A Steering Wheel and a Rearview Mirror

 

I’m not a morning person. I never have been. My husband finally decided last week to stop saying “Good morning” when I shuffle into the bathroom to brush my teeth next to him, because I can only muster a grunt and a side-eye in return. Mornings are tough. I feel productive at night so I often stay up reading or social networking or watching Netflix or preparing for work the next day or folding laundry or eating cereal—mostly eating cereal. Last night, I think I finally got into bed and set my alarm at around 1:45 a.m. Usually, I can handle 4 hours sleep. By the time I shower and get dressed in the morning, I’m awake enough—without coffee, because I don’t drink coffee—to get my day started. I’m still not happy about having to be out of the house by 7:15-7:30, but I deal. I get to work, I make my to-do list, and I get moving with my emails and lessons and meetings and paperwork.

But then sometimes, while I sleep, my lifelong companions, Depression and Anxiety, come snuggle into bed next to me. When they haven’t come to visit for a while, I feel even more robbed when they do. I wake up feeling violated. Intruded upon. I didn’t expect them. I wasn’t ready. I let my guard down.

And they came unannounced like they always do.

I wake with a headache. With pains in my chest. I can’t get a deep breath no matter how many times I inhale or force myself to yawn. I wake with sad thoughts. Hopeless thoughts. Fearful thoughts. Overwhelmed thoughts. Stressful thoughts.

I struggle through my morning routine, distracting myself by making sure my outfit matches and my hair looks good.

And I then while I drive to work, I think about all the things I haven’t accomplished yet. Music plays and deejays yammer on and on, but at each turn, at each red light, my mind races. I think about all the ways I’ve failed my family and my son. All the ways I’m spinning my wheels and not actually helping anyone in my new job. All the possible negative outcomes of future events. All the ways I could’ve better handled past events.

Family members dying. My son struggling in school. Car accidents. Plane crashes. Suffocation. Suicide. World hunger. Homelessness. Needy students. Mental illness—not my own, but that of others, because obviously they’re more important. My friends getting divorced. The medication I take that seems to work so well and then all of a sudden, it doesn’t. The very few sick days I have accrued and how I should never take them for such selfish reasons because who’s going to believe I’m sick when I don’t look sick? I don’t look sick. I don’t sound sick. But I feel sick. And I’m thinking about all these horrid things that I only realized in the last few years most people don’t think about on a daily basis.

This is all before 8:00 in the morning.

And so I pull into a parking lot and I sit in my car because I have to compose myself. I’m honest to a fault, so it’s hard for me to be an actor when so many days like these plague my year. But I’ve learned over time. I’ve learned to suck it up for the sake of my students and for the sake of my coworkers and for the sake of my husband and son. Because who can just crumple into a ball and stay under the covers when there’s work to be done and people to help?

So I sit in my car.

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve sat in a school parking lot, or a gym parking lot, or a store parking lot, or even in my own driveway before taking a deep breath and walking into my own home, I would be worth more than Michael Phelps and his 22 gold medals (as of today, obv).

I sit in my car and I text my husband: “It’s a bad day.” Because I’ve learned to call it like it is. There’s no point in pretending. I’ll go weeks managing the presence of Depression and Anxiety and feeling almost normal, but then the universe throws me a bad day. So I acknowledge it. At least someone knows.

And I sit in my car. My steering wheel has listened to its share of my sobs, my rearview mirror has seen plenty streaks of runny mascara. It’s not the first time and it won’t be the last.

But there’s work to be done. There are emails to write. There are people to support. My lists await…

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So if They won’t stay in the car, I’ll bring my companions with me. And I’ll tell Them to be quiet while I sit in meetings and work with teachers and smile. I’ll tell Them to be quiet while I type documents and send emails. I’ll tell Them to be quiet until we’re alone. I’ll hope nobody notices and I hide Them well. I’ll use all the energy I can muster to make it until 3:30, and then the steering wheel and the rearview mirror will be my listening ears and watching eyes yet again as I drive to pick up my son. When I get to my mother-in-law’s house, I’ll probably sit in her driveway. Compose myself. And then I’ll walk to the door, ring the bell, hug my sweet sweet son, and the process will continue.

And I will hope that tonight while I sleep, They decide to sleep somewhere else.

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One thought on “A Steering Wheel and a Rearview Mirror

  1. I feel exactly the same way. I’m up half the night doing chores or looking at facebook or Netflix, and I too, feel that my depression and anxiety are companions. I worry constantly. The demands put on us as parents of children with autism are insurmountable. I wish I had regular money problems. I would love to just be worried about paying for college. I would love to get to complain that all of our money goes to sports and ballet. It’s comforting to know that someone else copes the same way. Thank you for sharing this.

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