Amy is almost 12 years old and suffers from anxiety. She has done all her life. She was born this way. She also has OCD. We go through phases of various things causing flareups, such as school, food, holidays, family etc, it could be anything. But at the moment her main problem is getting to sleep at night. She’s disturbed by every tiny little noise, every creak or footstep, every cough and sniff. Her hearing seems to have magic powers when she’s lying in bed with the lights out, trying to get to sleep. During the day she is often plagued by repetitive sounds or noises, especially music, but it’s not a problem that can’t be overcome. Night time is the worst.
We’ve had conversations about this. I’ve explained it’s her inner saboteur, her chimp brain, trying to get attention amplifying her worries, and that it’s not her fault. She gets so frustrated. She cries a lot. She will come downstairs at 11:00pm saying she’s too hot and too cold and has been woken by some imperceptible creak. She feels the need to tell me each time she’s woken. I’ve said that if she goes to sleep and gets woken up by little noises she shouldn’t let it make her feel angry. It’s the anger that’s preventing her from going back to sleep. I’ve explained it’s normal to fall asleep and wake up several times at the beginning of sleep, that it doesn’t matter and she shouldn’t worry if she doesn’t go straight to sleep first time.
But it seems that nothing I say can prevent her chimp brain from causing her distress. Her lack of sleep gives her leg aches, headaches, a feeling of exhaustion and makes her anxiety worse. She becomes more controlling and bossy over the rest of us and flies into rages and bursts out crying more readily.
How awful it is to have a part of you that tries to make life unpleasant and stressful. She eats her breakfast and goes to school just like any other child, but all the time inside she’s battling the many thoughts and urges that steer her towards self-destruction and pain. Isn’t that sad?
Today we’ve decided to put a fan in her room (facing the wall) in the hope the unobtrusive droning noise will block out all the individual creaks of someone walking to the loo or coughing in the next room. Perhaps that’ll work? I will let you know. I only hope it doesn’t make the room extra cold.