Those of you who've followed our story since we adopted Zoya know that she's had some struggles along the way....just like most kids do. For Zoya, though, her struggles have centered around anxiety. Last spring she was officially given a diagnosis of Anxiety Disorder and started a tiny dose of medication to help with her anxiety. It has helped her A TON! I talked about her diagnosis and the decision to try medication in THIS POST. Check it out if you didn't read it before! Take the time to read that post before you read any further or you might be confused by this post!
Yesterday, I was given a gift....a painful, yet amazing gift. After 3.5 years home, we're still on this healing journey and still learning things about our Zoya girl. Yesterday while the little ones were napping and Shawn was at work, Zoya asked to watch her "Ukraine Movie" as she calls it. You can see the video she's talking about HERE. We've watched this with her hundreds of times and I started by narrating her story out loud while she watched the video. I would say things like, "Mommy and Daddy were waiting to meet YOU in that picture!" and "That is the place you lived before Mommy and Daddy could get to you," or "Look! Zoya gets to go home forever with Mommy and Daddy." One thing I've always been careful NOT to do is insert emotions into my narrative or my story telling to her. Over time and watching the video so many times, she's been able to retell her adoption story. In fact, she LOVES hearing me tell the story, she asked for "Ukraine story" and when I tell it she usually likes me to hold her like a baby. I indulge her, I figure it's a great bonding and healing moment. Sometimes over the past year she's inserted some emotion into her story and said simple things like, "sad" or "happy" for certain parts, but that was about it. It's also worth noting that she did not like to watch the video when she was newly home...it usually made her upset, so we gave it a break for a while and then on each year anniversary home we would watch it with her. Sometime over the past year she has taken a much greater interest in it and in hearing her story overall.
Anyways, yesterday she was excited to watch the video...she watched it about 5 times narrating it each time and then moved on to something else. I video taped her watching it because she was so happy and doing such a great job narrating parts of her story. After playing for a bit she again asked for her "Ukraine Movie" and I let her watch it again, I'm so glad I did.
I put on the video, and walked into the kitchen (any other time she's watched it, Shawn and/or I are always with her watching it too). Shortly after it had started Zoya started yelling, "Scary!!!! Scary!!!! MAAAAAAMA SCARY!!!!" So I came running in having no idea what she was talking about. I said, "What's scary Zoya?" She said, "Born in Ukraine Scary!" I said, "why is it scary?" She just kept saying, "born in Ukraine scary!" and she genuinely looked scared. I felt as if the air was sucked right out of me and teared up. What do I say? I can't tell her it WASN'T scary because I know in my heart it was. We've always felt that Zoya went through some pretty traumatizing things, but have never KNOWN for sure and have never heard her talk about it. So I told her that Jesus was with her during that time and He kept her safe and that I was so sorry Mama and Daddy couldn't be there with her during that time. I told her I was sorry she was scared. I sat down on the couch next to her and just held her sweet little 5 year old self. In that moment she felt so little to me. As another picture came on the screen Zoya said, "sad" and I asked who was sad, she said "Zoya." I held her some more and she said clear as day, "I was so scared." A complete sentence of only 4 words but those words said so much. It was as if it wasn't even Zoya that was speaking....it was really one of the most surreal experiences I've ever had. I had to keep checking myself to make sure we were really having that conversation. I tear up just thinking back to it. The part of the video where we walk out of the orphanage gates with her came on and she got very very quiet with big eyes. When the picture of Shawn holding her up in celebration in front of the gates came on, she said, "always safe now, thank you Mama." I looked at her eyes, mine now full of tears, and held her face in my hands and just kissed her over and over and over. She just kept saying, "Thank you, thank you mama, thank you." I told her how much I loved her and reminded her she'd always be safe with us and she never has to be scared alone again. I told her whenever she is scared she will have a Mommy and Daddy to make her feel safe. I felt as if I was talking to a much older person, the whole thing was just so surreal. I never in a million years imagined at 5 years old, she'd have that conversation with me, EVER!
When Shawn walked in I still had tears in my eyes, sitting on the couch with Zoya and tried to relay to him what had just happened. She has since watched the video and said a few similar things, but not to the conversational level that happened yesterday! I could not get this event out of my mind...it was all so vivid but almost seemed like a dream! A few hours after it happened, I remembered the night before I was thinking a lot about my Grandpa. I've blogged about him and how I believe his spirit followed us on Zoya's adoption journey HERE. I talked to my Grandpa as if he was right here sitting next to me and told him I missed him. I thought about the times I felt his presence shortly after his passing and through Zoya's adoption and told him how much I missed him and that I'd love to know he's still with me. I do believe this conversation with Zoya was a gift from him. You may think it sounds crazy, but I've learned to graciously accept these beautiful unexplainable things in life as gifts. I suspect the Lord used my Grandpa's spirit to facilitate this "breakthrough" of Zoya's.
Even though the conversation was fairly minimal, the words she did speak said so much....they confirmed the things I've suspected over the past 3.5 years. They gave me yet another layer of understanding to her underlying anxiety. I truly feel as if yesterday's events were a huge breakthrough on Zoya's path to healing, and on my path to help her heal. The fact that she was able to express herself and share her heart with me in this way is a gift I do not take for granted. In those quiet moments together, she felt safe sharing her heart with me and the thought of that is so very overwhelming and magnificent. This new insight has been such a beautiful blessing!