Monday, March 2, 2015

Relieving Childhood Anxiety – A True Story

by Phillip Herman on September 23, 2013

As a child, I was what some might call, “anal.” I was a perfectionist at home. I hated any disorder around me, anything I could not control. I obsessed over chipped paint in my bedroom or unplanned time. I refused to leave my house with out-of-place hair or a wrinkled shirt. My family nicknamed me Alex P. Keaton (from the hit show Family Ties, at the time).

Childhood AnxietyIn public, I was shy. In elementary school, I remember walking, pressed against the cool cinder block walls, my eyes focused on the floor in front of me. I remember wishing that I could disappear into the wall. I couldn’t do that, but I did manage to disappear: into the nurse’s room or the library at any opportunity. I avoided the playground and made friends with the old janitor and lunchroom monitor. When it came to gym, I avoided the locker room.

This is how it was from around 1st grade until 4th grade, but it all changed the day I met Ted.

“Ted” was not his real name. I never really knew what his real name was, but it was the name that my teacher, Ms. Buck, used to introduce the little boy to me, so that is what I called him. The boy was funny looking – he had scruffy dark hair and eyes, was thin-boned, and dressed in clothes that were too large and too old for him. He hid behind his mother and I hid behind Ms. Buck. It was clear his mother was embarrassed and said something to her child. She spoke in a language I did not understand. The boy emerged from behind his mother, red-faced.

Ms. Buck told me that Ted was from the Soviet Union, he didn’t speak English and that she had chosen me to help him adjust to an American school. I was terrified. Why me? I was just about the last person that should be helping someone blend into life at school – and I told her that. She smiled and said I would be able to do the job. I was not so sure.

That day I showed Ted the school; the different classrooms, the library, the gym, the lunchroom. I noticed that he hid behind me; he just followed me around and nodded when I pointed out the restrooms and the bus loop. When our class went to art or gym, I introduced Ted to the teacher and tried to make Ted understand what was expected of him during the class. During the first few days of school he never spoke or even smiled.

That afternoon I told my mother about this strange little boy who did not speak English and who dressed and acted so strangely. I told my mother that my teacher made me help Ted. My mother seemed to already know about the situation at my school. I did not know at the time, but Ms. Buck had already discussed her idea of pairing me with the new student and how it would be a good way for me to “break out of my shell”

My mother suggested that I try to teach Ted English and to try learning a little Russian myself. That afternoon she bought a Russian phrase book and encouraged me to study it. I learned a few words in Russian. The next morning when I saw Ted, I quietly said, “Doh-bry otra.”

He looked at me surprised. ”Doh-bry utro?” I nodded and corrected my pronunciation. He smiled and began to rapidly speak in his native language. I shook my head and showed him the phrase book. He thumbed through the book and began to teach me a few words in Russian.

Ted and I spent almost every day after school together. First, we practiced Russian and English in the school’s library. After a week my mother suggested that I invite Ted home. I didn’t want to do it. I had never invited a friend into my home before, but she insisted. The day Ted visited she picked us up at the school. I was surprised when she greeted Ted in perfect Russian and shocked to learn that she had spoken Russian as a child. Ted was happy to speak his native language and stayed for dinner. After that, it was common for Ted to visit my home a few times a week.

One day Ted asked if I wanted to visit his home. I didn’t, but my mother told Ted that I would love to visit. When the day came, my mother dropped me off at the apartment house. Ted’s apartment was old; the furniture was second-hand and I felt uncomfortable. But his mother was friendly and I remember feeling happy.

That is how we spent the rest of our 4th grade and all of 5th grade; learning each others’ languages and becoming friends. Along the way, I became less anxious. Later, I learned that one way to treat an anxious child is to allow the child to master something, to give them a sense of control. Learning Russian and being the person Ted depended on helped me to feel less anxious.

Ted stayed at the school until the end of 5th grade. When he moved to another city we promised that we would meet over holidays, write and call. But of course, we didn’t. I haven’t spoken or talked to Ted in over 25 years, but I am thankful I met him.


Phillip is a contributor to MHN and, providing Programs and Workbooks for Child Anxiety Relief


Breakups happen all the time, but for people who are codependent or addicted to relationships, the loss of a boyfriend or girlfriend can be devastating. Relationship addicts need a relationship to feel validated. They don’t have a true identity of their own, and they judge their worth and value by who they’re with.

Broken hearts and love addictionWhile they can be addicted to any kind of relationships, most are focused on romantic engagements. Some get married and divorced frequently, and others cling to their significant other so hard they drive that person away with their neediness. Then the search begins for another person to fill the void, and the pattern continues.

Breaking the Pattern

At some point, the addict will find himself or herself alone and feeling vulnerable because strong feelings for an ex just won’t go away. Research has shown that finding another person is the most common method of coping, but it’s far from the healthiest. Relationship addicts must learn healthy ways to get over heartbreak, and that doesn’t include looking for another relationship. Breaking the pattern of addiction isn’t easy, but it can be done. Here are some truths to remember.

Getting Over an Ex

1. When a relationship ends, there’s a reason. Sometimes, the reason is simply that you and the other person just weren’t compatible. Remember that a breakup is a reflection of the quality of the relationship. It is not a reflection on you or your quality as a person. Conquering relationship addiction means not taking breakups personally, and understanding that the person who is no longer in a relationship with you is unavailable. According to Codependents Anonymous (CoDA), one of the main denial behaviors of someone who is codependent is not recognizing that a person he or she is attracted to is not available.

2. Research also showns that who you’re with isn’t equal to what you’re worth. In other words, the value you have as a human being is inside of you. It’s completely unrelated to who you’re dating or married to. There’s no shame in being single. Don’t let anyone (including your own mind) convince you that there’s something wrong with you if you’re single. Also, don’t let anyone tell you that you’d be happier if you had someone. Only you can determine that, and you have to be healthy mentally to even make that determination. That means conquering your addiction first.

3. You aren’t alone in your struggles. It can help you to learn about others who were having the same kinds of problems. If they conquered them, so can you. There are support groups for people who have codependency and relationship addiction problems. If you can’t find one in your area, you can connect with them online.

4. You will get through this, and you can conquer your addiction and get over your ex. Many people who are healthy today have addiction in their past. If you work on yourself and understand why you feel compelled to have a relationship, you’ll be able to take steps to be happy without a relationship. You have to know who you are by yourself before you can be a healthy half of a couple. Relationship addicts can go on to have strong, proper relationships with others, but it often takes time.

Struggling now doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to a life to singledom. It just means you have some things to work through. Take the time to do that, and you’ll be much more likely to have a healthy relationship later. Heartbreak could still happen in your future, but without the ties of addiction holding you back you’ll be able to move on and still be happy and healthy on your own.

Get more broken heart healing advice at Heal My Broken Heart


Childhood Anxiety: What you need to know

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One in five children will suffer from depression before their 18th birthday. Suicide rates are unacceptably high amongst our youth today, the saddest part being the motives behind these suicides, and the reasons that drive these severe onsets of depression. Anxiety is not a ‘small issue.’ If your child is an excessive worrier, suffering from [...]

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Heal Your Broken Heart using New Research on Self-Compassion

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When we see someone else, our child or a friend, suffering from a broken heart, we know exactly what to do for them. We know that compassion, patience and understanding is what our loved one needs from us during the dark days following a relationship breakup. As she is in the throes of despair and [...]

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