Arguably one of the most difficult ordeals a parent endures is watching a child suffer.
For the past four weeks, my eight-year-old daughter has been tormented and at times incapacitated by her own mind. I could not talk her out of it; I could not buy her way out it. This was her suffering and only she could bring a close to it.
While we are not certain what officially brought on the anxiety-ridden symptoms, she has spent the past four weeks vacillating between heaven and hell. When the demons would visit, they were unrelenting. She couldn’t touch doorknobs or refrigerator doors. She couldn’t use her hands to put on shoes. She couldn’t touch money or anything that had touched the floor. And, she scoured her hands until they were cracked and bleeding.
She had found many work-arounds to avoid using her hands. These made her appear eccentric. Using her foot to open and close doors; blowing her hair out of her face; walking without moving her shoulders and holding her hands out from her body; sitting on the edge of a chair or not sitting at all. The best way I can describe it is to say she was completely uncomfortable in her own skin.
At times, my confident sassy pants Anna who knows rules to only be suggestions would peak through. Not to mention Dad therapy, which included 4-wheeler mudding, fishing, and planting trees, offered her a respite.
Week 3, we took her to a cognitive behavioral therapist. I felt like I was “throwing her under the bus” – telling the therapist every oddity and personal behavior of my daughter. It was a very emotional experience. If you can imagine sharing, through small gasps of air, these things about your child while she cries and shakes uncontrollably mumbling, “No mommy, no.” God…it was painful.
However it began, it was the perfect storm. It probably offers a glimpse into her life’s journey and her suffering to let go. The authentic Anna is back, mostly. She can share the sofa with the fam. She can use any restroom in the house, even a used hand towel. She can open the refrigerator and make her own breakfast and lunch again. She can play with her brother and sister, and pets too. She can kiss me good night. Yes, it is the little things in life that mean so much and we take for granted until they are gone.
Anxiety or trust; worry or freedom; fear or courage. Is it not what we are all trying to sort out for ourselves?
Anna, you have found the elixir of life – life brings suffering; the cessation of suffering is attainable. You are wise beyond your years. Many adults never make it to the other side. My greatest wish for you is peace of mind. The rest is easy.