Pressing the panic button

Charlotte’s first birthday. “Aw, c’mon mom! Don’t worry, be happy.”

The first time I had a panic attack, I was on the GO train, heading to pick up Charlotte from daycare. She was about 1 1/2 years old and I had been back to work for a few months; I was going in to work early (catching the bus at 6:40) and leaving by 4:00 pm so I could pick her up by 6:00 p.m. Most days went fine, but sometimes the train was delayed — and I lived in a perpetual state of panic about what would happen if I couldn’t pick her up on time. What if I was late? The daycare’s policy was to charge $8 a minute for the first few minutes and then call the Children’s Aid after a while ( I can’t remember particulars because it was a long time ago). Would that make me a horrible mother?

I was used to being able to control everything in my life, but the train was out of my control. And that made me panic.

So, while I sat on the train I tried to use my time wisely and made lists  of all the things I had to do. Lists upon lists upon lists upon lists.

I was trying to work just as hard and as well as I did before I had Charlotte. And I was trying to be just as attentive and involved with Charlotte as I had been when I was home with her 24/7. I was trying to figure out how to fit everything into my day, and not doing anything very well.

So day after day I would worry about how to do it all… failure wasn’t something I was willing to accept, so I pushed myself to figure out a way. But sometimes there was no way, and as soon that realization would cross my mind, my heart would race, my face would tingle and I would taste that weird metallic taste in my mouth. I would get hot and my pregnant belly (Carson was on the way) would start to make my back ache. And then I’d become very aware that I was trapped on the train. There was no way out, and my baby was waiting! Panic. Day after day.

Remembering that feeling is what motivates me to take care of myself and keep well. I don’t ever want to feel that anxious again.

But sometimes, on bad days, it comes back. Usually it’s when my sleep has been disturbed, or my routine shifted and my defences go down. If I don’t have my regular stress relievers available (such as going to Chapters for an hour or going for a run) I can’t always keep my moodiness and anxiety at bay.

Why bring this up? Well, lately, they’ve been creeping back. My anxiety is not anywhere near as bad as it was, I think I have a much better support network than I did in those dark days on the GO train, but last week when we were on vacation, I got that familiar dreadful feeling. I was tired, I was cranky and so were my kids — the perfect recipe for hot heads and pent-up emotions. The perfect recipe for panic.

With all the changes going on right now, I need to figure  a way to remove myself from the panic — when there is no way to remove myself from the situation. When I’m home and able I know what to do, but what can I do when I’m trapped in a hotel room with three fighting children?

Suggestions please!