Dear Anxiety

I need one of these this morning.

Dear Anxiety,

It’s me — Neil. You may remember me from such conversations as “€<%# off,” “leave my kid the %^?< alone,” and “are you $@&?ing kidding me?”

I’m sorry about those. Can we start over? We can? Good.

Go $@¥% yourself.

Oops, I guess I did it again.

We were enjoying enduring another typically chaotic morning. Ryan was moving too fast, yelling too loud, adding to the tension and apprehension we feel ahead of our upcoming appointment with the psychiatrist to discuss medication.

It was crazy, but it was manageable.

Veronica got Ryan out the door for the bus and I was getting ready to do the same when the universe decided to intervene, using its giant monkey wrench to turn the screws that drive my son’s worst fears.

It was an opening you just couldn’t resist. The school bus, your partner in misery from  way back at the start of the school year, was late for no good reason.

Veronica called from the bus stop. She had to come home to do Riley’s hair. Riley has a school dance today and she’s very excited. We couldn’t send her with wet hair. I looked at my watch. I had an early meeting at work. If I went to wait with Ryan, making my train would be tight.

The sound of Veronica’s voice made the decision easy. Ryan was struggling to keep it together. He was fighting tears. The other kids at his stop were trying to help but it was a losing battle.

I jumped in the car and drive up to his stop, allowing Veronica to go home and assist Riley. When I arrived I saw my son in your clutches. You had him pacing nervously, chewing on his jacket collar and backpack straps. He was trying to blink back tears while asking continuously why the bus was late, if it would be the old driver (from September!!!!), if this meant it would also be late in the afternoon.

I did my best to calm him, but it was a losing battle. You already had him locked in your grasp and were going for the takedown. The other kids tried as well, particularly his one friend C. He told Ryan not to worry. He asked him to talk about the Sharks’ big win last night. He told him to think happy thoughts — like Corey Perry‘s (who plays for the rival Ducks) suspension.

An automated call came from the school. Buses were running 20 minutes late. No explanation. I told Ryan. This calmed him for a moment — but only a moment. Your grip was too strong. As soon as we passed the 20 minute mark from his regular pickup time, Ryan resumed his fretting, his pacing, his chewing. I began to make plans to drive him to school and forget about ever making it to work today.

Veronica called. She was finished with Riley’s hair and would take my place so I could race for the train. I made it — barely — but the image of what I left behind haunts me as the train rolls towards New York.

The bus eventually came. But it was a substitute bus and a substitute driver — two openings you will surely seize upon to make Ryan’s day miserable.

I can’t shake the sight of Ryan looking helpless and powerless to fight you off.

What gives you the right? You are worse than the worst schoolyard bully.

How dare you show up whenever you damn well please, seizing upon opportunities to exploit Ryan’s most vulnerable moments?

Go <#%$ yourself. Stay the &?!$ away from us.


PS: You didn’t win.

Ryan made it to school. I made it work. Riley will have her hair just the way she wants it at the dance. And when you seized upon my kid, you left an opening. An opening for all the other kids at the stop to show you what they are made of. They didn’t take the cowardly route of preying on his weakness. They stood up to you. A bunch of sixth-graders trying to help a fellow classmate. They didn’t make fun of him. They didn’t roll their eyes.

I get to take that memory with me as well. In time the other image will fade, but that one will remain.

So stick that in your pipe and smoke it. This isn’t over.


15 thoughts on “Dear Anxiety

  1. Fantastically said, Neil.

    Oh, the nearly incoherent, inarticulate, furious, torrent-of-expletive rants I’ve allowed myself. Autismn is part (a *part*) of my oldest son, and I am out-of-my-mind in love with him, including the quirky uniqueness that his autism contributes to his personality. However, when the anxiety, sensory overload, sleep deprivation, and (just for added fun) severe seasonal allergies decide he’s their target for the day, the skull splitting rage commences.

    Once, just one single time, I’d like to meet anxiety incarnate in a dark alley somewhere and thoroughly %¥#* him up! Then, to add insult to injury, show him a video of my guy’s little sister giving him a hug. Anxiety, there’s nothing you can do that a 4-year-old girl’s “big squeezy hug” can’t eventually fix.

    Take that, you pansy.


  2. So a couple of post-scripts to this morning’s fun.

    1) I got off the train back at my home station only to discover I couldn’t find my car keys. Called my office – they weren’t there. I literally made the train by 5 seconds this morning, sprinting up the stairs just before the door shut. I figured I must have dropped them. While waiting for Veronica to show up with the backup set so I could drive home and trying to figure out how much this was going to cost me, I spied an employee locking up the station office, which normally closes many hours earlier. I asked him if by chance anyone had turned in a set of keys. He said he thought they had and invited me inside. Yep, there they were.

    So thanks to some good Samaritan, who could have just as easily driven off in my car as turned in the keys, I got them back. So make that TWO positive memories I will take from today

    2) Ryan’s regular bus, driven by the regular driver, showed up right on time this afternoon. Ryan hopped down the stairs as if this morning never happened.



  3. Ok big hockey guy – stop making me cry! Every time I read one of your posts lately the tears start welling! LOVE the beautiful empathy shown by Ryan’s bus mates – they get it! How amazing is that? You & Veronica did some fancy dancing that morning – one hell of a pasa doble


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