Oh man, where to even start? I guess they always say, At the beginning…so here’s how my life seemed to change in the blink of eye on January 24th. I know that sounds dramatic, but it was dramatic. So it’s totally called for.
So, January 24th.
It so happens it was my dad’s 70th birthday, but that’s neither here nor there. January 24th was the day we were scheduled for a 6am departure for a super amazing family vacation to Turks and Caicos. I’d been neurotically packing for weeks now. Every possible medicine was neatly packed in our toiletry bag. Each of W’s mix-and-match outfits were labeled, color-coded and vacuum sealed in plastic bags for easy retrieval. We’d managed to get everything we could possibly need into three bags…including our carry on. I was impressed. This was a packing job to be proud of. We were just hours away from hot sun..warm sandy beaches that stretched on for turquoise miles after turquoise miles…tropical drinks…and relaxation.
We were all in need of some relaxation, for sure. It has been the L.O.N.G.E.S.T winter evah and our vitamin D levels were depleting as was our patience for being stuck inside due to frigid temps. We needed this vacation.
And what we got was anything but a vacation.
It all started the night before we left. It’s not unusual for me to have trouble sleeping before a trip, or at all for that matter. But, usually I get a few hours at least and whatever, I make it work. Well, not this night. I couldn’t sleep and as the minutes ticked by, my heart started racing a bit more…and the possibility of a few hours of sleep were slipping away.
For anyone who has ever had an anxiety attack, you probably just read that and went, Yup. Been there before. Except I didn’t quite know that that was what was happening.
So, when the alarm went off at 4am it just about made my heart leap out of my chest as I shot out of bed and scrambled into the bathroom like a madwoman. I remember looking in the mirror and my eyes were that of some lunatic…big, dilated, puffy and darting around the room as I muttered about not getting any sleep. And a million other things.
I barely managed to get dressed. I couldn’t eat anything because I thought I was going to puke. My heart was still racing and my hands were shaking. I couldn’t even get W out of bed and dressed because I was so weak. I remember climbing up the stairs on my hands and knees and sitting at the top waiting for my husband to come out of the bedroom.
The look on his face was all it took for me to declare that something just wasn’t right. Something was happening to me.
Thankfully he was able to get W all ready and load our remaining gear into the car while I jus tried to get my shit together. Much easier said than done. I barely managed through security. I struggled as we waited to board…still unable to eat anything due to nausea. Like a zombie, I put one foot in front of the other and got into my seat. My husband, again, holding down the fort and schlepping W and all of our gear.
At that point I was starting to realize this was anxiety, but still hadn’t labeled it an anxiety attack. And I most certainly didn’t have any tools (medicinal or mental) to get me to a better space. So, I closed my eyes and just tried not to throw up. Or explode. Or have a heart attack. I knew I needed to eat, too, so I tried to choke down a banana I had in my carry on.
But it wasn’t happening. Two bites in and I turned to Jason and said, I’m really not doing well. I grabbed the air sickness bag and before I knew it I was waking up surrounded by concerned passengers, my husband and flight attendants.
I had passed out.
To make a long story short(er), my anxiety attack had peaked and I was starting to feel better. Weak and embarrassed. But better. An EMT had been sitting behind me and monitored my pulse while I was out and was telling the flight attendant that it was normalizing now and there was no need to make an emergency landing. But, of course, I had to be greeted by EMT and police upon exiting the plane. I got checked out and told I should probably go to the hospital. We pushed our connecting flight back and had a family meeting about what to do next.
Thankfully we’d purchased trip insurance, so we decided that whatever happened was pretty serious and that it could happen again on our next flight or on vacation or on the way home…and that it’d be best to go home and get it figured out.
We were bummed to say the least. And scared.
I was still feeling week and shaky but functional, and was able to get on our flight back home. It wasn’t until a few days later when I had another small anxiety attack in the waiting room of my doctor’s that things really went downhill. For the next two weeks I was pretty much a hot mess. I mean a non-functioning ball of constant anxiety who couldn’t eat. Couldn’t talk. Couldn’t shower. Couldn’t fucking function. It was terrible. I literally thought my life had changed forever and I was going to be someone who couldn’t leave the house. Who couldn’t care for their child. Whose marriage would end because of anxiety. Anxiety that I never knew I had until like forty-eight hours ago.
What. The. Fuck.
Thankfully I’ve got amazing family and friends who literally stayed with me 24 hours a day when my husband went back to work. Who did everything for W’s birthday party. Who recommended amazing therapists. Who told me I was OK when I started to get anxious. Who sent me inspirational cards. Who checked in with me when I needed it and gave me space when I needed it. With a little bit of Xanex to help me sleep for a few nights, weekly therapy sessions, multiple meditation session a day, Melody Beattie’s book A Journey to the Heart and some good ol’ fashioned time…I started to have more “good” minutes than bad ones. They built on each other…gaining positive momentum…and outweighing the negative momentum and negative spiraling that had consumed me just days – hours – before. Slowly but surely I could see glimmers of what life had been like a few weeks prior. Life that, at that point, seemed like years ago. Life that I honestly didn’t think I’d see again.
And W’s birthday party was another turning point.
I mean, I could barely shower and feed myself let alone host a party for 25 and be cheery, friendly and social. Gag. I knew that the show must go on, but I was dreading it. Family and close friends would be there. But they all knew. They were all supporting me. If I needed to leave I would. But I worked up the courage and confidence to take one step at a time and move through it, as my therapist says. The night before his party I took my last Xanax, and as the minutes passed during his party, I started to really feel like myself again. I could have a conversation. I could laugh. I could sing happy birthday and blow out candles with my son. I was proving to myself that I could do it.
But ohmyfuckinggod. That was the longest 14 days of my life.
I now see my therapist twice a month and haven’t had any other major events since this one. But, I’ve realized I’ve got a lot to work through and work out as I start reconciling the person I used to be with who I am now as a mother, a wife, a person. I’d spent so much time caring for and worrying about others that I’d missed a lot of signs that I was needing to take care of myself and unfortunately…or fortunately…this made that a necessity. Life is different now, and that’s OK, but I need to reflect and take steps to make it what I want. What I need.
So, there it is.
I’ve been avoiding writing this because talking about the event used to be a trigger. And, avoidance is – for anyone that’s been in therapy – the essence of B.A.D. So, the more I talk about it the less power it has…that’s what my therapist says. And I love my therapist. So I do what she says 🙂 Except for when I don’t. I still don’t like exercising for exercising’s sake.
Did I mention that we’ve booked another vacation and are giving it another go?! Yeah. Most definitely the subject of my next therapy session…
But, more to come about the ways I’m taking time to weave more “me” back into my life…personally and professionally for this SAHM!