Our daughter's anxiety disorder went undiagnosed for years. Here's what I wish we'd known.

We knew something wasn't right with our daughter. We just didn't know what was wrong.

As a parent, it can be hard to determine when a child's behaviors fall into "weird but normal" and when something is truly "off." Kids go through phases. They struggle as they figure out their changing minds and emotions. They get nervous or needy for a spell, and then they're okay.

But sometimes they're not okay. Sometimes a phase lasts too long to be a phase, and you have to dig to discover what's really going on.


Our oldest daughter had always had some intermittent nervousness, but nothing extraordinary. As she entered the teen years, she seemed to be more anxious more often, but we figured it was a teen thing. It wasn't until she started withdrawing more and more and avoiding everyday things that we recognized something truly was off.

Long story short, our daughter was suffering from an anxiety disorder called emetophobia—a clinical fear of vomiting. It had evolved to the point where she avoided anything that might possibly make her nauseous, including food and people. We watched our vibrant, fun-loving daughter become a hermit, but since she couldn't verbalize anything having to do with throwing up, it took a long time to figure out what was wrong.

Thankfully, we were able to get her the help she needed once we knew what we were dealing with. But it was a long, hard road and there are many things I wish we had known far earlier in our journey.

Anxiety isn't just one thing, and specific anxiety disorders need to be treated in specific ways.

We had some inkling that our daughter was struggling with anxiety, and we had taken her to a couple of therapists to get help. But they treated her for generalized anxiety, when what she really needed was help with a specific phobia that we didn't know she had.

I wish I had known that anxiety is a category, not a specific disorder. Saying someone has an anxiety disorder is like saying someone has cancer. It tells you what kind of illness they have, but the reality differs greatly depending on what specific manifestation you have. A blood cancer is different from a tumor, which is different from a sarcoma. They're all cancer, but treatments are specific for each kind.

Similarly, there are multiple anxiety disorders from phobias to OCD to panic disorder to PTSD, and symptoms can overlap. It's not always easy to pinpoint the nature of a person's anxiety, but it helps immensely to get the appropriate therapy.

Finding the right therapist and the right therapy is key, and it may take shopping around.

We took our daughter to several therapists with limited success, largely because we didn't understand the exact nature of her anxiety. We had to dig and research a lot ourselves, and it took many discussions with our daughter about what she was experiencing before we discovered that the fear of vomiting was her main issue. When we asked her therapist at the time if he had experience treating emetophobia, she said he had never even heard of it.

I had to call about a dozen different therapists before I found one who said she could help our daughter, but it was totally worth it. Within a few months of therapy, we watched our daughter emerge from her hermit hole and become a happy, functioning human again. It felt like a miracle, but it was really just a matter of figuring out what we were dealing with and finding someone who knew how to help.

I wish we had started earlier. I wish we had known that it might take time to find the right therapist, and to not waste time and money with a therapist who isn't really helping.

Anxiety doesn't get fixed or cured; it gets managed.

Despite feeling like a miracle "cure" in some ways, our daughter's therapy is really just a system of management. Anxiety is a product of an overfunctioning amygdala—the fight or flight center of the brain. Why some people are prone to anxiety is a mystery, but it's not something that gets cured forever.

Most of our daughter's therapy was learning how to manage her thoughts and her brain's responses to certain stimuli. She does that through various thinking exercises and behavioral changes, and since her anxiety disorder is a phobia, through controlled exposure to what scares her as well.

Some anxiety disorders lend themselves well to medication; our daughter's did not. But medication is also a management tool, not a cure. Anxiety takes a combination of approaches to manage, and it's helpful to know from the get go that consistent, ongoing maintenance is required.

Some elements of therapy are totally counterintuitive and force you to go against your parenting instincts.

Some of the things we did in response to our daughter's anxiety—thinking that we were helping her—were actually making things worse.

When I feel nervous about something myself, my first response is to use logic and reason to calm myself down. That works for me because I don't have an anxiety disorder. But an overactive amygdala doesn't respond to logic. Telling my daughter that the statistic probability of a stale chip making her puke was tiny didn't help her anxiety. It didn't even make a dent.

Part of our daughter's cognitive behavioral therapy was her telling her amygdala, which constantly says, "This might make you throw up!" that it might actually be right. The amygdala wants to be heard, or it keeps raising a fuss. She had to learn to say, "Maybe I will get sick, maybe I won't—let's just wait and see what happens." It seemed completely counterintuitive, but it worked wonders.

I wish we had known that too much reassurance on our part was reinforcing her anxiety. We had to refuse to respond when she'd ask us if we thought she was going to vomit. We had to help her stop avoiding the people, places, and things that made her anxious.

We had to let her feel terrified, which was rough.

As a parent, it's your job to keep your child safe and secure. Anxiety tells them that they're not safe even when there's no real danger, and indulging that voice only makes anxiety stronger. So you have to go against your protective instincts. You have to walk your child toward the mirage of fire in their head, even when they're screaming that they're going to get burned. It's brutal, but they have to see that it's just a mirage.

I wish we had known how hard it was going to be, but also what a relief we would feel when therapy started working.

Parenting a child through a mental health crisis is one of the most difficult things I've ever done. So many parents are walking similar paths, feeling helpless and frustrated and unsure of what to do, and not sure who to talk to.

My daughter invited me to share her story in the hopes that others can benefit from our experiences. The more we talk openly about mental health struggles, the more we can help one another through it.

I wish we had known that sooner, too.

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Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

In the hours before he was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States, then-President-elect Biden was sent a letter signed by 17 freshmen GOP members of the House of Representatives.

In sharp contrast to the 121 Republican House members who voted against the certification of Biden's electoral votes—a constitutional procedure merely check-marking the state certifications that had already taken place—this letter expresses a desire to "rise above the partisan fray" and work together with Biden as he takes over the presidency.

The letter reads:

Dear President-elect Biden,

Congratulations on the beginning of your administration and presidency. As members of this freshman class, we trust that the next four years will present your administration and the 117thCongress with numerous challenges and successes, and we are hopeful that – despite our ideological differences – we may work together on behalf of the American people we are each so fortunate to serve.

After two impeachments, lengthy inter-branch investigations, and, most recently, the horrific attack on our nation's capital, it is clear that the partisan divide between Democrats and Republicans does not serve a single American.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.