I think it started with a speaking part for a choir concert. Will was excited to volunteer but as the day of the performance came closer, the excitement turned to fear, fear to stress, and stress to anxiety. So much so, that the night before the performance, he couldn't fall asleep. He worried about his speaking part, then he worried about sleeping, and as the clock ticked on, his anxiety increased. We prayed and prayed, together and separately but still he could not go to sleep. His dad gave him a blessing, but still he could not sleep. I sat on his bed for awhile, then he came to mine. Nothing helped. As his frustration turned to panic, I became a little angry. Not at him, but at Heavenly Father. I had promised Will that Heavenly Father would help him if he would ask.We had begged and pleaded and still we felt alone. Not only alone, but abandoned. I couldn't understand it. Finally about 3:30 in the morning, we gave him a sleeping pill. He fell asleep.
Things went down hill from there. He began to be anxious any time he felt an uncomfortable emotion. It culminated when Michaela left for a Disneyland trip with her choir. He felt sad at her departure and began to worry that he would cry at school and everyone would laugh at him. It debilitated him. He couldn't make himself walk out the door. And because there was only one day of school before she returned, I let him stay home.
But then our fish died.
It was more than he could handle.
It almost immobilized him.
I begged, threatened, bribed, talked til I was blue in the face, but nothing could make him walk out the door to school. Sometimes I could get him in the car but when we pulled up to school, I could not get him to get out. I was exhausted and at my wit's end. So was he.
And then Janis told me that her hometeacher was a psychologist for the school district. I decided to meet with him and see what he could do to help us. It was a sweet, wonderful tender mercy.
He told me that solving anxiety issues at this age was easy, but if you wait till they are adults, it's almost impossible.
He told me that the worst thing I could do was to let Will stay home from school. In doing this I was validating that Will's fears were real, when in reality they were irrational. The more I catered to his anxiety, the more I validated it.
And so, I drove him to school and left him kicking and screaming in his teacher's arms. I cried as I drove home. It was awful to see his friends looking at him like someone they didn't recognize.
The next day was a little easier, and by day three, there was no resistance.
We then practiced walking to school, and each day he walked a little further by himself. The greatest day was when I started to head out the door with him and he looked at me and said, "Mom, you don't need to come anymore."
The last hurdle to conquer was at night. He was still so worried about not being able to fall asleep, that he would watch the clock and needed me to wait with him.. I was so happy that he was going to school that I was willing to sit outside his door each night until he was asleep. However,the weeks stretched into summer vacation and it got really old. I was losing valuable sleep myself. When school was about to start up again, I knew we needed to fix this last part of his anxiety. I am amazed it took me so long, but I called Janis' hometeacher again and asked him what I should do. Again he told me that by sitting outside his door, I was validating his irrational fear. I needed to reassure him that Dad and I were there to protect him and that he could fall asleep by himself. He told me it would take maybe three days tops, but Will would be sleeping on his own. He also advised me to give Will something comforting, like conference talks, to listen to as he fell asleep It wasn't pretty, but he was right. By the third night he was fine.
The best part was how much it empowered him. He felt normal again. It made me feel sad that I had not done it sooner. He was completely happy.
But back to Heavenly Father.
He could have made it okay that one night when we desperately wanted it.
But what if it had just stifled this anxiety issue?
What if when he was ready to go on his mission, he couldn't have stayed?
What if he was an adult before he had to try and deal with this and like the psychologist said, it was almost impossible to fix?
And what would I trade for the fact that Will still listens to conference talks every night as he goes to sleep?
He and his brother have now listened to a decade worth of sacred wisdom.
Heavenly Father never abandons us.
But he does assure us that "my ways are not your ways."
One year later Will is unstoppable.
He plays the cello in the school orchestra.
He sings in the school choir.
He has had several solo parts without thinking twice about it.
He participates in Freedom Leaders at his school.
He is in the chess club.
He even sings in the ward choir.
He is not that defeated little boy of a year ago.
And he knows that his Heavenly Father was with him every step of the way.