My sister-in-law has been dealing with panic attacks for the past 10 months or so… they generally occur in connectiole on with driving and specifically when diving outside of her neighbourhood. She’s been getting professional support and medication and it’s been very helpful for her.
I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I’ve had it for years. Probably for my whole life – or at least I’ve probably lived with at least the seedling symptoms of it for as long as I can remember. The past couple of years have really brought my anxiety to the forefront in life. As I think about it (because with my anxiety I can’t NOT think about things) I’m pretty certain that the trigger for this season of heightened anxiety is the fact that my children live with (and daily deal with the consequences of) neglect and trauma in ways I can’t fix. There’s nothing I can DO about it. And that just plain old sucks.
That and I am the one who needs to be their source of emotional regulation. When they can’t self-regulate, they need to look to me to be their source of calmness. They need to look to me to see how to deal with anger, frustration, grief, sadness, annoyance, and any other BIG feeling which causes a rise in cortisol levels which they don’t know how to process.
So even when my capacity to handle stress for the day (due to fatigue, work stress, sickness, or whatever it is) is already just plain old DONE for the day, I’m still “on stage” for them. I’m always “on.” There’s really no rest from it until they’re asleep… which (considering they have sleep disorders isn’t always consistent or fantastic) is pretty draining. On call. Always on call.
It produces an extraordinarily high level of cortisol for me… and in this life stage of working (albeit 0.6 FTE), caring for our children, being active on 2 boards (1 NFP, 1 charity) and and 2 other committees (2 NFPs) in my spare time, and all the other general family and home/school responsibilities… I’ve got very little free time. Then again that’s pretty much the same for most of my friends. We seem to be all in similar seasons in life right now. Whether they’re home right now with babies and toddlers and just rushing around like crazy, working full time in senior management or high levels in their fields; or have involved PACs and balancing children in before/after school care and trying to shuttle them between sports and arts and everything else.
Ugh. It just leaves rare instances when we can actually get together. I’m lucky if I can actually see my close friends once every 6 months. Which is SERIOUSLY pathetic. Hubby and I? He’s out at least two nights a week. I’m out at a meeting at least one meeting every other week. Today I was freaking out because I’ve got a hole developing in my one pair of properly fitting pair of jeans. UGH. But when the heck can I go get more???
So anyhow I get these anxiety attacks. Or adrenaline attacks or I don’t know what. It’s like an adrenaline let-down after a major event but not after an event. Things can be going well and I can have finished a bunch of great things and then suddenly my heart is racing and my chest is all tight and I’m deep breathing in and blow breath out through long puffs… and I’m freaking out. I want to shake my hands out and roll my shoulders. I want to get out of my car and shake my arms out and jump up and down and then walk around in circles constantly murmuring “I’m ok. It’s ok. I’m ok. It’s ok.” It’s not a panic attack. The best I can describe it is like an anxiety attack made of of adrenaline… but my words are saying “I’m ok. It’s ok.” my brain is screaming “I’M FREAKING OUT!! I”M FREAKING OUT!!!!”
I don’t know. It’s not a panic attack. It’s like all the physical symptoms of my anxiety saved them up for after the stressful stuff happened and then I’m having a big adrenaline letdown.
And honestly, I bet you that if I actually got to get together with my girlfriends once a week and just go out for dinner and drinks and just have a gab and relax and re-charge my batteries it would reduce my cortisol levels. It would help me maintain some semblance of normal person me in all of this. Not just “Hi – I’m your personal self-regulation model and sponge” (who soaks up everything you feel and keeps on smiling) but never has a healthy way to get it out… blog for another day.
Man. That would be nice. A social life. They say it comes. just give it a few years. This is just “the busy years” they say. And the lonely years. And the drinking at home alone years. And the Netflix years. And the smutty romance novel years. 😉
I can totally relate to this! My husband has GAD and I never understood how he couldn’t “turn off” his brain or just stop obsessing about this or that… Anyway, the worm has turned and now I understand all too well how all-consuming constant anxiety/worry can be. It’s exhausting. Also, the constant high level of cortisol just messes with the whole body.
I think your description of being your child’s source of emotional regulation is right on the nose. I heard another cancer parent call it “living the outrageous lie” – that we are calm and collected, that we are feeling positive and optimistic at all times. All so our children, who take their cues from us, will be that way. Hoping desperately that eventually it becomes true.