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Asking for Help

My oldest son walked into the kitchen last night while I was drying the pot I had just used to make marshmallow squares.  He leaned against the wall, eyes downcast, unfocused and spoke in a soft voice:
"Mom.  Tomorrow.  Just so you know.  Something has happened and I cannot remember a SINGLE
thing about ANY of the stuff that will be on the exam.  So.  Just so you aren't expecting anything.  I am going to fail the exam.  Probably need summer school.  Will have to quit my job.  Will get my university offer rescinded. But it is probably too late for summer school so.  It is just all over."

I put down the pot and gave him a hug.  (no hug back)

I told him it was fine. He was fine. He remembered stuff--he had an 87 going into the exam! You can't have marks like that if you don't remember stuff?! Right?

I could see the tears forming in his eyes.  He still wouldn't look at me.

"Ok.  Get your jacket we are going for a walk.  Your brain is in overload and releasing all sorts of chemicals. We will talk.  We will walk.  You will burn those off."

"I can't.  I need to study. I have no time.  I have to get to bed.  I need sleep for the exam.  Maybe it will come back."  The panic was building.

"Coat.  We are walking"

So we walked and he blurted out his frustrations.  I used every little bit of everything I have learned to help him see it was a horrid negative thought spiral he was in and the emotions being produced by these thoughts were causing his brain to just shut down.  He listened.  He argued, he agreed some.

I suggested when we get home he would get his math and we would work through it together. 

Let's be clear here. I got 52% in calculus in grade 13 a milllllllion years ago.  There was no hope of me understanding what he was saying....but by having him talk about it and explaining it to me, I hoped to show him he knew more than he thought.

So he talked.  I nodded a lot and smiled and said things like, "Oh yeah. I can see that.", "ok so what do you do after that?", " So what does derivative mean?", "Can a line really continue to get closer to another one and never touch it?", "Asymptote? Is that a real word?  Is that what you use to carry your butt around....ASS EM TOTE?" ( I got a small smile).

We worked like that for awhile.  He felt a bit better but still, he is convinced he will not do well. He got in his jammies, and lay on my bed and I dimmed the lights and ran my fingers through his hair in hopes he would get sleepy and crawl into his own bed.  It had been a long time since he had let me do that......

He hugged me goodnight and told me he loved me and appreciated everything I did for him.  I told him I would do anything in the world for him --and I loved him so much. 

It is hard to watch your kids go through things like this.  With my mental health issues and his dads we are going to get him some professional help.  If things go well on the exam he will scoff at the help, but he needs it.  We all need it. 

And the amazing thing was---he didn't suffer alone in his room---he came to find me.  He asked for help. 


  1. You are a good Mommy. Walking, breathing fresh air, and talking it through are the best medicines to stress I think. I tend to overthink and stress out and think "worst case scenario". A walk and being heard always helps.

  2. Hi Lyndsay! Thanks for the kind words. My husband and I discussed our different approaches to this. Mine is to talk and explore and empathize and let him dump out all his fears --- reminding him that he is going through a normal stress response and can find ways to live through it because stress is part of life. His step-dad on the other hand would use the reality check method that would consist of "stop being ridiculous! you are a smart kid and are going to be fine!" Sort of thing. LOL I am lucky to have an almost 18 year old who still wants to talk to me!

    1. It's interesting to read your husband and your responses. I have been thinking a lot about balance lately and I think this is the perfect example. You both have good perspectives and approaches that, when combined, I think are such a healthy way of dealing with struggles and insecurities.
      If you combine the two you are accepting and embracing your humanity and vulnerability. You are pulling apart and exploring your emotions and why you are feeling them. But, you are also looking at the facts and subjecting those emotions to truth: that you are capable and can do it. Period.
      Balance. :)

      Also, I watched Brene Brown's Ted Talks (just one so far). Thanks for the recommendation--I LOVED her! She is such brilliant and compassionate woman. I can't wait to read/watch more of her stuff.

    2. So glad you liked her! After reading your blog ---letting it all out---being vulnerable--you have inspired me to FINALLY pick up her book --the Gift of Imperfection. I struggle with this and hope it will provide some insights and relief. I'll post about it --maybe chapter by chapter and see what I think.....

      You can find some quick snippets of her on Oprah as well--Youtube will have them if you look there.



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