When the Phone Rings

We are in an age where answering a phone call is becoming rare. Personally, I much prefer text messaging. My life is just too chaotic and busy and let’s be honest – I am lazy and don’t want to answer any phone calls.

With text messaging – I can respond on my own time. I can thoughtfully think out what I want to say and then erase it to say something better, or truthfully – less angry.

I write more thoughtfully than I speak. And unless I hit send – my words are erasable.

Let’s be honest again. We are personally in so much debt – collectors are calling my phone CONSTANTLY. I am ALMOST ready to face that obstacle. But not quite yet. It is at the top of my to-do list finally.

Thankfully – I can just hit the ignore call button and not lose any sweat over those calls anymore. I am currently in a constant state of stress regarding our debt so I am already numb from all the calls from collectors.

I may or may not be inadvertently not checking my voicemmail either, and therefore I might be missing actual important calls.

But I digress. Not what this post is about.

Now, I will answer my phone for my best friends, my husband, my family. Especially any call from my papa’s house – and I hit that answer button so hard I bend my fingertip back to my knuckle…

Sometimes I answer a call from the dr. That one is iffy. Depends on the dr. And if I am avoiding them because I cant afford the non life threatening but much needed medication.

I digress again.

There are two numbers that cause me to momentarily to forget how to breathe.

I see them flash on the screen and my heart rate rapidly increases faster than a hummingbird flaps its wings.

My palms become so slick from sweat, that I don’t realize until I hang up just how hard I was gripping the phone.

Before I even answer and say “Hello”, my mind innately and immediately ceases all extraneous distractions.

My ears dial in to the voice on the other line.

All else falls away. Nothing else matters in this moment than what I need to hear.

Now, let me just preface this by saying, the person on the other line, is one of only a handful of people I trust and can joke with. One of those people, we connect on this weird level that I find magical. They have seen me at my worse and know me at my best. They have seen my girls at the same.

I know that when they are calling, it is from a place of warmth and love. I know they care. I mean, they are paid to care. But I know deep down, they love our girls.

But I also know that they are calling because they are out of options. They need my help. They have no other choice.

Somewhere between seeing the kids’ school, flash abruptly on to my phone screen, and bringing the phone to my ear, I switch from working mom to crisis negotiator mom as quick as a goldfish keeps its memory.

As if my ears are satellite dishes that stumbled upon the strongest, most pure, signal – I am able to hear every little inflection.

Every slight undertone working overtime on covering the truth.

As the caller is trying to breathe deeply, attempting to remain calm in order to alleviate my stress, my mind races faster.

“Hello”….I hesitantly utter as I slowly answer the phone in order to form my composure. My heart is already beating faster than it should.

If the ladies at the school are calling me, it can only mean one thing… they are currently undergoing a high stress situation and need calm problem solving mom. Not the opposite.

“Yes Hi. This is X. Is this X?”….They reply with hope.

I take a deep breath. I might sigh a little too loud.

“Yes. What happened now?” I try to play it off as a half sarcastic joke, half serious. I immediately reply. There is no other reason for them to call.

Based on history….9.7 times out of 10….there is only 1 reason. Well 2. But mostly 1.

Before they can reply, I ask, knowing full well the answer, “Which child?”

I take a deep breath (even though, as I hang up the phone, it feels as if I held my breath the entire time).

History tells me which child. History floods my memories. I know where this is headed.

As they speak, I categorize their answers – “What happened?” “When?” “Where?”

I multi-task as their words are filtered to the appropriate columns. I end up with more questions than answers.

So I begin. Methodically. I have a method to my questions. To the caller – it may seem like rapid fire. To me – what they say, will tell me what direction needs to be taken in order to resolve the situation.

“Who was involved?”

“What led up to this event?”

“What have you tried?”

“What has not worked?”

“What hasn’t been attempted?”

We both pause.

“Ok.” “Um.” “Ok” “Yeah” “So…..” all words I utter to myself. Under my breath. But loud enough to cover what my inner voice is silently screaming “*!@# @&(!@# (!@#&!&!(@.”

I take a deep breath. I inhale to the count of 4.

1 Mississippi. Process the current known details of the unfolding situation.

1.5 Mississippi. Quickly run through any situations occurring elsewhere – i.e. missed medications, inability to sleep, weird food, tension in the house, change in weather, a new sniffle.

2 Mississippi. Run a mind search using critical keywords such as “did not want to go to music class.”

3 Mississippi. Find a similar past historical event. Play thru said memory to analyze what worked and what didn’t.

4 Mississippi. Run a quick risk and benefit analysis of each potential solution to see what would return the highest solution potential.

(Side note: No wonder it feels like I do not breathe after one of these calls. My breathing is full of rapidly moving parts and pure chaos.)

I exhale with a hesitant resolve. I can feel my own PTSD attempting to break through. But I cannot give it another thought right now. I tell her to hang on. That I have more pressing issues and she needs to wait her turn.

Yes. My PTSD goes by the pronouns she/her. If she is going to be a part of my life – I might as well personify her so we can better establish our relationship boundaries.

Moving on.

Words start spilling out of my mouth. Highlighted with a tone of exasperation. Overshadowing a fear of hopelessness. But marked with a tinge of hope at the end.

I run out of words. I have laid out all of my hypothetical ideas and theoretical scenarios. I have nothing left to give.

The caller musters the will to provide me with an upbeat “OK. Let’s try”.

We both know another phone call is coming.

But we end the conversation anyways.

I notice my heart is about to hitch a ride to the forest by itself. The amount of perspiration on my skin could be mistaken as a bobsled track on the opening night of the Olympic finals.

I cannot linger in this moment. My PTSD wants me to. She begs me to stay there for a minute longer. She wants me to drown in this moment. But I frantically tell her no. I have to figure out how to focus on work.

I have to get as much done. Before the next call comes. Because it will come.

I remind her that we can meet again if the next call that flashes up on caller ID is PRIVATE.

Because then we know it is serious. Because then we know, the situation has devolved to a circumstance that does not allow the caller to reach a school phone.

Because then we know. There is no returning to work.

Those 2 phone calls – make me jump. Every. Single. Time.

Why am I writing this now? Because I have PTSD that is related to having a chid with special needs.

Whenever the phone rings, I jump. I stat to involuntarily sweat and hold my breath. The severity of my PTSD depends on if it’s a call for one of my kids.

Whenever I take E in to a public place and she is not spot on in a good mood, I start to panic. I subconsciously find all of the exit routes. I focus harder on remotely potential triggers.

Because she will run.

I turn down playdates and the potential for fun activities. Especially if they are going to be in a place that is crowded.

I am tired of explaining to people why my kid, who looks neurotypical, cannot be compared or given consequences, like any other neurotypical child.

But I am also writing this today, because it is the end of the 3rd week of school. Day 14 has just been completed.

Up until day 13, yesterday, the school hadn’t called.

I have been holding my breath for 13 days. My child cannot possibly be doing this well. For this long.

I love her and want her to do better than I expect.

I have felt like this has been a giant dream. I am waiting for the bubble to burst, the other shoe to drop, the bliss to end. History has shown that this isnt my kid.

On the morning of day 13, that call finally came. Heart rate increased, breathing ceased, palms sweaty, ears dialed in, mind racing.

And guess what?

It wasnt about my child. My favorite office lady, for once, in 5 years, did not know why I called them back.

The school nurse just wanted to remind me that I needed to bring in more meds for the girls.

I have never been more relieved.

But, the physiological effects were already in progress. My PTSD, she was ready and waiting.

In my heart, I want to believe this year will be different.

In my soul, I need this year to be different.

But my head has reminded me I need to stay on guard.

And my gut has reminded me that it is not a good idea to get too comfortable.

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