Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Go Away Mr. Shadow Man

I need help!   Which is unbelievably hard for me to say out loud .. not that I'm embarrassed to ask for it, just that it's hard for me to admit I need it - So, don't judge me - but here it is:

Recently, for the past month or more, Emily has been having a hard time falling asleep.   Not just that, it's more than that actually - she's been waking up, crying - throughout the night that a "shadow man" or "the guy" is in her room.   We've turned on lights, walked her through her room asking where she sees him, what he looks like, etc.

Let me go back ... the first night that this happened - she woke up - bawling her eyes out, there was a guy in her room.  Terrified, absolutely beyond control, terrified ... I calmed her down, had her walk me over to where "he" was standing ...

Momma:   Emi - can you tell me where you see him?  I don't see anyone, there isn't anyone here - can you show me?
Emi:  He's right there momma, can't you see him?  He's right *THERE*
(at this point she takes my hand and walks me over to the small corner and points to her curtains on the furthest window in her room)
Emi:  There are his feet, they're right *THERE*
Becoming increasingly agitated, she was persistent that there was someone in her room - pointing, gesturing, flailing her arms and damn near hyperventilating ...
M:  Okay, baby - calm down .. look ...
I take her by her hand and show her the curtains are just landing on her toys, and that it's a play of the light.
E:  No Momma, it's his feet.  There's a GUY in my ROOM!
M:  Okay, shhhh breathe, it's okay.
I sat with her on her bed, rocked her, read her stories, sang to her, rocked her some more - until she finally feel asleep in my lap.  I tucked her in, and then kept vigil in her room - all night long.   It was a very long night for me, and her.

The second time it happened, Daddy took her to bed, read her stories, turned her lights on, snuggled her a bit, and tucked her in before heading back downstairs to let her fall asleep.  (Now, keep in mind - we had re-decorated her room - she told us where she wanted us to put her furniture and generally making her room look different - casting shadows in a different way.   Hung up all her new Princess stuff that Daddy bought her for her birthday.)

About .. 20 minutes after he left her, she started yelling that she loved us, and needed to be protected.   That conversation went something like this - before Momma stepped in.

Emi: Daddy, you need to tect me!   I need to be safe, I'm not safe.
Daddy: Emi, you ARE safe, we're right here - no one can get you, no one is going to try - you have me, mommy, the dogs, even Sera.   You are safe, we're protecting you.
E:  No dada, you need to be HERE with me, UPSTAIRS.  Where are you?
D: Oh Emi, it's okay.  
Right about now, he goes upstairs, calms her down (he thinks) and heads back down to the living room.

E: DADDY!    I need you to 'tect me!!!! DADDY!!

Damn near hysterical.


Getting increasingly angrier .. frustrated that he can't calm her down - decides to yell her name, and ignore her.

This goes on for 10 minutes, at this time I'm outside with the dogs.
M: Okay, I'll handle it .. ::Deep Breath::.. Emi, honey - you need to take a deep breath.
E: ::Panting:: Momma, I need, I need .. Momma .. ::Gasp:: .. ::Sniffle::
M: Okay, Okay, shhhh shhhhh ... calm down .. 
again rocking her and calming her down - finally got her to tell me what was so scary to her.
E:  The guy, he's back - I'm .. I need you to tect me.  I need Daddy, where is daddy?  He's stronger.
M: Shhhhh Okay.    Daddy?  can you come up here for a minute?
E: Yeah, Daddy, can you come here a minute?

D: What's the matter?  She just keeps yelling!
M:  Yes, Daddy, she does - she's terrified, and needs us to be calm, and help her through this.
D: She's really scared, huh?   
(feeling bad because he thought she was just trying to get out of bed ... )
M:  She wants you - to hold her, and calm her down - can you do that?
D: Come here Pumpkin, Let's Snuggle a bit ....

About a half hour later, she was asleep, and he was back downstairs ... She has 2 lamps (not even night-lights - real lamps) she listens to a radio at night, she has special stuffed animals that she keeps with her when she sleeps ... We read stories every night, snuggle before bed ... I don't know what else to do to stop this.

Last night, she woke up around 3am, no - not even woke up, just - cried (bawled damn near hysterically) in her sleep .. it went like this:
E:  I'm packing this up so my mommy doesn't have to ....
E:  I think you should leave now ...
E:  I don't like you anymore, I don't want you here.

At this time, I went to her room - snuggled her back into her bed, (without waking her), made sure she was asleep and - calm - then I went back to my room, where I stayed up for the rest of the night listening for the next "attack".

What do I do?

We've moved her room, she has a radio, she has her animals ... What else can we do?

I'm hesitant to take this "Shadow Guy" by the and and leave the room with him, while saying good night to Emily.
I'm hesitant to try the "shadow-be-gone" spray idea ... 

I don't want to "validate" her fears ... I need a rational way to explain to her, a three year old, that there isn't anything there .. OR give her a way to fight these fears herself, without keeping her up most of the night.

I leave it to you, my faithful readers .. to help me out.   Any advice is welcome!


Jessi said...

Oh, poor Emi; this is completely normal but, scary for her just the same.

I hear what you're saying, you need a "rational" way to explain to her that there isn't anything there, which you and I know.

BUT, and forgive me for getting technical, the part of Emily's brain that is responsible for rational thought isn't developed fully. Cognitively, emotion predates language, so while she's *feeling* scared, you can't *explain* the fears she's having as unreasonable because she see's what she see's and that's it. You speak a completely different language.

Take for instance object permanence. At about 2 yrs if Emily were to cover her eyes with her hands she would think that you couldn't see her, because she can't see you. She is just falling out of the stage where she comprehends object permanence so this shadow thing makes sense to me.

Maybe you could have her paint the wall where she sees the man, or move her bed to that side of the wall. Perhaps you could even make shadow puppets with her (bunnies, birds, alligators etc.) I don't, personally, think validating her a little will do anymore long term harm than the sleepless nights the whole family is encountering. If you want to talk more about this, let me know.

You know what Pema would say... invite the shadow man to breakfast ;)

Good luck

Amy said...

Just the woman I was hoping to hear from.

Thanks Honey! We play with our shadows in the yard, different times of day, different lengths of shadow. We even put her toys up against the light so she can see they make shadows too ...
For whatever reason, this shadow man has been bothering her.

We've suspended Peter Pan ... no books, movies, etc (certainly not the play in Prescott Park (dag nab it!) at least not this year) because I THINK that's where she first got the vision.

He's chasing his shadow in the beginning?

At any rate, he didn't show up last night, and hopefully, he won't tonight!