I'm sitting in my health class, staring at my desk, listening to my teacher drone on and on about something health related that neither I nor he cares a lick about.
I have recently turned thirteen years old. My life up until this point has been easy; my family was tight, I had a happy childhood, and the worst problem I've known is being a poor, invisible nerd dressed in plaid jumpers my Grammy made for me, in a middle school full of Cavarrici's and Guess. I wear thick glasses, I have not yet figured out how to control my frizzy curls, and I have silver braces across my teeth.
But recently, there has been some sort of strange and unspoken upheaval in my life. My mother began losing weight, stopped doing anything, and just sits and looks miserable most of the time. I recently overheard a conversation between my Dad and his best friend, and I hear the word for the first time that will eventually become an ongoing theme in my life: depression.
I have just recently been informed, with almost no explanation, that my brother and I will be moving in with my grandparents. My grandmother will now take me to school everyday. I won't be seeing my mother for quite some time, because she needs a break to get better-from what, I'm still unsure of.
As I sit in health class, I feel what is now becoming a familiar squeeze in my stomach. I realize that I am going to be sick soon. I will the sickness to please, please just wait until the bell rings so that I can make it to the restroom without attracting any attention, but my stomach is stubborn and I realize that it won't wait. Why, WHY does my last name have to start with a D, which landed me in the front row of this and many other classes? Why can't I have a cool Polish last name that starts with a Z, like my friend Steven, and be in the back row every period? I am already ridiculously uncool. Now I must stand up and walk out of class, from the front row. Hopefully the teacher will realize what is happening, because he is an adult, and adults are supposed to understand us kids. I am a straight-A student, never uttered a word in class or put up any kind of trouble; he will know that if I am leaving, that I MUST leave, and he won't embarrass me further. I put all of my faith in this, and I rise to my feet.
The teacher stops teaching immediately, freezes mid-gesture, and everyone in the class has their eyes on me, including him.
I turn, and as calmly as I can, defy him anyways, walk through ten rows of desks, and once I reach the back of the room, look back at him. He is absolutely stupified and still frozen, mid-gesture. I don't think he even knows my name to call out to stop me. It is as if he and the entire classroom of 40ish kids have realized for the first time that I even exist, and why the hell is she leaving mid-lecture? Has this quiet, mousy girl been sitting here all along, planning a riot? Should we all follow her out of the classroom?
I then look directly at my teacher, hoping that by doing this I am blocking everyone else from seeing me, and put my hand up to my mouth. It finally dawns on him, and he finishes his sentence. I turn and race out of the classroom, mortified, and if for a second I thought I would make it to the bathroom, that chance is gone now.
I am running down the hall when it happens, sick all over my Grammy's plaid jumper. THIRTEEN! I scream at myself in my head. YOU ARE TOO OLD FOR THIS.
My mother picks me up from school, it is the first I've seen of her in several days. She is the same, maybe thinner even, and doesn't even seem to notice that I'm sick. We pick my brother up from school and she takes us to Arby's for dinner, even though I have just vomited at school. I try to fill her in on the mortification of my day, but I hold back almost all of it, because she already seems so fragile, and I don't want to make it worse by having her worry about me.
This pattern continues for six weeks or so. It's strange to only me that I can't seem to get rid of this stomach bug, because everyone else is so worried about my mom that I am the only one to notice that I'm sick just about every week. Not just my stomach, but fever and chills, and body aches.
Eventually, my mom's depression passes, and we move back home and life returns to semi-normal.
It is only when I am nearly thirty-two years old and writhing in stomach pain while my husband moves his things out that I realize that I have learned to internalize my stress to the point that it has no choice but to present itself physically.
It's like clockwork now. A situation presents itself that is so overwhelming that I just can't take it, and my stomach begins to cramp and feels like knives are penetrating it, and my body temp shoots up to 100 degrees. Every muscle in my body tenses up so that I am literally in a ball.
The past two weeks have been that kind of overwhelming. The child support issue seemed to compound upon itself and branch out into new and ridiculous shit storms that threatened pretty much everything and everyone that I love. The conflict that I despise so much has been a part of my every day. I tried to disappear into a ball in my bed, but then I remembered the story from earlier, and how my mother was so caught up in her depression that she couldn't even see me, just like everyone at school, and I hung onto my children for dear life....they would not suffer because I am suffering.
Today, at 5pm, my husband and I will drive together to my lawyer's office and sit across from my ex husband for a meeting. We will be telling him at this meeting exactly how much I will be filing for in child support-which is almost triple what he is currently paying me and double what he has offered. I haven't sat in a room with my ex husband since almost 3 years ago, when he sat across from me in my office and cried because he couldn't afford child support. I was weak then, and I agreed to the tiny amount, and two weeks later he afforded himself a week-long fun trip to NYC.
There is stress. So much stress. The stress of standing up for myself when I so prefer being invisible. The stress of wondering if this will cause him to alienate my children from me, considering the power I already see him with over my 13 year old son. The stress of wondering what- not if - but what he will do to retaliate; file for 50/50 custody? take us to court? tell every mutual friend of ours what a C word I am? put my children in a car and disappear with them? All of the above? The stress of possible conflict between my new husband and my ex husband; will my ex say something to upset my husband or vice versa, and a shouting match break out? So much resentment between the two of them on so many levels, will having them in the same room involved in the same discussion bring all of that to the surface, and what will the repercussions be?
I just want this meeting to be the end of this chapter in my life. I want the child support money for my children to have what they need from both me AND their father. I want to go back to not thinking about my ex except for when I'm forced to face him at soccer games and school events. I want the fevers and stomach pains to go away, and to get back to exercise and eating and life. I want to be able to concentrate on my children and give them the attention that they need. I want to stop feeling like I am getting divorced all over again.
Please, let this meeting be The End.