We were driving home from a late night doctor’s appointment. It was raining and dark. There was traffic and your five year old brother was crying in the back seat.
Mom, do you know if….
Can you be quiet for Mommy, I need a minute.
But Mom I need to ask you something.
Not right now, I need just a minute of quiet.
But mom it is really important.
Okay just be quiet for a second so Mommy can think.
I only have one question Mom.
JUST SHUT UP FOR A MINUTE!
I told you mommy needed a minute but what I didn’t tell you is that mommy was having a panic attack. My brain was going 100 miles a minute with all the worries I had recently been filled with. I was overwhelmed and overstimulated. I couldn’t get away for a moment to collect myself. I was stuck in a car, in traffic with both boys needing me. And I couldn’t be there for them.
Worse, I screamed at them for needing me.
This was the peak of what I later realized was a 48 panic attack. Yes, you read that right. My panic attack lasted two days. For two days I couldn’t sleep or focus. I was irritable and emotional. I was having flashbacks of things I wish I could forget. I didn’t understand why I felt so tense. Life didn’t stop either. I still had to work and family to show up for. If you saw me on either of those days I probably didn’t look much different. I tried to maintain my composure.
This has been a common occurrence for me over the years. And I know where it started. This is a representation of my post-traumatic stress disorder.
When you suffer a tragic or extremely stressful event, your brain has a way of trying to compensate for the pain. After the death of my son, the only way to ease the pain was to stay busy. Keep my mind insanely busy that I didn’t have time to feel the pain. This was not the best choice for a coping mechanism but I felt like it was working.
Eventually the pain caught up with me.
I couldn’t hid behind a million things on my to do list. That is when the panic attacks started.
To those of you that have experienced panic attacks, I want you to know you’re not alone. And that it won’t last forever. It will feel like forever but once the fog lifts you will be able to see and breathe again. Once you come back, ask for help. Whether its professional help or just support from you family, ask for help. Having help and the right support will lessen the chance of these attacks again. When those thoughts are racing sometimes just talking them out can take away their power. You don’t need someone to “fix” things, you just need someone to listen.
A sounding board.
And the wonderful thing is we live in an era where you can have to listen at the click of a button. Between social groups, organizations, and help lines there is so much available if you need it. I won’t promise that you won’t ever have a panic attack again, especially if you have been through a trauma like mine. But I can promise that there are people who want to support you. I will support you.
About the Author:
Rachael Cyr is a regular contributor for Hip Lives- read more of her story here!