January 15, 2014

Grab a Gun

The funeral had ended, but it didn’t end Teage’s struggles. In fact, he continued to get worse. He wouldn’t set foot in his room, and I had a hard time getting him to talk at all. He didn’t have much of an appetite. He had angry outbursts and kept trying to hurt me or others. He wouldn’t speak in public. The boy who used to get up smilingly to say a prayer in church, now scratched and clawed me when I tried to get him to leave my arms and go to his class. He didn’t sleep. I didn’t know what to do. I knew he had to get some serious help, so I decided to take him to child therapist. I had to get him to talk to someone. Anger was stirring inside of him. I could see it all over his face.

His first counseling appointment finally came, and I was so excited to get him there. It was like a mini-date in the car. I hadn’t had much time alone with him, and as we drove, I finally got him to talk a little bit. He wasn’t as excited about the appointment as I was, and he had many doubts about what we were about to do. I explained to him that I would be sitting in the room with him, and that I really needed him to be brave and share anything that was on his mind. I encouraged him to open up and let out any feelings he had. I told him about some of my experiences with my counselor, and how he’d helped me talk through some of the hard things with which I was struggling. Then I asked Teage if he had any questions. He said, “Yeah . . . does this guy know any bad guys?” I wasn’t sure how to answer. I replied, “This counselor knows a lot of people, and he has helped them with their lives. I think he is going to help us with ours.”

We walked into the building. Teage held my hand so tightly, it was almost turning blue. I could feel him shaking. We sat in the waiting room, and he leaned over a few times and kissed me. He was trembling more and more, and I could tell that he was very nervous. I said, “Hey Buddy. I am so proud of you.” A tear welled up in his eye and he leaned in close, “Mom, I don’t want to do this.” I didn’t want to give him any way out, so I answered, “I know, but I’ll be with you. I will be sitting right next to you, and I promise I won’t leave. You can do this.”

We were called in to the office. I knew this counseling center well. I had started seeing a counselor here just a week before Emmett died. I had poured my heart out about all that I feared was happening in my marriage and begged the counselor to fix my “trust issues” so I could stop having so many doubts. Then, after Emmett had died, I had sat here many times trying to piece together what was left of me.

This time, however, we weren’t here for me. I had come for my son. I tried hard to forget my own issues and stay focused on this little boy who was hurting so much. The counselor began talking with Teage, and I sat quietly in the corner just watching . . .  tears silently slipping down to my neck. How did we get here? I didn’t understand. How could this be my son? He was not even a child . . . he was only a shell of himself with glass eyes.

At first, the two of them just played. Teage would grab a dinosaur or a car and pull it through the sand. Then he would walk over to the blocks, and build something. It just seemed like a normal playroom with fun toys. I started to doubt if this was the best idea. How could running a car through the sand help bring my son back to life? Could building a tower with blocks and knocking them down really help my son find a reason to live?

Then all of the sudden, Teage grabbed a superhero and a big, green Hulk. They were just talking about normal stuff. The toy characters climbed up the couch, and then jumped off the bookshelf. Then the Hulk seemed to be getting frustrated with the superhero. Teage looked at the therapist and said, “Sometimes bad guys get mad.” The counselor said, “Oh yeah. Tell me about that.” Teage replied, “Well sometimes bad guys come and hurt the good guys.” “What do you mean?” the therapist asked. “Well sometimes, bad guys don’t like the good guys.” “Tell me about that, Teage,” he encouraged. At this point Teage was slamming the Hulk into the superhero, and the superhero was not defending himself . . . just lying there getting body-slammed by the Hulk. Teage screamed, “Sometimes the bad guy doesn’t let the good guy win.”

My son threw down the little figurines, ran over to the shelf and put on a scary mask. Then he picked up a gun. It was a Nerf gun on the counter. He pointed it straight at the counselor and shot him five times in the face, emptying the gun of every Nerf bullet, then said, “And sometimes the good guy dies.”

By this point, I was in the corner about to throw up . . . still attempting to hide my emotions and trying to figure out what the heck had just happened. My four-year-old son had clearly been playing this script in his mind for several weeks. In his view, a real-life bad guy had killed his superhero. It wasn’t a movie or a video game— where the good guy came back and saved the day. Its ending was real . . . and it was permanent.

I thought I could handle living with the anger inside myself . . . but how could I bear watching my son ache to his very core? I felt like Heavenly Father kept asking me to forgive . . . but I kept finding reasons like this . . . not to forgive. It wasn’t just a battle in my mind, it was a war in my heart. For every urge I had to forgive . . . I had a stronger urge inside of me to just let my anger consume me. For all the strength I felt I had received . . . this day was a big blow. I took a few steps back in my journey as I watched my son pull a trigger and shoot a man. My son wasn’t afraid of losing his hat at school. He wasn’t nervous that he might miss the catch in a football game at recess. He was afraid that one day, he would be the dying superhero . . . or even worse, the bad guy.

The night Emmett died, I made a promise to the Lord—alone in my closet—that I would forgive. I knew it would take time, but I also knew that someday, forgiveness would come. But, it sure as hell wasn’t going to be that day! That day I was angry . . . and it felt good! When others were around, I kept my face calm on the outside . . . but on the inside, I was weeping tears of hate. That anger hurt unlike any pain I had ever felt . . . but on certain days, I actually needed that pain to keep myself moving forward.

I assume that the same type of anger I felt towards Rob, he himself felt towards Emmett. Only I still had a choice to make. Rob’s chance to make a choice was long past. A part of me wanted Rob to hurt . . . as if his hurting would cause my pain to be washed away. But, in the same way that Rob’s actions had not brought him peace, any pain I could have caused him to feel to bring about “justice” would not have healed me. Teage’s counseling session brought me to yet another crossroad. The bitterness I felt was like a bomb waiting to be dropped . . . and I felt like the evil that had already wronged me once, was now trying to destroy another cherished person in my life.

The feeling of anger is real. It is strong, and it is scary. But anger is not even a concrete emotion. It is a secondhand feeling brought about by fear or some other emotion inside of us. Teage’s anger at me, and everyone else around us, was not really what was driving his actions. He was sad, he was lonely, and his heart was aching. A bad guy—with two shots of a gun—had changed the way he viewed the world and his role in it.

There are so many of us walking around acting like we are angry at the universe: like somehow, everyone else owes us something, like everyone is out to get us. I know, because I have been there. Some of us show it on the outside, while others keep it inside. It is hard, when we are wronged, not to let those types of feelings consume us and gain control over who we really are. In reality, many of us are just walking around, fragmented parts of who we really can be.

What if we think of that the next time someone cuts in front of us in a line, or when someone’s baby is screaming on a plane? What if the next time your son throws a fit on the floor about the outfit you chose, you really stop to listen to what is really wrong? Maybe he has been having trouble at school, or he just really misses you now that you have that new job. Would it change the way you responded? Would it help you want to show a little more love? The next time you feel that you have been taken advantage of or that someone has wronged you . . . stop . . . listen. Maybe they aren’t trying to disrespect you, or offend you. Maybe they are truly just trying to cope with a pain that hurts so deeply that they don’t even know where to begin to find it. Maybe each of us is just looking for answers about how to fix what feels broken in ourselves.

Watching my son that day was not something I ever expected to have to see as a mother. In fact, I never thought I would have to take one of my children to see a therapist . . . ever! My kids were perfect. I was striving to be the perfect parent, and they were never going to have problems. But guess what I found out? We All Have Problems! Whether it is a battle with cancer, or the death of a dog . . . or even just a struggle to find a real friend in our lives, we will all hurt. We will all be wronged . . . and we will all wrong others. We are imperfect people . . . and that is okay. That is why there are others out there to help us. That is what life is all about. It is about addressing our issues, owning our crap . . . and trying to make it right. It is learning to smile even when others are tearing us down. It is letting our pain motivate us to change ourselves. We only truly have power over our own existence. I believe that if we can see the world in that light . . . we can change the way we interact with it. We can choose the higher road and show those evils that try to take us down that we will find a way to fly.


Michelle said...

I really needed your words tonight! You help me have a strong desire to be a better wife mother and friend.

Anonymous said...

I think you are such a strong and amazing woman! I couldn't stop reading everything.

Anonymous said...

What an amazing person you are. You are one of our Heavenly Fathers strongest. Forgiving is one of the hardest things to do, especially when it is someone we love. I wish you and your 5 special babies all the blessing you can hold. Loves to your Family.

Anonymous said...

Very inspiring. How is he doing now?

Angela S said...

Someone shared your second post and now I've read them all as well as watched the dateline special and your testimony. I am in awe at your ability to describe your journey and do so with such a spiritual perspective. I mourn for the changes you have experienced and the trauma and heart break as well. May you continue to nurture that relationship with Heavenly Father always.

Anonymous said...

Please write a book. I can't get enough. You have a gift for helping others want to do and be better.

Ali said...

Wow! I feel privileged to have found your blog & especially this post! This will sound so 'cheesy', but this really 'spoke to me'! Haha, yes, it does sound 'cheesy' but it's SO true, so Thank You! Thanks for writing your story and being so transparent & honest!

Anonymous said...

wow. what a blessing this has been for I am too a victim of infidelity. It has been almost 2 years since I found out my husband was sleeping with my so called best friend. I decided to try and work things out and fight for our marriage. But I still struggle with an underlying anger that will fill me up inside and I can be cruel to him. I sobbed reading your blog cause I knew with one wrong decision my story could have been yours. I am so sorry what you and our family has gone through. You have really opened my eyes and help heal a part of this pain that I have been struggling with for almost 2 years now.

Anonymous said...

I, too, have struggled daily as the rising emotions of despair, anger, and hurt ebb and flow from within my soul. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints and married into a family belonging to the same faith. My husband is mentally ill, and so are some members of his family. I've stayed in it for years while he's put me through the ringer with pornography, and verbal, emotional, and physical abuse. Although my own story is quite different then each of yours, I sympathize with the unique anquish we each feel due to other's actions affecting us so deeply. With the perspective we have there is no walking away and giving up, and God does give us the angels we need to overcome our circumstances. May I suggest to each of you to find a good craniosacral therapist who can aid you along with any psychotherapy you choose to pursue. Psychotherapy does wonders, and when craniosacral is added on there is a whole new dimension of healing. Craniosacral purges our very cells of the negative energy stuck inside us from all kinds of trauma. I can't recommend it enough.

Anonymous said...

You are amazing, thank you for being such a great example of enduring with faith! You are an inspiration and this helps me to appreciate the small things!

Nicole Nuckles said...

You are amazing. Thank you for sharing your experience.Your testimony is beautiful. What an inspiration you are to others! I'm sorry for what you've been through. I honestly can't even begin to imagine what your family has and is going through. Keep sharing your story.

Anonymous said...

Wow...I had never heard your name or your story until yesterday when I stumbled upon this blog. Your ability to share your story and your strength through your words has touched me deeply. God's timing is always perfect. This is exactly what I needed at this very moment in my life. God is truly working through you, sending your message to those of us that need it, at the most perfect time. Thank you for having the courage to share your heart with all of us.

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