My son is a trigger for my anxiety.
There, I said it, and I feel even worse now for seeing it in black and white. What kind of parent admits something like that?! In fairness, it isn’t him as such, it is the horrible memories and feelings that his behaviour bring on from my own childhood. I love him so much, I would die for him in a heartbeat, it wouldn’t cross my mind to do anything else. I jokingly say to friends on the bad days that I’m going to send him to live with a circus or whatever but I’d never truly entertain the thought, he’s my baby boy, I want to keep him with me forever.
He has his own struggles, he has been bullied mercilessly at school ever since he started at age 4 and it really hurts him as would be expected. He is anxious, socially awkward, and feels very deeply and painfully about many things. He is highly intelligent and has a deep sense of justice and fairness, and as we all know “life isn’t fair”, it upsets him and he can’t easily let go of injustices which can be hard for him and others to handle – in society today the general rule is that you must blend in (or vibrantly and confidently stand out), go with the flow, and not speak up if you see something wrong or unfair unless you want to be labeled a whinger.
My heart bleeds for him, I’d do anything to take his pain away, his happiness and peace is paramount. I hate myself everyday that I’ve played a role in handing him anxious, socially awkward genes. I have lived my life lonely right up until I met my husband, even as an adult I struggle to make close friends among my peers instead preferring the company of older people who don’t care for the social fakery of the younger generation. .
He is an amazing kid, for any of his failures he makes up 100 times for in spirit and love. He’s passionate and faithful, loyal, kind, he has a great sense of humour, and is compassionate, sympathetic, sensitive, and he loves to help people, especially the elderly. He’s considerate and thoughtful, practical, logical, and shy. He’s always been a square peg in a round hole though, he tries so hard to fit in but he just never does. Whatever the “it factor” is, we as a family don’t have it, our youngest son is close, but still not quite there, the popularity gene is absent in our introverted little family, it is elusive and unattainable.
He tries to contain his anxiety and hurt at being left out or bullied, but eventually it escalates and erupts in the form of anger. Understandably too, when you’re constantly being belittled and put down it would build pressure in anyone, even an adult, but so much harder for a young man on the cusp of puberty to handle. While I internalize my anxiety, depression, fear, and anger, he externalises his – he becomes confrontational, disobedient, picks fights, blames others, raises his voice and is generally disruptive. The frustration and angry energy that comes from him is so heartbreaking to witness, and it breaks me down.
I am reminded of when I was a little kid – 6, being spitefully told by my “sister” that my Mum and Dad weren’t my real parents, that I’d not been wanted, and they only looked after me because they were “stuck” with me. Around the age of 8, being told I was useless, worthless, and banned from talking to, or playing with, my little “nephew” because I was a stupid clumsy little fool (I’d been piggybacking him and he wiggled, I had a split lip and black eye because I broke his fall so he wouldn’t get hurt). I was 10, being told I should have been dead, and being threatened to have my head smashed in.
It didn’t stop there, at 12, being called every vile name, spit flying from my “sister’s” lips as she snarled at me over something small and petty. 14, sitting at the toddlers table at one of my “sisters” weddings because I was “just a child and I should know my place”. 16, my “sister” threatening to have me raped because I dared to tell her “mum and dad” were as much my parents as hers.
There were millions of these incidents from my so called family as I grew, and many more even after I was an adult. Even at my “Dad’s” funeral my “siblings” made a point to remind me that he wasn’t my father and call me horrible names, putting not only me down, but also my husband and children. One even put an advert in the paper, which hurt even more, not so much for myself, but knowing that Dad would have been disgusted by their actions but never have said anything to correct it. After his death, I finally cut all ties with every one of them except my “Mum” who I have limited contact with, but barely a day goes by when I don’t feel the sting of their hurtful words and actions of over 30 years.
While my son is not vicious and vindictive like this generally, there are times when his emotions really overwhelm him and the anger that follows reaches close to that of my family. I fear that one day, genetics will win over his and our fight against them. I am terrified. It feels like a freight train that’s out of control, and I’m standing on the tracks waving my arms around, trying to stop it from derailing but it just keeps coming. I don’t know how to help him, I want so much for him to be happy, to be calm and joyful. I wish he could fit in like he so badly needs and wants, maybe if he was accepted by others, maybe he’d feel like he could accept the hard times easier. We have tried psychologists and counsellors, we’ve worked tirelessly with him as a family.
No matter what is happening though, or how much empathy he needs, I can not accept his poor behaviour choices when they impact on the feelings and wellness, both mental or physical, of others. When I hear him getting angry, especially at his little brother, my heart just pounds. I feel all those feelings I felt as a child, the fear, the isolation, and I hate myself!!! I hate myself for feeling those things because of this normally sweet young man. I fear too that one day my youngest son is going to be questioning himself, that the things my oldest says is going to break his spirit like it did mine back then when I was bearing the brunt of my “siblings” anger.
Most of all I am sad for the pain and inner turmoil that leads him to lash out at the people he knows will keep forgiving him and loving him, and I am heartbroken at the thought that I might lose the beautiful person that he can cope with his emotions. For myself, I just keep praying for the strength to know what to do and say, to calm my own panic when his words are cruel, and to be the parent that he needs and deserves.