Essay #6: Bears, Oh My

I’ll be sharing personal essays on my journey with autism with my daughters, mom life, grief and mental health. Most of the stories took place in 2017. WARNING, the essays main contain cursing. I hope my writings make you smile, I hope they make you cry, I hope to spread an understanding of high functioning autism and mostly I hope they allow other moms to not feel alone. Names have been changed for privacy. To read previous essay click on the Essays category tab above under the title.

Bear statue at local CT state park (blog on that tomorrow!)

I can’t let this happen to me every day. No fucking way. My overthinking brain keeps leading to agitation and abandoned breathing. Did someone kick me in the chest and knock the wind out of me? The feeling causes me to gasp for air as dizziness and blurred vision create a fear I might faint. Palms get sweaty, tears slowly leak out of my eyes and I wonder if I need to call 911. What is happening? My word, it is a daunting and horrifying thing to have a panic attack. This has happened to me twice in the last 24 hours.



First episode happened yesterday. I’ve been treating household clutter like whiskered unshaven legs, with ignorance and keeping it out of sight. Yesterday afternoon I had enough. I turned on the football game in the family room, grabbed a large black garbage bag and went to town on all the junk. I bet the girls won’t even notice a thing is missing. All that crapola plus the school paperwork three kids come home with is enough to keep us all warm by it’s fire in the fireplace come winter. I thought I had a good paper system in place but at three weeks into the school year who knows what happened to it. It’s just been piling up on the kitchen counter. Dinner time came and all the additional garbage on the kitchen table led to a bad mommy moment.

The girls wouldn’t listen when I asked them to clean their stuff off the table so I walked over to it and brushed my arm over the entire table. Felt as though I was watching it in slow motion, seeing all the shit fly through the air and onto the kitchen floor. It was like we’ve all seen in the movies or on a cartoon, something you never thought you’d ever do in real life, yup that was me. It was liberating. Olive and Laurel didn’t give a shit but little Ruby, sweet six-year-old Ruby, ran over and sat on the floor and cleaned up all her stuff.

She even apologized for not listening and then I apologized for throwing it all on the floor. Mom fail. I let the clutter fill me up with so much anger and stress that it made everything else I’m dealing with, Olives’s Asperger’s Syndrome evaluations, running a business, being PTO president, all of it come to the top of the mountain and I let it slide down, flowing fast and uncontrollable. I felt out of control when I slide my arm over the table and it felt good. I wanted an open floor plan when we were house hunting and now I want to build walls. I see all the crap! I don’t want to see stuff in every room on the first floor of our house. The open floor plan can kiss my ass. Maybe we need a renewed organization system and I need to teach the girls to throw things away. Serious decluttering needs to start as soon as possible. Add that to my to-do list.

After dinner I was hit by a wave of sadness and began crying, not knowing if it would ever stop, gasping and sobbing uncontrollably. I sat on the floor of my closet for what felt like an hour, waiting for the air to fill my lungs back up. I was scared, what was happening to me? Michael finally found me, I’m sure to his horror, but grabbed my hand and helped me up off the floor, told me to come get some family hugs. I sobbed about all my shit bothering me, not even sure he could understand what I was saying, also adding on some extended family strife I’ve not been too consumed with but thought I should throw in there too, maximizing the exaggerated emotions flowing out of me. I’m not a drama queen but I had a drama queen moment there. I calmed down and found the girls for hug time. They all made me feel better. Loved. As I attempted to fall asleep I realized that whole episode was my first ever panic attack. I’m amazed at what my brain can do to my heart.

As I sat in traffic on my way to work this morning, running late, my to-do list scrolling through my brain, I suddenly couldn’t breathe. I hyperventilated, opened the window and prayed for it to pass, hoping long deep breaths of cold morning air would do the trick to squash the bear in my chest. I held it together, I think only because I didn’t have a choice in the matter since I was driving. No way, panic attacks cannot happen to someone while driving, this is insane and dangerous. Music, singing loudly along to music, was the vice to get myself out of my own head and get to work in one piece. Luckily the busy preschool day distracted me from my mental chaos.

This morning was the first time I felt like quitting my job. Running a preschool involves a lot of saying “shut the hell up” in my head with a sweet smile on my face. I’ve become pretty good at it, again, master hider here. Running my household is taking all of me and I don’t want to give anyone or anything any of my time. I’m not sure if I can keep going with a smiling face and cheery disposition every day. I do know the beginning of the school year is crazy, I have to let some time pass and let the school’s every day flow become regular. I miss my stay-at-home mom days. Working mom guilt is a serious affliction and we just can’t be everything to everyone. Why did I think of adding volunteer work too? I’m too nice, they needed help and I’m a helper. I read recently when we feel guilt it means we are living a life worried about other people’s expectations of what we should do. YES. Stop people pleasing Sarah.

My thoughts have mostly been consumed by Olive and awaiting more evaluations, convincing others why I believe she has autism. I’ve been giving her more autonomy and have been dropping her off at the bus stop and leaving, instead of waiting with her until the bus comes. She needs experiences where I can show her I trust her and she can handle herself. Plus I have to force social interactions and her sitting in the car with me while we wait for the bus leaves her inside her little happy comfort zone. Well the other morning after I left the kids saw a bear! Olive said everyone ran to the closest house as the bear crossed the street. Running is last thing you should do, but the bus came before the kids got in the house and all was well. Oh my. I cannot add worrying about bears to my repertoire, no thank you. Thank you God it was a harmless bear and paid no attention to the middle schoolers screaming for their lives. I don’t know if I should cry or laugh. That’s true for my entire existence at the moment.

It’s been warm out this week, a sweet summer kiss goodbye, allowing us to spend time outdoors after school. I need the fresh air as much as my children do. We’ve been mostly riding bikes in our cul-de-sac. I finally got Laurel to ride without training wheels, she fought it and was extremely difficult to teach. She couldn’t understand what the point was in learning how to ride a bike, she rode fine with the training wheels. My goodness. When she gets mad, she gets mad! The quiet sweet girl becomes a bear. I’m pretty sure this qualifies me for admission to the Worst Mom Prison. Our track record for learning to ride a bike is at 4th grade for child one and two. Ouch.

I wanted a house in the middle of the woods, well that comes with the good and the bad. Peace, wildlife, quiet cul-de-sac, running for our lives from the bears, both mentally and literally.

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