OCD and The School Run: The Daily Battle.

by Sarah Myles

I loathe the school run.

First, it is my responsibility to make sure my children have with them everything they need for the day. In true, BPD, dichotomous fashion, I simultaneously dread and need this responsibility. If I get it wrong, my child’s ruined day is my fault. But if I leave it to someone else, they may also get it wrong where I would probably have got it right.

Second, it is my responsibility to get them to their respective schools on time. The mere notion of anything being on a schedule sends me into panic.

Third, I have to talk to people. What if I say the wrong thing and upset someone? What if everyone then turns against me? What if they think I look ridiculous/fat/odd? What if nobody talks to me – does that mean everyone hates me? I will spend the entire rest of the day replaying every interaction to make sure everyone still regards me in a positive way, because if they don’t, it is literally the end of the world.

Fourth, I’m giving my children over to the care of someone else for the day. The eggs are out of the nest. In my mind, anything can happen when the eggs are out of the nest!

Fourth, and worst of all, there’s the pavements. I am terrified of pavements. They can cause me to feel nausea, dizziness, and again, panic. Not only are my shoes touching the pavements, but my children’s shoes are too. And probably the hem of their trousers. And they’re then going to wear those trousers and shoes all day. And probably touch them with their hands. And their hands will then touch something else…

Just thinking about pavements makes me tearful, so I try to concentrate on something else, in order to avoid my worst fear of all – passing all these behaviours onto my children. Their willingness to get dirty, play in the mud, splash in puddles and just walk on random pavements without a second thought is inspirational to me, but I am also mindful of modelling behaviour – that children copy the behaviours of the adults around them.

The thing that compounds my hatred of the school run  – the real nail in the coffin – is the perception of others (and yes, I know I suffer from paranoia). We live about a mile from the Primary School. The Pre-school is on the way. We almost always drive to Primary School, then back to the Pre-school, and people make the assumption that it is because I am lazy. They make jokes about the fact that I usually drive to school – and are shocked and surprised when I walk.

I am not lazy. I would love to walk the school run.

The fact of the matter is that my car is essentially an extension of the safety bubble that is my home. When it takes so much energy and concentration to simply get out of the front door in the morning, I just don’t have it in me to deal with the pavements as well. I feel guilty driving – that it’s a great source of exercise for the children being missed, and that it’s not great for the environment - but I feel guilty when we occasionally walk too, because if I get stressed by the triggers I encounter, I begin to snap at the children.

So what is the point that I am trying to make? Leave your perceptions and assumptions at home. Appreciate that people are people, and they have reasons for their choices that you may not be privy to. When I drive my children to school, it is because I know that this concession to my illness gives me the space to be the mother that my children need.

Not the emotionally disturbed woman that is afraid of pavements.

Sarah Myles

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