Tommy the Turtle: A Story About Anxiety in Children

Tommy the Turtle: A Story About Anxiety in Children

"Wherever you are, you are not alone in the Pond of Life; there is always someone around who cares and can help."

Tommy the Turtle

Once upon a time, there lived a young turtle by the name of Tommy. Tommy had recently moved from Oceanland to Pond City with his family. He left his friends behind. He left his favorite coral reef behind. Even his favorite teacher Ms. Tentacles. He felt alone, when he was not talking with his parents or his sister. Whenever he would feel alone and scared, he would turtle into his shell.

His mom got so worried about him, when he went into his shell for days, and she decided to take him to see their local doctor, Dr. Panda the Pediatrician, who diagnosed him with Turtle Shell Syndrome.

Tommy was confused; he had never heard of such a disease before. Although he had stayed in his shell for the entire appointment, he decided to peek his head out to ask Dr. Panda what it meant to have Turtle Shell Syndrome. Dr. Panda responded, “It’s when you get scared or worried that you go into your shell. Some of the symptoms you may experience include: tummy ache, headache, sleeping too much or not sleeping enough, being grouchy or snappy with the people around you, feeling your muscles tingle or tense up, or feeling a lump in your throat.”

Tommy’s eyes grew; he couldn’t believe how Dr. Panda knew all the symptoms he was having.

“Well, how do I get better?” Tommy asked, halfway into his shell already and clinging to his mom’s hand for dear life.

Tommy told Dr. Panda how he was having a really hard time at school, staying in his shell or at the shore of the pond, when his classmates were everywhere, talking to each other and having fun. He felt all alone in his shell and on the shore. He wanted to hang out with his classmates and he wanted to be friends with them. He missed his friends from back home in Oceanland, but he knew that, no matter how badly he wanted to, he could not take them with him to Pond City.

“I do have one cool classmate here in Pond City who goes to school with me and hangs out with me at the shore. Her name is Sally and she’s a squid so she doesn’t have a shell; she usually walks up to where I am on the shore, says hello, and hangs out collecting seashells,” Tommy tells Dr. Panda, “Every time she asks me to join our classmates in the pond, I always go back in my shell and refuse to go anywhere.”

Mom patted Tommy’s shell, “I know it’s hard, baby, this move was not easy on any of us and especially on you.” Tommy felt heard and understood by Mom. “I wonder if it would help to take one step closer to the pond every day. We don’t have to go the whole way on the first day, but we can try, one step at a time.”

Dr. Panda smiled fondly, “One step a day will keep the doctor away!” Tommy giggled. “Okay, I will ask my friend if she can help me take one step each day. One day, I will reach the pond and ask my classmates if I can play with them,” Tommy shared.

Moral: Tommy struggled with anxiety, being the new kid in a new city and a new school, knowing no one. Many of us wrestle with anxiety – at work, at school, at church, in life. It took someone who cared and noticed Tommy’s shelly behavior to seek help and to listen to him as he talked about his struggle with anxiety. Tommy was, then, able to reach out to a friend and take one positive step each day. And we can too. Look at the people in your life, find someone you trust to ask help you take the first step in talking about anxiety. Wherever you are, you are not alone in the Pond of Life; there is always someone around who cares and can help. When you are ready, take the first step.

Thank you for taking the time to read this story. If you would like additional support, we are here to help. Please contact The Refuge Center for Counseling at 615-591-5262 today.

Blog written by The Refuge Center Child & Teen Team – Merna ElSols

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