With friends like these……

2 Jan

I spent the early hours of the new year with an old friend.

Anxiety.

So, not much of a friend. And thankfully, we’re not that close anymore. There was a time though when I never left the house without Valium.

True story.

I have a long history with depression. I was formally diagnosed when I was about 24 years old. I suspect I suffered for several years prior to that. But anxiety was never a part of it. I had the market cornered when it came to sad but even though I could get wound up and uptight, I never panicked in that debilitating way that only a fellow sufferer can understand.

My anxiety was triggered by accidentally taking too much of a medication designed to stop me feeling sick while flying. One of the side effects of doing so is panic attacks. And boy, did I have one. I was at the airport preparing to fly home after a business trip. Missed the flight and ended up in a hospital Emergency ward with a psych nurse who patronised me like I was a schizophrenic in the middle of a psychotic break. It was seriously the most awful experience of my life.

Unfortunately, once you’ve had an anxiety attack, the experience is forever imprinted in your mind. And then, the vicious cycle begins. Because now, you’re afraid you’ll have another attack. Which is, of course, enough to make you have one. So I linked anxiety with airports. With flying. With a big night on the booze – the reason I had originally doubled up on my anti-nausea medication that fateful, pre-flight day.

For a long while, I was afraid to stray outside my usual, routine life. I was afraid of having an anxiety attack. But even more, I was afraid to have it away from the safety of home, in front of people I didn’t know. Again.

Long story short, I got on top of that shit. I had some head shrinking, I had some Valium. I had the beginning of an attack and successfully talked myself down from the cliff edge. I got on top of it.

And becoming a mum just solidified that. In this new role, my sense of purpose was strong. I felt together and in control.

So it’s a very rare occasion now when that familiar terror starts to send adrenaline flooding through my veins.

But I knew I was going to have a panic attack sometime during the New Year celebrations.

It was a busy day in which I was rushing about trying to get everything done and knowing full well we would not get away on time. I had  (stupidly) planned to make not one but THREE desserts to take along to the small party we were invited to – as I finished the FIRST dessert roughly half an hour before we were due to depart, I knew the plan was falling apart. We would be drinking at the party. We would be staying the night.

The conditions were favourable for a meltdown. Hell, the conditions were PERFECT. And that very thing occurred to me as I beat egg whites and sugar into stiff, glossy peaks.

Alas, what with my perfect mental health of late, I had recently discovered and tossed a bunch of out-of-date Valium.

It was a balmy evening this New Year’s Eve. The party passed merrily by and it wasn’t until I lay in bed a few hours after midnight, just on the precipice of sleep, that the not-so-familiar-now surge of adrenaline bolted me awake.

Here we go, I thought.

It was dark and quiet. And my heart raced.

The hours passed. I kept checking my phone for the time. Looking for a hint of daybreak through the bedroom blinds. I listened to my children softly breathing. This helped. I listened to the chainsaw of my lover’s snoring. This didn’t.

I talked myself into a relaxed state and drifted close to sleep before adrenaline flooded my veins once again. This happened in fifteen minute intervals. For about three hours. I should have been tired. But the body has a way of perking up when it is in a suspended state of fight or flight.

At 5.30am, I heard Zee stirring. I rejoiced. I put him to the breast and this calmed me immensely. My sense of purpose was strong. I felt together and in control. But he finished feeding and I reluctantly returned him to his cot.

The panic resumed.

I got up and wandered out to the backyard. I brought my stereo inside, gathered up CDs. I tiptoed around the house aimlessly.

I had a shower, grateful that the previous owner of the house was an elderly woman whose concerned family had installed approximately fifteen handrails on the shower walls.

Finally, at around 6.30am, my little family stirred.

With no questions, B helped me load up the car. Busy with this menial task and perhaps knowing that we would soon be heading to the safety and familiarity of home, I realised I was starting to feel better.

I was preparing to write a note to our friends (who were still sleeping off a rather large night) apologising for sneaking out at daybreak when LD came to me.

“I wanna go to S and S’s” he said.

“Honey, we’re at S and S’s,”  I replied.

“Yes,” he said, “And we’re not going home”.

It was not yet 7am and my kids were playing delightedly with their friends. There was a hefty after-party clean-up required and it was, bottom line, just plain rude to fuck off without even saying goodbye.

So.

I started cleaning.

My sense of purpose was strong. I felt together and in control.

I put bottles in the recycling, I washed one thousand wine glasses and then, when I was done, so was my anxiety.

My dear friend, Saucy (remember her?), wandered out looking dishevel-haired and adorable in her glasses and I was eating a piece of toast and feeling like a fucking superhero.

I’m okay. It happens, I wish it didn’t. But I’m okay.

Bring it on, 2011. You KNOW I can take it.

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15 Responses to “With friends like these……”

  1. Bron January 2, 2011 at 9:39 pm #

    Your awesome!!! I’m not someone who suffers from panic attacks, but I do live with someone who does. Not so nice when the idea of leaving the house would make him sick. Anyone that lives with Anxiety is my hero. Well done on getting through it and I hope the next one is a long way off.

    • Angie aka The Little Mumma January 3, 2011 at 10:24 am #

      Thank you, Bron, for your lovely words.

      Yes, anxiety is a bitch. Incredibly debilitating. And just scary. Really scary. I’m sorry your fella lives with it, too. I’ve no doubt you give him wonderful support.

      And yep, I hope the next one is way, waaaaay off in the very distant future. On the 12th of Never.

  2. MJ January 3, 2011 at 3:18 am #

    If anyone can take it, you certainly can. I wish you didn’t have to battle that kind of shit, but your attitude is the best.

    Love the stuff you’re made of! x

    • Angie aka The Little Mumma January 3, 2011 at 10:20 am #

      Thank you.

      It’s wicked crazy stuff but yeah, I guess the sum of my damaged parts is okay.

      Thanks for noticing. xx

  3. EforExperience January 3, 2011 at 7:29 am #

    powerful. loved it.

    love your guts!

    • Angie aka The Little Mumma January 3, 2011 at 10:16 am #

      Thank you.

      I love your guts equally!

  4. Ladybird January 3, 2011 at 9:30 am #

    “I’m okay. It happens, I wish it didn’t. But I’m okay.”

    Perhaps some of the most comforting words I have read. Thank you for sharing Angel. When you live with these feelings, you know how all encompassing and very frightening it can be. Taking control, well – control is not really the word – acceptance, acknowledgment, management – is very hard.

    You are very okay indeed.

    Thank you. x

    • Angie aka The Little Mumma January 3, 2011 at 10:04 am #

      Thank you, Ladybird. Really.

      And yes, it’s not control, is it? Acceptance, acknowledgment, management. That’s the key, right there. Because there is no cure.

      Although Valium really is so very nice…..

      • Ladybird January 3, 2011 at 12:47 pm #

        Oh i could make sweet love to Valium, and in fact I have. Oh Valium Brooke is so lovely, so very, very lovely – her family and friends thought so too! Awesome knockers aside, best part of the boob jobbage!
        I dream of ways to procure more of the stuff 😛

        I have read this entry several times today. You are right, there is no cure. You can’t control IT – but as you have shown, you can control YOU. How YOU respond to it. How we respond, manage and accept IT is under our control. What an inspiring, living, breathing example of this you are to all of us.

        xxxxxxx

      • Angie aka The Little Mumma January 3, 2011 at 1:01 pm #

        There’s nothing I don’t like about you.

        Seriously.

        BIG girl crush. HUGE.

        LOVE.

  5. julie firkin January 3, 2011 at 12:51 pm #

    I have battled the way you have with depression and anxiety and most of all, I admire your guts – for sharing this very private experience with all of us. Facing each horrid moment with a positive attitude is hard, but you do. And you are a superhero. xxoo

    • Angie aka The Little Mumma January 3, 2011 at 1:00 pm #

      Thank you, Julie.

      I’m sorry you have known a similar battle. It’s shitful. But you appear to be winning. xx

  6. kris January 7, 2011 at 4:58 am #

    Hey, you.

    I did not post the details on my blog, but I mentioned that I had some issues with recurring panic attacks back in December. I am actually pretty good at talking myself down . . . relaxing, breathing, focusing. Your words here are so very very familiar.

    But it was a surprise to have them back . . . it’s been a while since I have wakened in the night by that bolt of adrenaline. And old friend, as you say. Sigh.

    I try very hard to keep my daily stress levels down.

    Most days, that is manageable.

    The holidays are difficult for me. This year more than most.

    I appreciate your sharing here more than I can say.

    It happens. I wish it didn’t. But it happens.

    And I’m OK.

    Yes.

    • Angie aka The Little Mumma January 7, 2011 at 10:05 am #

      I don’t think I caught that in December, Kris.

      Panic is a friend to many, it would seem.

      And I’m sorry you know panic, too.

      Fucking panic.

      We’re okay.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. New Year, New Mumma « The Little Mumma - January 5, 2011

    […] even though the early hours of the new year might have seemed like a bad omen, I am feeling all jubilant in my anticipation of what’s to […]

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