Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The confessional

I'm supposed to be sleeping right now but I can't. I've been trying to get to sleep earlier than 2 AM but it's difficult. I am a night person. (My house is evenly divided in the night vs. day debate--Yaya and B are day people, N and I are night owls. Actually, B could go either way, but since he can get up and be instantly awake I'm putting him in the day category.) There's not much I can do to change this; the only time I've ever done it before was when I was completely exhausted and fell into bed at 8 PM and slept until 7 or when I stayed up all night and didn't go to sleep until the next night. You can imagine how feasible that second one is right now, or really at any time when small children are involved. The first one is surprisingly hard to duplicate, and not just because I'm lazy.

Anyway, I can't sleep and my brain is running double time, so I'm going to write instead.

A humiliating story for your reading pleasure: I had a panic attack while trying to register the boys for school this year. It was my first ever, and I tried to forget it ever happened, but maybe I shouldn't.

It was hot, as Iowa tends to be in August, and I had to take Mr. Man with me. Preschoolers have to be evaluated for readiness. I was nervous about his evaluation--what if they said he didn't qualify for services? What if they said he couldn't come in until he was potty trained? What if they said he was the wrong age? What would I do then? The parking lot was full when I got there, and it's a pretty good-sized lot. I got a decent spot, but I was so focused on getting into the line (wrapped around the building despite the fact that registration wouldn't start for fifteen minutes) that I forgot to put Mr. Man in his stroller. I should have gone back for it, but I didn't. We never let him go anywhere without the stroller, I reasoned. Maybe he had gotten better about being out of it but staying with me. (Spoiler alert: he hadn't.)

From the start registration was a nightmare. At the boys' old school they ran a tight ship. When you get into the building you have your papers out, someone comes and copies them while you're in line, gives them back to you while you're still in line, you talk to the Gatekeeper, she directs you to a staffer who makes sure everything is in order, you pay your fees if you have any, and boom, you're done. It took maybe ten minutes, which doesn't count the half hour spent standing in line but I only had Yaya with me so it wasn't terrible. This place...it was a nightmare. People were everywhere. There were tables scattered everywhere, and while you weren't told this, you didn't have to go to all of them. A good number of them were fundraising tables. I wonder if that would have made it easier on me, to know that of the dozen tables there I only actually had to go to five. I don't know.

I took a packet from the New Gatekeeper, which had the wrong forms in it (found that out later). No one was giving anyone any direction, so I picked a table and went to it. Then I had to go to a different table. Then I had to fill out some forms while trying to hold Mr. Man with one hand so I could write with the other. The forms kept slipping all over the table because I couldn't hold them down, and Mr. Man was screaming because he wanted down, he wanted to run and be free and oh look they have a giant aquarium in a middle school cafeteria and he threw the phone books and pens on the floor and I was mortified. I was sweating like crazy; the air conditioning was mostly worthless with so many people packed into one room.

I went to a third table. I went back to the first table with my forms (a few of which were the aforementioned wrong forms, but I filled them out anyway--I wasn't sure that they were wrong but I knew I wasn't going to fight my way back across the room and try to guess the right forms from the New Gatekeeper), then I had to wait to go back to a different room to have Mr. Man evaluated. He was not well-behaved, to say the least. And that's probably how he would have been whether the stroller was there or not, but he was annoyed about being kept from all the awesome stuff and he wasn't afraid to show it.

After the evaluation I had to go back out to one of the tables I'd already been to, then I had to go to the payment table. I asked a question about one of the prices and was sent to the financial aid table. They gave me four more forms to fill out. I sat down at a table, yet again trying to hold Mr. Man, looking at this paper that asked for a bunch of paperwork. I had no idea what any of these papers were, let alone that I should have brought them, and I lost it.

My throat closed up and I couldn't breathe. My heart was beating so hard I could feel it in my throat and I wanted to puke. Everything was too loud. And the worst part? I started to cry. As soon as I felt the tears coming I stood up, grabbed the papers and left. I couldn't do it. And that's exactly what I said when I called my mom, trying to carry Mr. Man and hold the papers and walk to the car. I was babbling and crying and walking as fast as I could so no one could see me crying or overhear my incoherent babbling. All I remember saying is "I can't do this, I can't do this." I told her about the tables and the people and how it was so unorganized, why was it so unorganized? Why couldn't these people get their shit together like the old school district? My mom said "It was this way when I registered you kids for school twenty years ago, it'll probably be the same twenty years from now."

I said "I know, I know, but I just can't do this. I have to leave. I can't go back, I don't care if they don't let the boys go. They'll let them go, I just have to pay another time." She agreed that that was best, but it didn't stop the crying.

By this point Mr. Man was buckled into his seat asking for a Happy Meal and I was sitting in the car trying to calm down enough to drive. My mom said "What is wrong with you?" (not in a mean way, she was genuinely worried) and I said "I don't know! I hate this!" And I do. I hate crying. Before I had kids I rarely cried. Less than once a year. I scoffed at emotion. When a TV show or movie tried to manipulate my emotions with heartfelt speeches and soaring music I'd roll my eyes at that idiocy. Now...I cry a lot now. I fight it, but I usually lose. And I hate it.

I texted B. "Had a panic attack at registration."

He texted back "Are you serious? Do you need to go to the hospital?"

My response: "I can breathe now and I don't feel like my heart is going to explode anymore, so I think I'm good." You can imagine that he wasn't as amused by all this as I was. And in some way, I was amused. I was being ridiculous--that's how I felt. I was getting all worked up over school registration, how silly. What a drama queen. But I've already said I won't do it again next year. I'll register the boys in the office alone; I won't deal with that again.

I went home and called L when she got off work. I started crying again when I recounted the story and she suggested (again) that I'm depressed. Or at least overly anxious. She thought that I should get anti-depressants or anti-anxiety pills and probably some therapy. The therapy part is not a bad idea, but who has time for that? Where would I put Mr. Man? More importantly, how would we pay for it?

It hasn't happened again. Not that specific thing, anyway, but lately I find that I'm overwhelmed with everything. I function; I can cook and clean and parent and do the stupid stupid laundry, and I'm happy most of the time, but when it comes to projects that aren't necessary for things to run smoothly on a daily basis, I'm paralyzed. There are so many things to do that I can't decide which one to do first, or if I do try to do something I have to do multiple projects because I still can't decide. So instead of working on one thing until it's done I'll work on forty things and take years to finish any of them. I'm trying to get better about this but it's harder than it should be. I mean, shouldn't the solution just be to not do so many things at once? You would think. But I guess that's not the solution for me. I wish I knew what the real solution was, though.

I can't do one thing at a time. And I'm not just talking about projects. I can't fold laundry without also reading a book, watching TV, talking on the phone, or reading blogs. I can't clean one room at a time; I go from here to there to everywhere. Things get done, but maybe it's the wrong things. I wash the walls and the light switches and the kitchen cabinets around the handles every day, but I'll leave the dishes until I can talk on the phone to someone to distract me from the task or B is getting off work and I do them so he doesn't think I'm lazy. I can't sit on the couch and just watch TV. Usually I have the laptop to keep my hands busy; in better days I had knitting or a project that needed to be handsewn. On really bad days I just have food.

I seem to have suddenly run out of words so I guess I'll wrap this behemoth up. I know I don't have many readers, and I kind of hope no one sees this post. I'll probably post something fluffy tomorrow, maybe two things, so that I can push it down to the bottom of the page.

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