Friday, March 23, 2012

Peeking into the Past

My daughter sees a psychologist. Or, rather, a psychologist sees her--every Thursdays, at 6:30, in our home.  Dr. Brown has her own practice but because Alanna's challenge is her social anxiety the good doctor has been kind enough to do therapy in a place that is most comfortable...In the comfort of our living room.

Last night they sat together and watched Alanna's video for the first time.  The video chronicles Alanna's miraculous recovery from the swine flu.  They watched the video in silence, Alanna looking away every now and then, Dr. Brown glancing at Nana every so often.

They talked about the video when it was over.  What was Alanna's favorite part?  What did she think about being in the hospital?  Did she remember anything?

Alanna has seen the video countless times with me in the past.  She, in fact, asks to see it sometimes.  Clearly oblivious to what it all means, she would often giggle at pictures of herself once she was well, saying things like, "I was running, I was playing with a butterfly, etc.,"  We never talked in detail about the video. She just knew three things: she was in the hospital, she was very sick, Jesus healed her.

After the doctor left, my four year old was the most gregarious we've seen her.  She chatted up a storm with her Dad in the supermarket, she asked questions in a bulleted fashion, her energy up, her anxiety totally absent.  But when 3AM came, while asleep, Alanna began to yell and moan.  My husband and I rushed to her room and stood over her bed.  

Alanna was tossing, turning, kicking, her eyes closed.  She was crying, clearly in distressed, and she could not be comforted.

She was doing the same things that she did for several nights, every night, when she first came home from the hospital.  It wasn't in the same equal amount of intensity but she was clearly reliving the nightmares of the ICU, fighting doctors and nurses, pushing away needles, while in a restless and anxiety-filled sleep.

I scooped her up in my arms, my heart heavy, and rocked her back and forth.  And eventually, after drinking a glass of water, she fell into a deep and quite sleep.

It was 5:30 in the morning.

This morning, while getting ready for work, I told my sister and my husband that I didn't want Alanna talking about her hospital experience after all.  That I prefer it to be tucked safely in her subconscious. They disagreed, of course.  My husband said that suppressing all that trauma cannot be healthy for anyone.

It's better she deals with this now while she's young than when she gets older and it shows up in different ways.  

I wondered if that was what happened to me.  At Alanna's age I had been in critical care, expected to die, but a miracle took place.  There had been an epidemic and children around me in the hospital were dying.  Some doctor that no one seemed to know or remember ever seeing told a nurse to remove a certain IV from my arm.  Once it was removed I recovered almost instantly.  No one ever saw that doctor there again.

But I did not receive therapy.  No Dr. Brown came to my living room.  There were no discussions about a video.  There was no peeking into the past.  And just like Alanna, I too did not socialize.  I would not play with other children.  I would not speak in social settings.  I preferred to stay in my room by myself.  I had no desire to be with other children and engage in play.

But at home I would never take a breath from talking.  And although my tolerance to playing was low, I interacted with my sister and played with her appropriately.

I am, in essence, Alanna with no therapy. And I wonder...would talking to someone have made a difference and if so, what kind of a difference?  Would peeking into a traumatic past in such a tender age have changed the type of woman I am today?

I am a board certified behavior analyst and as such, I am leery of psychologists but I was the one who insisted that my daughter be seen by one...I wonder why?

I wonder if my near death journey at 2 years old affected the way I view the world?  I wonder if it plays a part in my insistence to remain stoic and unaffected at things that could tug at my emotions and render me weak?  

I wonder if it's the reason why sometimes I feel utterly alone?

I didn't have a Dr. Brown and sadly, I didn't have a mom and dad who would scoop me up in the middle of the night and rock me back and forth.  That was just not how things were done.

But I did have the Lord, the same one who gave me that miracle to live.  And Nana has Him too.  But thankfully, she also has her Dad who jumps in the middle of the night at every cough, at every whimper, and especially, at every cry.

And she has me who is determined to tell her only things that will build her up and let her know that she is loved more than she could ever fathom.  And then she has aunts and uncles and cousins who remember her in that hospital bed and who shower her with open affection.

And on Thursdays, she has Dr. Brown.

This peeking into the past is proving to be a bit more trying than I realized but I suppose my sister and my husband are right.  It is better she deal with this trauma now when she is young, so she can leave it behind with her youth and she can grow older, emotionally healthier, and stronger.

If not, she just might find herself in front of a computer someday.  Typing, blogging, reliving stories of the past and wondering...what if?

I suppose they can peek into the past gently all they want.  And should her nights prove to be restless, I and her Dad are here.  We will scoop her up, rock her back and forth, give her a drink of water, and put her back to sleep.

And in her sleep, the Lord will be there.  The same one who gave her that miracle to live...