The other night I was putting the Little One to bed when he started to work his way into an anxiety attack. It started off simply as a stall to going to bed, but then he remembered past days of scary dreams and convinced himself that he was going to have a scary dream that night and he couldn’t stop crying and whining about it. He was obviously overtired, but the emotions he was going through were real to him. I know this because I suffer anxiety and so I knew a simple “get a hold of yourself” wasn’t going to be effective!
The Little One’s trouble with anxiety began after he had some bad dreams. First it was fire in his bedroom, then it was bears in the back yard and other animals – all wanting to eat him. The dreams must have been very intense because they sparked such vivid thoughts in the day time that he hated to be in his own room for fear of a real fire. When he awoke from his dreams, he would beg me to lay with him, hold him and say prayers with him. He started to pray differently. He now begs Jesus and Mary every night to protect him from scary dreams and thoughts, and when he wakes up in the morning he is grateful that the prayers are answered. This trial of faith has produced many fruits in his relationship with Divine Love and Mercy to the point I am convinced this was a gift – a gift for deeper faith.
By the grace of God, I was in a very good place the other night when the Little One was too tired to go to sleep. My husband came into the room, concerned the whole episode was going to push me into a bad place, but I assured him I was okay. I was really in the grace of the moment. I had been praying, and started to pray aloud the Psalms that help the Little One when he is most afraid “The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack…I will fear no evil, for you are with me;” (Ps 23:1, 4). His response to my praying was to intensify his whining and crying. Why weren’t the prayers working that night? Could it be because he wasn’t living in the moment? Could he be focusing on feelings from the past only to be afraid of the future which is out of his control? Where was his confidence in Jesus and Mary to answer his night time prayer not to have scary dreams?
Wow. These questions were very eye-opening for me with my own anxieties. The very next day I found out my friend with cancer had made a turn for the worse. I started to remember the grief I had really experienced when my father died. Instead of staying in the current moment and wondering what my friend might need, I remembered how terrible I felt in the past, and projected this onto the future – this process put me in a stupor and anxiety pursued! Before it went too far, however, Blessed Mother helped me to remember my Little One’s struggle from the night before. Was I, too, creating undue stress? Was I focusing on my feelings from the past to the point I was more afraid of the future that is out of my control? Since I hadn’t immediately turned to prayer, I could see that the fear I had was more imagined than a real threat. Where was my confidence in Jesus and Mary to carry me, to carry my friend which I pray for incessantly? Immediately, I entrusted my thoughts to Blessed Mother to be immersed in Divine Mercy and Love. That day MOM kept me from being fooled into spending a lot of tears on an illusion--tears before their proper time.
“Anxieties that nag you about the past or the future are also trials of faith. God expects that you will offer Him all of these anxieties so that you can entrust yourself more fully to Him and totally abandon yourself to Him.” (Tadeusz Dajczer, The Gift of Faith, 3rd. ed. (Ft. Collins, CO: IAMF, 2012), p. 129)