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Kamloops News

MANN: Parenting through panic attacks

Image Credit: SUBMITTED
June 21, 2018 - 12:00 PM


I had my first panic attack when I was 11 years old.

In what should have been one of the most fun nights of my life — visiting Medieval Times Dinner Theatre in California — ended in a quick and scary trip to the emergency room.

But before getting to delve into the roasted chicken and cheering on a knight of my choice, I was overcome with fear as I experienced a pain so scary and heavy, I could only compare it to what an elephant sitting on your chest must feel like.

I couldn’t breathe.

My dad, recognizing something was wrong, didn’t hesitate to take me straight to the emergency room.

The staff were phenomenal, and I was quickly hooked up to all kinds of fancy machines.

Given my age, heart attack was quickly ruled out, and it wasn’t until they handed me some antacid medication that my pulse FINALLY began to slow down.

I was discharged from the hospital shortly thereafter, diagnosed with acid reflux and encouraged to swallow chalk-tasting bottles of liquid whenever I felt the familiar distress.

I know now what I was really suffering was a panic attack.

Since then I have experienced hundreds of panic attacks throughout my life. I would say thousands, but since I don’t have record of them all, I can’t state it for a fact.

What is the most frightening about a panic attack (at least in my opinion anyway), is not knowing when it is going to creep up on you. You can be minding you own business, completely in a Zen place after an amazing hot yoga class and BAM!

Over the years, I have worked to overcome my panic attacks to a place that is manageable.

It isn’t easy, but it can be done.

It can be frustrating for those around me because panic attacks can affect relationships and your ability to engage in different activities.

I asked my husband once why he bothers to deal with my issues (for almost 10 years now).

He said he likes a challenge.

I am navigating a new chapter in my life now — parenting THROUGH panic attacks.

Let’s face it, life goes on whether we are in the middle of a particularly bad panic attack or not.

Yesterday I had to get on a plane, which is a big trigger for my panic attacks.

I panic for two reasons: One, I don’t particularly want to die in a plane crash, where everything goes up in flames. And two, I don’t want to be stuck in a tin can unable to breathe or form sentences because of a panic attack.

But it isn’t just about my needs anymore. I can’t always be panicking, because someone littler and just starting out in this world is looking up to me to be an example for them.

Don’t get me wrong, the fear is still very real and if I could, I would always opt for a train ride.

But we have places to go and people to see and I need to be a rock for my kids, because when my daughter grabs my hand at takeoff and asks me, “What’s the plane doing?” I want her to know even though my palms are drenched in sweat and I am desperately eyeing up that wine on the menu card, everything IS going to be okay.

At least in HER world.

Panic attacks are big beasts to battle, and parenting while panicking is a serious lesson in complexity.

— Becky Mann is a 30-something, red haired, mother of two, trying to navigate this life as best she can. She enjoys talking to people and discovering their stories. Still trying to balance her personal and professional life, she juggles work and play. In her spare time Becky can be found visiting with friends, spending time with her family and saving time by reading while walking, She knows there is so much more to come and is looking forward to the continued adventure.

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