Sunday, June 10, 2018


“Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter. Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here. Here comes the sun. Here comes the sun, and I say it’s all right.”––“Here Comes the Sun” by George Harrison

After long cold winters in Northwest Indiana, I eagerly anticipate the arrival of spring. This year, winter seemed to last even longer than usual; with temperatures running about ten degrees below average, we had one of the coldest Aprils in history. (Thanks to my amateur meteorologist husband and son for sharing that statistic with me!) Because it was colder than usual, the trees remained bare, and flowers were slow to bloom, making the arrival of spring appear about a month late.

For me, the main sign of spring is the blooming of the magnolia tree in our back yard. Day after day, I looked out my back window to see if the tightly closed buds had opened, but the cold weather delayed the debut of the blossoms. Perhaps this year the tree would not flower, and I would miss my favorite sign of spring. Finally, about a month after the magnolia tree typically blooms, the beautiful magenta flowers all suddenly opened once the time was right, assuring me that sometimes we have to wait, but the positive outcome rewards the waiting.

Early into the long cold winter, Alex suddenly developed an aversion to going places, something he had thoroughly enjoyed. With any changes in his behavior, we analyze the potential causes, ask him for insights, and hope that he’ll soon get over whatever is bothering him. Because he had developed some increased sensory sensitivity, we assumed that he was bothered by the cold and wind, which seemed reasonable. However, becoming a hermit was not reasonable. Although we were able to convince him to go to regular medical appointments, he had so much anxiety about going outside that he had no interest in going anyplace until the weather improved. Despite our encouragement, he wanted to stay home where it was warm.

Like the magnolia tree, I kept looking for signs that Alex might be ready to change but knew that until the weather improved, change was not likely. In the meantime, I decided that this would be a good time for another medication reduction that his psychiatric nurse practitioner had suggested. Since nothing else was changing, including Alex’s aversion to going places, we might as well see how he reacted to decreasing a sedative. In the past year we have been able to reduce or eliminate five of the medications he takes for anxiety. With each medication change, we have gradually tapered the dosage, prayed for positive results with no setbacks, and, thankfully, he has responded quite well.

When the magnolia flowers blossomed, I knew the time was right to make the change with Alex’s medication. Watching him carefully, I saw no signs of regression, which is always encouraging. Reducing his nighttime dose neither impacted his sleep negatively nor made him awaken in a foul mood. Along with seeing a lack of negative behaviors, we were seeing positive changes. In the past month, Alex has become more alert and energetic, “happy hopping” skipping through the house, and he readily engages in conversation, asking appropriate questions. Moreover, he is speaking in longer, more complete, and grammatically correct sentences. Whether these changes are related to the medication reduction or simply signs of progress, we are delighted with the awakening in Alex.

After seeing the improvements in his speech and alertness, we decided that now was the time to overcome the winter hibernation Alex had imposed upon himself. We were determined to get him out of the house last week. Enticed by the opening of a new superstore in our town, Alex was eager to see just how big this new store is. With the bribe of new composition notebooks for his willingness to go shopping, he was on board for the trip. A perfect summer day––sunny, calm, and seventy-five degrees––meant that Alex had no excuses for not going outside. As Ed and I chatted to Alex about topics he likes, such as gas prices and the weather, we hoped to distract him from any fears about leaving the house. With all the stars aligned, Alex made it all the way to the store without telling us he needed to go home, shopped happily, and left with not only his beloved red notebooks but also a map of the store he could study. We knew the outing was successful when he told us that he’d like to go back and check out the grocery part of the store, and that he liked the store “one hundred percent,” the highest praise he offers.

The next day, he informed me that he wanted to go to Burger King with his behavioral therapist and me. As part of his therapy, she and I take him places in the community as recreational therapy to practice social skills she has taught him. However, her busy schedule and his reluctance to go places has prevented these outings. Like me, she was delighted that he wanted to go out, and we returned to one of his favorite places after months of not going there. When we arrived, two kind ladies who work there and take a special interest in him enthusiastically greeted Alex by name and told him how much they had missed seeing him. If he had any qualms about going there, their warmth made him feel welcome and reassured. After chatting happily with his therapist and me over an orange-vanilla ginger ale, Alex told us that he’d like to go back to Burger King again soon.

With two successful outings behind us, we hoped we were on a roll. Another evening, we took Alex to his dad’s office to check the mail and watched him walk confidently down the hallways, even though he hadn’t been there in months. Once again, he proclaimed that he liked going there “one hundred percent,” making us hopeful that his anxiety about going places may be gone. Yesterday, I asked Alex if he wanted to go to Culver’s, one of his favorite fast food restaurants, and he eagerly said that he did. He did have one stipulation, however. He wanted to go to the one in Chesterton because “it’s further away” than the one here in town. Clearly, he seems to be over his fear of being too far from home. Even though he had eaten an early dinner, he was willing to sit with Ed and me as we ate, contentedly sipping a root beer (that is “special because they make their own,” as he reminded us). Despite all the people and noise, Alex showed no signs of anxiety, concluding that he had enjoyed that trip “one hundred percent” also and wanted to come back again.

After a good week with Alex not only willing to go places after months of staying home but also with his showing signs of thoroughly enjoying himself during these outings, we are encouraged that he has gotten past his fears of leaving the house, which is an answer to prayers. Even though we had become tired of waiting for change, frustrated when we saw no signs of progress, and even concerned that what we first thought was temporary might be permanent, God caused Alex to bloom at the right time. Once again, we have been reminded that God is always faithful and will fulfill His plans in His good time. As we look forward with anticipation to a summer of family outings, we are thankful that God continues to heal Alex so that he can enjoy all the good things in life.

“The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing.” Isaiah 35:1-2

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