I had a panic attack last night.
I felt it brewing all day. My chest was heavy from the moment I woke up and grew tighter and tighter as the day went on. My heart raced. I felt shaky. My thoughts were scattered.
All day, I tried to calm it down.
Take a deep breath, Rita. Drink some water, Rita. Go on a walk, Rita. Close your eyes, Rita.
I took a few minutes to sit down in between feeding the children and the dog and the kitten dinner, hoping that would make a difference.
As I was getting ready to put the kids to bed, the anxiety from the day erupted. I could handle a quick back rub and kiss, rushing them and snapping at them to get into bed because mommy really, really, really needed to lay down. Sudden anger flashed through me. All they wanted was one more hug, one more story about their day, one more kiss goodnight. I quickly excused myself from the room. “Not tonight guys, I really need you to close your eyes and go to sleep,” I reiterated in a frustrated tone, knowing if I stayed in the room too long, they would feel the burden of my anxiety.
In the next room, I was engulfed by the panic attack. Short breaths. Wrecking sobs. Dry mouth. Numb fingers. Hot tears.
I gave into the weight of my emotions. It was sudden and disabling, but once it was over, I felt a release that I had needed all day. The pressure was gone. I felt lighter.
This is anxiety. You don’t get to choose when or how or why. You can do everything right. You can reach out. Take your medicine. Use your coping mechanisms. But sometimes, it still isn’t enough to stop it from consuming you.
In the moment, it feels out of your control. In the moment, it is bigger than you.
Panic attacks can look differently for different people. What happens to me may not happen to you. Once I was able to catch my breath and felt my body release, I just grabbed a pen and paper and put a voice to it.
Globally, 790 million people live with mental illness. In 2021, the National Institute of Mental Health estimates 1 in 5 United States adults live with mental illness on some level. And every single one of those beautiful humans carries it differently.
For me, I’ve had days where I physically couldn’t get out of bed. I’ve had days where there’s been no choice, because as the glue to the family, you’re required to be the strong one and go through the motions. I’ve had days where I put my game face on at work, smile and play with my children, and crash in bed mentally and physically exhausted, exploding in anxious tears of everything I haven’t yet gotten to in the day.
This upcoming holiday season, mamas are finishing their long work days outside of the home, or a never-ending day of working from home or being a stay-at-home mom, combating illnesses their children are bringing home from daycare and school, juggling recitals and sporting events and after school conferences, all while being a good partner, a good mom, and a good friend (not to mention eating healthy, getting a workout in, maybe even finding time for a long shower day??).
So this upcoming holiday season, please check in on people you love. Please reach out for help if you need it. Asking for help, being vulnerable, they are signs of strength. If you’re not struggling yourself, I guarantee there is someone in your life who is. Show them you care. Be a safe place.