Does your highly sensitive child suffer from severe anxiety?
My oldest son does. But anxiety is a very large and intricate puzzle. One of those pieces includes something called, “looping thoughts” …
Generally, looping thoughts happens at night, before bed. A concept, idea, image or word triggers him and he experiences an extreme physical response to the thought. It “grabs” at him and ‘chokes’ out any other thoughts. It’s nothing but his clouded mind and numbing fear. The thoughts are ceaseless. He gasps for breath, rips out his hair, screams, cries, and bellows out from the depths of his belly. He repeats all of this until the thoughts finally dissipates and he falls asleep.
This process, by the way, can take hours to move to completion.
I remember experiencing this as a child. Words weaved into my brain without warning. Images flashed in my head, it would frighten me. I recall the torment, the absolute terror that would bind me up and not let go. I’d hear people crying in pain. I felt frenzied, I’d gasp for air, I’d see shadows I couldn’t explain. I’d feel immobilized, frozen in my bed and I remember lying there, hating my body, wondering if it would be this way ‘forever’. I’d pray to God to take the pain from my head. I’d move through unknown to unknown for HOURS until my body crashed from pure exhaustion.
I remember it so vividly, as I watch my child suffer, with his helpless pleading eyes… and I’d do anything to take this from him.
As a parent, I’m inclined to say the worst part isn’t knowing this happens, it’s understanding you can not take it away. Once the anxiety blankets his mind, there’s very little either of us can do until it ends. I’ll sit with him, I’ll hold him, and I’ll remind him I’m here, but he can’t always ‘hear’ me while this event takes place.
Each night is a new battle, he may have these episodes once or for days on end. They come without warning and grip his heart until it’s over.
Either way, this is his truth and I can not take it away. This is his reality and I stand with him through it. I recognize his looping thoughts as a part of who he is and Together we work to “stand up” to the monsters in his head.
I remind him, “this is YOUR brain! YOU decide what goes inside!!” even if he hears me for just a second, to allow him space to breathe, It’s one second he’s not suffering.
Each time he remembers to take back his mind, he gets a little stronger.
When it comes down to it, It is my job, my privilege to teach him to take back his power. In the small moments, he establishes his authority are the most enormous victories. Every time he rises over his anxiety a little piece of courage is put in place. It is a long road but one worth traveling to build his confidence.
What helps us both is acknowledging the looping thoughts are real. We don’t sugar coat it or ignore it…. We talk about it. We identify how it hurts emotionally. We point to where it exists in his body. We allow him space to FEEL it. Because It is real for him, and we must band together to establish a line of defense from the creatures that attack his mind.
His anxious looping thoughts doesn’t mean there is something “wrong” or weird about him, it means he is a uniquely sensitive child who processes the world much differently than others. Despite the loops, his sensitivity is truly a true gift. It is my privilege as a mom, as his teacher, to help him anchor stabilizing thoughts. And as he grows, he’ll KNOW he has the tools within him to stand up to anyone or anything that threatens to take his power away.