Evangeline...

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    Friday, August 31, 2012

    Monsters

    People often tell me I’m funny. I like being funny. I love laughing. I love people with a good sense of humor. And most of all, I love having the freedom to admit that I am totally clueless most of the time. I think it’s healthy to laugh at myself.

    But sometimes life just isn’t funny. During hard weeks I struggle to come up with a blog post because I’m afraid I’ll be letting folks down if it doesn’t include a little humor. Sometimes there is humor amidst the difficulty, little flashes of grace lighting the dark closets where we hide with our struggles. But sometimes, even though the grace remains, the light is dim.


    This morning my husband and I huddled with our oldest son in a darkened workroom at the elementary school. I wondered if we'd always be imprisoned. The three of us, trapped by the monster in Monkey’s head, trying to beat it back or sneak around it to escape.

    Monkey suffers from anxiety. And I don’t mean he worries. I mean anxiety attacks incapacitate him. It’s still hard for me to grasp. I get stressed. Really, really stressed. But never have I felt like my own mind was trying to kill me.

    Even now, after the hours I’ve logged sitting outside the bathroom door while the fight or flight response empties my son of everything including rational thought, I still don’t know exactly what he goes through. I don’t know what it’s like to be inside his head when, as he puts it, his anxiety gets him.

    Sometimes dealing with this feels like us, our family, against the world. In reality, we have a team that includes our family doctor and some truly dedicated people at Monkey’s school. Although this morning, none of them were around when the crisis hit.

    I finally found one of the school counselors, and as we walked down the hall to attempt to rescue my son from himself, she said, “This is unusual for a fifth grader.” I wanted to get my snark on and say, “Oh, really? And there aren’t any adults who can’t go to work because of anxiety attacks?”

    We did get him into the classroom. I wanted to announce his accomplishment over the PA, give him an award for bravery. He deserves a hero’s welcome for conquering that monster, knowing the evil thing will be back. But, of course, the whole process has to be as low key as possible to avoid even more stress for him. So I didn’t cheer. Or run up and kiss the other fifth grader who greeted my son with such sweetness and enthusiasm when Monkey finally emerged from the project room.

    And the school hasn’t called, which is a good sign. But I want to go check on him. I wish I could let him stay home every time his anxiety gets him. And that is the hardest part. Cuddling my son and offering reassurance is easy. Finding the tools to help him overcome this and function in the world is hard. It's a long journey.

    So that’s my post for this week. That is my messy life. Believe me, I prefer to share the funny stuff. But I know all parents face monsters of one kind or another with their kids. And sometimes it can help to throw a little light on those beasties. If you're battling something right now, know that I'm cheering for you and your kiddo, especially if that precious child isn't the type who gets ribbons on field day or his or her name on the honor roll. Don't worry about those paltry prizes. You slay dragons every day.


    *photo by firehawk77

    20 comments:

    J. N. Hups said...

    Great post, Evangeline! I commend you and your husband for your faith, and Monkey for his bravery. :)

    godandmyeverydaylife said...

    Thank you for sharing. Not just the funny, dumb stuff - that's easy but the in the trenches, ugly stuff. The things that more people deal with than they admit. And yet, with transparency comes freedom and true friends.

    Isn't it good that God gives us grace and strength for each day. There are times I wish He'd give me seconds, but no, that's where reliance on Him really begins.

    Debbie Maxwell Allen said...

    Such a needed post today. I'm battling a monster on behalf of a beloved family member, and the outcome is still unknown. Thanks for your transparency. Go Monkey!

    ~Debbie

    Amy Leigh Simpson said...

    Love this post! "little flashes of grace lighting the dark closets where we hide with our struggles" especially this part. Sometimes our lives appear so squeaky from the outside...but really, everyday can be a battle. And most days are. Thank you for sharing this! our almost three year old is in speech therapy, and I really struggle with the labels some try to put on him.

    Unknown said...

    Tell him I know how it feels. I've been there.
    I also remember a time I couldn't get my daughter out of the bathroom to watch an IMAX movie. I've been there as the mommy, too.
    I'm sorry. It's really tough.

    A friend is doing this program for her daughter and I checked it out, too. I mention it to you because it talks specifically about the fight or flight response being exaggerated in some folks. It may sound like something helpful or it may not. http://www.brainhighways.com/

    Unknown said...

    I think that last comment may have said "unknown." It was me - Kay Day. :)

    Joanna said...

    We suffer from "the monster" at our house too. Hang in there and take each day as they come. We should get together and compare strategies. BTW: I have about a billion books on the subject if you'd like to borrow them.

    RJLarsonbooks said...

    Praying for more grace and light in those dark closets--and banishment to all monsters!
    Hugs to you all!!!

    Daphne said...

    I was trying to come up with the "right" comment for this one and I still haven't. For me, some of my worst memories of anxiety and panic were the feelings of utter loneliness that came with them. For a long time, I didn't have anyone who I trusted enough to seek out when I was trapped and I so desperately wanted someone to come find me. I was so annoyed and even hated that I would eventually be forced into courage and humility. I know know that God used those times in my young life to bring me closer to Him, but it was a very hard path to take alone. I am so very glad that you are with him in that darkened workroom, with flashlights of grace. It brings stinging tears to my eyes - a distinct & flashing memory of sitting with my arms wrapped around my legs in my parents' shed wondering, "why doesn't someone notice?"

    He doesn't know how to appreciate it now. But he will.

    Evangeline Denmark said...

    Aw, Daph, I am so sorry you went through that alone. It's not right that you did and I wish I could change it. I wish I'd known, but as the self-involved teen who lived down the street from you, I probably would've been worthless even if I had. Honestly, I feel useless most of the time when faced with that anxiety monster. Because I can't fix it. But as you said, I can sit with him in the dark, shine the flashlIght and hope he'll look up.
    Thanks for encouraging me as my family walks through this even though you didn't have someone to walk with you. That takes amazing strength.

    Evangeline Denmark said...

    Amy, our little guy started speech therapy at 3 too. You are absolutely doing the right thing by getting him help early. I know it's a hard road, but it is worth it. Don't listen to those negative voices. There is still so much our society doesn't understand about these issues that can affect our children so profoundly yet are complex and can appear to be behavioral problems. I don't know your exact situation but I know I got (and still get) more than my share of "why can't you control your child" looks from strangers who could never guess my situation. Remember in those moments that you are a good mom and it doesn't matter what others think. Be your child's advocate first and foremost. I've failed at that before because I was worried about what others thought. But I'm learning. That stranger, that cranky old lady or narrow-minded man in the check-out lane---their opinion doesn't matter. God knows what you're dealing with and your child, even if he doesn't remember, will feel your love and acceptance. And that DOES matter!

    Evangeline Denmark said...

    Hey Joanna, we should definitely compare notes. I had to smile about your one day at a time comment. If there's one thing anxiety teaches you, it's awareness of the moment. And those moments feel like an eternity! Something I always tell Monkey when he's in the midst of it is, "this feeling won't last forever." I remind him of the last time and how he got through it and came out on the other side. That seems to help some.

    Evangeline Denmark said...

    Thank you, RJ. I wish we had a massive but sweet warhorse like Pet to trample our monster all to pieces for us. You made such an awesome character--yes, character!--when you thought up him.

    Evangeline Denmark said...

    Thank you, Jill.

    Evangeline Denmark said...

    "With transparency comes freedom and true friends." I love that. You are so right. And you know I appreciate your friendship, Mild-mannered Missionary Mary.

    Evangeline Denmark said...

    I'm glad the post hit the spot, so to speak. Praying for your situation, Debbie.

    Evangeline Denmark said...

    Thanks Kay Day a.k.a. "Unknown." I'm sorry you've had to deal with this too. And your poor daughter, getting ambushed by it at the IMAX. One of our worst episodes happened right before a field trip. Thank God my husband was there. He'd taken the day off to go with Monkey. Needless to say, they didn't go. But when things got better he took Monkey to see a movie. I told Kory, "He'll always remember how this awful thing ruined his field trip, but he'll also remember you taking him out and spending time with him." I know it's the same for your daughter. With the memory of that painful event will also come the
    memory that you were there for her.

    Lisa Tawn Bergren said...

    Oh, honey, how I love and admire you. Chin up. Shoulders back. Monkey learns from you how to slay 'em. One day at a time. Praying a prayer of sweet covering for you...

    Jennifer Major said...

    Oh my WORD. Can I adopt you? Can I bribe you to move here.
    I just found this blog.
    We had a Chunky (me-thanks Dad, I think he was pointing out my Non-Swedish supermodel look. Don't worry, he quit.) and Monkey in our house growing up.

    Tell Monkey that someone gets him. Someone far away can understand him.

    Evangeline Denmark said...

    Thanks for the support Jennifer. It's been good to talk with others whose lives are affected by anxiety. I'm glad people have felt safe enough to share their struggles via comments, especially since the nature of the beast is to make you feel like you're alone. If nothing else we can encourage each other with an "I know how it feels."
    Oh and in case you wondered, Chunky got his nickname as a roley poley baby. He's now a bean pole so the name is ironic. :)

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