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The Feelings That Have No Place Inside

I am sitting at work, blinking back tears, holding in my feelings.  It is not the first time.  Earlier, my youngest son’s teacher sent me a message.

My heart dropped when I saw it.  Middle of the day messages from the teacher are never good.  Every parent alive hates getting one of those messages.

She said he is having a rough day.

We want the best for our kids.  We want them to be happy.  We send them off to school with the hope that their day will be fun, and full of learning.

The message she sent told a familiar story. It went something like this:

My son felt upset on the playground at recess because of the words of another student.  He was emotionally distraught when he came inside the school.

He was yelling and crying and had gotten himself worked up into a state where he was struggling to calm down.  It took some time, and the help of one of the teacher’s aids, to get him back into an “able to learn” frame of mind.

His teacher asked me if anything upsetting had happened on the weekend.  It hadn’t.  She said he seemed very on edge, and very sensitive.

My youngest is 7, and has childhood anxiety and ADHD.  So this, today, is normal.

His teacher this year is a smart cookie.  I like her.  She’s perceptive and compassionate.  She is kind, and genuinely likes children.

It’s early in the year, but we have already communicated regularly to work together on forming strategies that help my son.

We want him to learn to self soothe, and calm down on his own when he gets himself worked up into a panic.  Or at very least, to learn how not to react quite so strongly.
But it will take time. It will take repetition, and consistency.  It will take patience.  And ultimately, much of the growth will come only through my son maturing and getting older.

Some days, growth feels like it is painfully slow.

Today was not the first time in my life that I wondered if my highly sensitive nature is something I passed on to him through my genes.

Sensitivity and emotion seem to flow in my veins.

I have emotion which wells up and overflows out of nowhere, caused from what seems like nothing.  I get deeply hurt by small rejections.  I react strongly to negativity.  I pick up on other people’s feelings, and I feel them like they are my own.

I am different in demeanor than my son.  I am an introvert, and he is an extrovert.

I was painfully shy as a child, so my sensitivities and reactions were mostly kept quiet and internalized.  I did not lay all my emotions and sensitivities out for the world to see the way my son does, but they were still there.

They are still there, even today.

So I wonder sometimes if my internal wiring of high sensitivity is somehow at fault for the struggle I now watch him endure daily.

Did I teach it to him by my actions?  Did he inherit it through my blood?

It is painful to watch him in the struggle of trying not to let his emotions drive his reactions.  Or, the struggle he faces in trying not to feel wounded by the small slights in action or the cruel words of other children.

Or the sheer panic that grips him when plans change suddenly.  Or when loud noise accosts his ears. Or the struggle to keep his emotions settled when he’s in a chaotic environment.  You know – chaos, such as there is daily, at school.

These are heavy burdens on his young mind.  He gets tired.

It is painful to watch him in the struggle to try to make it through a day, just one day, where he focuses on learning and playing, rather than on trying to maintain control over the ever churning volcano of emotions inside him.

The most painful thing of all is he that really is trying and really is doing the best that he can. He gets to the end of every day, even the hard ones, and he will ask me, excitedly “Did i have a good day mom?”.

He lives moment by moment, so when at that present moment he is feeling good, he doesn’t remember the difficult parts of the day.  

It is not the first time that I blink back these tears wondering if my own actions caused the issues.

I gave birth to my youngest son when I was 33.  By the time I was 35 years old, I had fallen into a depression.

Mentally and emotionally, I checked out for a number of years. I was there in body, but emotionally I was gone.

I would go to work, make supper, clean up messes, read stories, give hugs – but I was on autopilot.  There was no emotion there. There was just…numb.

I was zombie mom.  I looked alive, but I was dead inside.

And my children…I know they felt it.  When I look back at those years, I recognize now that my youngest, who was just a toddler at the time, would act out to get my attention.

His desire was so strong wanting me to look and really SEE him.

“Mommy look at me!”

But my vision was so clouded by depression, it was as though I was looking through fog.

It is not the first time that I sit here and wonder if, as a highly sensitive person, I’m really the best parent for my son.

I question if my emotional nature has only served to increase his struggle.  If I’ve been too soft on him, or maybe too strict.

If I’ve been too inconsistent in some areas, or too rigid in others.  If I’ve been too open with expressing my emotions. If I’ve been too quick with my impatience.

I wonder, too, if my needs as an introvert have affected him. I need time alone, but I choose carefully when I take it.

I spend time alone every day, reading and meditating.  Praying.  I do it before everyone else wakes.

But, even during the day, I am different from my son.  He thrives on constant interaction. Whereas I need breaks throughout the day.

I need a rest for my mind every now and then, in order to be able to feel focused and energized. In order to be able to really give the best that I can of myself to those around me.

I wonder now if those breaks have felt like rejection to his little eyes, even though I took them with only the best of intentions.

It is not the first time that I will pick myself up, and shake myself off, and focus on taking one small step forward at a time.

I will continue to communicate with my son’s teacher.  I will continue to try to help my son learn how to settle himself when he is very upset.

I will continue to tell him how precious he is, and how funny he is and how much he makes me laugh.  And how smart he is, too.  Cause he is all of those things.

I will continue to tell those feelings of shame, which threaten to drown me some days, that they have no place here inside me.

That I am doing the best that I can as a mother.  And, that even all those years ago, and through all those mistakes, I did the best I could do then as a mother, too.

I will focus on reminding my son, and myself, that emotions are not the enemy. That sensitivity is a beautiful thing.  That they both simply need to be accepted, and understood, and that he will learn tools to help calm them when they threaten to overwhelm him.

I will continue to help my son learn those tools.  I will teach him to pause and to breathe when anxiety or frustration grips him.

I will teach him to look for things around him to focus on when he is panicked.  He will learn to watch his belly go up and down as he breathes, or focus on memories of the last book he read, or listen to the sound of the clock ticking in the classroom.

It is not the first time that I will take my son home and make him hot cocoa and a snack.  As he sits at the table, I will tell him that I love him no matter what his day has been like.

I will smile into his eyes as I say it, so that he knows, without question, that I mean it.  Cause I do.

I will tell him that I know he did the best he could for today.  I will tell him we will both start fresh in the morning.  That there is always a new start tomorrow.

There is always tomorrow.

It is not the first time that I will take my son’s hand in mine, and we will continue to try.  We will take that next small step forward, together.

us

Header Image Credit: Stephan Hochhaus

Leila Elizabeth

Leila Elizabeth

Always a lover of words, I began reading them at a young age, and began creating with them shortly thereafter.

A bend in the road led me to embrace my introversion, and to discover my identity as a highly sensitive person. As I have moved along the path in learning more about who I am, how to take care of myself as an introvert, and how to handle the challenges of life as an HSP - my love of writing has been rekindled and embraced once again. It intertwines with the journey I am on, and is reflected in what I write.
Leila Elizabeth

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