“Take care of yourself”

by Alicia on December 20, 2016

“Take care of yourself.”

That’s what they tell you to do. When you’re the parent and everything is going wrong.

“Take care of yourself. You need to have something left.”

But how?

How is that supposed to happen?

“You’re doing the best you can.”


But not good enough. It’s not enough. There has to be an enough and we haven’t found it yet.

I can’t reach my daughter. I can’t find her.

I ask her what she wants, and she can’t tell me. I ask her what hurts, and she can’t tell me. I ask her how to help her, and she can’t tell me.

And we focus every moment of every day on the how, what, why, where of her refusing to go to school. When all the while we have two other daughters who get sick and have school concerts and want to tell us a story or get us to play with them, and all our energy is spent on Bella.

And all our energy is spent on Bella.

And all our energy is spent on Bella.

And still I can’t reach her.

She’s 11, and as tall as me. There is no forcing her to school. (Trust, we have tried. Physically.)

“Take care of yourself.”

When I struggle between HELP US and KEEP HER SECRET SO SHE’S NOT LABELED, it’s hard to remember me at all.

When the only time I sit is at 9:30pm, after all the doctor’s appointments, and chores, and “remember to fix this” and “get that box unpacked so the girls feel more at home” and alarms going off for medications and phone calls I’ve forgotten to make and sign this agenda and where are the fucking scissors I don’t even know this house and I live here what have we done…

And when I sit it’s all I think about and I cry so I have to get up and finish all the things that, if I leave them, will peek back out when I need silence.

“You’re doing the best you can.”

And our daughter has missed 8 days of school.

And we’ve used up every sick hour, vacation day, human resource we have at our disposal so my husband takes her to work with him while we worry all day about the consequences, long and short term, of all the work and the instruction she’s missing.

And she worries that her friends will not like her, which is two parts of the mystery of why she suffers debilitating anxiety.

“Take care of yourself.”

When the world of things you need to take care of moves at lightning speed all in competition with one another because you have to keep living your life in order to one day in the future have a life left to live. And every support you need seems to move at a glacial pace because every one of those people/ professionals/ pieces of paperwork is competing with other lives trying to get back on track. And you know that only you know how much more important your piece is, and you want to push but you don’t want to seem desperate, lest they label you and want to teach you a lesson through ignorance. So you struggle and you try to get through 45 consecutive minutes today without crying, but maybe you have to try that one again tomorrow.

“Take care of yourself.”

When the only time to get to the gym and work out some frustration is 5am, and you couldn’t fall asleep from worry so 3 hours of sleep is not enough.

“You’re doing the best you can.”

When you forgot to call the mom and invite the kid to your kid’s birthday party which is back-burnered for the other kid’s acute experience and you know you’ve been doing this for 2.5 weeks, putting Kid 1 over Kids 2 and 3 because Kid 1’s issue is taking over everything, but it’s not their fault and so you steel yourself and you tell yourself you’re going to put aside the Kid 1 thing for a minute but it creeps in (it always creeps in) and with it comes all the frustration and angst and questions and possibilities and stress and now you’re not even there with the kid who needs you now but you’re…doing the best you can.

“Take care of yourself.”

When you never put yourself over your child. And your child is clearly suffering.

And you used to be able to fix it. She’s always known that you could fix it.

And you can’t fix this. And all of your trust in the thing you built shatters more with every traumatic interaction.

“Take care of yourself.”

I can’t even find my Self to take care of.


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