I had never experienced anxiety attacks before, until I had kids.
I had experienced anxiety, but not the “attack” part.
First was the fear of balloons. Yep. You’re reading that right. I cannot handle inflating balloons, or already inflated ballons. The possibility of it popping just makes my skin crawl…
But the attacks…?
It started with a fear of the stomach flu. If you talk about throwing up, or mention that you had a stomach bug, or mention that you don’t feel good – I’m done. Game over. My brain can’t shut it out. If my kids go to bed saying they don’t feel good, I will sit in bed for the next five hours waiting for someone to throw up.
I don’t mind dealing with puking kids. But the thought that it could happen, somehow it gives me grief.
A little while back I was in a situation where my words got misinterpreted and then I was publicly hung out to dry by someone I trusted. It broke me. I sunk into a deep state of depression. I pulled back from the people and things I loved. I started binging on foods. I stopped exercising altogether.
And then the anxiety attacks started. But this time, there was no rhyme or reason.
It began with one or two, then it was daily. Then it was several times a day. Heart racing, this heaviness in my chest. I’d feel dizzy. My vision would tunnel. Nausea. It would even happen while I was driving. It was crippling…
After a few months of living with it I decided to see the doctor. And you know what she said? “The LAST thing I’d want to do would be to put you on medication …” She suggested Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, meditating, exercise, journaling – all completely natural things. Nothing that required meds. When I left the office, the attacks stopped. It’s like a needed the reassurance from a professional that I wasn’t broken. She told me, “We cannot erase stress from our lives. It’s always going to be there. But what we can control is how we react to it.” Those words changed my life. Nothing truer had ever been said to me.
Stress will exist. In our lives and our children’s lives. Was I ever taught how to manage it? Do we teach our kids how to manage it? No. Well, at least I haven’t been teaching my kids this. Something so simple, but so impactful.
I am cognitively trying to manage my own stress and help my kids do the same. I started exercising again, and eating better. Making sure I get enough sleep. Taking things off my plate. Learning how to say no. And as for my kids? I offer a little more compassion; when they get upset, why should I escalate it be getting even more upset? I speak calmer. When they start to get worked up about trying something new, I ask… “what’s the worst that could happen?”
The doctor was right. Stress is here to stay. But if we can manage it a little better, and in turn help the next generation to do the same… then maybe that’s my part to keep this world a little rosier for the next few decades to come.