Spiral Of Colors by Jay Ballanger
We've noticed with our daughter that anxiety drives a good bit of behavior. It is understandable considering what she grew up in before foster care & adoption. We are beginning to learn how to identify and address it. It is not always easy to do so and not every situation is clear-cut.
Our counselor described it as a spiral. It circles around and the longer it is allowed to continue the bigger it gets. The goal is to stop the thinking (and therefore behavior) as soon as possible. This is not always easy.
It is also shows up in what some would identify as OCD behavior and she can become obsessed with something because of the anxiety surrounding it. Anxiety is fear, of course, and it is driven by the distrust and fear that was embedded in our twins during the first four years of their life.
She may obsess about something we would consider insignificant. She will mention it over and over throughout the day. Take what children tend to naturally do, and multiply it by 100. Mixed into this is attention seeking, again beyond what most children tend to do. If the attention is not forthcoming and the situation she is obsessing about doesn't come to pass, then her behavior begins to change. We see greater and greater degrees of boisterous speech, yelling, animated gestures, and repetitive behavior, along with disobedience. Other times we have also noticed that she will act distracted when she obviously is aware of what is happening. She literally acts like an "airhead" about things she already consistently knew.
To be honest, as a parent, it can be exasperating and exhausting.
We have friends with autistic children and they have to disrupt their "stimming," or self-stimmulating behavior. Likewise, we have to disrupt the anxiety spiral in our daughter. We are drawing her attention to it when it happens. If she is obsessing about getting something or getting to do something, we don't let her, even if it is something we would normally allow.
At first, we were worried we were being spiteful and not letting her have something simply because she was obsessing and being manipulative about getting it. The counselor, however, encouraged us to not give in as it will just widen "the spiral" next time. If we give in and grant the thing she is obsessing about, she will escalate even faster.
Underlying all of this is fear and distrust. Ultimately, we hope to get to the source of that fear. Knowing her past, we certainly know a good bit of what drives it, but she needs to know what drives it before healing can start. Distrust is one of the core problems and it makes it hard for her to trust us or trust Christ. We are praying for wisdom to repeatedly point out for her those moments of God's faithfulness in our family so she can build that trust. We are attempting to slowly help her apply the gospel to this fear so that it changes her heart, or self. When the self changes, thinking and behavior change.
If you have experience with anxiety in children, please share what you have learned.