I think Grace had an anxiety attack last Friday at preschool. Less than an hour after drop off I got a call that Grace was feeling sick and crying and couldn't be comforted. Grace LOVES preschool so I assumed that it had to be the flu or due to her continuing battles with constipation.
When I got there she said to me, "I needed to know you were near by." That was the first red flag. The second was that her appetite was fine and her bowl movements normal. So I made it the most boring day in the history of her life, at least her life at home, so that staying home sick would be less appealing. I told her that she really needed rest and that toys would be too much, so she could read books and color from the couch. She had an early nap time. She even asked if she could go back to school but I enforced a day of rest.
I talked to her doctor about it Monday, since many kids come out of cancer treatment needing counseling to readjust back to normal life. That may end up being an option for her. Chad spent a long time talking with her Monday night and was able to pull more details out. It sounds like the preschool's hour-long-mandatory-nap-in-a-dark-room (required by law, thank you bureaucrats) may be hard on her, since she doesn't always actually fall asleep, and that crying during nap has given her the fear of...fear.
She's afraid her teacher (whom we love) will be mad at her if she cries. She's afraid of her friends who might say she shouldn't cry. She's mostly afraid of the feeling of being afraid. And fear is a vicious cycle.
I've been going to workshops at my church and they've been dealing with topics like fear, anger, depression. Fear is certainly a struggle for me. They pointed out that the feelings of fear are often what we dread the most. For me, the feelings of uncertainty if Grace would survive or not were unbearable. Avoiding these feelings of fear can be a daily driving force for me.
The fear is in no way helpful, it can't change anything. The feelings of fear are even less helpful because the emotion of fear was created to alert me of danger, and there is no present danger anymore. It's only reminding me of what has been and is keeping me from the interactions with people and life that I need. I can try to talk myself out of feeling fear but as my workbook says, "without changing the heart, the actions become simply behavior modification that will fall apart if challenged hard enough."
God is working deep in my heart to heal my fears, not just in "trying harder" but in healing me with His truth. The church workshop and counseling with my Therapist have both told me that when you see a symptom (like fear) grab onto it and follow the string backwards until you reach the root, where the heart issue really lies.
So my fear is that Grace will die. As I trace it back, I see that it is not a present threat. Grace hasn't been this healthy since diagnosis. So the fear is residual and not present.
So I follow it back further. The fear comes back to when Grace was sick. The fear isn't just about Grace being sick. It's fear of death, or actually it's the fear that through death I will be separated from her. That fear can be taken hold of when I apply God's truth to it, that He has overcome death and will reunite us in Heaven when we trust in Him.
Then the next fear is loss of control. I can choose to fight for control, when I have NO power to change cancer, or I can daily give up my fears and do my best to trust Jesus, who does have the power to control things. And has been controlling things since the beginning of time without my help.
Finally there is the fear of fear itself. That terrible feeling of anxiety and worry were so draining, I get fearful of the feelings themselves. So I tell myself that Jesus was able to carry us through it then, He will certainly do it again if needed. So I banish that fear with the truth.
It's not that I won't feel the feelings. But as I lay my fears down, my heart is protected by the truth of His words. Tomorrow I will have to do lay my fears down again until my heart heals.
Monday night, Grace prayed that God would help her to put on her helmet and her belt. I asked if she was talking about the Armor of God, and yes, she was. I was so blown away as we prayed together for God to arm her against her fears with the armor of His love, salvation, peace, truth and righteousness. And Tuesday was a great day for her. She goes again today and hopefully our tactic to keep the kids up a little later every night will help them nap at school and solve the problem. I talked with Grace about 1 John 4:18, "There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear." To keep it simple for her, we talked about how Jesus is love and when we pray to Him, he helps get rid of our fears.
So far it's been a battle for her everyday. But I know that overtime as she works through her fears she'll find she's stronger than she realizes and that she can overcome her fears.