How The School Run Nearly Broke Me
The traumatic events of ten years ago or so can be attributed as the initial cause of my depression. The evidence of this is blatant. However depression has a tendency to shift and evolve or mutate sometimes with no help at all and sometimes as the result of outside influences
Where my depression is at these days has been greatly influenced by the daily trials I have struggled with since we moved house 5 years ago. Whilst the move was largely for the better, there have been many difficulties that were totally unexpected and I was not prepared for. A major player in this was the school run for my sons new school that turned out to be gruelling beyond anything I could have anticipated
Before I continue you need to first understand that Depression greatly impacts your ability to cope with every day trials and lowers your resilience. As Depression was very much present for some time I found this significantly more difficult to cope with than I would have if my mental health had been sturdier.
Stress is subjective too
Approx 45minutes from the house to the school in the morning, and part of the journey on a bus busy with teens with little to no regard for those around them which meant pushing my way on with a pushchair. First thing each and every morning this was a hugely stressful.
The lengthy school run meant dragging my baby from her bed each morning before she’d naturally wake, which meant she lacked sufficient sleep. She would always resist sleep until she physically couldn’t anymore and so she wouldn’t just drift back off once in the pushchair. It meant she was exhausted and her temperament was of course affected. So was her health as she became run down when fatigued. My heart broke for her daily. I loathed having to wake her. Hello, guilt!
The run involved a walk up and down knackering steep hills with a pushchair. I did not know the area. For many months I thought the only bus that came near the school was one due every 30mins. Sometimes the one due would not arrive and, unable to bare the walk back up the hills, I’d end up waiting an hour to go back home the round about way after dropping my son off. In the winter I froze and although my baby daughter never seemed overly bothered by this, remarkably, and was positively angelic given the circumstance I felt horribly guilty to have her out waiting in the cold (though granted bundled up in snowsuits and blankets and cosy toes galore like babies generally are. Chances are she was probably too hot!)
In the afternoons, this journey could at times take up to two hours pending on various factors. Then there was my attempts at providing my son with an extra curricular education. Using public transport with a baby en tow to travel the borough to take him to various classes at peak times was very very stressful for us all. There was an incident one evening when a bus driver had a row with a passenger and refused to drive any further. There was a massive crowd, I’d carried my heavy toddler far and was exhausted and drained. It was 7pm. I’d left the house at 2:30pm. I burst in to tears and began sobbing like a child
“I just want to go home. why is it so hard?!?!?”
A great deal of mental strain was caused by being so heavily reliant on public transport. These days, I actively avoid any potentially stressful journey by taking taxis often, if I feel the journey will be too much. It’s an act of self preservation
The stress of the school run affected all of us. My daughter became difficult and agitated during the hours of pick up from the moment I prepared to leave the house like she sensed what was coming. Tantruming inconsolably in public much to my humiliation, frustration and distress. Born strong willed, independent and high spirited, when she began to walk she’d climb out of the pushchair and run away through the playground every afternoon, earning me sniggers from school staff as well as parents when I was seen to run frantically after her calling her name. If I forced her to stay in the pushchair she’d scream and become extremely distressed. I was damned either way. It was a daily humiliation. I was angry, frustrated, resentful, despairing. And guilt. Guilt a constant presence. When she got older still she’d insist on walking as much as possible. Rejecting the pushchair, harness and often my hand (loudly and shrilly). Fearless and cheeky she entered a phase of bolting towards the road whenever the opportunity arose causing me to shriek after her to stop and others to give me looks of judgment and scorn. The spike of fear and panic, the rush of adrenaline as I’d bolt after her to snatch her back from the curb by a hairs breadth was so terribly draining. The looks and mutters humiliating, once again. To top it all, that terrible terrible guilt. Guilt for the fact that as a second child she was forced to embark on things such as the school run and be subjected to such stress. Feelings of failure because I couldn’t figure out how to avoid all this
My son became sensitive and prickly, agitated and complaining. Tired. By his junior years you could see on his face how the afternoons school run would wipe him out. Combined with his general unhappiness at school (the bullying and struggles he faced at school also impacted my mental health greatly, as one might expect) he became less able to cope with things such as homework. By year 5, every morning we were subjected to a half hour tantrum from him shouting and screaming he didn’t want to go. As his mother this was Upsetting, frustrating and guilt enducing(Thankfully now he’s changed schools he’s much happier and no longer does this)
There came months where I would get home from the afternoon run and simply could not function. The stress of the school run exhausted me mentally and physically . Swiftly my mental health morphed and deteriorated. My legs burnt hot and aching every evening. As soon as S would come home I’d retreat with tea to my bed. I was greatly fatigued. There was a time I’d be asleep by 8pm, whether I wanted to or not. I was too exhausted to keep my eyes open. And oh how my legs burnt!!
There also came a phase where I’d sob every morning because I couldn’t bare to face another day of it. Not just the school at this point but I couldn’t bare to face the outside world at all. Interactions with people; the second I step out my door. The surly bus drivers. The nosy strangers. Interfering old women and just moronic randoms. I couldn’t bare any of it. The cruelty, the pettiness, the selfishness, the stupidity and the stress. Getting out of bed in the morning went from a psychological agony to a physical agony too. My whole body heavy, aching, hot. A dead weight. One morning I was nearly hysterical and I begged and pleaded S
“Please don’t make me I can’t take it anymore!!!”
There was nothing he could do of course
There was one week where eldest missed school because I simply could not continue. I try not to feel guilty over this though I was deeply ashamed at the time. It was an act of self care. I was deteriorating. The rest made me better able to cope the following week and a better parent. The children were better for the reprieve from stress too.
Truth be told, I do not know how I managed to leave my bed at all during that time. I have not yet been in a place where I have trapped by my bed for days like so many with mental health conditions but I recall vividly how unbearable and impossible it felt. How agonising. How torturous. And I think I can understand a little the struggle of those who often find they can’t at all.
Learning to drive would have made all this much easier of course, and I kept swearing I would learn, except I never did. Depression often makes even the smallest task seem like a gigantic effort. Something so huge as learning to drive, just sort of, froze me in place. There were many factors. First, the photo required for the liscence. Can’t wear sunglasses in a liscence photo sadly! Then the whole process. Form filling, sending documents, taking photos, paying fees, dealing with bureaucrat…..the whole thing seemed made up of so very many steps. And that’s before you even find an instructor or touch a steering wheel!
For four years, taking my son to school was a twice daily ordeal, the strain of which took a tremendous toll on my mental health as well as the family as a whole. It affected all of us, in all areas in ways that wouldn’t even occur to me until it happened. And I will feel a deep deep sadness and guilt for that time for the rest of my days I fear
Now it’s over and we’re here on the other side of it I feel slightly shellshocked. I’m stunned. I feel as if I completed some god awful prolonged test of endurance. But oh, the relief now it’s no longer apart of our lives!!!! The absence of that great weight!! We are all so much healthier and happier for it
I never would have believed how damaging a school run could be until our experiences with my sons school. I never would have guessed the impact it would have on my family nor the toll it would take on my mental health. So I do understand if what I described here seems like a tremendous exaggeration to you. But as I am the one who has gone through this, as me, with my capabilities, limitations perceptions and neurosis then do trust me when I say that I do not exaggerate in the slightest