I have been so hesitant to dig into blogging on parenthood, for fear that I would come off as a “know-it-all.” I don’t have all the answers and I don’t want to pretend that I do, but let me share a victory my wife and I have experienced recently.
Let me take you back to Spring Break, almost a year and a half ago. My family was enjoying the week off of work and school, running errands and one day my son lost his tablet, an Amazon Kindle Fire. Even though it cost hardly anything and could easily be replaced, he was devastated, inconsolable really. I tried to take the brunt of the responsibility because it was at my urging that my son did the one thing we ask him not to do frequently when out and about, take it out of the car. He did, placed it down in a store and before we knew it, it was gone. I think this was where it all started.
For my son, it was more than a tablet. It was responsibility, maturity, something personal that he had made his own. He felt a tremendous amount of guilt for letting us down, even though I felt even more responsible. He felt like somebody took his tablet, not just any tablet. He asked why would somebody do that, it was really tough.
From there came a lot of anxiety that I didn’t see coming at that point. Summer came and he started to have these crying spells about all kinds of things. We’d be sitting on the couch watching something and out of nowhere he would just start bawling. My wife and I prayed with him, we encouraged him, I even tried some tough guy pep talks but nothing was working. We opened up to friends and family asking for prayer and advice.
Amazingly to us, we discovered so many of our acquaintances were dealing with the same thing. Some younger, some older, but all were hurting and unsure of themselves. Everyone was at different stages and each path was unique. It was truly eye opening to see so many struggle with similar anxiety issues.
We eventually made our way into a therapists office, it was new territory for us. We sat down for an intake interview, and all I can say is do your homework. We didn’t know much going in, we took the recommendations of our insurance provider. So going into the interview we were focused on really getting to know exactly who we were entrusting our son to in one of his toughest battles. We nearly handed our son over, but as I asked more and more about what types of techniques and practices would be used we found that we didn’t see eye to eye and it was time to go.
We were back at square one on the hunt, but more importantly for my son we were learning all about patience. I’m so used to having a quick response or solution to my kids’ problems, but with anxiety it is completely different. There are no quick fixes. I had to learn that the hard way. There were times when I just had to walk away and let my wife take over because patience isn’t always my strong suit. It was so hard and left us feeling so helpless.
I’m currently reading Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas and Bonhoeffer penned timeless words from his prison cell on the matter, “Anyway, what do happiness and unhappiness mean? They depend so little on circumstances and so much more on what goes on inside us.” He nails it! Anxiety is an inside thing and all we can really do is be patient and supportive. No matter how much we tried to support our son and encourage him, ultimately we had to continue to be patient because the battle was in his mind and there wasn’t much we could do from the outside except pray and wait.
Last summer the penultimate anxiety issue was my son’s first, week-long church camp. We were so worried about him. We spoke to practically every adult that was going, preparing them for what to expect with our son. He ended up having a wonderful time, but things were still not completely right when he returned. In fact, he had to be encouraged to get off the bus because he had fun at camp, but it was definitely emotional. He asked for prayer every night and cried some. It was a long summer, the crying and emotional bouts didn’t really end.
My wife and I tried everything we could to help him. We tried to distract him by keeping him busy, comfort food, anything and everything. It was really taking a toll on everyone around him. My daughter would break down because she was worried about her big brother. She was stressed out about trying to keep him from crying.
When the school year began we had to bring his 4th grade teacher up to speed. She encouraged him to write about it. His response astonished us. He told her he didn’t want to write about it because that would make it permanent for him. He said this is temporary and God is going to heal me. He truly believed that and this seemed to be his turning point.
As the school year went on, the bouts started to dissipate, but we remained vigilant just in case there was another one. The bookend for us arrived just last week when my son returned to church camp for another week. We didn’t do as much prepping with the counselors and when my son returned he came home with an incredible smile. He had a blast in the mountains, he returned as a young man. It was nothing like last year.
He seems to have moved on from the anxiety he once had, but I think my wife and I will still need some time before we feel we can completely let our guard down. I’m so thankful that it seems to be behind him. I feel for others that are still dealing with anxiety. I hope this story of my son’s struggle will bring encouragement and patience to those still battling anxiety. I encourage you to reach out to others, bear one another’s burdens. You’d be surprised how many others can empathize with you.