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