Last Saturday morning T got a black eye. To be honest, I didn’t see it happen. I’m embarrassed to say I was in the kitchen getting a slice of key lime pie for myself. Yes, I said Saturday morning. Yes, I have no self control. So there I was heaping whipped cream onto my pie when I heard a loud crash from the living room, followed by a pause, followed by wailing. I flew around the corner and found T in a heap on the ground. You know that moment when you see your kid hurt, but you can’t tell if they are really messed up and bleeding? I don’t handle it with a heck of a lot of grace. I picked him up and a purple lump had already formed at the corner of his eye. He wouldn’t let me ice it, there wasn’t any blood, and I’m still not sure how he did it. From what he said he fell into the corner of the table. He could have been climbing on it and fell, could have been climbing on the couch hit it on the way to the floor, but he also could have been just walking by and slipped and fell. I’ll never know because I was too busy getting ready to stuff my face.
The bump rose so fast and he was so distressed that I got really scared. I’m not great in a crisis. I know, shocker. So less than 5 minutes after this happened I was on the phone with a nurse at our pediatrician’s office. The nurse was really nice, but she clearly thought I was overreacting. I probably was. But I was really really scared and Z was still more than 24 hours from getting home.
On Monday morning Z offered to take T to school. He hasn’t done it yet this year. He teaches in the mornings and the timing is tight. But he said he felt bad for being gone the whole weekend and he wanted to give me a break. I asked him to explain to T’s teacher about the black eye. T also had these scabby scratches on his chest, he got those from a kid on the playground at school on Friday so I knew they wouldn’t have questions about them. Still, I felt like I was sending him to school a physical wreck.
When I picked him up on Monday afternoon I had to grab his car seat out of the office-Z had stashed it there so he didn’t have to return home and switch it over to my car before class. As I chatted with one of the office ladies T’s black eye came up and I explained he fell at home. That night I asked Z if he had told his teacher what happend. He said nope. I was annoyed because I’d asked him to and he glibly told me that she knew we didn’t hit him.
Tuesday morning I talked to his teacher about the eye and repeated to her what Z said to me. As soon as I said “hit” I felt like an idiot. It just isn’t something you talk talk casually about. Then on Wednesday I was fooling around with T as we held hands walking across the lawn to the school. We’d been listening to “She Don’t Use Jelly” in the car and I was singing to him and pulling him back and forth to the beat. And then I spun him around. I noticed that the director of the school was standing at the door and watching and I felt embarrassed because there I was jerking my kid around. So I stopped. We took a couple of steps and T completely wiped out. Like he ate dirt. After I established he was cool I wanted to disappear. Did it look like I threw my kid to the ground? It was humiliating. And he had a black eye.
As I’ve mentioned I’m on a downswing in the mental health department. By the time I picked T up on Friday I was sure that every adult that works there was staring at me. I was sure that they think I am abusing my child. I worry over choices I’ve made, mistakes that have happened. But at the end of the day I think I am a thoughtful parent who’s heart is in the right place. I am completely committed to doing what is best for my children. But I walk into his school and I feel like someone who is abusing my child. The paranoia is insidious. First the idea that someone thinks I’m guilty of an imagined transgression pops into my head. “But you aren’t guilty of that” the sane part of me shouts. I can’t hear it. I feel guilty, I start to act guilty. I’m not so far gone that I think I’ve done anything wrong in real life, but I am unwell enough to feel tremendous guilt for things I not only haven’t done, but that I know I’d never do.
When Z got home on Friday evening I was sure that Child Protective Services was going to be knocking on our door at any second, sure the school had called to report me. I explained to him what I was feeling, and to his credit he was awesome. He said he could see this one building up over the last week. He supported my decision to take a chill pill, he was great with the boys and gave me some space to calm the fuck down.
This pattern of behavior is old hat. I constantly think my friends are mad at me, that they no longer like me. I take perfectly normal interactions and manage to convince myself that I’ve offended people terribly. I believe people think I’m lying about basically everything. Sweet jesus, I hate it. It’s a way of punishing myself especially when I’ve been doing well. This summer was awesome crazy-wise. I was barely taking any chill pills, we even cut my therapy sessions down to once a month. I had the courage to take a class this fall, I’m thinking of taking another one in the spring. We have a social circle here, we feel happy. And my anxiety says, “Now you just wait one second, Karen. You are getting entirely too big for your britches. Do you think you can handle life like a normal person? You aren’t normal, you are a loser. You don’t deserve to function properly. You don’t deserve your good life and your husband and your beautiful boys. Remember you are worthless, remember you are pathetic. Start acting like it. Or so help me god, I will come after you. And I will win.”
That evil fucking voice in my head did win last night. But fuck her. I won’t let her ruin my life. My boys are too important, and I include Z in that. Hell, I’m worth more than that. I am not pathetic. I am not a loser. I am a good mom and I certainly am not abusive in any way to my son. This one was really hard to write, it feels scary to put this out there. It might just be the most uncomfortably honest I’ve ever been on the blog. Welcome to mental illness, folks. Do you know someone who suffers from it? Give them a hug tonight. Tell them you love them. Because it is ugly and scary and lonely in their heads. They might not seem to appreciate it, but keep telling them they are worth it. Don’t give up on them, eventually they will hear you.
And Z? Thank you. I will never understand why you stuck with me. But I’m well enough that I accept it. And I will always be grateful to you. Thank you, baby. Thank you.