I used to spend an arduous 45 minutes or more making my son’s lunch for school. I’d meticulously thumb through grapes and toss out the ones with discoloured brown rings where the stems used to be, and I’d pick through the animal crackers making sure each one was perfectly intact. There wasn’t a lion without a head or a camel without a hump or a fruit or a vegetable with a single bruise.
I did this all because I received a note from his JK teacher:
Now I know what you’re thinking. You went through all that hassle because of a note? That’s the silliest thing I’ve heard. True. But when you have anxiety, your brain jumps to conclusions, rather, it cannon balls right in to them like a boss.
So when your brain read something like:
“Blah blah I’m being a picky dick teacher.”
My anxious brain read:
“So you like to feed your son kryptonite?”
And I can’t forget to point out that the note wasn’t even addressed to me. Upon that discovery I knew, I just knew that the teacher had no confidence in my parenting abilities whatsoever. So really, it read more like this:
I slept zero winks that night as the anxiety overanalyzed and exaggerated that note until I believed that the contents in his lunch box reflected who I am as his mom.
Since his lunch was “flagged” I had to be mindful of other things. So starting that morning the clothes that he wore to school were stain free and wrinkle free, the Velcro on his shoes didn’t have a speck of lint attached to them, and I made sure that there was no dirt under his fingernails. Anything less than perfect meant that I wasn’t and I wasn’t going to give the teacher a reason to call children’s aide.
She wasn’t taking my son away.
Oh I was terrified that she was going to take him away.
Every bloody day that lunch, that entire before school routine, was agonizing. My heart would pound, my stomach would turn, my vision would distort, my breaths – short and rapid, my thoughts darted from one worry to the next “Did I stuff too many crackers in the container? If I stuffed to many in there, if he opens it, they may all shoot out at him and all over the floor. Then he will cry. Then the teacher will have to clean it. Then she’ll be pissed off. What if there’s too many in there and I bust some when I close the lid? Then there will be crumbs. He can’t eat crumbs. But if I don’t put enough in there, the crackers will bounce all over when he’s walking to school and they’ll crack and make crumbs. I should just pack grapes. What if he chokes on the skins?”
Total madness over a silly lunch.
I landed in the hospital that year but not just because of anxiety, but because I was also going through one of my worst episodes of depression.
I found that teacher’s note on the weekend. It was stuffed in one of my purses that I hadn’t used in a long time. I don’t know why I kept it. Perhaps as a reminder of how far I’ve come from that time…and yet, I haven’t.
Over these last 6+ months anxiety has dominated my existence and has morphed into a new beast – depersonalization.
I am beginning to wonder, do we every truly break free from our madness or are we always stuck with the crust?
I will say this though, that kid goes to school with crusts and he eats them if he wants to or not, the animal crackers have legs or not, fruits have bruises or not, yogurt containers have exploded, I’ve forgotten to pack spoons and forks and juice boxes…
…and he’s happily married, just skipped 3 reading levels, he’s in the math club, and loves his momma.