Grace Turner had her first panic attack in June 2021. Multiple incidents of panic, fear, and sickness led Grace’s mother, Rebecca, to seek help. Usually independent and strong-willed, Grace was diagnosed with separation anxiety by therapists at Loma Linda University Behavioral Medicine Center through an intensive outpatient program.
When my mom got there, I felt so much better because she’s my mom and is always there for me.
The first moment Grace recalls feeling anxious was on her birthday. Rebecca took Grace and her two best friends to the mall after a full day of birthday activities. Grace ran to the bathroom, screamed for her mom, and dry-heaved in the stall for two and a half hours. Assuming the cause was merely a day of excitement and sweets, the four ladies returned home. Upon Grace’s next episode, they reflected on the moment in the mall, understanding it wasn’t just an upset stomach but a moment that began Grace’s anxiety with food and being away from her mom.
“I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I was crying and shaking,” Grace said. “When my mom got there, I felt so much better because she’s my mom and is always there for me.”
Grace feared something would happen to her mom if she wasn’t there, or vice versa. During a day hanging out at home by the pool, Rebecca left the house alone to run an errand that would take no more than 15 minutes. Grace panicked, chased the car down the street, and held onto the moving vehicle, desperate for her mom to stay by her side.
“I had a fear that she would get hurt, or die, or just not come back,” Grace said.
Grace had a difficult time coping with her intrusive thoughts, leading to nausea that halted her from eating. They saw Grace’s pediatrician, who referred them to Loma Linda University Behavioral Health.
“It was so hard to see this fear from her. I was trying to figure out how to get it to go away,” Rebecca said. “So many people wanted me to tell her to suck it up. We can’t raise our children how we were raised, because clearly it didn’t work.”
Grace met her therapist, Kaitlyn McLaughlin, through an intensive outpatient program that works to treat pediatric anxiety. The program, led by Jennifer Minami, MD, approaches treatment with components that work with children and their parents.
Through the program, Grace learned how to identify feelings of anxiousness, use skills to face her anxieties, and reward herself for her progress.
McLaughlin said Grace adopted an “I can do this” attitude when they increased outings with and without Rebecca. After two months, there was a positive shift in the Turner family dynamic when Grace graduated from the program.
Proud of herself for completing the program, Grace strives to continue implementing and accomplishing goals with the tools LLUBH provided her.
“It’s not, ‘I have anxiety — Oh! And my name is Grace.’ It’s ‘My name is Grace, and I have anxiety,’” she said. “I want to feel good and keep moving forward. Now I’ll be ready for my anxiety when it happens.”
If you have a child that relates to Grace’s story, learn more about separation anxiety and the Youth Mental Health programs offered at Loma Linda University Behavioral Health.