A Child's Perspective on School When Living With Anxiety

Editor's Note

This story is based on the author’s experience as a child.

The alarm goes off to a song I don’t recognize disturbing my sleep and waking me up from a lovely dream. Or no dream. It doesn’t matter, really, because it woke me up and I’d rather be asleep. Being awake on a morning with an alarm means school. Going to school makes my stomach feel funny, like I want to throw up. Sometimes it makes my throat hurt, too. Mommy says it’s because I’ve been screaming and crying that I don’t want to go to school. I’m not so sure about that, but then yesterday I almost lost my voice before school because I was screaming. Mommy and Daddy got me dressed and had to carry me into school. They get angry at me because I won’t get dressed, won’t walk and try to hide. It’s still dark outside when I have to go to school. Why do I have to go to school at night?

When my tummy feels funny and it’s time to go to school, a switch flips in my brain and I don’t really know what’s happening, just that I need to get away from anyone trying to make me leave the house. I need to be at home, close to Mommy and Daddy, the dogs and my toys. It’s safe there.

Mommy tries to tell me to take deep breaths, like I’m breathing the scent of hot chocolate that’s still too hot to drink. Or like I’m smelling brownie batter… mmm chocolatey. But I can’t. It’s hard to breathe and my throat feels like it’s closing up. I’m crying very hard and my arms and legs are punching and kicking. I can’t help it, my body’s doing it and I can’t stop. Daddy is getting mad and his loud voice scares me more. Mommy tries to be calm, but she gets mad, too. She’s scary, too.

My big sister doesn’t like it when this happens in the morning. She asks Mommy, “Why does she have to be my sister? It’s so embarrassing!” when we get to school. She walks in and goes to her classroom. Daddy carries me into the office, there are lots of kids staring at me. I can’t stop crying and trying to get away. I want my Mommy.

The assistant principal, the school social worker and the school nurse take me back into an office. Mommy comes along because I have wrapped myself around her. She can’t get away if I’m attached to her. The assistant principal peels my fingers off my mommy and the school social worker unwraps my legs. I hear them say, “Mom leave now. Mom leave now.” I’ll be stuck here if she goes. I hate school. I want to go home with Mommy. My face is really wet and it’s hard to breathe. My throat hurts.

The assistant principal has bad breath. I don’t want to be here. My socks are wet and I have a headache; my throat hurts and my stomach feels like I want to throw up. The nurse comes in with dry socks and my backpack. The school social worker is talking. I’m not sure what she’s saying because my brain is buzzing and my ears are ringing. But she’s being nice and somehow I calm down. The dry socks make my feet feel warm.

The social worker lady lets me lay down on a dark green bean bag chair she has in her office. I want an office with a bean bag. I fall asleep. When I wake up I have my own socks on — the school has a dryer! It’s time to go to class. I am very late, but no one says anything. At recess time my friends and I build things in the snow. It is perfect for building and molding. We make stars and castles and play. Lunch is always too short and I never finish my lunch. I tell my mom every day it’s not fair we only get five minutes for lunch.

It is Valentine’s Day, so I pass out the Valentines Mommy and I made yesterday and get Valentines from my classmates and friends. One of my classmates passes out fart putty. My teacher doesn’t want us to play with it until we get home. It is very hard to wait to play with that. I love putty and slime.

But school happens again tomorrow and I have to go. It is a very big building and I’m not at home. There are tests and other hard things to do. It gets loud.

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