They happen. They just do, and when it happens, I’m always shocked at how bad it can be.
Sam’s got an anxiety disorder. I hate it – so much. And because it’s so specific, it’s not a general anxiety disorder, he’s not an anxious kid as a rule. He’s laid back, chill. Relaxed and mellow. Except when he isn’t.
School refusal is a thing. It’s not just general I-don’t-want-to-go-school-today – that’s normal. That’s typical. I can handle that. When the school refusal starts up, it’s not something that I can jolly him out of. It’s not something I can bribe him out of, or punish him into moving past it. It’s a battle that he fights, trying to get control over it – and watching him fight that battle breaks my heart more than I can possibly express. When you’ve had your child literally shaking and sobbing, begging you to please not leave him – and you know that leaving him is the only way he’s going to see that he can survive without you – that staying with him is only reinforcing the fear, confirming that you don’t think he can manage without you – it’s devastating.
I know that I should be grateful – he’s healthy. I am. I know that a physical ailment would be so much worse, in so many ways. He’s physically healthy – and the anxiety is mostly under control. We’ve worked on it a long time, after all. We’ve learned what works, what doesn’t. How to communicate with each other, how to communicate and explain to teachers and faculty and to work with the anxiety. I’m incredibly lucky because the staff and faculty at his school really do understand. They are a thousand times better at it then when we started this five years ago.
But by the time Wednesday afternoon was over, I was so worn out and exhausted. I had spent the whole day at the school, half of it with him, probably an eighth of it sobbing outside the school, desperate for someone to tell me that it would be okay. Knowing that there was nobody who could guarantee that it would be. I spent the rest of it sitting in the car (because I had given him my keys, to reassure himself that I’d still be there), and then I went and volunteered in Julie’s classroom.
He made it thru the day, and I’m so proud of him. Because it’s hard, really hard, to fight that battle, and he keeps trying. He keeps fighting. And wins.
But the rest of the day stayed crazy. I came home from school, and got everyone settled down. Once Marc got home, I took Sam and his homework and went down to the library. He loves audiobooks. He listens to them the way I read books. And he’s better at doing homework outside of the house – and since he had two days of homework from Rosh Hashana, in addition to all the classwork he’d missed that day, we needed the quiet. We talked a lot about what happened that day. We went grocery shopping and finally made our way home.
Once I got home, both girls promptly burst into tears and crawled on me. Not literally, but it felt that way. Jessie was so overwhelmed with the missed school work, and the exhaustion from staying up too late trying to get all caught up – and Julie was emotionally wiped out after watching her brother fall apart earlier. I didn’t get to bed until close to eleven.
Yesterday was not as bad. Nowhere near. But it was still really lousy.
And around five thirty, I explained to Julie that I was like a kindle, and needed to go recharge. I was all used up, and needed some quiet time all by myself. I got in the car, and made it halfway out of the driveway before Julie came sobbing out the door after me. I came back in, administered drinks and hugs and turned on the television. I waited until Marc had dinner ready, and was prepared to handle all of the kids. Then I got back in my car, got take out chinese, and parked the car with a good book.
Today, my house is a mess. I’m behind in laundry, and there an ocean of dishes and things that I should have done last night. But I’m calm now. A little bit more recharged. A little bit more patient.
Crappy days happen. They do. Anxiety disorder is real, and it’s never going to go away. But the crappy days are less frequent than they were. In fact, they might be more crappy because I’m not used to them anymore. There was a time when crappy days were the norm. When every day of going to school was hellish and scary. That’s not the case anymore. It’s easier. It is. It just doesn’t feel like it when it’s your son, wrestling past the school psychologist and escaping out into the school, prompting a school wide search. When it’s your son lying under the desk, not talking to anyone, completely shut down because when you can’t fight, and you can’t flee, you just shut down altogether.