As I approached him, I asked him what was wrong, he seemed to tighten up to the sound of my voice and scurried to hide his head like he was afraid of the air around him. He whispered in a panicked voice, “I don’t feel safe.”
I gently asked if I could hold him to help him feel safe and he responded, “yes.”
I slowly pulled him close as I felt the intensity of the moment. It literally felt like a bomb would explode if I moved the wrong way or spoke too loud.
After several long moments he abruptly pulled away and scurried to the other side of the couch, returning to the balled up position. I heard him say something with his quivering voice, but it was too soft for me to understand. As I approached carefully, asking him to speak louder so I could understand, he clinched his muscles and tried to bury is body deeper into the couch.
I asked again, “What’s wrong, can you tell me what’s happening?”
This time he quickly retreated farther down the couch as he choked out the words, “Stay away, I want to hurt you!”
We sat in silence for a few minutes, waiting for this moment to end.
Slowly he started to rise, almost like a person who had fallen asleep and was waking up fresh again.
Within minutes he was back to normal and ready to go to the store.
I was concerned about his behavior but relieved it was short lived. I was also thankful that he was able to recognize his desire to hurt me and was acting in such a way to protect me, it gives me hope that as he gets older he will continue to gain more control and recognize his symptoms as they approach.
* * *
This morning I asked my son about the episode and what he remembered. He explained that he pulled away because he was having a bad vision. When I asked what he saw he said, “I saw me stabbing you in the stomach”.
Of course, I called our therapist to discuss this and he explained that it’s very common for those with mood issues to have very vivid thoughts. In the case of my son, he was feeling a lot of anxiety and fear, as a result, his brain made up the vivid thought to match with the feelings his body was experiencing. This is different than hallucinations, instead, it’s the brains way of making sense of why it feels the way it does, it’s his imagination filling in the blanks. Compare this to you hearing a strange sound downstairs and imagining that someone is trying to break into your house, for him, these thoughts are a lot more vivid and not based on anything in reality, but rather his fight-or-flight response being ignited by the chemicals in his brain. Thankfully, he explained that we shouldn’t be concerned that he would ever act on these thoughts.
Having been there when it happened, I can confirm that he wasn’t aggressive and I never felt threatened, it was clear that the horror was inside his head, if anything, it was sad to see him so frightened in a place where he should’ve felt safe.