The Art of Distraction

I babysat the 21-month-old son of a friend on Thursday. He's an adorable, sweet little kid. Very affable and social. With the addition of a new brother, he's been craving the attention that he used to have as an only child so he's always happy when someone takes the time to sit and play with him.

His mother had to go to court to contest a traffic ticket and she took the baby with her so I offered my (free) babysitting services. I'm not a babysitter and I normally don't offer to babysit kids alone because I'm not very good with them and most young children don't like me much. However, I've really grown to love my friend's son—we'll call him Danny—and felt like I could take care of him without too many problems.

We were upstairs on the second floor in his bedroom and I talked to his mother about a few logistics before she left. Finally, she kissed Danny goodbye and headed down the stairs. Since Danny's only 21 months, he needs to be carried down the stairs. When he saw his mother disappear, he began crying (much to my surprise and much to my dismay). My first thought was, Oh great. Now, he's crying for his mommy. This isn't going to be as easy as I thought.

I tried to sit down with him on my lap in the bedroom but he was extremely fidgety and got up and began running to the edge of the steps. Fearful of a fall (remember I don't have much babysitting experience!), I grabbed him, picked him up, and shut the door to the bedroom. Realizing this meant mommy wasn't coming back right away, he cried even harder. Now I was really at a loss of what to do.

I saw a little toy helicopter that he had been playing with earlier. The helicopter made noises and I tried to hand it to him and pressed all sorts of buttons to amuse him. He wasn't fazed. Danny kept right on crying.

Suddenly feeling desperate, my next thought was, I can't have this kid crying until his mother comes back. She's going to think I hurt the poor child. I searched around the room and found a teddy bear and handed it to him. He wasn't interested in that either. Finally, my eyes fell upon a toy set up like a two-level parking lot with a car ramp that twisted around to the ground. Several small cars sat on top of the lot. Remembering Danny loved to pick up cars and hand them to people one by one, I tried the tactic as a last-ditch effort.

I picked up the first car and held it open in the palm of my hand. He kept crying but looked down at it. I grabbed a second car. His crying began to die down and he began to look at the two cars with curiosity. I snatched another car. He stopped crying and simply looked at me with a blank stare, wondering what I'd do next. I picked up another car and held them flat out on my hands for a few moments, letting him take in the number of growing vehicles. Finally, he gave me a little smile. I started rolling a car up and down his belly and he began giggling.

Problem solved. We stayed busy until his mother came home. I expected him to run and cling to his mother after she got home but he gave her a quick glance and wanted me to keep playing with him because he was having so much fun. That was pretty satisfying and felt like my first solo babysitting gig had been a success.

Just like I'd distracted Danny from the sadness of his mother's disappearance, I'm finding that a lot of people in my life have been trying to distract me from the sadness and emotional pain that have been plaguing me lately.

Last night, I found myself as the classic bipolar case. I went to a women's church meeting and was extremely social. I was joking around, being goofy, and having fun. The meeting involved making recommendations on how to improve women's activities in the church and I felt the freedom to give my input without worrying (too much) about what others thought of me.

At the end, we broke up into two groups to pray together. While others were praying, a suicidal urge finally hit me. The lies came back and I began struggling right there in what should have been a time of encouragement and strengthening. Not ironic at all. Some call it bad karma. Others call it evil forces. I call it Satan. He loves to discourage Christians who are trying to grow closer to God. 

After prayer was over, I felt suicidal, angry, and depressed. I stood off in a corner, back to everyone, staring at reading material, pretending as though I was contemplating what to read. A friend—we'll name her Anne—came up to me soon after and tried to ask me if I was okay. At that moment, I broke down into tears.

Anne led me away from the group and we sat on the steps that led up to the second floor. I felt like a total blubbering fool, ashamed of wanting to walk nearly 10 miles home in 10 degree weather, hoping along the way that I'd die of hypothermia. In my mind, I debated calling my husband and waiting to have him take me home even though another friend I carpooled with lived a block away. I thought about jumping out of her car but didn't want to traumatize her with having  crazy friend who tried to kill herself. All these thoughts rushed through my head as Anne tried to console me. I felt uncomfortable sobbing, knowing that she—like most people in my church—had no idea how to help someone who's suicidal. She knew I dealt with this stuff but what exactly do you say to someone who says, "Hey, I feel like killing myself?"

She sat and listened for a few minutes and then mentioned her struggles with not feeling socially accepted when she was younger. I began sobbing less but tears still streamed down my face. Somehow we got onto the topic of her almost 3-year-old son looking absolutely pitiful when she tried to have him and her two other children take Christmas pictures together. She'd sent me one of the digital proofs earlier this month and bringing his pouty face to mind made me giggle. Then we began talking about other things and before we parted, Anne asked, "How can I help you?"

Great question, Anne. But I had no idea how to answer. All I could get out was, "Prayer. God's my best help, I guess." 

The friend I carpooled with knew I was upset but she too did a good job of trying to distract me from my thoughts and depression. By the time she dropped me off at home, she convinced me to wear my prize from Bingo earlier that night—a headband that had bunny ears with flashing lights—into the apartment to amuse my husband and her husband (who was hanging out at our place). It made me smile and distracted me for a bit.

Being distracted wasn't a cure for my depression but it got my thoughts off of things temporarily and helped me to get through another few minutes at a time. Who knew that I was no different than little Danny who cried at first, but when distracted by things he liked, began to smile? Distraction doesn't always work with suicidal people but I've since learned that it never hurts to try.

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