I had a panic attack a few weeks ago.
That kind of feels like the end of the post.
I had a panic attack, and I thought I should let you know.
I want you to hear loud and clear that things are not perfect and that’s okay.
Some writers make you think you can survive parenting through crafts and cute photos, some through sarcasm and wine, and I probably make you feel like home-cooked meals, humor, and cool local businesses will keep you afloat.
Parenting, illness, anxiety, infertility—whatever you are fighting head-on with a sword in your hand, don’t feel alone. Some people have shinier web veneers, but the struggles are still the same.
No one thing—or cadre of adorable things—is keeping us afloat.
It’s a wild and constantly moving fishing net of support that enwraps us and tries to pull us out of the sea.
For me that net is woven of God, family, neighbors, close friends, professional counseling, babysitters, date nights, exercise, writing, being outside, and watching sports and trashy TV.
And sometimes, in spite of all of those things, I feel captured and have a panic attack.
I was driving my kids and my grandma—she was living with us very briefly—and I was in charge of too many things. I’d dropped off the kids, gone to the DEQ, the DMV, picked up the kids, gotten dinner…. So on the freeway, in traffic, with my little band of pirates, I had to roll down the windows, start breathing deeply, pull off at the next exit, and head home on the streets, tuning out everything in the car and focusing on just one thing: getting home.
You might not get panic attacks. I wasn’t a panic attack person. But even if you’ve never had one, you probably feel sometimes like you’re in a fog, like there are too many responsibilities, like you’ve bitten off too much, like the rules changed and no one told you.
Sometimes we feel like we need to be unfailingly positive, and constantly in search of perfection, or at least success. We should be always moving toward the light, getting better at what we do.
That sets up a lot of anxiety. And along the way we experience a lot of failure, and change course, or change our expectations.
I heard the most wonderful quote the other day. It was from Katherine Ann Power, an American ex-convict and fugitive who lived under an assumed identity in the Willamette Valley until 1993 when she turned herself in (A fascinating story you may know, but if you don’t, listen to this interview on NPR—but do me a favor and don’t read the comments. I don’t believe in hell, but then I read Internet comments).
Katherine said of her time in prison, “The opposite of despair is not hope. The opposite of despair is getting out of bed every day.”
I find this liberating. I don’t know if I am a good parent. I can’t promise that I won’t lay on my horn in the car, swear too close to the preschool, or yell at my kids. I don’t know if I’m going to live up to my expectations today.
But I can get out of bed. And I’m on my way.
This post is dedicated to some dear friends who are going through devastating infertility struggles, the death of a beloved parent, acute job issues, and other overwhelming valleys in their lives.