I do everything possible to keep my kids healthy. They eat well. They drink plenty of water. I use essential oils. They take vitamins. We wash hands like crazy. However, none of that prevents against sickness. I honestly believe it helps keeps them healthier than a lot of kids, but, it's no guarantee. Logically, I know my kids will get sick. Logically, I know all kids get colds. Logically, I know all kids get the flu. Logically, I know a lot of kids get strep, etc, etc. Anxiety doesn't listen to logic. Every moment that my kids don't feel well feels like an eternity. I actually asked a friend today how she's able to stay so calm because I honestly just can't even handle it. The thing is, parents deal with it all the time. I just don't deal with it well. That's on me, and I know it. That's why I try to appear calm and not freak my kids out as much as I'm freaked out.
Last night, my kids got to not just witness an anxiety attack, but a full blown panic attack. Yes, they are different. A panic attack is triggered by an anxiety attack, but it manifests in more physical symptoms. Panic attacks hit when my anxiety is completely out of control and my stress is more than I can handle. For me, a panic attack feels like suffocating. Literally, suffocating. The first sign that I've had/am having a panic attack is that the necklace comes off. I can vividly remember my very first panic attack. I was a freshman in college. I couldn't breathe. I felt like I was being choked. I took off my necklace. That's always been my first step. Get things away from my throat. Next comes pulling on the collar of my shirt. Again, I have to get everything away from my throat. I had no idea what was going on the first time I had a panic attack. I honestly thought I was dying. It lasted almost a week. A week of feeling like things were choking me and cutting off all my oxygen. A week of gasping for breathe and not quite being able to get my lungs completely filled. A week of feeling like I would die at any moment from suffocating. It was so bad that my mom had to drive 3.5 hours to come get me and bring me home. That's when I was first diagnosed with anxiety. Last night just happened to be a panic attack night. Sunshine has a virus (she is not contagious, so don't worry if your children have been in contact with her...I have talked to the nurse several times and asked over and over), and it has pushed me over the edge. Last night, the world just stopped. I couldn't breathe. I had a minor panic attack several nights ago, so the necklace was already off, but I was still being choked (technically, I still am as I write this, but I'm much better and fighting through it). I was gasping for breathe. I was yanking on my shirt collar. My kids didn't even know what to do. Little Miss Sunshine just wanted to snuggle me, which just made it harder for me to breathe. My sweet Monster brought me a glass of water and rubbed my back, which felt like a ton of bricks weighing me down. Husband talked them through it. He explained that Mommy is very stressed and sometimes this happens. He kept them calm until I was finally able to get some air and stop hyperventilating. My kids have never seen this part of my anxiety. It scared them and there was absolutely nothing I could do.
Poor Sunshine felt as though the panic attack was all her fault. She kept apologizing for being so bad. Husband and I continually tried to reassure her it was not her fault. To a child though, when your mother can't even breathe and the only thing different is that you have a rash, you feel like you're the one who is doing it. I understand that and it breaks my heart. Parenting with anxiety is a constant struggle to not put your anxieties onto your children. You know how awful anxiety is and you don't want to see your children suffer the same way in which you're suffering. The trouble is, no matter how hard you try to hide it, it sneaks through. The kids see it and they feel as if it's their fault. All I'm able to do then is try to comfort them. Every day I tell them what good kids they are. Every day I tell them how very much they are loved. Every day I let them know we can get through anything as long as we stick together. Every day I tell my kids that I have faith in them and trust them. There is not much more I can do. I can't shield them from everything, no matter how much I would like to. I try to teach my children healthy ways to cope with stress, which, yes, I know is ironic, but I can try. My hope is that my kids begin to truly understand that my anxiety is not their fault. My hope is that they see me pushing through it and fighting know that I am not giving up. My hope is that they, too learn not to give up and to keep fighting.