Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Drilling a Relief Well

Since my last post, BigBro has had one more ginormous volcanic eruption. Again, it was a minor upset at a friend's house. This time, I had the sense to stay at the play date for just such an occasion.

Lack of sleep + life-event stress do not a good thing make. Good grief. I'm typing like Yoda.

Listening to him after this breakdown...or during it, I guess...I heard so many things that broke my heart:
  • When will this STOP?!
  • I don't want to FEEL this way!!!!
  • This happens every DAY!!
  • This will never end.
  • I'm so confused!
  • I don't even know who I AM!
  • I don't even know what I'm feeling!!!
After he had blown off some steam in his room, we had a talk. He shamefully confessed that he had twisted some of his very special stuffed animals. "I wanted to hurt them!" he tearfully blurted out. It was then I wished I could hand him a big ol' bat and a hanging punching bag.

I told him it's totally ok to be mad at dad or me. It's totally ok to feel confused about wanting dad to stay while wanting him to be able to go back to his beloved Boston. It's ok to scream and want to punch things. I can sense the guilt and shame in him - thinking that all of these outbursts and negative feelings are somehow him being "bad".

I did NOT have the answers and I told him so. But God does have the answers and I reminded him of that. His faith is huge. And I'm thanking God for growing it so huge because it's what will get him through this.

When I dropped him off at school yesterday, he was down. Not pouty or over dramatic. He was probably depressed. He was low energy. He was giving people brave fake smiles. But it wasn't him. Sadness just dripped off of him.

From our conversations, I knew he thought he had reverted. He knows how awesome he's been doing with no tics, no rage and no anxiety. And all of a sudden, bam! they're both back in spades. So add to all the guilt, fear, hurt and anger the thought that suddenly Tourette's is back and taking over.

Yesterday, I called his therapist and said he needed to get in there because he was having an emotional crisis. They got him in first thing this morning.

Our play therapist, Dr.M, is awesome. He loves both boys so much. But he has that special appreciation for BigBro. Today, BigBro saw Dr.M for an hour. Toward the end, I joined them and they showed me (some of) what they had discussed.

Dr.M firstly explained that all of these crazy conflicting emotions are very hard to wrestle. And that EVERYone wrestles with them in their life. Even grown ups. So A) you're not alone.

He then explained that everyone has needs in their lives. I saw a piece of paper that had a bunch listed - obviously, they had made the list together. I saw things like "security", "attention"...I couldn't read all of it. Dr.M explained to BigBro that all of these needs, if not met, will pull on you like gravity. Except they pull your heart (ie emotions). So when a big life event comes along and these needs become greater, the heart can sometimes be over run by things like fear, anger, hurt, and guilt. I saw those written on that same pad.

It was explained better than that but that's what's in my head.

So Dr.M asked BigBro to show me how he had modeled what his emotions might look like in the sand table. Ok...wow. Firstly, I wouldn't even know how to go about modeling that. But here's what he did (and I wish I had photographed it):

One third of the sand table was fenced off and had a volcano, ambulance and eagle figure. The other two thirds had some bright shining marbles & stones, some little toy street signs (like yield, stop, arrows, etc.), a colorful moth figure and a bat figure. It also had a big wooden elephant near the fence.

The side with the elephant represented the side that held his friends (moth & bat), fun (shining marbles & stones), and direction (signs). The elephant represented a big event that happened. It was so big, it pushed him out of the fun side and into the volcano side.

The volcano side represented his isolation. He felt alone even with people around. The volcano represented his anger. The ambulance could get to him but wasn't able to stay long (he showed it sliding down the sand away from his eagle self).

I pointed to a Grinch figure on the fun side that was facing the volcano side. He said that represents how he feels like there is something watching him, always ready to mess him up. He felt like it was his guilt and other emotions that would get him when he least expected it.

It was amazing.

I told him I found it very interesting that his two friends had wings. Because his two best friends are very awesome and true friends. It made me think that their wings would allow them to fly up over this huge elephant and get to him. He looked at them for a minute and went, "Ohhh..." then picked the moth & bat up and flew them over to his eagle self. He liked that. I also pointed out that HE had wings. He liked that, too.

Dr.M drilled a relief well for my little volcano today. It's a good start, as he said. But putting words and labels on those needs and emotions was key, I think. BigBro seemed light when we left. Like, he knew what it all was now. He had identified it and named it. It's a known quantity. Takes the edge off that fear and anxiety.

When I dropped him off at school, he greeted the teachers with his usual bright, "Hi!"

I know we're not done yet. But that relief well is doing its job. It's relieving the pressure and letting God do the rest.

Keep those prayers coming.


C. Beth said...

SO cool!!! I'm so glad he has an incredible play therapist. I'll have to remember that if my kiddos ever need it. Awesome. I'll be praying!

Allie said...

It sounds like you've got a good thing going with his play therapist. Praying.

Jane said...

Wow! That's some very amazing stuff going on at the sand table. What a blessing and gift to have that therapist to help you guys. It's just amazing to me what comes out of kids through art and play. I'll keep the prayers coming for sure!