My daughter is a bright, caring, empathetic, preteen girl. Most days she has a smile on her face that melts her mom’s heart. She is typical preteen, mostly caring about binge-watching shows on Netflix or catching up on her friend’s latest YouTube videos featuring her fave, Beanie Boos. She does well in school, is friendly to everyone, and is respectful of others.
She also has Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).
When she was diagnosed at age 6, I did everything I could to help her. I got her into a special group at her school, inquired information from her doctor and read up on anything I could get my hands on. I have plenty of experience with adult GAD, but I haven’t a clue on what to do for childhood Anxiety. The school group helped immensely and then she aged out of the program. She was doing well until a major life event occurred in our household. We were fostering-to-adopt but had to give this child back to DCF because of my declining mental health. Her GAD came back full force. This time we sought out therapy. While she got help, so did I for my Depression and Anxiety.
In the last 2 ½ years, my daughter has been doing great with only minor hiccups.
Then we decided to move to give her a better education as she starts Middle School, another major life change.
My husband and I do not hide things from her and she knew from the beginning about the move. She helped us in choosing where we would live (ultimately her input was minor). We wanted her to embrace this change. She was excited as she will be in school with her best friend now. We thought she was handling this well.
And then sleep disturbances set in.
My daughter has always been a good sleeper; I have never experience this before even with her past episodes of GAD. As the moving date approaches, her sleep disturbances have become full fledge episodes of Insomnia and I, as her mother, feel completely helpless. Here I am, a woman who has struggled with Depression and Anxiety for most of my life and I can’t help her. For me, the solution comes in the form of medication that I take nightly. For her, at age 10, there is no medicinal help. At first we tried simple solutions by telling her to read, it will tire her eyes. That didn’t work.
As night 3 was approaching, I became extremely concerned. I could vividly remember what I felt like and how I reacted to night 4 of Insomnia for me. I remember the tears and the strong desire to sleep. I remember the immense amount of thoughts that bounced in and out of my mind. I remember the extreme irritation and delusional thinking I had during the day. I was desperate to give my child relief.
I suggested she use my weighted blanket. She refused.
I suggested mindfulness meditation. She refused.
I suggested my Therapist’s 4-square breathing technique (breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, breathe out for 4 seconds, repeat 4 times) which has worked for me a few times. She was hesitant but decided to give it a shot. It didn’t work.
Night 4 brought on the only pseudo-medicinal thing I could try with her… Melatonin. I cut my 3mg pill in half. Nope, still didn’t work. She was in tears. She just wanted to sleep and I completely understood this all too well. I explained that she needed to distract herself, try not to just lay in bed. I suggested reading, writing, journaling, drawing, coloring and lastly, watching stuff on her Kindle (which I set to the night mode that turns off the harming blue light). She slept only 7 hours that night, barely enough for an adult.
Last night, night 5, I finally convinced her to use my weighted blanket. I thought we may have found the solution as all was quiet. Then I heard her come downstairs at 11pm. After about 15 minutes, she returned to her room. This morning she said that she sat crying in her room and eventually fell asleep around midnight. She woke up at 6:10am. 6 hours of sleep.
I don’t know what to do. She is declining rapidly. The recommended amount of sleep for a child her age is 9-12 hours. She has not had anywhere close to this in five days. My sleep is becoming disturbed worrying about her. I do not know how to help her anymore. I am struggling as I feel the sense of blame coming back… she is like this because of me. My GAD worries that she will never sleep again, always jumping to the worst conclusion. I cry for her. I blame myself for her struggles with this illness. I am pondering therapy again, but that isn’t going to fix her problem quickly. How can I help my daughter?