Can I offer you some syrup to go with your tears?
This morning got off to a rocky start. It was a long weekend off, and everyone was moving slower than usual.
The only thing that’s worse than a Monday, is a Tuesday after a Monday off.
My daughter was sitting at the table, her tears dripping onto her eggo waffle (Mom of the year breakfast special).
- She has an oral presentation today and doesn’t want to talk in front of the class.
- And no one is even on the bus in the morning on Tuesdays, so she’ll have no one to talk to.
- And she might miss me.
- And Wednesday she has to stay after school.
- And then there is Thursday. She just hates Thursdays… there is too much going on Thursdays.
- And then….
No and then.
You see the pattern here?
It’s all too familiar to me. Because this is what I do.
I start with one problem, and then I catastrophize everything else until Kingdom Come, because why not worry about everything that might happen for the rest of my life? Seems like we should get that off the to-do list as early in the morning as possible, no?
Last week when we were on vacation, she had a similar meltdown. Only that time, it was about vomiting. (Hope you weren’t enjoying a meal. Might want to pause that for a paragraph.)
My son had woken up in the middle of the night and she called out to me that he was choking, and couldn’t breathe. Turns out he was attempting to not throw up all over the bed that they were sharing (how sweet?!).
I got him up and ran him to the bathroom, and some of the vomit made it to the toilet. We cleaned him up and he was back to sleep fifteen minutes later. Snug as a bug, dreaming the night away. Not a worry in the world.
Thank goodness that it was such a quick turnaround! I would be able to get right back to bed!
I spent the next five hours talking my daughter down from panic. I got a few cat naps here and there, but shut eye was limited.
- What if she vomited?
- What if it happened at the breakfast table?
- What if it was on the bus?
- What if it happened on the obstacle course they played on?
The next day she wouldn’t eat. She retreated. She sat on the sidelines and was miserable for hours. My son. He ran around like g-damn maniac.
How is it possible that these two children came out of me?
I’m not proud to say this, but here’s the truth. My first reaction to her was frustration. Followed by impatience, and even anger.
STOP DOING THIS! YOU ARE FINE! YOU AREN’T EVEN SICK! NOTHING IS GOING ON HERE FOR YOU TO BE THIS UPSET ABOUT!
Why was I getting so worked up over this? Why was this triggering me? Why wasn’t I acting as a loving mother, offering my support? I’m not asking these questions in a judgmental way. I’m really trying to figure it out. Because if anyone understands anxiety and panic, it’s me.
I realized why her meltdowns started causing my meltdowns. I love it when I can put the pieces together. I just needed to take a little step back, remove myself, and see it.
Ahhhh. Yes. There it is.
The anxiety my daughter is experiencing is on the up-and-up lately. She is only nine. Guess who else started experiencing panic, around the same time??
It’s me. Hi again.
The first time I had a panic attack I was in the third grade. My “friend” had stolen my diary and was threatening to read it to everyone at recess. She gave it back at some point. But I made sure to rip it to shreds.
[I have a gap in my journals from 3rd to 6th grade. After that happened, I would destroy my writing. I really regret this.]
At the same time, my class was working on a school play, and I had a speaking role. When I first got it, I was ecstatic. I learned my part. I practiced every day. I was going to be great!
Until I wasn’t.
- I’m not doing this in front of anyone.
- They’ll laugh at me.
- They’ll think I’m awful.
- Everyone is going to be staring at me.
- …. I’m out.
I didn’t go to school for nearly a week. I stayed out until I knew I would officially miss the play, and my understudy would have to fill in for me.
“Mama, this spaghetti is delicious!”
My five words of fame, down the tube.
Every day my mother would try to get me to go to school. I made myself physically sick. I was nauseous. I was going to throw up. I refused to move from my bed, except to go to the couch. Besides the nausea, I would have bouts of hyperventilation. My heart was beating out of my chest, and I couldn’t breathe.
I was fucking nine years old! How does this happen?
Every time there was something that I didn’t want to face, I pulled the sick card. And my mother didn’t know what to do. So, she let me stay home. She finally hit a wall and took me to the doctor. Not a therapist. Just a regular ol’ doc.
And thank the good Lord! A diagnosis was made!
EXERCISE INDUCED ASTHMA.
Yes! The child that doesn’t do anything physical who has been lying in bed and on the couch all week surely is short of breath on account of all of that exercise!
[Perhaps they need to reevaluate those med school entry exams?]
They prescribed me an inhaler and I was on my way.
That inhaler turned out to be my lifeline for the next few years. Every time I had a panic attack… ahem, sorry… my exercise induced asthma kicked in, I would take a puff. It was probably a combo of it opening up my airways along with the placebo effect, but it calmed me down nonetheless.
I could breathe. I wasn’t dying.
[Maybe I should get another inhaler? Sorry, off track.]
When I was young, (kids walked to school, uphill both ways, in the snow…) kids didn’t have anxiety. No one talked about panic attacks. It wasn’t even on the radar. It’s no one’s intended fault, but it was missed. And years and years of undiagnosed mental dysfunction finally caught up to me at thirty-years-old.
A mom for the first time, making a fairly courageous dive into a new full-time career, along with a per diem side gig, all while going back to school for a doctorate. Nothing to see here.
It’s clear in hindsight that I had bitten off more than I could chew, and my body (mostly my brain) had quite enough of this shit.
Now it’s over eight years later and I have the audacity to lose my patience when my daughter is dealing with the exact same emotions as I had at her age. Here presents an opportunity to reroute. To not travel the same road as my mother had. Because we saw where that led (…right into a yellow-brick wall).
But I’ll ask myself again.
Why is this triggering me? Why am I angry instead of empathetic?
I can tell you why, mostly because I’ve had it in the think tank for the last two weeks after the vomit episode.
- What if my daughter becomes me?
- What if she has to face the same mental health struggles that I’ve had?
- What if she can’t overcome them? I almost didn’t.
… No and then …
My knee-jerk reaction —
STOP CRYING. NOTHING IS WRONG. KEEP GOING.
Because this is what I hear in my head. When I can’t give myself the love and support. When I have no patience left.
But I can stop it.
I am educated now. There are ways to cope. There are ways to rewire the mind. If I can help her at this stage, imagine how much better off she will be when she is a mother, and her daughter is crying over her eggo waffles?
I hope I can pull through for her.
I hope I can pull through for me.