I was having a panic attack, something I hadn’t had in a while.
It’s hard to explain when a panic attack may occur, but the subtle signs start to appear. Everything seems a little too loud, a little too bright, a little too crowded.
That’s the thing about your mental health; it’s fine until it’s not.
It’s no secret that I suffer from anxiety, but for at least the last year or so, I’ve been able to keep it under control with the help of my therapist. And yet, every once in a while, a cloud forms, and I know it’s time. It’s frustrating enough to go through anxiety and panic attacks, but the worst part is when you’re a mom.
Without realizing it, I must have a specific look on my face when I’m feeling anxious because my seven-year-old will say, “Mom, are you mad, sad, or frustrated?” Now, this adorable phrase is not something we’ve said before in my house, so I can only imagine this is something her teacher has said at school to try to figure out why a student doesn’t seem quite themselves. And truthfully, it’s a good indication that I’m not holding it in as well as I should in front of my children.
But how do you tell your child that you feel like the world is spinning around you, or their touch (the very touch that melts your heart almost every hour of every day) makes your skin crawl, or their voice sounds like nails on a chalkboard? How everyday smells and sounds are so amplified when you’re in the middle of a panic attack that you can’t see straight.
You would never because they’re far too young to understand. And that, above all else, is why parenting while anxious is so hard. You still have to muster a smile on your face and a hug at bedtime when all you want is a cold, dark room and some quiet. I am thankful every day for a partner who sees the signs and suddenly decides that he needs some quality time at the park with the kids while I stay home and rest.
I’m in a much better place than I was eight years ago when I started therapy, but every so often, anxiety rears its ugly head, taking me away from my kids and my friends. All I can do is take time to care for myself, an almost unheard-of idea in parenthood but a necessity.
Shower, sleep, eat, and breathe, and know your kids are more resilient than you think, and a few hours of screentime, while you sit quietly and breathe, are ok.