I have to start off by saying, I have no idea where this post is headed. Today is full of a mixed up bunch of emotions and I just need a way to get it out. My apologies if the chaos in these words doesn’t make a lick of sense.
I have a reputation for being a pretty open and honest person. While I can be reserved in the right crowd I still don’t hide much. I am who I am and that is that. It’s pretty simple. There are however two areas of my being/self that I have trouble opening up about. The way my brain processes grief and my panic disorder.
It’s not a coincidence either that both of them are difficult to talk about. In many ways, the two (for me) are connected. If you would ask my mom about why and when my panic disorder even started, she would tell you it was after the death of two family members in close succession (though I do not believe this is true, it was shortly before that). If you asked my father, he would probably tell you that it was when my brain cognitively understood that my grandparents would someday pass (when I had my first panic attack, they were babysitting).
While I don’t believe either ones reasoning is true, I do think they have valid reasons for thinking so. After years on and off of therapy, hypnosis, analysis and meditation it is clear that something about the birth/death cycle and the finality of death is really the closest guess to the initial trigger I am going to get to.
It’s no wonder then that since my panic episodes started they are always worse around this time of year. To a small child in a Christian household, of course Easter was a pretty big thing. It’s all about Death…. well and re-birth, but DEATH. The end. The unknown. The uncontrollable. I guess this should have been a first sign to my father that I was a big fat skeptic on everything ‘eternal life’.
I’ve come along way, to say the least. Through my adolescence my panic disorder played a huge role in almost every day life whether experiencing an attack that would send me shooting into the arms of a loved one, spending the whole night afterwards being calmed down or recuperating the next day so exhausted that even forming words was almost impossible for my brain.
It’s rare now that my brain can actually convince my body to actually get up and run. It’s virtually non existent that I NEED someone to talk me down. Over the years I’ve done pretty well covering it up, not letting the anxiety of another attack rule over my life and I even go days, weeks, months at a time without an episode. Except for around this time every year and it’s only been getting worse.
Three years ago on April 12th my family suffered a loss. My cousin Alex died at age 22. A year or so earlier he had been diagnosed with Wolff Parkinson White syndrome. While for many people it causes relatively little complication, in very rare cases it can cause sudden death.
I mentioned in an earlier post that three years ago last week my water broke spontaneously at 34 weeks pregnant. I got the news about my cousin while in labor after frantically calling my dad dozens of times and him not answering. We had made plans that him and his wife would watch the older two while we were in the hospital. When we had not heard from him, we had to make the drive to Mr. Mango’s mother’s place out of town to drop them off. I was furious.
Just as we neared her house my phone rang. I answered. I could hear my dads voice wavering trying to form words. “We lost Alex, I was identifying the body.” Was all he could get out before bursting into tears. I was at a loss. At this point he started to ramble on about how sorry he was and how he didn’t even think he should have called and said anything. I honestly couldn’t hear it.
I broke down. I didn’t even go inside while dropping off the kids. I was already juiced up on hormones, worried about labor and the NICU, this must be some cruel joke right? Honestly, I thought I must be having a nightmare. *PINCH*
My labor stalled for almost 8 hours I didn’t have another contraction. We went home, I had a shower. In the morning as the contractions came back, we headed to the hospital for the birth of our son. I was calm (other than, ya know, being in labor). We didn’t talk about it, we didn’t think about it. We concentrated on bringing new life into this world.
Since this date 3 years ago, I have had a very hard time at the start of April. I think a mix between not having time to grieve, feeling guilty for not grieving ‘properly’ at the time and life’s cruel joke of putting death and birth so close together is to blame.
I miss my cousin. I feel guilty for trying to push the feelings of grief aside.
I love my son. I feel guilty for feeling sad, anxious and grief-stricken when most parents would be easily able to concentrate on celebrating.
The mix of it all is absolutely a recipe for disaster.
This year it is worse than ever. In our years together Mr. Mango has never witnessed my panic attacks in full, till now. They are usually well enough controlled that either I manage to be in private before they happen or the physical ‘look’ of them could easily be mistaken for a chill or flinch.
While I still am not running or screaming in momentary agony, I am unable to keep them quiet and still completely. They also are lasting longer and the ripples of emotional pain afterwards are just as bad, if not worse than when I was young.
I am giving myself today and today only. The songs I can’t hear without breaking down. The pictures I can’t look at without tearing up. I know that I need to let the grief out more than I have over the last years, but I also know that it isn’t fair to my family to dwell.
It is incredibly unfortunate that such a great loss to the family happened within 24 hours of a little miracle. I think now as an adult with a better understanding of the circle of life, it is more the guilt that is causing me to lose control that it is the actual grief (or attempt and pushing it aside).
I am hoping and praying that spending time today letting it all in will be enough to put the panic disorder back to bed. If not…. I don’t know.