Until today, it had been a couple of years since I’d had a full blown panic attack. I used to get them a lot when Oliver was little. Back then the stress was just too great and my mind was constantly running wild. But lately I’ve felt strength and calm and relative stability (my husband would laugh at this one!) come into my life, so today’s episode really caught me off guard.
The last couple nights have been awful with Oliver. He’s been up for hours starting at about 1AM screaming in terror… or pain… or both. I try everything but nothing seems to ease his suffering. So in the end I just give him more drugs… It’s the only thing that allows us both to rest. But then the next morning he is weak and lethargic and he seems absent, like he’s not even in his body.
But I sent him off to school this morning despite his sleepiness. His aid called me soon after they left to tell me that his mouth was twitching (something he hadn’t seen in quite a while) and that his hands were clammy. Along with dehydration from the sudden summery weather, lack of sleep and these warning signs I spent the rest of the morning bracing myself for a seizure.
He made it home from school just fine and I loaded him up for the 45-minute drive to his therapy at Napa. As soon as I got on the freeway he started screaming as if someone were stabbing him. The tone of the cry is one of sheer terror and it always rips straight through my nervous system.
For the first year and a half of his life he would scream like this every time I put him in the car. At that time he would foam at the mouth, choke on his saliva and vomit on himself. The only way I could get through a drive was to call my poor mother and subject her to the torture alongside me. I suppose misery loves company. Lol Sorry Mom ;(
So today when he started that scream, it sent everything in me flashing back to those early days from hell. Twenty minutes into my drive I knew I couldn’t make it. I wasn’t going to be able to force him to sit in that car seat for almost 2 hours there and back, knowing full well that he wouldn’t even be strong enough today to participate in his therapy. So I called Napa and barely choked back my tears long enough to cancel the appointment. I turned around and drove as fast as humanly possible home, reassuring him the whole way that we were almost there… Reassuring myself that we were almost there.
When we finally got back home I jumped out of the car and fumbled with the belts of his car seat. I could feel that heavy feeling starting to set in to my chest. Tears burned at my eyes and that suffocating feeling of my throat closing up overtook me.
I tried to control my mind. I tried to reassure myself that his clammy hands and his spasms and his screaming didn’t necessarily mean a trip to the hospital. But as I said that to myself, a vivid flashback of my baby being resuscitated after too much Ativan during his last seizure hospitalization arose and forced its way into my mind.
His screaming continued and I held his hands and begged him to stop for both of us. I practically threw both boys into the double stroller and ran like a bat out of hell down my driveway. I stopped about a block later, took a sharp turn into an alley and started sobbing.
I knelt down and tried to catch my breath… Slow my breathing. I remembered an exercise my therapist taught me all of those years ago. Name five things that you see. Name 5 things you hear. Name 5 things you smell.. And so on. Eventually the suffocating feeling let up a bit and I felt the tingling of hyperventilation take over my face. The tears kept falling.
No matter how much meditation I’ve done. No matter how many yoga classes I’ve taken. No matter how many times I think I’ve let go of the trauma, sometimes these memories just take over. And even though I know that they are just thoughts and experiences that have created imprints in my nervous system, I still struggle to use my rational mind in moments like these.
At first a sense of massive failure came up. I felt disappointed that after so long, one of these had somehow gotten control of me. I shook my head and felt defeated once again. And then I recognized it. This was a prime example of the self-destructive judgmental attitude from which I’ve been working so hard to be free. I reminded myself that this experience is simply a part of my journey, a stepping-stone towards consciousness. And just like we won’t let CP stop Oliver’s enjoyment of life, I won’t let past trauma stop mine.
So although for a small part of today I felt scared and weak and terrified and helpless, this isn’t the theme of my life anymore and I am unbelievably thankful for that.
After I felt calm enough to continue, I stood up, brushed off the dirt from my knees and kept walking. I called my mom. She reassured me and supported me in the loving way she always does. And I spent the next 2 hours taking in the abundant beauty of our neighborhood this time of year. My senses became saturated with the fragrance of roses and orange blossoms and the vibrant hues all around me. The temperature was perfect and the sky was blue. And our stop for taro ice cream was pretty great too.
I’m counting today as a success. ❤