Mental Health

The Wave

Imagine you’re swimming in a beautiful blue ocean. The water is warm and clear, it’s calm and you’re feeling perfectly relaxed. Then, out of nowhere, on the horizon you see a giant wave forming. It’s coming straight for you, building and building in power and height as it comes towards you. You freeze with fear. You can’t outswim it, there’s nowhere to hide. The wave is coming, it knocks you over and you feel yourself taken under. You can’t reach the surface, can’t catch your breathe, you’re drowning…..That’s a bit like what it can feel like to have a panic attack.

I’ve never been a great swimmer, the sheer vastness of the ocean has always scared me a little (actually a lot). And big waves? Forget it! In the past, when I’ve felt a panic attack coming on, when I’ve felt that wave rising, I would turn around and swim away as fast as I possibly could. That is, I would get up and leave. Or I’d just avoid the ocean (aka- situation) all together. But lately? Well, I’m ever so slowly learning to ‘ride the wave’. I feel it coming, I feel the panic rising and I just let it come, I let the wave wash over me. Because here’s the thing, it will eventually pass, the wave does eventually receeed and go back out into the ocean. I might get momentarily swept up in it, but I will not drown, I will not die (even if it might feel that way sometimes!)

My closest friend once said something to me whilst I was mid panic attack meltdown and it has really stuck with me, she said “just remember, you know what this is. You know it’s a panic attack and you know it’s going to pass.” Sounds simple but mid panic attack you can loose all sight of rational thinking. So the other week when I was home alone with our son (hubby was away for work) and I woke in the middle of the night mid panic attack, heart thumping hard and fast, I just lay there and repeated what my friend had said to me in my head over and over again. I let the wave come and wash over me. It’s a  really uncomfortable feeling, to just let yourself succumb. It was scary but I did it and I’ve done it again since and I feel like the more I do it, the better I will get at it. Because pratice makes perfect right?

Have you ever experienced a panic attack? How would you describe the feeling? What techniques do you have for getting through them?

 

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The Anxious Mother

I work really hard not to let my anxiety affect our son. It’s not so much that I actively hide it from him, I don’t really believe in doing that (mental illness is not something to be ashamed of or something to be hidden) but he is only five, there are things he just doesn’t need to know yet, things that are too complex for him to understand. I don’t want to expose him to adult problems and I definitely don’t want to put my anxieties on him. I don’t ever want to be the type of mum that stops him from doing things he wants to do because of my own fears. And so, I might tell him I’m scared of doing something, like going on a fast ride or an aeroplane or going to the dentist but then I do it anyway. I hope by doing that I’m showing him it’s ok to be afraid and that sometimes we just need to face our fears and find out that it’s not so scary after all. But sometimes, I’m ashamed to say that my fears get the better of me, my mind takes over my body and I can’t…I just can’t face them those fears.

When he was a baby our son suffered from severe reflux. I’m not talking about a few baby spews after a feed, I’m talking non stop, clothes change inducing, full on vomiting. We were referred to the Royal Children’s Hospital when he was a few months old for some testing. One particular test involved him fasting for what ended up being nearly eight hours…this for a baby who was at that time feeding every three to four hours…well, you can probably imagine what that was like. By the time we got into the x-ray room our poor little man was over tired, starving and screaming. The doctors explained that we would need to hold him down and keep him as still as possible whilst the gave him a small amount of milk with a special dye mixed into it. It was important that he not drink too much, they would take it away, “he won’t be happy” they warned, then they would watch the milk flow through his body and take regular pictures on the x-ray machine as it made its way down. Because of the radiation from the machine hubby and I were required to heavy full lead vests. So, put an already anxious mum together with a hot room, lack of food and a lead vest that weighed a ton and bam, you’ve got yourself a full-blown panic attack. I could feel myself fading, I reached for a nearby chair because I felt like I was going to pass out. The doctors suggested that maybe I wait outside. I looked towards my husband and he nodded; assured me he’d be ok. A nurse escorted me out to a hospital bed where I laid down and she fed me sweet biscuits and cordial. I sat there and cried. I was so embarrassed. I felt like an absolute failure. I had crumbled in the moment when my child needed me the most.

For me, any type of medical environment; being in a hospital, dentist or doctors waiting room causes huge anxiety. Even if I’m only there for something as simple as a prescription refill, just being there or even thinking about being there is enough to make me anxious. I know now that this is due to PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) something which I am only now really coming to understand. So when our son needed to go into hospital for an operation at the age of two it was my husband who held him whilst him was put under. And just this week when our son had a bad fall which resulted in him losing half his front tooth it was my husband who took him to the dentist. And I hate that. Not that I hate my husband being there, my god I’m so grateful he was, that he is, but I hate myself for not being strong enough to be there for my son when he needs me the most. Because there is nowhere else that a mothers wants to be when her child is in trouble than by their side.

Last night I thanked my husband, as I often do, for being there when I couldn’t, for being the strong one when I can’t be. And I promised him and myself, as I often do, that I will continue to fight my anxiety and face my fears not only for myself but also for our son because the thing I am most afraid of all is letting him down.

Are you an anxious mother? Ever felt like you at letting your child down?

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Screw You Anxiety

 

anxiety, www.sarahdipity.com.auDuring my recent month long bloggy break I would often jot down my thoughts and other post ideas. Some days, the urge to just ‘write it out’ would become so strong that I would reach for my phone and type out a whole post in my notes. This is one of those posts. I deliberated about sharing it, because I’m in a different mind frame today than what I was that day. But then I decided it was important to share it, because it was how I was feeling on that particular day and I really need to acknowledge that. So here goes…

If you know me or have read this blog before you will probably know that I have suffered from anxiety and panic attacks for many, many years. It’s a part of my life that unfortunately I have come to accept. Most of the time I deal with it fine, I have lots of strategies and supportive people around me to help out. But sometimes, I just get a little sick of it all and right now is one of those times. You see, living with anxiety can be really exhausting. Constantly over thinking things, questioning myself, trying to predict and control everything; its exhausting. And so today, if it’s ok with you, I’m just going to have a little ranty rant about anxiety.

I’m very self aware. I know why I suffer from anxiety, I understand the triggers behind my panic attacks. I’ve researched and read books and joined forums and taken medication and sought counselling and delved into my childhood and all the major life events that have helped shape who I am today. Sure, I understand why it happens but it still doesn’t stop it from happening. I understand that I am not going to die from a panic attack but that doesn’t stop me feeling like I am. I understand that when I have a panic attack it is just my body going instinctively going into flight or fight mode; a thing us humans have been using since the dawn of time to protect ourselves. It helps to prepare our bodies physically to either stay and fight or run for our lives. But seriously, I’m not a bloody cave woman out hunting and being confronted by a lion; I’m just trying to do the shopping at my local supermarket!

I know many people think that having a mental illness is a sign of weakness, I feel that way sometimes too, but in reality the reverse is true; you have to be a super strong person to face anxiety everyday. Sometimes I get sick of having to be brave. Have I not already proven how brave I am? Have I not already proven that I’m stronger than you? That I will go out, go shopping, meet new people, jump on a plane, travel and go to new places in spite of you. Have I not faced you and stood up to you and beaten you a million times? So why oh why do you keep coming back…yes I know, it’s totally a rhetorical question. But how nice it would be to go to a new place or event without spending the whole day feeling sick and planning my exit strategy and then  maybe cancelling last minute because it all gets too much.

And here’s the thing; I’m one of the lucky ones, I know I am. Because I still manage to function. I manage to hold down a job, look after our son, have a happy marriage, socialise with friends; I do all that in spite of my anxieties. I know others who can’t, I know others who are too scared to even leave their own house (I know because I’ve been there myself) and for that I say screw you anxiety. Just screw you.

If you suffer from anxiety can you relate? Do you sometimes just feel like saying a big ‘screw you’ to anxiety? Get it all out in the comments below…trust me, it’ll make you feel much better!

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