We both care about the environment. I find climate marches stressful because of the crowd size, but Mama takes me with friends. I saw her interviewed for the news and was amazed by her passion; she shows me what it means to be brave. Once, heading to a climate-strike rally, we were at a train station and a security guard told us to move along. Mama stood up to him, saying, “We aren’t doing anything wrong.” She was shaking afterwards, but I was proud of her.
Anxiety doesn’t necessarily get better; you just get better at managing it. Overall, I’m proud of myself for coping. I’m not sure what I want for my future, but I’d be happy to grow up to be like my mum: she designs beautiful, ethical wedding dresses. They show the world who she is.
EMMA-JANE: Minka has always been very determined. If there’s a tree she wants to climb or a trapeze to swing from, there’s no stopping her. We’ve never been able to pinpoint why her anxiety started, but it began not long after her brother Harlow was born. One day I took her to school and she just couldn’t get out of the car; she was crouched in the passenger footwell hyperventilating. School has been a battle ever since.
I signed Minka up for circus school when she was nine because I wanted to give her a space to feel like she can do scary things. We’re an artistic family; I have a dance background and my husband Alex is a sculptor.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has been important for her resilience, but the last few months have been tough because of recurring panic attacks. Minka hoped there was a physical cause, but hospital tests confirmed an anxiety disorder. There have been moments when she really thought she was dying: I’ve lost count of the number of times an ambulance has been called. She missed the end of year 9, but this year she really wants to be at school.
Minka needs me intensely, but doesn’t want to need me. I get it. I had the same worries as a kid being apart from my own parents and never went on sleepovers because I feared them dying in a car accident and being left on my own. My anxiety went away, but seems to have returned as a parent now that I’m managing Minka’s. I believe anxiety is part and parcel of being a sensitive human. Dance and breathing techniques help me; so does CBT.
“I’ve lost count of the number of times an ambulance has been called.”
Recently, in art therapy, Minka and I coincidentally drew the same family memory: the time Alex and I got married at home. Minka was 11 and Harlow five. It was a happy day. I realised just how much we both cherish that feeling of togetherness. Minka turned to me and said that she knows I’m there for her, that she values who I am and what I do. In the last few months, she’s begun re-posting pictures of my wedding dresses and her dad’s art on Instagram. I think it’s her subtle, adolescent way of saying, “I’ve got you, too.”
When Minka was born, I hoped to raise a daughter with compassion and sensitivity – and she has those qualities in spades. There’s a baby magpie at her school. When some kids were handling it roughly, Minka mustered up the courage to tell them off. She’s rescued the bird a couple of times now. I encourage her not to be afraid to speak out against wrongdoing.
Minka recently pierced her ears and nose and cut her hair. She’s finding her independence and embracing change and the best thing I can do is trust her. When she recently proposed a sleepover at her grandmother’s house [in nearby Castlemaine] for the first time, I could see how determined she was. It’s such a simple thing, but it was a powerful, affirming moment. Two months ago, she wouldn’t have dreamt of doing it. The way Minka copes with so much, people think she’s amazing. I just wish she could see herself as they do. I truly think she can do anything she wants to do.
Enough is a new six-part podcast from The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald in which young people tell us in their own words about their experiences with mental health through the pandemic and beyond. You’ll hear Minka and Emma-Jane in episode four, out April 11.
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