Last night Giancarlo woke up at 3:40am and didn’t fall back asleep. At 5:20 we were in the basement and he was body painting. Part of my burnout from work was due to the fact that, on top of my anxiety, depression, and all the stress of having a freshly diagnosed preschooler and a fiesty toddler, I continued going to work and teach a classroom of teenagers despite having many such nights, sometimes in the same week. Severe sleep deprivation fucks with your mind and body in a way that is very difficult to explain. This morning I was fortunate enough to send the kids off, cancel the yoga class I had signed up for, and I went back to bed. Yup. I sent Giancarlo to school even though he has been up since before the sun rose. Why? Because I learn from my mistakes. Firstly, he functions much better on no sleep than I do. Secondly, in the past, when I have kept him home under the pretense of having him take a nap, I usually end up pinning him down in bed to no avail, and spend the rest of the day putting out fires because he is overstimulated, and because, in my exhausted state, I do not provide him with the structure he needs. On those days, I look and feel like a terrible mother. At least , when he bounces out of the van at 4pm, I will have some fuel and patience in me to be the mother he and his sister deserve (for the most part), and I will not be as short tempered, irritable, lazy, or full of rage as I would have been if I had either kept him home, or, heaven forbid, gone to work. I am terrified of having to do that again.
Sleep deprivation is only one of the factors makes going back to work so scary. My energy is so fragile even if I sleep “properly” (it should be noted that the nights that neither of my kids wake up are very rare). I have regular appointments with my doctor, Giancarlo’s social worker, Rosalia’s special educator for her anxiety, a nutritionist to help me with the weight gain caused by my meds, my therapist, a spiritual guide, yoga… then there are the errands associated with keeping a full house properly furnished and meal prep… and on the rare occasion I see friends, it is usually while the kids are in school… and this new lifestyle has taught me that I can live again, versus simply surviving as I had been doing for so long. It sounds dramatic, but it feels like if I had to fit work into the mix, I would be giving up my life.
But I can’t say that to people. Friends that I have lost touch with seem to need reassurance that I will re-enter the workforce, as though it gives them great comfort and pleasure to know that I will have a normal life again. But my life will never be like that of a regular working mom. I don’t think any of my other friends spent the other night wide awake googling strollers and harnesses for a 90 lb 6 and a half year old because they can’t take him for a walk without him running into the street. I doubt any of them live with the guilt that they nearly got their son killed twice in the same month. And how many of them, when they are working, have students come to confess their dark secrets on their breaks and lunch hours? How many of them sat with a trembling, sobbing, preteen who confessed to having suicidal thoughts. How many of them work with that and then come home to an autistic son and a daughter that demands constant reassurance and attention? But that makes people, even “friends” uncomfortable. Hell, it makes my own father uncomfortable and he lives in the same house. Everyone seems to want reassurance that everything will fall into place and I will go back to work when summer is over… and what? Suck it up? Deal with it until I can’t deal with it anymore and I crash all over again? That’s what I am most afraid of. I don’t want to return to that darkness.
What I know for sure is that the decision to go back to work or not weighs too heavily on me… so much so that I want nothing to do with making that choice. I have told my doctor that repeatedly. The decision will be hers, and ultimately, God’s. God’s. Because there is a reason for all of this. Because my transformation over the past year is not for nothing. If I have learned anything, it’s that my plans mean nothing. I have surrendered myself to His plan… How is that for making people feel uncomfortable?