I remember that first time my little girl had me watch “The Lion King” movie with her. It was around the age of 2 years old and I recall coming home from work and she was so excited to watch this movie with me that her mother had told her about. I think I had watched clips of the movie here and there years ago when my nieces and nephews were little but never had I sat down and watched the movie from beginning to end. Since that time I would not be exaggerating if I said I’ve watched the entire movie 200-300 times. There were months she would want to watch it almost every day or a clip of it.
By the time she was 3 years old I had shown her a video on Youtube called “Christian the Lion”. It was a story about two guys who adopted a male lion at a young age and raised it in England until the Lion became so large he was hard to handle. They shipped the Lion off to a lion sanctuary in Kenya where he lived in the wild and became the head of his pride. Over a year later the two men who raised Christian returned to Kenya in an attempt to see Christian again. They were warned he was now wild, the head of his pride, and may not recognize them. Even worse he may decide they will be his next meal because he became wild and unpredictable. The exact opposite actually happened, when Christian who was now a full grown male lion saw his former owners he ran towards them and was very affectionate. Why? Because even though he was a wild beast now he still trusted certain people. “Christian the Lion” video now became almost as popular in the house as “The Lion King” movie. I would just wait around for the request which movie was to be played on that day. I even ordered every single Lion King Stuffy from Hawaii off EBay so she could have them for her birthday….not spoiled or anything. Fast forward to Christmas when my little girl was 3 years old and she gets a male stuffed lion in her stocking which she grabs right away, hugs, and calls him “Christian”. Christian and Alexandra have been inseparable ever since that day and I can’t count the times I had to go to the mall, Walmart, church, and restaurant etc to track Christian down from wherever he was left last time or else my little girl wouldn’t sleep.
When Halloween rolled around the next year my little girl and I went to a halloween costume store to get her a lion costume and I planned to get a Superman costume because she told me she wanted me to dress up with her for Halloween. So she finds her costume and I grab mine right in front of her. Now keep this in mind…..once you buy your costume there it is a no return policy which makes sense right? No one wants to wear a Halloween Costume someone already wore and sweated in, or touched, or looked at, or breathed on….yuck!!! Anyway we walk out of the store and my little girl instantly starts crying and when I ask her whats wrong she tells me, ” Daddy I wanted you to dress as a lion as well so I can be Simba” and you can be Mufasa from The Lion King”. Oh Oh…..I just bought a $60 dollar Superman Costume that they said I can’t return and she wants me to dress as a lion. So we walk back into the store, I explain the situation with my little girl standing there with tears in her eyes, and the guy looks at me and says bluntly “sorry no returns”. I say I would understand you don’t want people leaving the store, wearing the costumes and returning them but that’s not this and you just sold me the outfit and watched me walk out. His response, “nope sorry”. So I look down at Alexandra, I look up at him and I am no longer “Mr Nice Dad” but well “Not Mr Nice Dad” out for a little shopping with my little girl. I put the costume on the counter and said, “what’s the answer again, did you say I can exchange it for the other costume which is the same price and the same packaging and taken from the same shelf or is the answer still “no”. Wow what a nice guy he went and personally took the Lion Costume off the shelf, handed it to be and said, “Sorry”. Amazing how I never swore, was rude, or belittling.
But what did happen was the 1000 yard stare look where I looked through the guy at the store, through his eyes, through the back of his head, through the wall being him, and through every other object in my way until I was starring off into space which is usually the place I now go to when I feel threatened, sad, or scared. The thing I never kept in mind then was I had little cubs watching me and everything I said and did was influencing my children. I didn’t say a word to the guy that anyone who was standing there would think was rude or threatening but it was my demeanour that clearly said how bad it could get if the answer remains to be “no”. So we walk out of the store, my daughter is so happy that her Daddy will be Mufasa for Halloween and she can be my little cub “Simba”. Me? I want to rip the door of the store, the walls down, never ever go back there again for any reason, and all kinds of other rotten and hateful things that are too terrible to mention. Why? Because I’m sick and normal every day situations that I once was able to deal with and handle on a daily basis has become somethow exhausting because I react to things so differently.
Rather than watch violent and disturbing videos like I once did to distract myself from the trauma I was seeing at work, I have now tried to always looks for things that are positive in nature only. Watch this video of a Male Lion, one of the most fierce and ferocious animals in the world playing with his little cub. Many many times I have felt much like that male lion, I have been trained and conditioned for violence and mayhem and taught how to protect myself and my co-workers at all cost but was never taught how to shut it off when I left work. My children became a huge part of my therapy because they never judged, they never said mean or hurtful things, they never made me feel guilty or ashamed for being sick. They reminded me every day no matter how cranky or sick I might be they still loved me and would tell me over and over “I love you Daddy”. Hard to be mean and ferocious when your little cubs keep hugging you, kissing you, and always wanting to be around you.
For anyone interested my spouse who is in the military brought a book home called, “Why is Dad so Mad”. I believe they have a version for women who serve in the military called, “Why is Mom so Mad” as they should because PTSD doesn’t discriminate. They are story books for children of military members, but it could be applied to anyone who is sick, and explains to the children why their parents may seem mad all the time and that it has nothing to do with the children or the family. Great resource and seemed to help with my children understanding PTSD and what it is. We never hid from our children what PTSD was, or how I developed it, and how it can affect me. Hiding the truth from them only perpetuates another generation of people ashamed to talk about mental illness and leaves people not truly understanding what a mental illness looks like.
Wish you all a happy Friday.