Joseph: Mom, I hate 4:00. It’s like the worst time.
Me: (eye roll) Why Joseph? Why could you possibly hate 4:00?
Joseph: They were supposed to let me out at 4:00 and they didn’t and we hoped and hoped but they didn’t.
Me: Joseph, are you talking about GBMC? Buddy, that was a year and a half ago. And 4:00 now is snack time and it’s the time we sit down for Thanksgiving dinner and it’s still light outside so you can play.
Joseph: It still makes me worried.
I’m doing the best I can. But this is hard. Maybe you can help. 6 out of 7 of us Smithbergers are on the same page. That’s 84.5% of our family that is happy to be free from the mess of the past two years. Joseph is just not free. The rest of us want to hang the “Hooray” banner…
But, Joseph is simply not there. I can’t tell you how many times over the past two months I have asked, maybe even yelled, “Why Joseph? Why are you not happy all the time?”
Why isn’t he excited about life and his new found freedom?? Last year our lives were consumed with doctors visits, new diagnosis paths, projections, brain fog, pain, testing, making up school work, tears. We are done with all that!
He is just NOT happy. He is timid and angry and hard. Nothing is ever good enough.
What makes things worse is he looks so perfect. He has one scar on this chest but NOTHING else. He has nothing after almost two YEARS of medical chaos.
But Joseph is somewhat crippled inside. His scars are deep down. And those are the worst kind.
I try to talk things out. (words are my favorite tool for just about everything) I light a fire and pop popcorn and bake M&M cookies. I read “Wonder” or “Tom Sawyer” out loud at bedtime. I let him use whatever he wants from the recycling bin for his creations. I pray with him. I pray for him. I. I. I…
I am not enough. And that is hard to accept. I can not erase his flashbacks or nightmares. I can’t calm his angry outbursts. For the love, at this point, I can’t control my angry outbursts.
I can’t figure out when or how to let him live out his authentic healing path or when to step in and nudge him or stop him to help him along that path. Because this is HIS story too, obviously. And he needs to process and heal in his time. But he’s a little kid. And, I am his mom. I want for him to work through his feelings and to own his healing. But, it’s not happening.
So, what do I do? I consult my favorite medical professional, Google. I type in some of Joseph’s behaviors and get PTSD.
I kind of shrug it off because I have always associated PTSD with soldiers, as a post-war sort of thing. But it starts make so much sense. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The little dude is so stressed out because he is dealing with the stress of such a crap year that he fought through and stuffed down and it’s all unraveling.
So, here’s where I usher Google out and invite God in. And by now, you know, we know, He is going to answer.
I journal every morning. It’s my way of laying it all out. Sometimes it’s just whatever comes to mind, or maybe a nagging pull on my heart. There are a lot of Thank you’s in my journal. Recently, Joseph is filling the pages. God, WHAT is going on? God, WHY can’t he be happy? Lord, HOW do I help him feel peace in his 9 year old heart? When you ASK, God answers. There are so many references to God hearing you in the Bible. But my most relevant comes from the Book of Andrea.
I fill my journal pages with questions to a seemingly invisible God, and God answers on a Tuesday filled with friends & conversations. At breakfast with one friend, I never get to talk to, and her first question is have I seen the article on childhood trauma & how it affects adulthood. And we spill honest, hard, good words. So thankful. Then I get a phone call from another friend I rarely see and she tells me I have “been on her heart” and she wants to know how I “really” am. So, I tell her. Oh, we’re fine. That lasted for 5 minutes and then I unload what’s really been going on. And she tells me her sister is a… wait for it… she’s a therapist who treats kids with PTSD.
Why consult Google? Because it’s at your finger tips? So is God.
“And this is the confidence that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, HE HEARS US.” 1 John 5:14
You have stuff. I have stuff. We all have stuff. If it’s pushed way down deep, or if it feels like it’s choking you; ASK God to see it and help you navigate through it. And watch for, listen for His answer.
As for Joseph, I contacted the therapist and we will see. Right now, I’m going to open up my journal. A few thank you’s are in order.