When Alex was younger, he was terrified of storms. Here in Northwest Indiana, spring and summer weather brings many thunderstorms along with frequent tornado watches and warnings, such that most people become accustomed to stormy weather. We never knew whether Alex was afraid of the flashes of lightning, the rumble of thunder, the howling winds, or the annoying beeping of severe weather warnings. With his sensory issues, any of these sights or sounds could have been troublesome for him. In addition, his strong attachment to his primary sources of entertainment in the forms of cable television and computer internet access may have caused him to fret more about the potential loss of electricity, cable, or internet power, due to storms, than most people do. Whatever the reason, Alex would basically melt down during major storms, causing us to dread weather warnings.
The worst circumstances for us were thunderstorms that suddenly appeared in the middle of the night, waking Alex from a sound sleep and sending him into a screaming fit. Despite our best attempts to comfort him and reassure him he was fine, he would continue to yell and pound on his bedroom wall. No matter what we did, he wouldn’t settle down until the storms outside subsided, which meant that all of us endured storms inside the house, as well, and all three of us dealt with sleep deprivation. At some point, perhaps during a tornado warning that sent us to the safety of our finished basement, we realized that the best place for Alex during any storm was the quiet of the basement, where he couldn’t hear the crack of thunder or the whipping winds, nor could he see the flashes of lightning. Unaware of what was going on outside, he would settle down and go to sleep in the spare bed in the basement while Ed and I slept on the pull-out couch in the adjoining basement family room. Once we had arrived at such a simple solution to a major problem, we knew to take him to the basement to sleep any time storms were predicted in the night so that we could completely avoid his having a fit about the weather and ensuring we would all get a good night’s sleep. Alex thought that sleeping in the spare bed was a real treat and willingly headed for the basement as though he were staying at a luxury hotel. About the time we figured out how to deal with his fears of storms, he seemed to overcome this anxiety. We noticed that he seemed less bothered by storms during the day, not fretting when they were announced on television, nor becoming upset when they arrived outside. The true test, however, came when he not only didn’t become agitated during storms in the night, but also slept through them peacefully, completely undisturbed by the unsettled weather.
As we’ve been dealing with some different storms lately in the form of Alex’s somewhat detached behavior, I’m reminded that the storms always eventually pass and that overcoming the fear of those storms makes life easier. While we’re still not certain why Alex isn’t as energetic and happy as he normally is, we are thankful that we know he’s not physically ill, as confirmed by his recent blood tests. Because we see him “happy hop” through the house and smile in amusement every day, we know that our Alex is still in there, even though he isn’t quite his usual enthusiastic self. Looking for gradual improvements, we are pleased that he is spending more time sitting upright instead of lying on the couch, and the angry outbursts we faced a few weeks ago have nearly completely subsided. Moreover, he has been more willing to go places, which he was avoiding for a couple of weeks. However, when he chooses to sit alone in a room for periods of time, not talking or responding to our questions, we worry about why he is acting withdrawn and hope the cause is simply teenage rebellion or his way of dealing with the irritation of high pollen counts in the air. Whatever the reason for the changes, we feel certain he will emerge from this phase soon, just as he has overcome other behavioral issues in the past, and we will be grateful that Alex has again made progress. Until then, we ensconce ourselves safely in a figurative basement, and we keep hoping and praying that this storm will pass so that we can enjoy sunny skies again.
“Do you know how God controls the storm and causes the lightning to flash from His clouds?” Job 37:15