Saturday, July 11, 2015

An Incident of Fear

inside out
We need this guy, sometimes.
I have this issue with night terrors that pops up from time to time. It's completely stress related so I can pretty much sense when these periods will come, though not always. I'm sure it's not fun to deal with my sudden yelling and freaking out, but just imagine how it feels to just feel sudden terror, while in that in between stage between dreaming and waking where you don't know what's what and your eyes can't even focus the little bit of reality your brain is picking up on. Yeah, it's not fun. But at least it's just a stress thing, right? It goes away in normal, waking life. I mean, I do like horror movies and thrill rides.

The truth is I've always been a fearful person. I'm jumpy sometimes. I don't know why, but I am. There are things and situations and just sensations that will scare me no matter how rational I try to be about it. Sometimes it's just the dark. I famously still can't watch The Exorcist, even though I've been an atheist most of my life and should be over the trauma of having seen that at a young age (I'll get more into that in a future post, so consider this a bit of a set up for something I'm planning). See, I think because I'm a 42 year old, grown ass man who has had to sleep with the light on in a hotel room when he went away for work one time (maybe more than once) it puts me in a unique position to help my daughter through her fears, I think. I hope.

The other night, Shayera told us she saw something scary on a kid's tablet at Summer Camp. She didn't want to tell us what it was though and just kept getting more and more agitated when we asked, yelling "I DON'T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT!"  Of course, this just got us worried at what it might be and frustrated that she was not letting us rationally explain to her why she needed to tell us. But at a certain point, I was somehow able to really hear between the lines why she didn't want to talk about it: she didn't want to make the thing more real by speaking it's name. I get that. I think we've all had that moment were we try to ignore that thing that is scaring us, hoping it disappears.

So I was able to explain to her, very honestly that because she wouldn't tell us what it was, that was making me scared that it might be something dangerous. And that because of that, not as a punishment, but as a precaution, I couldn't send her back to Summer Camp. This, I think made her take notice. This is where I think reason and fear joined forces to do what they're both supposed to do: protect us. If it really was a dangerous thing she saw, she knew deep inside, she had to tell her parents who could protect her. But the next step was the important one (I'm gonna brag a little in a second, but I have to thank my friend Terri for some of this insight). Shayera told us it was a game called Five Nights at Freddy's that scared her. I'd heard of it before and it is disturbing, but I already knew that no matter what she told us it was, I was not going to dismiss her fear by saying it was nothing to be afraid of. The fact that she was scared of it means it was scary. It's that simple. Whether or not I would be afraid of it is irrelevant. She was. And our job at that point is to accept it, understand it and try to work through it. Not dismiss it.

Part of the deal with her telling us, since she made it clear that speaking about it would make her more scared, was that she could sleep in our bed that night. I don't know if that's necessarily the best thing, but who cares. There's no harm in that as far as I'm concerned. Except for the fact that a couple of hours later, Zoey was trying to come in the room, too. I get up to open the door for her, she comes in, closes the door, walks past me, never looking at me, and quietly and with determination got into bed as I watched (this one knows no fear, by the way). Off I went to Shayera's room to sleep among an army of stuffed animals and dolls who were all looking at me as I lay under the Frozen covers, resting my head on the princess pillow, among more stuffed animals. Sarah, her American Doll, fell over at one point, loudly which even brought the wife in to make sure I hadn't broken my old man hip or something. Yeah, I kept the light on for a while. But then I remembered the Batman and Hawkgirl plushies laying next to me and how I had once told Shayera they would make her feel safe. And so I did.

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