Today was a very difficult day. I woke up early and started my homework that I wasn’t able to do the day before because of back to back classes, a doctor appointment, and getting the children fed and into bed. I had expected to have more than enough time to do my homework, prepare lunch for the children, and get them to school/daycare. It turned out to be a very hectic morning, where I had to make multiple trips to drop them all off and I was running late for everything.
I got to school just in time for Spanish class, with incomplete homework. Then I sat in class, emotional and distracted, while all the information went way over my head. I realized in a panic that I am way behind, and I need to be studying much more often. I need to be studying much more often for ALL my classes, and I am not accustomed to this at all. As I sat there in class not understanding what was being said or taught, my anxiety started to rise and rise. Then I received a two phones regarding my husband (well one was from him) which only made me more upset because our relationship is strained badly right now.
So personal family problems, way behind in studying and homework, late for class and late dropping off the kids (I have an anxiety issue with BEING ON TIME yet never seem to be). After class this all exploded. I felt myself start to tear up and I was terrified of breaking down in the hallway and making a fool of myself around a bunch of strangers.
I went outside to try and study for Algebra since I was supposed to have that as my next class, with a quiz. I couldn’t think. My mind was swirling. My heart was pounding. My palms were sweating. I was feeling very depressed and then full blown panic attack set in.
I wanted to get in my car and leave immediately but I wasn’t able to walk there (I was parked, once again, in the outer atmosphere). I was supposed to be meeting up with a new friend I am making at school (the only one thus far lol). He is a really sweet, young guy (resisting urge to call him a kid) who noticed my clothing choices and stuck up a conversation about religion with me. He is Jewish, and very knowledgeable about many things I talk about, things most people have no interest in. He invited me to do a Tashlict with him (I had no idea what it was either, look it up).
I was sitting there outside, totally panicked and just wanting to disappear. I was going to text him and say “I’m sorry, nevermind” and run away as soon as I was able. Time went by and I decided I would go forward with our Tashlict, who knows, maybe Yahweh will help me. But the thoughts continued..
I am hopeless. I am foolish. I am stupid. I will never do this. I should drop out. It was a terrible idea to go to school. Who am I kidding? I am nothing but an addict. I am nothing but a street wise person who will never make it in the “real” world. God doesn’t love me. God thinks I am a horrible person. Etc etc etc
I met him, “R”, in the cafeteria. He wanted to get something to eat so I waited with him and we talked. I told him I wasn’t able to focus in class, that I was having some anxiety and really not feeling very well. He was understating, he has ADHD and autism. He knows how it can feel like the walls are coming in and you need to run. He doesn’t say too much in response but his manner and casual acceptance tells me enough. He talks about God, religion, people, politics. I enjoy listening to him and taking my thoughts off of myself.
Then it is time for Tashlict (ok I will explain, you take bread crumbs and throw it into a lake with fish, say some prayers, and it symbolizes God taking away your sins). As we walked across the lawn to the little lake on campus, I was still full of anxiety, but I was trying my best to keep it together.
We get to the lake and “R” explains some more about this ritual to me, and he discusses some things about Yahweh’s grace and love to us. Then he prays, mostly scripture, and this is the only moment that my anxiety goes mostly away. I close my eyes, breathe finally, soak up these words of encouragement, forgiveness, and love.
Time to “cast it away” or throw the bread crumbs. I feel good throwing them, imagining myself getting rid of these sins that wear me out, bring me down, keep me chained. “Amen”, we say in unison and walk away. I walk him to the building his next class is in and then I stand outside and ponder whether or not to go to Algebra class, and that that quiz that is giving causing me such anxiety. I decide “no”, I cant do it. I cant think. I will break down. I will panic in class, I just know it. I cant stand the idea of being around people right then, I want to be alone. I want to go someplace safe.
Most of all I want my mind to stop accusing me. Hypocrite. Liar. Loser. You will never be successful. You will never be forgiven. You will never be good enough. Just go back to the streets where you belong.
I go to my car. I get out of there. I want to cry. I want to give up. I feel so embarrassed. Why cant I just go to school or work like a normal person? Why cant I control this panic? Why am I so unable to do such basic things that everyone else seems to have no problem doing? How can I tell my family or friends that a simple quiz, or being late, or a disappointing phone call has the ability to throw off my entire day; make me want to run and give up? How can I explain why it’s so hard for me.
Disabled. That is the label I recoiled at ever since I was given it as a teen. I would yell “I am NOT DISABLED MOM!” whenever she used the word. I would get so angry if anyone suggested I use a service for “disabled” people. I hated it because the word implied to me “different”, “other”, “unable”. I didn’t want to different, I didn’t want to be on the outside of normal looking in. I didn’t want to be called “dis-abled” or UNable to do things.
Yet, here I was driving away from college, trying to sooth my panic attack without drugs (prescribed ones). Here I was, UNable to do simple tasks like take a quiz and study for class. Here I was looking awfully Dis-abled.
But now I am home, it took me two hours to calm down, and I am drinking tea to help relax and writing to get my thoughts out. Here I am and I am trying to reconcile myself with this label, disabled student. What does that mean? Does it mean I different? Is that so bad if I am? Does it mean that YES certain “easy” things that “normal” people do are in fact very difficult for me to do? I guess so. I just don’t think it means UNable. I don’t think it means I should never be allowed inside the “normal” world of people who don’t understand why anxiety can be truly crippling. They don’t understand why depression can cause someone to stay stuck in life, or even worse seek death. They don’t understand why I am going to ask for some adjustments to be made for me, like making up this quiz when I am not in the middle of a panic attack.
I think coming to terms with my limitations, my struggles, my differences, is only going to make me a better student and person. I have to accept that certain tasks are very difficult for me, yet are not very difficult for the average person. I think I did my very best today. I tried to get through it in time for class, but I was not able to do that today. I have to accept that, and try again tomorrow. I will make up what I am allowed to make up, and every day I will simply do my best. That is all I can do.
And I know that I have to quiet those accusing voices in my head that tells me anything less than perfection is proof of my unworthiness. I have to accept and believe in forgiveness, and that God knows me better than I know myself, he “understands that we are dust” as the Bible says.
So, I will talk to the school about accommodations for my “disability”, despite being uncomfortable with the label, despite the certain disdain and prejudice from certain educators (I have heard some openly discuss their hatred of special accommodations, they don’t believe in inclusive education at all). I will likely wrestle with my identity as a “disabled” person for the rest of my life, and at times I will hardly struggle and other times I will struggle immensely, because that is the nature of what I deal with. I think I learned a lot today, maybe not in the classroom ( lol) but I did learn a lot! So that’s something, right?