"Anxiety is a chameleon, a shape-shifter, a distortion, a robber." - Meredith Bluestine
Graduation was 2 days away. The phone rang, it was Violet.
“Mom, promise me you will get here as fast as you can. I mean from the airport. Just drive straight here. Promise me. Because we are having a celebration and I don’t want you to miss it. Also, I want to sleep at school with my friends for our last night together. But I still want you to pick me up in the morning to get ready for grad. OK…wait…maybe I should just stay at school to get ready? I mean, if you CAN’T pick me up, if you are gonna be late? Forget it. It’s not even worth it. I’ll just stay here. You can just drop my dress off and I will get ready by myself if you can’t even BE here when I want you to.”
“Babe, you are my main priority for those days, whatever you want - I will do. I am there to help, and that’s it.”
“You didn’t answer my question! Will you get here when I NEED you to? I mean, do you even REMEMBER when I asked you to come and get me?”
“OK, yes. That’s right. Don’t forget. Will you actually do it though? I mean, do not forget Mommy, 5:55 am. Because I have to do my hair and it takes so long and…what if my dress doesn’t fit? What if it doesn’t look right? I am going to do my own makeup. Maybe I should just get ready at school. Don’t forget - 5:55 am – I mean - if you can REMEMBER to pick me up that early.”
“Yes Vi, of course I will be there. Even though it feels a LITTLE early considering the ceremony starts at 10, I will be there 100%, don’t you worry for one second. I know you’re anxious, I am too, and it will STILL be OK. I want to try and find something I can use to thread the gold stuff through your hair.”
“WHAT!!! You said you KNEW how to do it MOM! You said no problem! Are you telling me NOW you don’t know how to do my hair? Oh my god. Oh my god. What? Why would you say you knew how to do it if you didn’t???”
“Babe, I DO know how to do it. It would just be easier with a tool. OK, let’s just take a breath, and remember that while this is a very emotional experience, on the whole it is very exciting and should be fun. Everything is going to be great.”
And the reality gripped its claws into me. The anxiety would not change. The difference would be how she handled it.
Was she screaming? No. Was she irrational and crying? Not at all. Was she saying inappropriate and disrespectful things? Not even once. But her anxious spiral was frenetic and palpable. Anything was fair game to get nervous about. It was, of course, 2 days before graduation and she had to do a speech in front of a crowd. It WAS a big deal.
“Mommy, this is why I wanted to go on the school outing the day BEFORE graduation! I KNEW I would need a distraction! Now I will just be sitting here, and I will be worried the whole time!”
Anxiety: an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehensions and fear, marked by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to handle it. – Merriam Webster
She was scared. She couldn’t stop snowballing. She was also now 13 and recognizing her own needs. She was acknowledging her feelings, not acting out because of them. It made her swell of anxiety manageable and understandable for me. She was using her tools. She was telling me what was wrong, and letting me know what she needed. I could relate to her. I could actually help her. It was a relief.
I hung up with her. I walked in to bed the babes. Soleil asked me to tell them about the next few days, “starting with tomorrow morning.” I ticked down the list of our itinerary. We would fly, drive, arrive. My husband and I would meet with the therapist for discharge information. We would go to the house where Vi had been living and check it out for a little party with the graduates. Soleil wanted to write new words to a popular song to sing to Violet. I could see Soleil getting excited to go.
“Oh my god Mommy, is their place really cute???”
“I’ve never been inside Sol, but from the outside it looks like an adorable little house!”
I talked about the fact that my husband and I had to give a speech too. I had some concern about the younger kids seeing me cry as much as I was anticipating. We discussed it openly, so they were prepared and not afraid. Such heavy emotion from parents sounded hard for a 6 and 8 year old to process without fear. Sol asked me what my speech was like, and Axul responded.
“Mommy is gonna sound like this Sol - ‘WEEE MISSSED YOU VIOLEEEEET! WAHHHHH, wahhhhh wahhhh – uhhhhhhh uhh huhhhh!!!’” (mocking me crying)
Time for lights out. As I trekked through the minutiae of our trip, Axul was writing in his journal. He asked me to read what he wrote - all about Violet leaving and then being with her. The kid was 6 and so sweet. He wanted to participate.
“Mommy, I want to write a speech too! I want to say something.”
“I love this idea Ax, but it is really late. How about you tell me what you want to say, and I write it down for you?”
“Yes! Ok…write this…Dear Violet, I have missed you so much. I can’t believe you are here with me. I can’t believe you have been gone for 2 years. It feels like 4 hundred thousand. I love you. Love, Axul.”
Slay me now. Killer.
Now for my bedtime routine. I washed my face and felt my tears mix with the water I splashed on my cheeks. I was so scared too.
What was I afraid of? I think it’s that I didn’t want to have to face all those FEELINGS. It was just too much. So many different ones at once. They ALL made me cry, no matter if they were happy or sad. It was all too overwhelming, this culmination of everything we had all been through.
I sat down at the computer and redid my speech for the 30th time. Was it ok? Would I even be able to read it? I couldn’t even get through it in my head without sobbing. You would think after 45 million times of going over it I would be able to have SOME self-control. My husband must’ve thought I was losing it. I had cried for the past 48 hours, nonstop. Anxiety robbed me of much in these days. The capacity to self-soothe was right in the forefront.
Time to sleep, if I even could. 2 years later, and 2 days until graduation.
Violet was coming home.