When the wheels fall off.
You may be familiar with this scene.
Life is ticking along with nicely with plenty of average-sized bumps in the road but you have a pretty good idea of the direction you're travelling in. You've made plans, set yourself deadlines and it all seems vaguely achievable but in the flash of an eye you hit an cavernous pothole. Maybe you were taking a sip of water or fiddling with the stereo, but you didn't see this gaping hole in the road ahead and you drove straight into it. Some potholes are so big as to be virtually unavoidable so don't be too hard on yourself. Shit happens, right?
Well. our little family fell into an enormous, gaping pothole recently and my wheels fell right off. Our wonderful girl hit a mental health wall and completely broke down. She was done.
Becoming a teenager hasn't been easy for her. Living with generalised anxiety and the ever-increasing pressures of middle-school, combined with all those physical and hormonal changes she is knee-deep in made it extremely difficult for her to maintain her usually sunny disposition at home. In fact, the maintenance of this disposition at school had left her raw with nerves and completely exhausted.
Typically, just as we can see the light at the end of the school year tunnel, the workload and pressure and deadlines amp up. It is ever thus. I know our family isn't alone in this experience. A brief chat with other Mum friends tells me so. We are all fed up. Our kids are done months before school is finished, I'm sure the teachers are too. It's all a bit of an annual mess.
I write about this only to touch on my daughter's story. It is, after all, her story to tell. I write pieces often which are too open and share too much our relationship. They remain forever unpublished in my draft box but they help me figure out what I want to say, what I am safely able to convey.
So the little I feel comfortable sharing about my girl's life sets the scene for my own stories. I am a Mother, first and foremost. My daughter's daily experience of the world directly impacts me on every level. We share energy now just as much as we shared fluids when she was in the womb. We are the Gilmore Girls, though with a little less co-dependence on one another. I have a responsibility to nurture her yet it also falls to me to repel some of her fears and frustrations so that I can serve her better and take care of myself.
Herein lies the challenge.
I have anxiety. I carry anxiety around in my breast pocket like an unlucky charm. Weeks can pass by with it remaining neatly tucked away as life plods along all tickety-boo, and then it can emerge in a heartbeat. Sometimes it rears it's ugly head like a viper and at others it just oozes it's way into my bloodstream like a toxin.
I could so happily live without either scenario.
When anxiety clenches it's ugly fist around my heart the wheels remain off and all the precious and organised parts of my life fly up into the air only to land on the ground in a puddle.
Mental notes are crumpled, torn and out of order, many lost for good, and that sense of control which we all love and yearn for is gone.
When my daughter needs me this scene of an accident must remain where it lands for an unspecified period of time while I work to support, encourage and find humour. I think I'm pretty good at that. We find a way through together eventually, but this does leave me in a state of complete disarray once the dust settles.
Today I feel, very tentatively, like we are emerging from a crash zone. It's not something I really want to say out loud for fear of seeing it all collapse on top of us but there is a glimmer of normality at the edge of my vision. As I reach for it I see my shredded mental state in my peripheral vision and that alone is enough to get my heart racing. I have so much to do, so much I want to be, so many hopes and wishes just for me as an individual. It's like those pages of lists and ideas are screaming at me from the puddle in neon paint.
I really need to be patient. I am a very patient person, just not with myself. I rarely turn the kindness, forgiveness and acceptance I lavish on others onto myself and this is a huge problem. My over-achieving, goal-reaching instincts run roughshod all over me leaving me feeling useless. Often. And so, each time we have a crash in our road I face these challenges all over again.
I watch my goals, my work, my sense of focus all dissipate. Frankly, this is kind of unavoidable sometimes. The simplest solution is to seek acceptance within myself.
Easier said than done but that is my true goal.
I'll certainly manage to put myself back together again, again. I will pick up the pages of my mind and shuffle them back into order but they will never be the same. Probably that is fine but it takes some adjusting to do. Meanwhile I am searching for notes about deadlines and appointments and to-do lists. They are in there somewhere but I kinda needed THEM yesterday.
We are ok. We will continue to be ok.
Sometimes you just have to let the wheels fall off, trade in the old model and start over with a new one.