Signs of Stress
I was sitting on the kitchen floor in front of the heating vent by the kitchen sink. My back was to the cupboards with additional cupboards on all three sides. I leaned my head back and closed my eyes, aware that this sitting-on-the-floor behavior is only something I do when I’m stressed. I don’t know why sitting in that particular spot is comforting when I’m upset, but it is. At least in the winter when the vent blows warm. I sat there, eyes closed, sorting my thoughts. One of the thoughts was to review in my mind the various signs of stress that are typical for the other members of my household. Howard gets irritable, particularly about food things. Kiki fixates on small problems and sleeps more than usual. Gleek gets angry and defensive, she also accumulates things. Patch fidgets and gets indecisive. So I review, the girls are both doing well right now. Howard is under work stress, but in normal quantities. The boys are both struggling. They are stressed.
In that list of signs of stress, I didn’t mention Link. That’s because I made a very saddening realization. If I made a list of “Things Link usually does daily” that list will match up one-to-one with the list of “signs that Link is stressed or depressed.” The stress has been so pervasive for so long that none of us recognized it as anything outside of normal. Mental illness is so sneaky. It doesn’t show up with a dramatic change the way that a cold or the flu does. There is no quick comparison yesterday to today. Instead you have a child who is changing and growing all the time. So you assume that everything is just part of their evolving personality. Except there is this creeping, niggling thought which grows stronger. Maybe this isn’t normal. Everyone says the teenage years are hard, but maybe they shouldn’t be quite this hard. I owe huge debts of gratitude to my parenting community. There were people who listened to me and said “no, that’s outside of normal.” I feel like I should have been strong enough to seek help without needing that decision validated.
The good news is that the school administrative staff have bent over backwards to be helpful. I don’t know if everyone has that experience with them. It probably helps that I was able to say that I’ve already scheduled doctor’s appointments. It was obvious that I’m taking all the “right” steps. And yet this still is not easy. There are also teachers in the mix. Some of them understand and work with me. Others, not so much. Which is why I end up sitting on the floor of my kitchen, rehearsing parts of difficult conversations I need to have in the next few days. And I think about how difficult it is to stand strong and say “Yes I know that thing should be simple, but for my child it is not.” And then to have to say it over and over again in different contexts, working to give my child the space he needs to heal and grow strong. My job seems clear when I type it out like that, yet I constantly second guess myself about whether I’m choosing correctly. And once I have the conversations, I’ll probably spend hours rehashing them in my head, thinking of different things I should have said. It is all so exhausting.
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