July 9, 2008
My Amazing Boy
I was catapulted out of bed this morning when a large frog flying through the air landed with a splat and subsequent boing on my left cheek. A few days ago I woke to a bathroom door spookily slamming shut on its own and trapping me inside panicking, kicking and banging the door and screaming for help. Only I wasn't really kicking the door, I was kicking Stan and it wasn't really a frog, it was only a dream. However no one would convince me after the vivid episode, still fresh on my mind and cheek, that there wasn't a wet, slimy frog in my room, so I went outside on the front porch and fell asleep in an Adirondack chair just to be safe.
This comes on the heels of mysterious sharp, stabbing pains in my abdomen and a sudden, overwhelming feeling of languor that strikes at will and lands me on my bed in the middle of the day. My boy is suffering. He's seeing a therapist for depression and anxiety and various symptoms. He's in a group with other kids his same age going through similar things. Yesterday we had to talk to his therapist to discuss the possibility of medication. This put me over the edge and ever since the appointment was made I've been having frogs and ghosts and languor.
The very words I've used for 16 years to describe him are the ones discussed in the meeting: intense, sensitive, oversensitive, intuitive, agitated, deep, serious, curious, self-harming, impulsive, caring. He has intense emotions that sometimes lead him to turn anger onto himself. He gets agitated, he's depressed. He is so sensitive to his surroundings and people and emotions and interactions that it overwhelms him.
When he was a young child under 4, I would say that whatever room he walked into he absorbed the vibes and was affected in some way by them, whether it be in his behavior or emotions or just a insightful comment to me upon leaving. He's always known what's going on with everyone - inside. A mom of his friend once told me that she's noticed Seth's knowing glances to her in a situation or interchange and she's always amazed at how he knows whatever it is.
It's hard to be sensitive, supersensitive. And when he enrolled in school three years ago, I think the environment and culture washed over him like a wave in an ocean and it's been hard to get his footing. In some ways, he has done far more than expected. For one, people love him, the secretaries, teachers and students of any grade. He earned a spot on varsity soccer his freshman year, becoming one of the four kids to have ever done so in his high school. Intensity helps on the soccer field, but how do you turn it off at will? (One of the alumni who also made the team as a freshman helps out the team now and suffers from the same things as Seth. They've discussed their commonalities skateboarding around town. He broke his hand twice punching the goalpost in high school games and finished a game once on a broken ankle. He's also a wonderful photographer who donates his time and pictures of the team to raise money to fund it.) Sensitivity and intensity can be a benefit in the arts, Seth writes and performs music at a cafe downtown and has since 13. His lyrics are anything but superficial silly love songs. But you can't walk around letting the pains of the world inflict upon you all day. Yesterday after the session, Stan pointed out that the very qualities that cause him to stumble and struggle are the very ones that have brought him to heights and opened doors and made him so special and lovable.
How to wield the sword without hurting yourself.
I remembered a trip we took to Montana. I was alone in the hotel pool with my three kids, Stan working at a nearby refinery. No lifeguard on duty. The pool quickly crowded when a young woman brought a bunch of kids, more than she was able to handle. She paid no attention to them, even her infant was passed around in the pool from young child to young child as the mom played in the deep end unaware and unconcerned. I left the pool with my two youngest, then 1 and 6, because of the chaos, and sat with them on the chairs on the deck. But Seth, 11, still swam in the deep end because I knew he was a good swimmer and could handle the commotion. Suddenly I saw him running. Then a few people gathered round where he'd stopped and then a young boy, no older than 4, was laying on the deck throwing up water while his siblings and friends looked on helpless. Seth had noticed this boy in the 6 foot holding on to the side and then underwater, reaching up to the surface. At first he thought the boy might be able to swim, but looking back a few seconds later he realized that the boy was not coming up. He ran around the entire pool and grabbed hold of his frantic hands and pulled him out. He told me later that the boy stared up at him through the water, terrified. Another moment or two and we would be calling paramedics, but Seth saw him. Seth knew what was happening. Seth rose to the occasion and saved his life.
That day I was so thankful and in absolute awe of his sensitivity, his intensity, his hyper awareness. Later I'd forget and consider them curses that plague him unmercifully, but after yesterday I've begun to come full circle. These things are the wonderful things my boy is made of and so be it. We will help him learn how to wield them with skill and purpose.