Just when I think I’ve got everyone convinced that I am a normal, competent adult, something happens to make my mask slip.
Last week I was put in the unenviable position of having to handle a difficult school meeting about one of my neurodivergent teenage children immediately after my yearly physical and a week before my period. I showed up to the meeting, down several vials of blood, going on hour fifteen of fasting. My brain does not handle low blood sugar well.
My brain also short-circuits upon being asked for the ten millionth time what my child’s diagnoses are, when they have not changed since he was seven.
I hate these meetings.
So, long story short, I make it through the meeting, hands shaking violently, explaining with feigned calm that, yes, I am aware that my child struggles with a, b, and c. This is not surprising, you see, since a, b, and c are standard-issue challenges for someone with his diagnoses. What diagnoses? The ones recorded in the folder immediately in front of you, I assume, but sure, I’ll repeat them… and so on, for thirty agonizing minutes. Once again, I manage to wrench the most meager of accommodations out of the clenching hands of the Institution. I thank everyone for their time and head for the door, hoping for a clean escape–at which point I get hit by a wave of migraine aura and dizziness and adrenaline.
My knees buckle and, with that, I start sobbing. Loudly. In a conference room filled with school administrators. Thus confirming, I’m sure, the suspicions of all: that as odd and inconvenient as my child is to deal with, his mother is a full-fledged whack job.
It was a real “Drink your juice, Shelby,” moment. I was Shelby, and alas, I had no juice.
Fortunately, Ron was with me, and was able to hustle me from the building, drive me home, and supervise my breakdown until the DoorDash man arrived with my smoothie.
It was a real low point following some big successes. The night before, I had performed in another comedy show. My fledgling improv team is gaining traction and getting gigs. The week before, I had been across the country, working with a well-known disability influencer on her upcoming book, unquestionably my most prestigious job since I left teaching, and one that I can parlay into more clients and more opportunities to travel, if I play my cards right. Things are happening for your girl.
There’s a fine line, apparently, between feeling like a creative powerhouse on the cusp of her big break and a raving lunatic on the brink of going full Mrs. Rochester, and that line has something to do with my blood sugar.
Or maybe it’s just in me.
There’s a moment in the horror movie The Babadook, where the mother character is driving her young son home from another horrendous school meeting, and in frustration, she screams at him “Why can’t you just BE NORMAL?”
I don’t want my own son to “just be normal.” I want him to be himself, AND I want the world to appreciate his uniquely beautiful brain. When I scream “BE NORMAL,” it’s in the mirror.
In The Babadook, there is a monster tormenting the mother and child, preventing them from achieving anything like normalcy. The monster could represent grief, or trauma, or mental illness, but whatever it is, it’s a very creepy monster in a very chic hat, and (spoiler alert) it cannot be defeated. Mother and son survive the darkest moments of its torment, and in surviving they learn how to live well, or as best they can, with their monster.
Would the world be a more understanding place if we understood that, for many of us, the best we can do is to live well with our monsters? Monsters that can be soothed and calmed, for the most part, but will still emerge at inconvenient times? Can we make space for that? Or will we continue to set up spaces where Normal is the standard by which everything is measured?
Anyhow, I’m happy to return to my little corner of this blog, where monsters are welcomed. May you and your monsters live beautifully together this week–but if you have to bring them to a meeting, for god and Shelby’s sake, eat something first.
Theresa Weiler is a writer, singer, speaker, seeker. She lives in the Detroit area with her husband and four children. If you would like to make an offering to her inner monster, throw a tip in her Venmo tip jar, @realtheresaweiler, or keep them company on Twitter @Real_Theresa or Instagram @realtheresaweiler.