On a good day, parenting will test the integrity of your character. On a bad day, parenting will test your will to live. Parenting children with trauma histories will cause you to test the integrity of everything and everyone you thought you knew, for the rest of your life.
~J. Skrobisz

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Total Anxiety

Last night I was quilting away, enjoying the peace and quiet in the house accompanied by the hum of my sewing machine. I wasn't thinking about anything beyond making straight lines and then BLAM! Panic attack. Not a full blown freak-out-OMG-I'm-gonna-die attack, just the sweaty-palms-swimmy-head-heart-beating-faster kind.

Because it hit me like a flash that I had been enjoying my time to myself a lot lately, my late night revelries in personal pursuits becoming a norm instead of an occassional treat I eventually found time to indulge in. This new found time to indulge and take care of me is because Sissy is at the RTC. Sissy's needs were so demanding I couldn't breathe, or think, or live or laugh or love or do anything of life sustaining value. Life was Sissy Sissy Sissy Sissy Sissy... and I can't go back to that. I have to take control of that but I still feel so powerless.

So I panicked. Sissy's dysfunction still has that much hold on me and I'm struggling to really let it go and relax and enjoy and not look over my shoulder every other second, anticipating another one of Sissy's catachlismic meltdowns. I panicked because I don't really feel confident to turn the tide when she comes home. I've been so busy enjoying all of the things about life that I couldn't do because of Sissy's demanding needs that I haven't strategized a way to prevent her from becoming that all-consuming driving force in our family life again. My breath was gone, I paused the sewing, I gathered my wits so I didn't fall apart into a crying or hysterical heap, and I centered my thoughts. I can do this. I can enjoy this moment and not let Sissy steal it when she's not even here. Sissy's not returning for awhile yet. I have time to read some more, I have time to plan, it'll be fine. Then I resumed my sewing after I wiped a few tears and eventually went to bed, but reluctantly. (Sewing is so much fun!)

Then this morning, just after I got out of the shower, it happened again. I thought I heard Sissy screaming the way she always does every morning about whatever it is she would scream about (sometimes we joked and said she was screaming BECAUSE it was morning). And in that split second before I could remind myself that Sissy was at the RTC and most definitely NOT at the house and that it was just my mind playing tricks on me, I lost my breath and the sweaty palms and the racing heart started again. I can do this. I can enjoy a shower without racing to get out before Sissy tears down the house. Sissy's not here, she won't be returning for awhile. I have time to read some more, I have time to plan, it'll be fine. Then I wiped a few tears and opened the bathroom door bravely.

I told The Dad all of this. He understands. He is a little nervous too. We get to see her on Monday to take her out for her birthday and if I see her therapist, I think I might take a second to tell her how things are going for us at home. "Better," I'll say. "We're laughing and having fun and coping but..." I'll add carefully, "I think we might all be suffering a little post traumatic stress." How else can these errant panic attacks be explained? It still amazes me, almost makes me cry, when I hear us laughing as a family, cutting up and having fun, tickling, giggling, enjoying each other because I know that none of that was possible while Sissy was in the house.

I want her back, don't get me wrong. I'm not emotionally detaching from my child. I'm just coming to grips with just how critical and chaotic it was with her at home. Some how, some way, we must recover and be prepared for her return. But if I think about that too much right now, I'll start another attack so Ill leave it alone and go to bed.

Anyone else have these types of issues while your RADish was at RTC? What types of things did your family do to recover and get ready for the RADish's eventual return to family life? Right now, I'm feeling like reintegration will never be possible and I could really use some help.


Corey said...

I absolutely did have these same PTSD type panic attacks when "Daniel" left. I don't know how to help you through them, love. I couldn't get past it. I never realized how bad things were until he was gone; what I was asking my other kids to live with (different than your situation.. I was asking my kids to live with the person that sexually abused them.. and somehow while he was with us, this did not seem unreasonable?) Once he was gone, I couldn't go back.

But I *DO* think that you can prepare yourselves for Sissy's return. I think you have to get your own safeguards set up.. how can you monitor the water temperature? http://thoughtspreserved.blogspot.com/2009/12/is-it-getting-hot-in-here.html How can you protect yourselves from outside influences? (You are doing some of this already.. by telling family to support you or stay away..) You are educating yourselves. Expanding your online supports. Etc, etc.

Anxiety is normal. Don't let it win.

Jennie said...

"I never realized how bad things were until he was gone" Exactly! I had no idea and particularly, how much I made the rest of the family endure just. It makes me so sad.

Jeri said...

Yep, same here...our wildly abnormal became "normal". Here's what I do (now that I've had the ambulance ride to the hospital and had my heart all checked out and it's...just...stress)is the breathing inhaling through my nose slowly and exhaling through my mouth, also slowly. To a count of ten if possible. Dang, if love were only enough. And yes, you do have PTSD*, amazing how it spreads like the flu, huh? *The previous diagnosis is by no means official...that would take years and years of studying and I'm lucky to finish a book.

J. said...

My partner has panic attacks like that as well, he finds it helpful to stop and focus on something he can see to keep him in the moment, he'll use any random thing that he can see like a book and focus on that while being conscious of his breathing and trying to stay in the moment.

Corey said...

I gave you blog award (for distraction?) xoxo


Tami said...

I just found your blog through Diana at Gold to Refine. While I don't know exactly what you're going through, I can empathize. Thinking of you and your family as you prepare for your daughter's return.
And I'm off to read your archives to catch up. ;)