That’s what it feels like — that my family are the victims of a theft. The items taken? Our peace. Our harmony. Our family time. Our safe space. The suspect? Anxiety.
Ryan’s anxiety over shots on goal totals in various NHL games has reached a boiling point this week — and kept right on rising. Here’s how Saturday went: his fear rose as he tracked a particularly worrisome total in one game. When he is in the midst of this, his entire body tenses with panic. No matter the reason, his fear is very real. I negotiated with him for about an hour. I physically held him back from running off to check one minute after he checked “for the last time.”
I felt awful as I did so. I have no idea if it was the right thing to do. Am I abetting this obsession — which Ryan admits makes no sense and is unable to explain why it bothers him — if I let him continue to check the stats? Am I punishing him for something beyond his control by stopping him?
After he went to bed Saturday night, he awoke around 2 a.m. to check the final stats from all that night’s games. Finding nothing objectionable, he returned to his room, but visited several more times before morning. I don’t know that he ever went back to sleep. He was uncertain.
I do know what happened shortly after he got up. He ran (he does everything at a sprint) to the bathroom — something he does approximately every 15 minutes, all day long — and the next thing I heard was a giant thud. I looked over towards the bathroom to find him on the floor, getting up and telling me he was OK.
He couldn’t explain what happened. He asked if he had just fainted. My mind raced with thoughts of seizures. I also wondered if perhaps he had jumped up off the couch too quickly and suffered a head rush.
There was no injury, and he appeared OK. I spoke to his pediatrician. She advised extra fluids and careful monitoring. Ryan was physically unharmed, but something was not right. He tried to go back to bed. He barely ate. And, as game time approached for the day’s first NHL contest, he grew visibly concerned.
Loss of appetite. Frequent urination. Fainting. I started to realize they were all likely all connected to his extreme anxiety over that appears totally harmless — except to him.
Ryan told me he was worried about the shots-on-goal totals before any of Sunday’s games started. The evening before, we agreed (or so I thought) that there would be no worrying until some time got within realistic striking distance of one of his trigger numbers (30 shots on goal in one period by one team being the most common).
Less than a day later, all that was gone. He was near panic before a game even began. He settled in to watch the Sharks — an afternoon start time being a rare treat in the Eastern time zone — but couldn’t enjoy it. He was too worried.
One minute into one of the 7 p.m. games, Ryan checked his iPad and expressed a panicky fear about a team already having two shots on goal in game’s first 30 seconds. I cried uncle. The TV went off. The computer was shut down. The iPad was placed on the shelf.
What ensued was a replay of Saturday evening, only worse. The terror in his eyes was so real. I would have done anything to help him in that moment, but I had no answers. We were all on the verge of tears. Riley was trying anything she could think of to console him. She pleaded with him to not let this ruin our family hockey viewing.
It was of no use. Anxiety had its hooks into him too deep. I sat with him and held him for almost an hour, during which he asked every single minute if he could check the stats. I stroked his hair. I rubbed his back. I held his hands, observing the nails bitten to the quick. I felt helpless.
We eventually got him to bed by promising one last look at the stats, but he came back in at 2 a.m. and this time, he admitted he never went back to bed.
We are seeing the psychologist today. We’re attempting to get in to see the psychiatrist ahead of our next scheduled appointment.
I want to be strong for my family but I am really struggling with this one. How dare anxiety strike at hockey, the thing that has brought us more joy and togetherness as a family than anything else?
I am angry at the unfairness of it all. I am concerned about all manner of implications. I hate that Ryan kept apologizing to us. I hate that I don’t know the right thing to do.
We will dig out of this rut. I know we will because that is what we have always done. But that time, waiting for the tow chain to latch on and start pulling this roller coaster back uphill? That time sucks.