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At my wits end with dd panic attacks/phobias

(31 Posts)
MavisDavis99 Wed 27-Aug-14 00:50:05

DD is 11. I am divorced from her father (after 10 years together), due to give birth any day and regrettably recently separated from baby's father (after 6 years together).

DD has developed numerous panics over the last year, possibly due to the upcoming transition to secondary school, onset of puberty (they had "the video" which freaked her out as she firstly didn't want her body to change and has then obsessed over every tiny detail of it).

She has always been afraid of the dark and has nightmares. Is afraid of dogs, spiders, monsters, and probably more things that slip my mind right now. Says our house is too big and this also frightens her (we have been living here 8 months, it is a 3 bed semi, not a mansion), she also worries about her weight (feels "fat" despite being underweight) and "worries about worrying".

These worries mainly manifest at bedtime and can result in panic attacks.

She had one tonight. We went to bed at 9 and she spent ages searching her room for spiders. Found one (harvest, skinny leg type) on the ceiling, so I had to stand on her bed and remove it before she would get in.

I tried to settle her and put on her relaxation cd and set her nightlight to go down, after removing the hamster wheels from the cages (she said she would feel better with pets in her room, but now the sound of the wheels at night scares her!)

She was panicky and freaking out about me turning the light off (says she has been sleeping with it on at her dad's) after the spider scare, so after trying to explain the light would stop her sleeping properly and getting nowhere with that, I let her keep the light on and went to bed.

She woke me up at midnight saying she felt sick, so I took her back to her room and tried to settle her. As the worst luck would have it, as she lay down I saw an enormous fat spider crawling along the top of her pillow, so told her to lie still and close her eyes while I removed it. I also have spider phobia but don't make a fuss as don't want to make her worse.

She then became hysterical, threw all the covers and pillows off the bed and says she cannot and will not sleep, kept crying and saying she was scared. After some time trying to unsuccessfully calm her, suggesting relaxation or distraction techniques (all of which she said no to even trying) and explain again that she needs the light off to sleep I started to get really frustrated and cross with her. She wants to sleep in my bed with me, but there is not enough room and she would keep me awake, plus I don't think it's a healthy habit to start at age 11.

I am exhausted and in constant discomfort due to baby and really need to sleep, plus at my wits end about how to help her. I just had to leave the room in the end. I don't know how to help her (she has been on a waiting list for CBT for the last 2 months with CYPS but no appointment come through) and I feel awful at getting cross with her, but nothing I can think of seems to help. She is supposed to be doing a summer school to get her used to the new secondary school and was fine when she went in today, but if she is awake all night with the light on she will be exhausted in the morning and has already said she won't go because she'll be too tired. She also refused to attend on some of their induction days in the summer term, so I am worried next week I will have a new baby and a child who refuses to attend school to deal with.

Any suggestions? I can't sleep now either, so thought I'd try on here if only to get it out of my system. I feel the situation is hopeless with her, I just don't know what to do.

Archduke Wed 27-Aug-14 01:16:25

Oh you poor thing, what a heap of things on your plate, you must be exhausted.

Your poor dd too, she has been through a lot with the break up of your relationship with her dad and your relationship with her step dad as well as lots of other changes, school, new baby brother or sister, body changes. It is understandable that she is feeling overwhelmed at the moment.

I know you don't want her to get into a habit of sharing your bed but can you let her snuggle up with you tonight? Or would it mean that you'd get no sleep? Don't panic about school and the summer school, leave all of that until the morning, remember things always look bleak at 1am.

I have zero experience of a young child having panic attacks, but I used to have them myself and what helped was . . .

Calm presence of another adult talking me down from my panic
Reading some books on panic attacks and how to cope - just do an amazon search
Remembering that they were temporary

Can you hassle the doc in the morning about the referral? Also can you spray the house for spiders (not really tacking the problem but might help lessen the stressful triggers).

Also I would think about getting other counselling for her not just CBT, she has been through an awful lot (as have you of course thanks for you).

LucyBabs Wed 27-Aug-14 01:38:18

I do feel for you op but more so for your dd, sorry..
She is still a young girl dealing with so much in her short life.

I have an anxious dd she is almost 6 and yes I get frustrated with her anxieties and the silly things she gets upset about. She lost both her grand parents with in 4 months, 2 years ago. I am still trying to cope with the loss of my parents but my dd is a child and was a baby when they died. I can't imagine going through so much at such a young age. Not all children adapt( I've been told this TOO many times) and some really struggle with the circumstances they end up in.

I too feel so helpless at times and feel like screaming and shouting at my dd but then I try to put myself in her shoes and it makes me so sad.

Sorry I have rambled op but your dd reminds me of my own dd.

My dd has seen a child pych and it does help but school starts back on Monday for us and I can feel the anxiety radiating off my dd.

Sending you positive thoughts and best of luck with your new baby x

MavisDavis99 Wed 27-Aug-14 01:40:19

Thank you.

I am so huge and uncomfortable that the only way I can sleep is in the middle of the bed with cushions propped around and needing to turn frequently when one side gives me too much discomfort.

On very rare occasions when I have let her in my bed in the past, it hasn't worked well as she starfishes and continuously moves and wakes me up.

I did suggest she put a fold up bed in my room but that she would have to bring it through herself as I can't carry it. She didn't like that idea as the bed would be lower down and nearer to potential spiders on the floor.

Yes, I will call the dr and see what they can do. So frustrating that the waiting lists are so long.

Have seen lots of spiders around this week, maybe the change in the weather has brought them all out? Ugh, finding it hard to settle myself after seeing them, I wish I knew how not to be scared of them too!

Interestingly, she came downstairs a few minutes ago and said that she has "separation anxiety, just like babies do", and that she doesn't want to go to school tomorrow because she wants to be with me and only feels safe with me. Quite an astute reflection on her feelings!

Unfortunately, the best answer I can think of is that it will be ok and she needs to face those fears because if she doesn't go to school (apart from the problems it will cause me due to my being legally obliged to make her go - yet how can I when she point blank refuses?) she will never learn to get used to it. Same as sleeping in her own room. I am worried that as she finds more things to be scared of that her world is shrinking and becoming more limited.

I really hope the CBT will be able to help her. I know some calming techniques, such focussing on breathing and progressive relaxation, but when she's in the moment of a panic she won't even try, she just shouts that it won't work.

I do feel for her very much as she clearly finds life overwhelming and wish I didn't get so frustrated at my seeming inability to help her.

Ok, back upstairs to try again and take something for the pregnancy heartburn (oh joy!). Thanks for listening.x

LucyBabs Wed 27-Aug-14 01:46:03

Yes the joy of Heartburn eek!

You do have the ability to help her but you're both going through a rough and stressful time. Give yourself a break Mavis x

Loveleopardprint Wed 27-Aug-14 01:48:02

"What to do when you worry too much " by Dawn Huebner is a fantastic book for kids. I have used it with my very nervous 11yr old DD and it has really helped her. It explains why we worry and how we can rationalise these worries in a child friendly way. There are lots of little parts for the child to interact with you and the book. We set aside time every day to do the next chapter and discuss what she had used from the last chapter.
It is available on amazon.
Good luck.

Loveleopardprint Wed 27-Aug-14 01:49:37

Also read that keeping conkers inside keeps spiders at bay but that is probably just a load of old twaddle!!

Rinkydinkypink Wed 27-Aug-14 02:31:23

Hypnosis! Its great for anxiety and panic. Doesn't involve drugs and will teach her how to relax.

Does a night light help? My ds was like this and we got him an ikea glow night light creature. It's helped.

Hormonally at 11/12 I got horrible anxiety and I still do. Get panic attacks at anything that could cause change. Its horrible! Really horrible.

There seems to be a lot of spiders in her room! I know she hunts them down but could the frequency actually indicate that as a spider hater she's confronted by them?

Have you considered a net or canopy for her to sleep under. Give her that sense of protection. Get her room decorated.

I also don't want to worry you to much but are you sure nothing has happened to her over the past few years to cause this reaction!

MavisDavis99 Wed 27-Aug-14 09:50:18

I can't see how can I give myself a break sad It's 8.30, she's not dressed or had breakfast and should be leaving for school. I'm up and down the stairs every 5 minutes trying to hurry her up, but all that seems to be achieving is me being out of breath and her getting aggro with me. What do people do in this situation?

Thanks for the book recommendation, I will look it up.

We had a conker heap by the front door in our old house - the spiders lived in it!

Will look up hypnotherapists, but as now single mum and sole provider not sure what I can afford.

She already has a sunset/sunrise lamp which acts as a nightlight, plus a plug in nightlight.

We had a princess style net over her the head of her bed in the last house. Guess what we found crawling up it one day? Maybe she needs a ful on mosquito style one that tucks in all around. I don't think we have an abnormally large amount of spiders here, just that each one becomes an unforgettable drama.

She didn't have a good start in life. I had PND partly from birth trauma and partly from being married to an abusive man, so she had an unhappy mother and witnessed his behaviour. I tried to leave when she was 9 month old but he told me he had already told the health visitors I was mentally unstable and that they had told him they wouldn't be happy for me to leave with her. he said if I tired to go they would get the police to remove dd from my care and give her to him. I was too scared to speak to them as felt he had set me up, so stayed until dd was 4 and he had an affair and the abuse worsened. Also at age 4 dd had severe pneumonia and collapsed lung and was in hospital for a month, not initially expected to survive.

Since then he has manipulated her, told her lies about me, made repeated allegations to SS that I am abusing and starving her, so we've had lots of investigations (and been cleared every time!), she's had her head messed with and has had loads of appointments with various agencies as a consequence.

So, yes, definitely things in her past (and present) that could be contributing! She's always been v clingy and not good with transitions, so my partner leaving, starting secondary school (her friends aren't going as they are year below her so she's on her own), puberty and imminent new baby all happening at once is too much for her, but can't really change any of those things! I do wonder if she has high functioning ASD on top of all this due to some of her behaviours. Awaiting unfortunately yet another appointment to investigate this, as if she does then may be able to get more help to support her.

Have phoned CYPS to chase up the CBT. Have been trying to get her help for the anxiety since Easter. I know there's a lot of demand but over 5 months is just so long with nothing.

Phoned school and said I can't get her in. Don't know what else I can do. She is in bed ignoring me with covers over her head after insisting nobody cares about her sad

MavisDavis99 Wed 27-Aug-14 09:52:38

Just seen all the typos. Hope it makes sense, I don't have the energy to go back and change them!

friendlymum67 Wed 27-Aug-14 11:25:11

OP - I have nothing helpful to add unfortunately, but just wanted to say you're not alone! My DD - 11, is a worrier, very anxious about senior school, panics, and struggles with friendships and any situation that is new to her sad.

Her dad left when she was 18 months old, so it's just me, her and older brother (who is a totally different personality confused )

I have tried the book that people suggested on here but we unfortunately didn't find it very helpful. Have you tried homeopathic remedies such as Rescue Remedy? Again, limited success but relied on them heavily during transition week - which was the week from hell!

Really feel for you, especially being pregnant as well. It is very wearing! flowers

MavisDavis99 Wed 27-Aug-14 11:48:38

Thanks. Not tried homeopathy. Did buy some "relax" mood dough to try and help her compulsive hair pulling and other stress behaviours when in bed.

After her comment about having separation anxiety I have seriously thought this morning that if that is such a serious problem for her, maybe we need to go right back and try to "fix" the past by having her in my bedroom (but separate bed) and see if that proximity to me at night will help her to feel more secure in the day.

When she had night fears a couple of years ago I had her in my room for a couple of days but all the health professionals (family support worker and dr) were horrified and said I mustn't do it and had to get her back in her own room. So felt I couldn't go against their advice since I was asking them for help.

I guess they were worried she would become more dependent on me and it would be a harder habit to break, but I'm wondering if they are right on that one. She is a child with complex and multiple needs and forcing her to sleep in her own bed hasn't helped, she just cries and doesn't get much sleep. As for insisting she goes to school... well, that has been a fail, as today shows! I can't home ed her, but just wonder if night time security with me might take at least one element of fear out of the equation. Plus, perhaps when baby is here and waking her up at night crying and with feeding and changing disruptions, she might choose to go back in her room of her own accord!

Good luck with your anxious one. I hope things settle for her.x

DeWee Wed 27-Aug-14 12:21:51

My 10yo is a huge worrier too. The latest is that something will come up the toilet and grab her and pull her down. confused Can't think what on earth has sparked that one (we don't have a TV so it can't be watching something).
I tend to treat it very logically. So I pointed out that even if something did coem up, she wouldn't fit down the toilet so it couldn't pull her down. I did stand outside the toilet when she went for a couple of days too.

In all honesty though, as a spider hater, I wouldn't have been sleeping in a bed that a large one had just walked over the pillow. I know that's illogical and no more likely to do it again than on another bed, but that wouldn't help me. Could she have slept on the sofa or her older brother swapped for one night?

I think for dd2 it's a combination of getting attention (she's the middle one) a very active imagination and wanting to be in control of what's happening to her. A lot of the worries are things that are out of her control (like a spider walking across the pillow) and trying to give her control does help.

MavisDavis99 Wed 27-Aug-14 12:42:31

Having to catch and deal with 2 huge spiders freaked me out too when I went back to bed. Kept imagining how I'd feel if they had been on my pillow!

Did suggest sofa or that if she wanted fold up bed in my room she would have to drag it through herself, as I'm in no state to do it. She said no to both (downstairs on her own in the dark would have been too scary and spare bed is futon, therefore low down and close to any more potential spiders).

Brother hasn't been born yet, so she can't swap places with him (though I think she'd like to!) and his crib is too small for her.

Grandad is going to put a taller fold up bed at the end of mine this afternoon, so at least she will have the option.

Have emailed school and said it didn't help that she was struggling with half days and then they pushed her for whole days once she was there. Moving goalposts not helpful for anxious child!

Tournesol Wed 27-Aug-14 13:31:55

I really feel for you both. I was an anxious child, especially at night and what helped me was having a lovely older sister who let me sleep on her floor when I felt worried so I think giving her the option of sleeping in with you is a good one.

Hopefully, like you say, it will improve her sleep and help her feel more secure in use daytime. Good luck.

friendlymum67 Wed 27-Aug-14 14:57:11

Mavis have pm'd you.

Spiders would completely freak me out - hate them intensely, had to get a friend round to deal with one the other day! She was so brave!!

Are the school supportive on the whole, despite moving the goalposts?! hmm

Loveleopardprint Wed 27-Aug-14 20:17:26

Might sound like a silly suggestion but could you get one of those spider Hoover tube things? Would give her back power over the spiders.

I am sorry that you are having such a difficult time.

Blackpuddingbertha Wed 27-Aug-14 21:53:22

DD1 suffers from anxiety and although she is younger than your DD (just turned 8) the issues are very similar. We've tried much that has been suggested on here with varying success and we did four months of CBT paying privately. We are also waiting for a CAHMS referral.

One thing the therapist said to us is that sometimes children need to be allowed to regress (in terms of separation etc.) to then feel able to go forward again.

I feel your frustration and also that utterly overwhelming feeling that you're failing your child because you just can't 'fix' the problem. I try my hardest to deal with it as I would any other long term illness and accept that the child that she used to be is in there somewhere and I will do all I can to support her until she figures out how to become that child again. There are no easy answers and I hope you manage to figure it out together.

MavisDavis99 Wed 27-Aug-14 22:24:22

Emailed school today, they are happy for her to just do half days for the rest of induction week. We'll have to take proper school term as it comes and see what happens.

We did have a spider catcher but it got played with and now can't be found. Was thinking today of getting another. Will do that now infact, before bed.

I put the spare bed in my room but she decided to try her own bed again. However, even with the 2 nightlights on she was panicking and insisted on having the main light on, so not sure what quality of sleep she will get!

MavisDavis99 Wed 27-Aug-14 22:25:58

Thank you all again. Has been very helpful to hear your experiences and comments.x

bodiddly Wed 27-Aug-14 22:33:36

Are you anywhere near north London, south Hertfordshire by any chance?

Viviennemary Wed 27-Aug-14 22:41:15

Your DD has had a lot to deal with. I don't think it's uncommon to be afraid of the dark and spiders. But your DD sounds quite distressed about it all. I'd just let her have the main light on for the time being. I was quite afraid of the dark myself when I was a child and teenager and didn't getting up in the night in the dark to go to the loo. Sorry you are going through such a stressful time and hope things improve soon.

Loveleopardprint Thu 28-Aug-14 09:58:53

Me again with my silly suggestions ..... Put a low watt bulb in her bedroom light without her knowing. You could even do this slowly by lowering the wattage over a few weeks. Sneaky but means she can have the light on but hopefully will still sleep. Or get her a new light shade which is a darker colour.

Viviennemary Thu 28-Aug-14 13:09:05

That;s a good idea Loveleopard. Or even fit a dimmer switch and she could be in control and aim to lower it over a period of time.

BeggingYourPardon Fri 29-Aug-14 11:37:29

I feel for you bothsad

You must be exhausted and your girl as well. All I can think is to pick a battle one day at a time. Nobody can fix everything at once. If it helps, let her sleep with her light on.

People do nightshifts and can sleep during the say in summer and it's pretty bright! I think if she's really tired having the light on isn't going to do her much harm to be honest.

I was an anxious child and I'm still an anxious adult! I would sleep with the light on and fully under the covers even in the height of summer in case something touched me during the night. Funnily enough I've never been scared of spiders. It was the ghosts and burglars I was terrified of.

I'm 31 now and I don't sleep with the light on ;)

If a few weeks of sleeping in your room helps her, she could move back to hers with the light on, then try a night light after a few more weeks, then maybe just the landing light.

She has been through a lot and so have you, but you can't change what has happened to either of you. You just have to move forward how ever you can.

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