So, it’s teacher appreciation week. That’s basically a test for adults. And I am not nearly adulty enough to have to do specific things at specific times.
I consider it a raging success that I get Lorelei to school on time each day. Not once have I had to do the walk of shame into the school office and explain that we just couldn’t make it there by the god-awful early time designated for Durham elementary schools. You’re welcome. Or, I’m sorry. Depending on her mood.
If you give me one day, I might be able to rock it. Instead, there is a whole week. For both kids. At different schools. And last week was spirit week at daycare and I totally fucked up and sent him in totally normal clothes for tacky dress day. Which, considering the outfits I have put together over the last seven years, might be my personal equivalent of tacky dress?
It’s a terrible time of year to have additional responsibilities. I’m emotionally wrung out after Rowan’s birthday.
I want to make special upcycled flowers for each teacher. I want to buy you gift cards and your favorite drinks (but I don’t think they allow me to send wine to school). And I get all “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” about the whole damn thing because if I send gifts to one teacher, then how about the assistants, the specials teachers, the after school teachers, the principal, the counselors, and and and…
Y’all, my husband only has half a job and I couldn’t have afforded to spend money on all the people who make my kids’ days special even back in the good old days.
Because there are a lot of you. And you’re fan-freaking-tastic.
I mean, I’m exhausted and I only have to deal with my own two kids each day.
Maybe that’s not a good enough excuse for my lapse in instructed appreciation?
To relieve myself of some of my teacher appreciation guilt, I will use the sick baby card. Last night we were on ER watch because Rowan was struggling to breathe. You know how I recently wrote that Pregnant Chicken piece about RSV and respiratory distress? I carefully listed all the things you need to watch out for and all the reasons to get your child in to be seen right away. And like most things, I found that it is much easier to tell other people what to do than it is to deal with it in the moment. It is so hard to tell what is a baby who has finally calmed down and what is a baby in respiratory fatigue. He was so pitiful.
We put him in his crib and he fell asleep easily. Too easily? Suddenly, I had visions of him going into respiratory distress and me not knowing it. It is the toddler version of worrying your baby will stop breathing in the middle of the night for no reason. Where you’re sure they are fine but equally sure they are not — but if you go in to check you are 100% sure it will wake them up and you will regret it. That’s just math.
I know I am prone to a wee bit of hypochondria, so I sometimes (frequently) over correct and don’t seek help when I should. My friend who happens to be a primary care physician says I should have taken him into the ER last night.
Rather than dwell on that, my brain spun itself into cotton candy
The last couple of months have been stressful and without much in the way of a release valve. Money and time are both tight. It’s difficult to find time to take off work for myself when everyone keeps needing me to take time off work to deal with various plagues.
All of the “self-care” people love to talk about costs fucking money and takes time. I would love to get a massage or a hotel night to myself or or or… but really that’s all putting a band-aid on bigger issues.
Or, as I said to my therapist a couple of weeks ago, “I feel like we’re missing the forest for the trees. Putting out all these tiny fires instead of figuring out how to keep the forest from burning in the first place.”
With no appropriate ways to deal with this stress, I have slowly found myself slipping back into some OCD thoughts.
Imagine you have a pressure cooker. Perhaps a malfunctioning Instant Pot. You think it might explode so you hit the pressure relief valve and it feels better until you realize the whole thing has shorted out and now your house is on fire. That’s OCD.
OCD is like a bursting dam that releases built-up water straight into your house. The release seems beneficial until you notice the house is flooding.
The very things you thought would fix a problem only make it worse.
Basically, in stressful situations, I am a fixer. I problem solve. But when there is anxiety that I cannot think my way out of, I try to force that square peg into a round hole by coming up with any number of annoying thought tricks to “fix” it. It never, ever fixes it.
The most ridiculous of these was probably my never ending need to apologize to dead animals on the side of the road. I wrote about it in more detail, here. It sounds funny, I know that. But when it got to the point that I was repeating “sorry, sorry, sorry” in my head ad infinitum because maybe I missed a dead animal somewhere, or maybe that bag I thought I saw was actually a dead animal, or maybe just because saying sorry is what my brain insisted I do at that moment — you can see how that would get old after a while.
It has by no means been the most painful facet of OCD but it was a frequent one and one that I felt like I could deal with. So one day… I dealt with it. I honestly don’t know how. I don’t know why the last drive to Falcon Ridge was the time I felt equipped to tackle that, but I did. I think if I am completely honest, I wanted to make my therapist proud in some way, though that is its own minefield because people being proud of me makes me want to run.
So anyhow. That was almost three years ago. Over the last month or so I had noticed that the urge to apologize was getting stronger. I was having to consciously think of other things and all sorts of mental acrobatics.
And then it happened. As I was driving Lorelei to go meet her Girl Scout patrol for skating I passed a dead cat.
It felt defeating. I know that OCD is something that waxes and wanes, but this felt like maybe I didn’t have the control I thought I had.
Which I guess is the whole point of OCD
It brings me back around to Rowan, struggling to breathe. The skin pulled between his ribs and his nostrils flared. There was a vein in his neck that stood out. He was breathing fast. His temperature was 101. Lethargic and hot, he snuggled against my shoulder.
Two nebulizer treatments and he finally relaxed. That was the extent of my control — Xoponex and Ibuprofen.
Last night when he woke up crying at 10:00, there was part of me that was relieved. We settled down for the rest of the night, him asleep with his face inches from mine. Breathing.
He’s doing better today, thankfully.
I’m so not in control of this ride.
I know, in theory, that it will get better. It’s hard to see that fully when I’m feeling so deep in the woods. Forest and trees and fire and the National Park Service has gone rogue and so has my brain.
Here’s a video of Rowan and Lorelei making music together to make up for all this woe is me bullshit.