), and some little boys very early on had found that out and had chased him with some. My boy had escalated this over the years in his very creative and out of the box thinking head, until it had become a huge thing. The spiders, he thinks, was a girl that had been visiting our house had done a girly scream at the sight of a spider and run around in a panic and my boy had taken that and expanded on it.
The psychiatrists suggested we follow a program called “Cool Kids” and booked us into group therapy. We would have to wait for that, as it was fully booked, but we could start on our own at home with the program. So we went home with the book, with determination and with hope.
Together we started our journey and oh my it was an interesting and intense slog. For over a year and a half we would spend 30 minutes every afternoon after school and up to an hour on the weekends working step by step, religiously through the book. One of the not surprising things was that my boy was the way he is because of me. Whether you go the nature route or the nurture route, he was like me. I did feel guilty for a while, but in reality I couldn’t of changed any of it and the characteristics that we both have make us who we are. So by me sharing my “foibles” and my coping mechanisms for them, he was able to open up about his feelings and focus on how to manage them too.
The course involves looking at your fears, recognising them, putting them into reality e.g. is cucumber ever really going to hurt me in any way? Then it focuses on managing your emotions by breathing and relaxing techniques and finally you go for the immersion therapy – or stepladders. You create situations little by little that gradually reduce your fears and teach you to manage your reactions and emotions.
That is key thing, my boy will never like cucumber or spiders, but his ability to understand and control his reactions, his worry and his emotions are the most important part. And what an amazing thing for a kid to learn – this is something that will be so useful and has become so useful in his life. I am kind of jealous of him, I wish I had these skills to deal with the crap that was thrown my way. I think it’s so important that I have also included it in my little girl’s life. They will both be capable of handling ANYTHING – well I hope anyway.
CAMHS invited us in again, during this process for one on one sessions, whilst we were waiting for the group therapy. They were so happy with the progress we were making on our own and felt it would not be any benefit for us to do group therapy, they would just keep an eye on us in one on one sessions. But if we would like to come and talk to the group therapy group and show how well we had done, they would be grateful – ha ha – no thanks.
So how has he done??? Well you will have to wait for the final instalment and learn all about my boy’s big steps both with his anxiety and his move up to Senior school……….