The first kid I worked with who had anxiety I ended up hurting, albeit accidentally, but it sucked. I made his anxiety worse before I made it better. I apologized to him and he was gracious enough to be understanding. Still the feeling lingers and the thoughts came back: “I hurt him and that’s not who I am. That’s not who I want to be.” I still think about him (clearly here we are 5 years later). See, I can’t go backwards and make it better because time marches on. All I get is now. So instead of focusing on the unfixable, I carry it with me, not as debilitating burden, but as a token of remembrance. I didn’t like that. That token motivates me to act, choose, do, and change. It motivates me to be different. In that there is freedom and some healing. I’ve dedicated work – effort – and research to carrying that hurt forward into each next child to honour him. That means taking it into the future as a reminder that this – the wellbeing of a child – is so very important to me. Next time I will do it better. The awesome part of “next times” is that there tends to be a lot of them if you look carefully enough. Looking back, I wouldn’t change how it happened. I wouldn’t ‘not’ hurt him if it meant that 200 kids got a different chance to hurt less, to live differently and more free. In that there is meaning and I think, knowing him, he’d agree. The ironic part is it changed my life too. I am different and as such am dedicated to carry that hurt forward for another next time. You’re always one decision away from a totally different life. The key is in what you choose.
So Saturday morning is dedicated to the kids and doing it right. Saturday morning is dedicated to the first kid and honouring his suffering by sharing what I learned in his name, with you. Saturday morning is about walking through the process so other kids have a chance. So many of us suffer silently, thinking we are alone, broken and somehow wrong for being who we are. If we can’t? How can they when they are so much younger?
Treating anxiety takes effort, but it is so very doable. How do we step far enough into their lives that we make a difference? How do we equip them to stand brave in the face of fears that have been crippling? One step at a time. One choice in the right order with the right tools. A child once asked me: “Why do I have to work on this; it’s hard!” I agreed, but noted: “Anxiety stole your fun, and that sucks. I saw you here, before, with a grin on your face and a twinkle in your eye. You loved it. Now, you’re shaking, and terrified and that’s not fair.” Tell a kid someone stole something from them and they will rise to the occasion with tenacity. Help them understand that anxiety is in all of us and you take the aloneness out of it. Help them understand what it looks like, feels like and acts like and we steal the mystery. Show them that anxiety exaggerates danger and fear gets stuck in the wrong spot and we’ve helped see the trick. Teach them how to calm their bodies and we’ve equipped them to step back into their lives one choice at a time and live.