Ever had a panic attack? It's like being trapped in your own body with fear so heavy you can't move. Mine always start out with a tingling in my hands then blossoms to sweat and a crushing feeling in my chest. It's 0 to a 100, real fast. You feel as if you might die. In fact, in the midst of my most recent one, I asked my Mom aloud if she thought I might be dying. The worst thing about them is not knowing what will trigger one. It's another betrayal, this time of my mind.
I thought this might be a good time to share as my anxiety has been a bit heightened. The holiday season peaked and I should have known a panic attack was on the horizon.
Christmas yielded my worst panic attack to date. I awoke with an anxious sort of pain. I wanted to get the day over with, survive it so I could mark it off. Truthfully, it began Christmas Eve but I pushed forward and brushed it aside. I knew it was there as my jaw hurt from clenching it in an unnatural way.
While sitting with my family, Christmas morning, participating in our typical traditions I thought of my girl and the magnitude of her absence. In hindsight, the thought that really set me off was, this is permanent. She will never be at a Christmas. As it spiraled out of control, I thought about how I will feel this way for the rest of my life.
I realized that I had left my medication at home then, boom. Panic. I ran the gamit of techniques to calm myself until I ended up announcing I was having a full blown panic attack. I darted upstairs, got sick then hid in my Momma's bed with her or Beau stroking my back for the better part of an hour. I had to resort to my stand by medication, that my dear Beau had retrieved. As I settled, the embarrassment came. I cried aloud for my child and myself. I was fearful I had in fact ruined Christmas. But my strong, beautiful family handles things in stride and when I emerged, still on edge, they resumed Christmas without making it a big deal.
I'm a worrier by nature. It's a product of my love for order and control. My husband will gladly tell you allll about it. In an unconscious effort, I married one of the most free spirited, naturally happy men. Child loss results in complete and utter chaos which manifested itself in increased anxiety and the occasional panic attack.
I had my first one maybe three weeks after Piper's death at my in-laws, triggered by nothing more than leaving my house. Had another one about a week later, while attempting to go in to our local Walmart. Someone please make a joke about how Walmart incites panic in all of us. Getting in and out of my car three times before I sat there paralyzed for a solid 30 minutes. Yes, I've tried regular medication but couldn't manage the side effects. I have a small dose of medication I can take if I am able to identify a moment of anxiety. It mostly makes me feel better just carrying it around because the thing about panic attacks is, there is no set trigger. They don't happen as frequently as I widen my circle of comfort but they do happen.
Things I find helpful in the midst of an anxiety attack. I plan my escape route. And sometimes act on it, running out of stores and leaving a cart full of things. Im a big fan of getting outside when panic rears its ugly head. I've set a time trial record for sprinting out of the lunch room to cry in my office. Shortly after Thanksgiving, I had Beau pull over so I could pace the side of the road in an attempt to extinguish mounting panic. I excused myself and hunched on the porch for a minute during this most recent one.
I play worse case scenario. I hyperventilate and faint (hasn't happened). I threatened a nurse recently that if she shut the door on me I was going to pass out. Oh well, brain reset. I've laid on the floor and once in the grass. I figured it would cause less trauma fainting from there. I talk myself through them. I acknowledge the anxiety, tell my husband or some poor innocent by stander (nice nurse,sorry). I tell my counselor. Again, the call it like it is game. You name it then it has less power. Embracing it can help. Fighting is only seems to ecalate it for me.
I move. I run, straighten up the house, write, anything that redirects your mind. Similar to exercise, a transfer of energy. The thing that sets me off the most is when I let myself really dwell on the fact that her death is permanent, no one can fix it and nothing will change it. Yeah, sorry that's some heavy stuff right there. When it's too much to manage I hibernate for a bit.
I control what I can control. I don't manage large groups as well or as often. I get dodgy and fearful people are uncomfortable with my pain or the ugly cry. I sometimes avoid places that trigger anxiety. You can handle what you can handle that day. I still have to grocery shop but my neighborhood one brings about uneasy feelings so I go elsewhere. I changed doctors offices and gyms. Why not, still accomplishing same goals. There are no grief rules. No play book, unfortunately.
If you witness someone having a panic attack, ask them how you can help. Don't be offended if they prefer to be alone. Give them some space. I have posted a lot of raw feelings on this page and am not shy but this one is hard for me in a different way. It is embarrassing. It is embarrassing to lose control in such a manner. To have something that no one else can see, render you useless. If you came across me in person, you'd never guess I struggle with anxiety. I clean up well. I happily socialize and mange a career. thought I'd better share just in case you find me laying in the lawn somewhere.
It's me not you, carry on, I'll be OK. Probably should put this in writing for a few readers (not you Mom), not a doctor or even close. Personal accounts on my personal blog about living with anxiety.
Miss you extra, rest easy Piper Kai.
Full of Firsts, 6 Months
I stood in my kitchen today, coffee in hand and stared blankly at the calendar on the fridge. January 11, 2017. Six months. It's been six months since I've heard the words or rather saw the head nod between the midwife and the nurse confirming there was no heartbeat. I'm so sorry hun, is what I think she said as I began screaming, alone in a hospital bed with my 36 week belly. Six months since my daughter died. I wanted to cry, yell, scream and break things but I didn't. I stood there dressed for work in total shock.
I texted Beau, It's been six months...
Yes, it has.
How am I here? I used to keep a diligent mental tally. It's been a week, a month, ok now two months. Breathe. Now back to work. One week, two weeks. Brace yourself, here comes Christmas. It was a survival technique. Along the way I must have stopped but there it was today. Six. Months. That's half a year.
So when you reach the age of 30 (gulp nearly 31), you've mostly used up all of your firsts. Your first step, your first day of school, first love, first car, first job. Children grace us with a whole new privilege of experiencing firsts. But when your child dies, your entire life because a different brand of firsts.
This coffee is stale. Is the first average thought I had after Piper died. When the grips of grief let up only for a second, I thought of my expensive drive thru coffee. I had used it to bribe myself out of the house. I remember the first time I thought something was funny and wanted to tell someone. But was so distracted by the normalcy that accompanied the thought I've forgotten what is was. The first time I used an emoji. It was the red heart, sent to Jay.
The first time I went to the grocery store I required an escort to complete the task. I stumbled around the aisles of an unfamiliar grocery store because I was actively avoiding mine as to lessen the chances of human interaction. The first time I saw someone, called a friend, went to the gym. The first time I drove, was to therapy and I cried the whole way. I remember the first time my husband flirted with me and I looked at him like he'd lost his mind. Flirt? With me? After my kid died, get out of here. The first beer, the first dance, the first good belly laugh. The first day I didn't cry.
These firsts are my new path. Every time I do something for the first time, the next time is a little easier. Like the whole walking bit. A friend of mine told me over lunch, action precedes motivation. By going through the motions, you can gain strength and eventually joy. When you are in a sad fog, nothing and I mean nothing, beats your PJs and your couch. So getting out of your bed daily is an amazing feat. I congratulate myself if I've gotten up, showered and fed myself that day. Because winning. Anything else is a bonus.
Despite affirmations of strength and bravery, I am often on the edge of an emotional breakdown. Though warranted is not conducive to life.
We have survived six months of different kinds of firsts. I'm fast approaching my birthday and you know I thought I'd be a momma to a little blonde. 31, looks different. It's unfair and tragic. After I finish this tantrum and perhaps stomp my foot a bit, I'll go complete another first because my child died but I'm alive. Living is the choice so firsts are the answer.
Rest easy, Piper, my first born.