“To the man in the mall standing watching as my 8-year-old is screaming and crying up and down, thank you for asking me if she’s okay. To the lady who watched me stand there in utter shock, thank you for asking what was wrong. To the 50 other people standing and watching, not understanding what was happening, thank you for not saying anything. To the other 50 watching her and then seeing me do nothing, thank you for possibly judging me as a mom.
You see, my 8-year-old has very special needs, one of them being extreme anxiety. There is a misconception that anxiety only occurs in adults, but it can start at a very young age. Abby, my daughter is highly afraid of animals, any animal, but more specifically dogs. Yesterday as she saw a dog in a mall, she had a complete meltdown. Running, screaming, having zero idea where she was going, she just knew she needed to get out of that spot immediately. I froze. And I watched her as she ran up and down. Why didn’t I stop her? Because at that moment, I knew there was nothing I could do, except remain extremely calm. The calmer I was, the better the chance I had at getting her calm. Fear is not rational, but to her it is completely.
I saw the eyes of the public – compassion, empathy, embarrassment, judgement. No one knows though, not even me, what it’s like to feel such terror the way she felt yesterday. I could only watch and hope she would open her eyes and come to me, which she did. To the lady who went up to her and said, ‘poor sweetie’ and pat her head, and then ask me if I was okay as my eyes watered, thank you.
To her psychologist who works around the clock to help us through cognitive behavioral therapy, thank you. To her speech therapist, tutor, family, friends, strangers, thank you. To her psychiatrist who won’t put her on anxiety meds due to her developmental delay, and being conservative, thank you. To the schools and camps, thank you for guiding her, and being patient. To my life coach who keeps me grounded, reminds me to have faith when I feel like everything is falling apart, thank you.
To anyone who thinks she’s a ‘brat’ or ‘annoying,’ or thinks I’m not doing anything to help her, thank you. Without knowing, you keep me even stronger as I hope I can inspire you to think differently and react differently should this ever happen to you.
To her entire team that answers emails, texts, calls, even on off hours, thank you. Without you, I wouldn’t be here. It is through the strength and hope from all of you that I feel hopeful.
To my daughter, 8-years-old, who carries the worries of the world on her shoulders, this will not last forever. You won’t need to cry to me, begging to help you forever. We are all working endlessly to help you fight your fears. You will not feel this terror forever. You will not need to ask every friend if they have an animal before going to play forever. You will not run up and down the malls petrified forever. You will not be afraid forever.
Love, the woman standing in the middle of the mall.
P.S. The picture you see below was today, when she saw my dad’s cat – and we got her to pet her!”
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