Stomach pain, cramping, sitting on the toilet. It makes me feel out of control, nervous, anxious, scared. I don’t know if it will worsen or get better. I don’t know if it’s something I ate or because my head is getting out of control. If it’s something I ate, it will self-correct and I’ll be fine after a dose or two of Pepto Bismol. If it’s my head, I don’t know how to make it stop. I close my eyes, breathe slowly, try to relax every muscle in my tightened torso before I start grinding my teeth. My voice repeats in my head, “you’re going to be fine. You won’t die. Just slow down and separate your thoughts.”
I try to tease apart the braided obligations I have. The ones for today set apart from the things I have to do for the rest of the week. Put the morning things in one place and the afternoon ones in another. Examine each one to see how critical it is. Picking children up and making sure they’re well cared for is not negotiable. After that, is it really so bad if we go home and I let them watch TV for an hour while I escape into sleep?
I used to worry about whether I’d make it to where they were. I used to think I’d have to dash into a public restroom somewhere and not be able to get off the toilet at all. I don’t know what I thought would happen – I’d have unstoppable diarrhea and not be able to move from the john? I’d pass out on the floor and nobody would miss me? I am mostly over the visions of those catastrophic scenarios, but I still worry that I won’t be able to recover from these episodes.
The problem is that I don’t know that I’m overloaded until my stomach starts to hurt. By the time I wake up with a jaw-ache from crunching my molars together, it’s too late. My stomach churns with acid and I’m doubling over from cramps. Later, it seems as if I must have been tooling along oblivious to the clutter of my schedule. I feel so competent and proud to have been able to figure out how to be in two places at once. I am superwoman. I can entertain guests all weekend, make orthodontist appointments on Monday morning, arrange for my neighbor to let the painters in, get my kids to camp, plan a dinner menu and get the shopping done. I can get my kids home, entertain them, let the dog out, make a healthy dinner that we all sit down to together, post a blog entry, read and comment on some others, put the kids to bed and make their lunches for the next day. Or can I? What is the price I’m paying for that? I’ll tell you; anxiety and stomach aches. It’s having everything come to a halt, leaving acrid skid marks in the road when my body says it’s had enough. It’s the look on my kids’ faces when I inform them that we’re going to have a day of nothing but watching TV and coloring inside. No neighbor kids over to play, no cooking or cleaning, no games of Candyland or Polly Pocket. It’s realizing that instead of looking forward to today, I am eagerly anticipating the end of this month when I can pencil in some time to be by myself. I’ve got to get back to enjoying today. I have to show my children that being a whole person does not entail being and doing everything you think you ought to. Maybe tomorrow I’ll only do what I want to. At least, I’ll think about it….