When ‘Mum’ Seems Anxious

When ‘Mum’ Seems Anxious

A guest blog by Helen and Jack’s Mum

‘I suspect the problem is her Mum who is really overanxious’. ‘I only spoke to Mum once but she seemed very over stressed’.

I knew what was being said about me in that meeting because my friend was sat there, not as my friend but in her role as a teacher from another school.  She told them she knew me socially and she had already asked me if it was OK to stay in the room while ‘We’ were being discussed by the meeting.  I had said it was OK for her to be there – she knew it all anyway and looking back now with hindsight, I’m so glad I had one person sat there believing what I said was true.  I also had one person who was brave enough to tell me what was truly said at the meeting.  At least I knew what they really thought.

The funny thing is, at the point when those words were spoken about me (in a meeting when I wasn’t present), I wasn’t an overanxious person.  I was a worried and concerned person and this was the appropriate response given the distress I was witnessing in my daughter each morning as I struggled to persuade her to get up and leave the safety of her bed.  The daily battle, trying to get her dressed for school, eventually her body giving in and letting me dress her, as her spirit was slowly breaking down.  And each day, as she walked into school she blended in, like a switch clicked in her head and so my request for help meant ‘I was must be the problem’ as Helen was just ‘fine’.  See here for more on ‘fine’.

It wasn’t until much later, years later, that I was so traumatised by each day and each battle, that I developed an anxiety disorder.  To be honest, I strongly suspect I have post-traumatic stress disorder now.  Every missed call from school, every email from a professional, every letter from the Local Authority…sets it off.  I start shaking and have to sit and breathe, allowing the waves of panic to pass by, until my brain can start to function again.  I have read research that suggests the level of stress autism parents can live with is similar to that of war veterans suffering from PTSD.  I can really believe that is true.

The day I broke was the day my beautiful girl asked me to smother her in her sleep.  

It was bedtime and she looked at me with eyes full of pain. ‘If you do it when I’m asleep then I won’t feel it and I won’t have to go to school anymore’.  I’m screaming inside, where did it go so badly wrong?  I didn’t bring you into the world to do this to you.  Looking back now, I want to say that was the lowest point, but it wasn’t.

What I didn’t know then was I would be faced with my lovely daughter on suicide watch (medicines locked in suitcases and knives in the safe) and that the anxiety would stop her eating and at that point I had to do anything to just get calories into her to keep her living in the world.

It had been bad in primary school, but as she moved to secondary school our entire world collapsed.  By the October, she wasn’t ‘fine’ in school anymore.  The school refusal only home could see, became the school refusal that everyone could see as we stood in the car park trying to talk her out of the car, sat in my house witnessing her crying like a wounded animal in her bed, heard her in the background as I rang school each day.

By the January, I’m sat in a Camhs appointment with her,  being told my 11 year old needs antidepressants, listening in horror as Helen struggles to tell them she wants me to smother her so she didn’t have to go to school.

At the end of that appointment, the Psychiatrist watched me with Helen.  Helen was trying to get me to take her home and not go back to school.  I didn’t know she was watching me that day as she packed her bag of notes up.  In her later letter, she commented that she had watched me and it was her view that I had only got Helen to school so far because of the approach I had taken, but that in her view I couldn’t do this much longer and her school placement would eventually fail.

Even now, I realise those words meant so much because just one professional had looked and not found me to be at fault, I wasn’t just the over anxious or a failing parent.  I was trying everything I could and on that one occasion I was met with compassion and understanding and not judgement. It is one of the very few moments when that happened.

I wasn’t broken when our story started but watching my beautiful girl break, and being judged by many professionals, battling for even the basic support for her, let alone the eventual specialist package of support, broke me too.

I didn’t need more judgement.

I judge myself at every turn…could I have done it differently…should I have stopped earlier…asked for help in a better way…made someone understand….tried harder…not looked so anxious…not allowed myself to break.

So I’m writing this as a plea to professionals.  If Mum is anxious it doesn’t mean Mum is the problem….it means there is a problem and it is through listening, and understanding that you will support the child, Mum and their whole family.  Please don’t stand back and judge us while we break.

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38 thoughts on “When ‘Mum’ Seems Anxious

    1. I could of written this it’s so scary it mirrors or struggle with my daughter. I’m emails her on role school She went to twice blamed my mental heath I had a job I loved a family who I adored and still do I was fine. What destroyed my mental was watching my child die a little bit every day by the people who were paid to take care of her. The same as this amazing lady my daughter often as me to kill her, or want to die this wasn’t a teenage I hate my life. She was broken there was nothing left her eyes were sad she starved herself and went down to 4-5 clothes at 9-10. The past 5 years have been hell even writing this while sitting in hospital while she tries to sleep after a burst appendix the hospital missed again I refused to take her home until they ran blood tests and urine samples. We’ve been in and out of since for a week I wonder what is it about me that people never believe what I say, the only person it effects is my daughter. I’m not here to be liked by anyone I’m here to be the best mummy I can and my job is to keep my babies safe and that’s what I will do I will fight to the death if I believe I’m right and do you know what I usually am. Lucie’s 13 and been out of school since she was 11 now diagnosed with Autism, extreme anxiety (caused by the faillings of anybody to listen to us) OCD, sensory processing and dyslexia now tell me it’s my imagination. Stay strong our mothers instincts are always right.xx


  1. I no longer feel alone! I had begun to feel that the professionals were right, i must be the problem, as my son is ‘fine’. This has made me realise that my son is far from fine and that I need to continue my battle for support until he gets the help he needs! Thank-you xx


  2. Wow, what an amazing blog, it struck such a cord I nearly cried….
    I was “lucky” to he referred to Social Services for a safeguarding issue (Mum anxious & daughter threatening her with a knife). The Social Worker was actually just amazing and saw how well I parented, coached, gave CBT, pycho-analysed & advocated for her. She said we would be in a lot worse situation if I wasn’t strong & no-wonder I was struggling! Cue CAMHS referal, ASD Assesment and Early Help Plan. All because that one person had written down that I was not the cause which meant I no-longer had a black mark against me.
    Well done you & I hope you/your daughter are healing xx


  3. Sadly I have heard this too many times. I was not this anxious before seeing my children go through hell and having to fight so very hard for absolutely everything. Waiting now to find out now if our youngest son has a place at a specialist school for sept. Thank you.


  4. This is a mirror image of me and my ten year old daughters life, could have been written about us. It broke me to the point of a suicide attempt as no one would believe or support my daughter. My daughter had to go into care and experience 16 placement breakdowns over a six month period before social services would relent (only because the court) and found a residential unit and nearby school where I hope she will get the support she needs but I’ve lost my daughter eg one hour a month visit but this was the only way my girl could get any help.


    1. That is so sad Diane. I hope your health improves and the specialist placement helps your daughter and at some point in the future you will be able to be together again, with the right support for you both. My grandchild is finally in a school she loves and the family are starting to get support/respite but I have seen how hard they have had to fight and how close to breakdown the family had to come. They need to assess sooner and for longer sessions and put help in asap. Wishing you well. X


      1. My step daughter has and is experiencing this same type of judgement because her mental health is poor. It seems easier for the professionals to blame my lovely grandsons problems on this rather than carry out the assessment he deserves. He has been turned down for a Community paediatrician assessment because he is under CAHMS. All they have done is talk to his Mum about her parenting. If he had a physical illness this would not be the case. I really despair not only about the lack of governmental investment in services but also of the attitudes of those working in some of the services that should be helping.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. These story are heartbreaking and i understand how they all feel about the professional that are suppose to help. i work for social services and saw at 1st hand how social worker per judge so many family because of the problem in the home and not look at them listen to what been saying and how the people involved are coping , I had to leave as i got so dishearten by family being torn apart and not help because of the way the judge the family . i glad that these story all turn out good so many do not .

    Liked by 1 person

  6. For your post on anxiety: ( anon)

    Sons anxiety : My child was only anxious about feeling unsafe in schools that grossly under supported him and did not keep him safe .

    He started all 5 schools eager & with enthusiasm (full of my promises that this one would be the school for him)

    My ‘anxiety”: after each school let him down I still trusted the next school only for them to do the same / not keep him safe. An anxious mum would not have kept trusting schools / professionals despite reading horrific lies in subject access requests which were a clear attempt to deflect from imcompetent schools and no one actually knowing how to help.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow, reflective of our situation. Although ours not quite to this level, I can definitely empathize with the teacher comment and interaction. To have a health professional agree or acknowledge you and what you are doing is wonderful. Teachers need to understand that parents know their own children best.


  8. Horrified. Makes me cry inside. How dare those so called professionals judge this dedicated mother? The experiences of this family show just how much the system is broken. I hope that one day all health, education & social care training programmes will include case studies such as this on what NOT to do when supporting families and how challenging it can be to parent SEND children. From my own experiences of being a parent to two boys with an ASD diagnosis, support from our local Information, Advice & Support Service – part of the IASS network nationwide has been invaluable at critical times and I’d strongly recommend it to any struggling parents with SEND support needs. What I’ve learnt is that so-called professionals often do NOT understand your child and their needs in the way you do, that you are the expert in this situation and should be properly listened to.


  9. I can so resonate with this post!!

    After being accused of FII in 2013 I know only too well how that gut wrenching feeling eats you up inside. Sadly it never goes away and the damage to you as a person never heals.

    I was accused of being over anxious, looking for things that aren’t there. Seeing my sons progress and reputation in school deteriorate due to being ignored for many years during his primary schooling.

    Now in high school, with schools support he has one diagnosis but is still struggling. Finally other areas are being explored and I hope that this will lead to the correct support and provision.

    All it takes is ONE professional to see it, to believe in you then everything changes. I thank the Peadiatrician my son now has every day for beginning to help others to understand my child. He is unhappy, yet at best the greatest person you could know!!

    Thank you for sharing your insight and experience. Although distressing, I really hope that things are going in the right direction for you too now x


  10. A woman from the LA told me to stop over reacting. Little did she realise what I was dealing with. My son who has autism, learning difficulties and severe anxiety was struggling with school (a special school). He struggled to get into school, regularly threatened to harm himself and on a number of occasions attempted to throw himself out of the car whilst I was driving him home. Not surprisingly I was severely stressed and upset, who wouldn’t be but then to be told I was over reacting felt a slap in my face. It displayed a total lack of empathy. To make matters worse I didn’t trust school or LA to tell them what was going on because I’d lost trust in them as a result of years of bullying whilst attempting to get my son diagnosed and statemented (another story in itself). As a result I decided to tolerate their anti-mother behaviour towards me because I reasoned it was better to do this than risk my son’s difficulties being used against me even more. (We’re now in a better place but the hurt of how we were treated is still with us.)


  11. I should have added to my earlier post that school, the LA and CAMHS were aware of my sons difficulties but when it came to sharing specific details I felt unable to. My son was adept at masking at school! I knew there was a risk of damaging interference so I withheld telling them about the car incident. For a start, id learnt from previous experiences that unless they witness anything they don’t believe us. Of course it can still affect our behaviour even if we don’t disclose, hence what the LA teacher thought an over reaction was the result of a huge adrenaline surge trying to keep my son safe.


  12. I am autistic. I have two grown up children with spectrum conditions. I work in an education setting with young adults with autism.
    Its not that the professionals are getting it wrong, but they just dont see the whole picture. The child may be pleasant and co-operative at school and yet violent at home. It is honesty that is required. And we should all listen to each other. Don’t make assumptions. Ever.


    1. They *are* getting it wrong Mrs Chris, because they don’t work in partnership with parents, they dismiss parents, they call parents liars, they brand parents over-anxious or MSBP/FII. This is getting it massively wrong. What has a parent got to gain by reporting to their child’s school that the child is going home and exploding in very challenging behaviour about their school days? It’s not as if they have to pay for training to find out that this is a known difficulty/pattern of behaviour in autistics, it;s all online free from reputable sources such as the NAS and plenty of bone fide research. Are teachers that ignorant that they can’t read such resources which parents are well-read on? Didn’t they go into the job to help children?

      Liked by 2 people

  13. Made me cry. Do know you’re not alone in facing these issues and feelings. It can be such a battle to convince the authorities your child needs help. Sending you strength to carry on doing what you do every day – supporting your daughter.


  14. My autistic daughter is also deemed as ‘fine’ by the school, ‘she is so bright’ is a common response. My daughter first asked me to kill her when she was 8 years old. Her anxiety fluctuates and on many days she ‘copes’ on many other days she just doesnt. This morning was one of those days. Today I had to ask a staff member if she felt comfortable restraining my daughter. When should any mother have to use those words. Today my 11 year old was clinging to me like a toddler not wanting to leave me, every part of me just wanted to scoop her up and take her back home with me but I know this isnt an option. I try so hard to remove myself from her pain, her distress, her upset. I scolled myself for crying all morning today because I cant bare to see her distress. I tell myself over and over that my upset achieves nothing. But it is all so very real, I am biologically programmed to protect her and I cant stop her feeling this pain and it is slowly breaking me.


    1. Hi Jessica have you read some of the other blogs on here about mental health anxiety and unable to attend school? If not there may be some parts of them that can help a little? I hope so.


  15. If school was so bad for your child, why do you make them go? I’m not judging or trolling, I’m genuinely curious. Is home schooling not an option?


    1. I guess what we are asking for usually is for our children to have some minor accommodations so that they can have the same access to school as their neurotypical peers can have. There are a million responses I could give to the home schooling question but we have a blog on that!


    2. Chls not all parents are in a position to home-educate for a variety of reasons. They may also be concerned that if the child cannot be helped to cope at school they may never cope with life. But schools have a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments and support special needs. They just often don’t bother and won’t listen to parents who are the experts in their children.


  16. Very touching to read – and thought provoking. As a professional, I sincerely hope that I understand this and work hard to support parents. Ive shared it to my page too Thank you for writing such a heart felt piece.


  17. Reblogged this on Sensory Project and commented:
    I’m Reblogging this post because it is an incredibly powerful description of exactly the experience that many parents including myself face when we try desperately to advocate for services and support for our children.

    Unfortunately, it sets up a terrible cycle of disbelief and creates unnecessary stress for families and barriers to children receiving the support they need.

    The sense of relief when one professional sees your situation and believes your truth is incredible, it opens doors, allows healing to begin and for a real team around the child and family to be built.

    On our own journey, it was occupational therapists who were the first and often the only professionals to bring us this sense of belief and affirmation, and it is exactly this which attracted me to join the profession myself.

    Sarah (Parent and Student OT)


  18. Wow. This does resonate so much. I have been so disorganised this Christmas, I can’t think straight and I do wonder if its the stress of trying to be an advocate for my son whilst being up against teachers who think they know better / best, making you feel you are so mis-guided and worst of all, at fault. It totally floors you. My son has separation anxiety which causes quite problematic drop off’s at primary school, ever since he started, now Yr 3. (Not much difference at nursery) Its taken far too long to get appropriate help. I have at last, through my own doings, not through school, got CLASS on board and its been wonderful to have people hear you with understanding. I felt like some caged animal that had been ‘let out’. And what was so nice to hear was, ‘we believe you’. Its still early days and its still incredibly stressful, but to have ‘someone’ professional ‘get it’ means the world, but also makes me so angry that if someone can see the truth, why do a lot of others not? Its disgraceful. As they say, ASD is not a mental health problem, but they are so prone to developing such problems which is hardly surprising with how they, and they’re mothers are managed / treated. My heart weeps hearing this story. Its so wrong on so many different levels, both for the daughter and for Mum. You have done brilliantly Mum, and sharing this story is something else to be commended on.


  19. That’s why I love the solution focused approach. We should never define anybody as a/the problem. People should be seen as experts of themselves and their abilities to cope and manage as strengths and resources. Our work should be about co-construction and collaboration.

    Liked by 1 person

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