Mr. Sensitive is intense. He is a five year old with paralyzing anxiety and Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). He also has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. He is also a really bright kid and probably has a learning disability.
Mr. Sensitive is my son.
We have a lot in common. I probably have an LD too. He struggles with letter recognition. I struggle with math –numbers were slippery, sliding around my mind and all over my notebooks. Spelling – umm… that’s what spell check is for. There’s also a few subtle procedural problems we have in common. I had to learn yoga from a book, because pages and pictures stay still, unlike the instructor and class. Mr. Sensitive does not learn well from trying to imitate someone else – he gets frustrated and stops.
Just like me.
When I was his age my family berated me for being shy.
I remember walking into a room filled with adults. I wouldn’t talk and would try to hide. They told me I was shy. So I didn’t say anything else. What could I say? This happened over and over again.
I was a worrisome, fearful child. When the school sent kindergarten-me home on the bus with an older child who had chicken pox, I cried. The bus driver and teachers were surprised. I was afraid I’d get in trouble for contracting chicken pox.
I was terrified I’d get killed by a zamboni at public skating or sucked into the garbage bins at McDonald’s.
I grew up getting yelled at for having feelings that were wrong.
My father told me to, “Stop being so sensitive.” Over and over. I remember crying over something and my father yelling at me, “Stop being so sensitive.” I hope you see the lack of logic here.
So I hid my feelings. And my self.
When I was in elementary school I was silent for nearly an entire school year. I did not talk to any students or teachers. I was shy. I was sensitive. No one did anything. (It was the 1980s, I’m sure the teachers appreciated having a quiet kid in the class.)
I escaped. I drew, I read. Constantly. I fantasized about running away and read Robinson Crusoe (yes, in elementary school). I stopped eating. I lost 50 pounds. I was overweight to begin with, so nobody did anything, again. But I got through it somehow; you can imagine the challenges in adolescent and then adult relationships. Think about all the crap to hide yourself in; then the struggle to find yourself again.
Back to Mr. Sensitive.
Mr. Sensitive is just like I was. I’m worried about him hiding himself too.
Ironically, right now Mr. Sensitive is watching Franklin talking about being nervous. Franklin is afraid of the dark, thunderstorms, failing, and what other people think. That’s Mr. Sensitive in a nutshell.
Mr. Sensitive is an anxious externalizer. His anxiety creates an outward spiral of hands, toys, limbs and food crumbs flailing around our home. I was an anxious internalizer. I went inward and withdrew into my self.
An anxious externalizer is really hard to live with. Imagine a small, worried tornado tracking through your living room. Imagine the wreckage in its path.
Anxiety manifests in different ways. Hubby gets loud and defensive when he’s worried. He yells. Add this to Mr. Sensitive, and you have BIG problems.
We were having lunch at a picnic table the other day. It was scorching hot; and we struggled to make sure everyone’s food and drinks were in front of the right person.
Mr. Sensitive knocked over his can of pop. He watched, frozen, as pop poured across the table and onto the ground. Not a big deal, the ants were happy.
Hubby started yelling at Mr. Sensitive. Mr. Sensitive remained frozen, now awash in anxiety and sensory overload.
I reached over and picked up the can of pop. I tried talking to Hubby about the inappropriateness of his actions. Did I say Hubby can be defensive? It went nowhere. I took Mr. Sensitive for a walk with me instead.
That evening we were sitting at the dinner table. Mr. Sensitive knocked over his glass of water. Again, he was frozen as water poured onto the floor.
Hubby yelled at Mr. Sensitive. Mr. Sensitive sat, frozen. I yelled at Hubby. Hubby got defensive and walked away. Good. I talked to Mr. Sensitive and said accidents happen. I got him calmed enough to finish eating dinner.
I mopped up the water.
I refuse to let my child grow up the same way I did. Hubby needs to give his head a shake – or I’ll do it for him.