I stood in my bathroom, trying to quickly get ready for our second Easter dinner. We had a busy day at Mike parents’ house the previous day, and now it was time to go and have dinner with my family. I had successfully braided one side of my hair and was trying to braid the other side. But despite the fact that I had done this specific hairstyle a thousand times before, my hands just couldn’t seem to co-ordinate with what my brain was telling them.
I could see Mike watching me, as he got ready from his side of the bathroom. He was intently listening to the increasing number of deep breaths I was taking, as I kept starting this simple braid over and over again.
My chest was tightening, and I felt frustrated with myself. Why wasn’t I getting this simple task?
The previous week was spent taking care of sick children. All four, (plus Mike), had been hit hard with a viral bug. But Mia and Beau took the brunt of it. Between an ice storm, the Easter long weekend and sick kids, I had a week full of children home.
Although running my own business from home has a lot of perks, one thing remains the same… you can’t just not work. Yes, I scaled back, but I was spending the evening hours frantically catching up. Even worse, I wasn’t getting it all out.
Blogging for me is how I release the stress from parenting and work through problems swirling around in my mind. I crave the quietness each day, that my office brings. Then, once the school bell rings, I can be engaged and energetic with my kids.
But the week of colds, fevers, vomit, sleepless nights and toddlers wanting to be carried around constantly had taken it’s toll.
As I stood there staring back at myself in the mirror, my mind felt fragmented.
Worry washed over me, as it sometimes does. Was my mind failing me? Why couldn’t I get this braid?
My chest became heavier, my breathing laboured. Mike knowingly and understandingly walked over and put a hand on my shoulder. “Are you okay?”
“I’m having a panic attack.” I replied.
Unlike so many stories I have heard, when I have a panic attack, I don’t feel like I am having a heart attack, or dying. I feel this extreme loss of control. I don’t feel comfortable in my skin. I feel like I can barely breathe and can’t keep my head above water. I knew what I had to do.
I start talking to Mike, telling him what I am feeling, and as I listened to the words coming out of my mouth, reality started coming back. Worries started to gain perspective again and I felt a sense of clarity.
My breathing returned to normal, although my chest is still tight, today, (the next day). I let go of the braids and pulled my hair up into a simple ponytail, and finished getting ready.
We enjoyed our day, while in my mind, I was making a plan of attack.
I would get through the last day our older kids were home, as best I could. I would make sure laundry was away and the house was tidy enough.
I would organize my schedule into two columns: important appointments I will be keeping for the next few weeks and non-work commitments that I can let go of. I would get back to the big home purge Mike and I started months ago and simplify our world.
I would dive into my work this week, knocking my to-do list out of the park and letting the words flow.
Until I get back into my rhythm this week, I am giving myself a break. I am making easy meals… yes my kids have had toast for breakfast and lunch today. At least they have full tummies.
The crafts to keep my kids busy for their last day off have consisted of me stapling computer paper together and instructing them to each create a book. Each of them masterfully came up with incredible ideas, including Beau’s “which colour is missing from the rainbow?” book.
As the week begins, our routine resumes, and the business of Easter fades away, so will the tightness in my chest. I will stick to my plan of simplification and carefully choose what will feed my soul.
I won’t let myself be swallowed by anxiety and panic. I will allow myself to feel it and keep talking, knowing that my mind isn’t broken, it’s just tired.
I think so many of us parents can feel this way, especially after a particularly rough week of parenting. It is so important to take those deep breaths, let go of what you can and give yourself a break.