Anxiety. Panic. Now what?

the 3

the 3

Well I have been thinking about this post for a long time.
I think it is like anything important, you have to be sure it is the right time.
You also should be sure you want to share it, keeping it inside is easier.

I’m still not sure. But I know writing is therapy for me and I know I am not the only one, so here goes.

I really believe that when you become a parent, you give birth to this anxiety balloon. It’s huge and full and it is a shock to the system and as the years pass it gets smaller. You get it under control, you learn how to handle it, how to cope- then something horrible happens.

Something horrible happened a couple years ago when I looked away while my daughter was in the pool. (If you haven’t read the story and want to, you can find it here.) It breaks my heart that I wrote that. Even now. Every few days/weeks it really just grabs me.

But that’s not it. That’s not the one horrible happening. No, sometimes there is more than one event. Sometimes life completely takes advantage of our strength. There’s more to my story and that is what breaks me sometimes. I think the accumulation of events is what takes me away from myself.

I want to talk about the accident. (If you haven’t heard, you can read about that here.)
So the accident, I believe, is what is sticking with me. I feel like I can’t shake this one. And although I didn’t “get over” Elvis’ drowning, I was able to overcome. I had to watch her take swim lessons- that shit was like real therapy for me. I sobbed at a few, I sat in the car in a few more. It just seems as though I can’t get a handle on this one and it is not for the lack of trying. I am desperate to get a hold of it, I hate fear.

Fear sucks. I am the type of person who wants to do things when they scare me. Fear doesn’t keep me from things… but now it does.

After the accident it was so fucking chaotic, our lives, that I had to go into this fight or flight mode. You all know it, we have all been there. Like things were so insane, I couldn’t just leave my three kids to fend for themselves (which means I am not a sociopath, good) but as the waves of insanity settled into just constant splashes of bullshit, I felt this feeling I never had before. I felt anxiety, like palpable. My heart will start to race, I have to breathe on purpose because if I don’t, I might be holding my breath and pass out. I feel this thing that I can’t describe, other than feels like the emotional equivalent of running through a plate glass window.

Full speed.

It finds me everywhere. Not just like when it started.
It started in Austin when we were driving on a highway near the house we rented and the road went way up on a curvy overpass, like a roller coaster. I nearly hit the brakes and refused to go up over it. It was so bizarre! I am not afraid of driving and after the accident I made myself drive! I refused to be afraid. I told myself that I would get back on the horse and not be like so many who let their fears dictate the future. I made my daughter get back in the pool, I was going to get back in the car. This wasn’t like that. I wasn’t afraid of driving. I was panicking over the edge of the road. The guardrail next to the frozen lake flashed in my head like a scene from Fifty Shades of Gray. Like it was intense and ugly (sorry, not my thing) and like the previews for that movie on my hotel TV, this will not go away.

After the panic attack (which may very well have been my first “real” one) I read all about it. I am a researcher, I wanted to know when and how it was going to come back. And like many of you know, that’s the fun part- it’s always a surprise. After a day or so, I just forgot about it, went about my business. That’s the thing- I am a completely normal individual. I wake up and do my thing, live my life like nothing is after me. Then it finds me.

I was at the park with all of the kids and for like a millisecond I couldn’t find the baby. I felt it come on. I somewhat recognized the feeling and tried to stop myself from breaking through the glass but I couldn’t. It all happens so fast, yet you feel like time stands still. I felt like I was stuck in that moment and I so very much wanted to meet it and send it far away from me, but I couldn’t. I just let it wash over me and before it had run it’s course, I saw him. His little blonde, curly head popping up over the steering wheel of the fire truck playscape. I can’t remember what I did, how I looked. I just tried to breathe and walk toward him. I felt lightheaded. I was dizzy, sweaty. I grabbed all the kids and we left. I probably took them to have ice cream- it seems to now coincide with a panic attack.

When does anxiety manifest into something else? Do I have to go completely to the dark side?

I had a dream the other night. It was a nightmare really and I hate to even write about it but I feel like it’s important because I can’t be the only one. In all of my years of being a Mom (almost 15!) I have never dreamed of anything terrible happening to them. Truth be told, I am not a dreamer. I don’t usually remember them- but this one I will never forget. We were packing up our car at a hotel and my oldest son followed the baby (which he does a lot) as he explored and somehow he climbed up on a guardrail and my son reached out to grabbed him and missed. He fell. In my dream I heard screams. I heard a gasp and my son scream “no!” (which echoed in my head all day) they were all the same screams and gasp and words that were spoken when we were in our accident. It’s like my brain recorded it. It’s gross and I wish I could get the spotless mind treatment.

It has been therapeutic to go swimming with my family (which they are doing right now) to get over the intense anxiety I have with the little kids around water but something tells me I might need more. I don’t know what the therapy for a car accident is. I don’t know if I have form of PTSD, panic attack, if I am just being crazy (going crazy?) or if what I am feeling is just anxiety. I am afraid to find out about myself because, like I said in the beginning, I am fine. I am okay and functioning but I can’t imagine living the rest of my life jumping through this plate glass window.

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4 comments on “Anxiety. Panic. Now what?”

  1. prewarbsa

    Panic attacks are a complete pain in the arse. I’ve worn them for about 15 years. All your symptoms like dizziness, sweating, holding your breath are all straight out of the panic attack handbook. PTSD and panic attacks work hand in hand. I’m a firefighter here in Melbourne, Australia. About 15 years ago I attended a triple fatality on a main freeway on an extremely hot day. We were there trying to cut the living and the dead out of the car (a truck ran over the top of it) for over 3 hours. As a direct result of that the next morning my poor old brain said “Balls to this. Here, have a panic attack”. It took me a long, long time to be diagnosed, which was the real killer. But you don’t have to go through that bollocks! The problem is you’ve had a panic attack and now your imaginitive brain is on the lookout for another one. So the slightest twitch resembling an attack sends it into panic mode…in other words, you end up panicking about having a panic attack. A vicious circle and as I say, a pain in the arse. If you can stand to do some reading, an Australian lass named Bev Aisbett who is a cartoonist wrote and illustrated 3 books about panic attacks which helped me beyond words. You don’t need medical terms and statistics, and these books have none of them. Just plain speak and understanding! Have a look if you fancy. You’re not nuts; you’re reacting to an event where you thought you were going to lose everything you love. If that’s not cause for PTSD and panic attacks I don’t know what is! Please let us know how you go! Much love, Matt

    • JD (yourmom206)

      Wow. This was amazing to read. Thank you. Sincerely. I’m going to check out Bev’s work.

  2. chrissiesharman

    Hey JD, hope you’re doing ok chick.
    Having just read this instalment, it really resonates with me and despite the topic, I love the way you have managed to describe the anxiety feelings to a tee. Naturally, I’m not the anxious type (I’m a glass half full kinda gal) so when it hit me, I didn’t know what the fuck was going on. I won’t go on about the trigger but I was convinced there was something really wrong with me, like I had physical pain, constant gagging and heaving (but not puking), really conscious of my breathing (as you said, it feels like you won’t breathe naturally), heart palpitations and I just felt totally detached from everything and everyone around me, like I was in a dream. When I look back now, it’s a total blur and I can’t quite remember the feelings, although I try not to dwell on it for fear of it returning.
    My doctor called it. She said it was typical anxiety and to have a dose of meds. I was reluctant as I really thought it was physical, but I gave in and it was the best thing I could have ever done. it’s not for everyone but I had paroxetine for about a year and I felt just like my old self again, something that I thought could never, ever happen.
    I’d say that from your description, it sounds like anxiety and panic attacks. For me, I’ve never fallen back into the hole since (and believe me, there has been PLENTY of opportunity).
    You’re not going crazy, your brain is trying to protect you from the dangers it perceives (whether real or not) so is preparing you for ‘fight or flight’ – I’m a researcher too. Also in my own personal experience, you don’t have to go over to the ‘dark side’ (if you mean depression?), but I think it could if you were that way inclined.
    From what I know of you, I don’t think you’re the kind of person that would lie down and let it take you over – you’ve got too much kick ass attitude and a zest for adventure. I hope I’m right!!
    It’s good that you’re writing, it means all your friends and followers (including those that you don’t know, like me) can all check in you from time to time and make sure you’re doing ok. It’s good to talk, so they say. Since my little meltdown, I’ve been amazed at how many people I know who have been through, or are going through different mental health blips, people just don’t talk about it enough, we think we’re on our own and nobody would understand.
    I know we don’t know each other personally but please feel free to drop me a line if you wanted to talk about any of it (you’ve got me stalking you on FB and IG) I know that I couldn’t possibly begin to understand the horror that you’ve recently experienced but I know very well some of the feelings that you’re having.
    Look after yourself JD, treat yourself to a massage and some quiet time if you can, it’ll do you good xx

    • JD (yourmom206)

      You are so sweet! Thank you. It is a real issue for so many, I knew that’s why it was “ok” to write about it. Take care of yourself too. Hopefully I’ll see you next year!

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