I’ve noticed all of my blog posts lately are about big girl, she’s really still finding life very tricky.
Since starting at the new special school January things have got progressively worse. Sadly because she masks all of her difficulties in school, the staff have found it very difficult to proactively support her. We have had a few meetings, but it’s hard for them to see the big girl I describe when she presents so differently. It’s been the same issue in every school she’s been too.
We’ve had numerous occasions whereby big girl has come home from school in what I can only describe as a manic state, it often quickly turns to anger, more often than not developing in to violent outbursts. Sometimes the police have to be called.
It’s got pretty bad. Not only is she prescribed anti anxiety medication by Camhs but they now prescribe anti psychotic medication for use when she is struggling, or we know there’s something coming up that she will struggle with. My heart aches 😦
This weekend was another of those manic episodes whereby she was talking gibberish and clearly in a state of complete overwhelm. It’s so sad to see her like that.
She is finding all aspects of her school day stressful, everything from traffic in the taxi, music in PE and loud dinner halls to boys behaving oddly (flirting is my guess) and girls putting all of their emotions and worries on her.
Big girl created a fake persona when she started at this school. She made herself out to be socially able, confident, fun, giggly and a capable. She’s none of those things, in fact I’d go as far as to say she is the opposite. She doesn’t even really like people all that much.
I know why she did it, she wanted to fit in, to be liked. And for a few weeks, maybe a month or so, it worked. She made friends, she felt liked and she enjoyed those positive feelings.
But over time, maintaining this fake personality has taken its toll. She’s become somewhat of an agony aunt to the younger girls it seems. This is a girl who doesn’t understand her own feelings, never mind know what to do about them. The girls in her own class are obviously looking up to her also because they’re getting her to help with their boyfriend issues, and asking her for advice on sex and boys and bullying. Big girl doesn’t even know what sex is, let alone have the slightest interest in boys. So many emotions are being offloaded on to her by peers and almost all of them make no sense to her.
She’d rather play Vets with her sisters.
The fake persona doesn’t end on the playground either. The staff have been seeing her as confident and capable, I imagine they’ve spent time wondering why she’s even in their school especially as she is academically pretty average. They’ve been choosing her to represent the school at events, be the nominated speaker when visitors are in school, be the lead role in a group, she even nominates herself sometimes! The list goes on. And of course she’s done all of the things they’ve asked/expected of her, with a fake smile on her face, she’s a people pleaser, it’s what she does to keep herself safe.
Big girl feels overwhelmed by everyone’s ‘feelings’, their ‘expectations’ of her and of course she also feels ashamed that she is unable to be herself in school. She tells me no one in school has ever seen the real her.
So MrFO5 and I made a difficult decision the weekend and decided to put big girl on a reduced timetable. We are awaiting a date for a meeting with various professionals and school. Big girls EHCP hasn’t been updated since she was home educated, despite a review taking place at my request in July, so at the moment, the plan doesn’t even detail the support she needs in a school environment never mind reflect her needs. We hope a meeting will be arranged before Christmas and we can get big girl the support, or alternative provision that she needs.
I’ve tirelessly tried to support school to see big girl for the emotionally and socially 6yr old that she is, but they just can’t see past the facade of the confident 14yr old she’s pretending to be. So for now, she will attend only 2.5 days a week with full support at lunch and break times. The new timetable we’ve devised gives big girl a break between each day, giving her time to calm down and hopefully to stop her anxiety building throughout the week. The support for break and lunch times will mean she isn’t on the playground and can’t get overwhelmed by the other children’s drama’s and expectations of her.
It’s not an ideal situation. Big girl is in school because her attachment difficulties made home education too intense for her to manage so this extra time at home is going to be difficult for all of us to manage.
Today though, my big girl has enjoyed her 1st half Monday and played with her babydoll. We will continue to plod along this path and support big girl as best as we’re able.
How does attachment ‘look’ in school.?
For big girl, it looks like she is very capable. She has a avoidant attachment style so will do everything she needs to do to avoid any kind of dependant relationship with a teacher/adult. She learnt in her past that adults can’t be trusted or relied upon, in fact sometimes, they can even be dangerous.
So in school she will appear capable and competent because any sign of weakness may cause her teacher to try and help her, and she can not possibly allow that to happen, ever. She will volunteer for things she feels the teacher might expect of her, she will choose to lead her group and even opt to be the spokes person for her team. All of these fill her with absolute fear and terror. None of that matters to her though, her only focus is to not need any kind of relationship with anyone if she is to survive.
She will do everything she can to hide any sign of weakness, she will mask her fears and anxieties and ‘cope’. It’s not a positive experience for her, she feels no sense of achievement and next time it happens it’s equally as terrifying. There are no benefits to her self esteem or mental health for her to be this way.
When she comes home, and she feels safe, she knows she’s understood and her fears and anxieties are finally allowed to be shown.
How does your child’s attachment ‘look’ in school?
Great article for teachers and school staff here, can you identify the students in your class here?
Big girl comes home from school every day very ‘hyper’. This is an indication of anxiety. Every day I spend about 30-40mins talking to her as soon as she walks through the door, she tells me about her day, processes her thoughts and unloads everything on to me. She feels calmer afterwards and I can get on with making the dinner.
On quite a few occasions she’s come home more hyper than usual. For example, there was the day of her science fair, a Friday, she came home in such a state we almost called an ambulance or took her to A&E. It took 4hrs that evening to get her to a relative state of normal, but it took until the Sunday lunchtime for her to really be feeling ‘ok’.
Then there was yesterday, a change in timetable first thing in the morning and an extra long PE session with 2 potential new teachers was just too much. She came home very hyper/manic and again, it took me some time to calm her down and help to regulate her. This time, she was able to tell me why she was so hyper, usually she isn’t aware and we have to work it out together, she recognised that the PE lesson first thing in the morning had left her feeling anxious and overwhelmed all day. She recognised things that she had done throughout the day were because of her anxiety. She told me about jumping in class and generally being ‘silly’ all day. These are not behaviours that you would usually associate with big girl, unless she was anxious.
We talked about how hard it must be for her to feel this anxious all day and how it wasn’t healthy for her brain or her body to be feeling like this for long periods of time. We talked about what she thought she could do to help herself calm down once she’s recognised her anxiety levels. We came up with many ideas, such a leaving the classroom, talking to a teacher, going for a walk, using the sensory room, sitting and reading a book and a few others, none of these she felt would help her. The only thing she felt might help was being at home or with me. We talked about how maybe phoning home could be an option and she thought that was worth a try however, having the courage to ask a teacher to let her call home posed another issue.
It’s amazing that she has, for the first time to my knowledge, been aware, in the moment, of how she is feeling, it is also the first time she has been able to recognise that things she is doing ‘aren’t right’ and are because she is anxious. She said that when she was jumping around she was telling herself in her brain that she needed to stop and things weren’t ok. But she couldn’t.
What is exceptionally sad about all of this though, is that all of this information is in the Letter to Teacher that she gave to her teacher during her transition to school. It specifically mentions silly behaviour being a sign of anxiety, it talks about new faces and changes to routines being a trigger for anxiety AND it also suggests offering a phone call home as reassurance. Big girl is developing a new awareness about herself and how she feels, but she can’t do it all by herself. She needs help to regulate and feel safe.
We’re meeting with school tomorrow, I really hope that we’re able to help her teachers to really ‘know’ big girl and not just see the facade she allows them to see.
Big girls been struggling this half term, she’s very hyper, manic even, and not sleeping.
I managed to establish with her yesterday that she’s worrying about going back to school because she’s finding break times difficult. She often doesn’t have someone to talk to, or play with and finds being alone uncomfortable. She doesn’t want people to see her looking sad or alone so she finds herself running about, bouncing like a bunny (her words) and generally appearing busy. She tells me she doesn’t like acting like this (it is all very out of character behaviour for her, she’s not one for silliness really). She says it makes her even more anxious pretending to be enjoying herself and still worrying that people will be ‘looking at her’. We had a chat about it and I explained that I’ve been speaking to her teachers who will be trying to support her better at these times and also how she could go and stand by a teacher when she is feeling left out. We also talked about what she could do to feel less lonely and with nothing to do. She gathered a colouring book and some loom bands to put in her school bag and seemed happy with this idea. I thought, I hoped, that might be enough to reassure her.
After another sleepless night I suggested she spent some time really thinking about her worries. Breaking each part down and looking at what it really is about. I gave her some ideas on how to do this such a story, write a diary, design a poster etc. It really is something she needed to work through by herself. Big girl spends all day avoiding her thoughts by keeping busy and filling the quiet with noise. I suggested if she processed her thoughts and came up with some ideas and solutions that she felt might help, then she might do less ‘thinking’ when she’s in bed each night.
She disappeared, and reappeared about 20 minutes later looking pleased with herself.
Big girl: mom, I’ve just realised, if I can tell my teacher I have a pet hamster then I can tell her I have no one to talk too as well can’t I!
I really hope it’s as simple as that and she is able to remove her mask at school and let them see her struggles, or in the very least this simplified idea affords her some sleep tonight.
Some days I long for a tantrum, some spontaneity, some genuine emotion, some honesty and feeling.
The predictability, stability, routine, and calm that fills our days can sometimes be suffocating, (as well as boring).
I’m watched, scrutinized, analysed and observed.
I’m told the ‘right’ answers,dutifully paid lip service and deprived of the truth, the real, the raw.
I’m constantly aware of my own reactions, movements and emotions.
I’m careful to not startle, alert or shock. ( I often fail with a cough too loud, or when I move too quickly, or drop something)
I’m forced to quash any sign of ‘craziness’.
I’m the mommy that has to spoil too much fun, calm the manic laughter and settle the first signs of over excitement (or face the consequences of over stimulated, over anxious and over tired kids, which isn’t pretty believe me).
Some days I just want to scream, run outside and shout and jump and bang and be unpredictable, and loud.
Some days the idea of a late night party, a last minute road trip or even a midnight cleaning frenzy, beckons me and mocks me, from the distance.
Some days I feel like I’m drowning in a still, emotionless desert of nothingness.
Some days I loathe the compliance.