Every year since 2013 there have been lessons. Anything from acceptance to sorrow to grief to joy; to looking ahead rather than looking back; to falling to my knees and allowing others to help me up. The lessons generally run the course of a year and then the winter weather starts to hint at spring. Really, it just takes a hint- a warm wind, the clocks changing, one crocus charging through the hard earth- and my body unlocks. Without my knowing it, a deluge of stress hormones are released into my system, setting reasonably controlled panic on fire. My body remembers well before my mind acknowledges the immanency of marathon season.
You’d think I’d better prepare. I know. I'd think that too. But PTSD doesn’t work that way. It’s a sneaky bastard that rises quietly with a spring-ahead sunrise. It joins me on a a night I'm more worried about losing an hours sleep than if my bones will start shaking in my skin fearing the unknown.
You’d think I’d better prepare. I know- I’d think that too. Here’s the thing though, I spend the year preparing. I spend time formally learning and implementing strategies to turn my broken nervous system down. I spend time clinically figuring out the least medicine bang for my psychological buck. I spend time every single day navigating the world with severe anxiety. With guilt. And also with a whole lot of gratitude and joy. PTSD, for me, is a full time management job. One that my MBA did NOT prep me for.
I want to write my story of resilience, my story of sparkle and glow- and one day, stay tuned, you may hear it. Sparkle and glow are here. I mean, look at this guy.
But today, authenticity rules the roost, and six years later- I’m different, I’m learning, I’m wishing I was “over it” too, I’m momming hardcore, I’m so in love with my husband, it takes my breath away to witness and experience his patience, devotion and care. And- I’m living with severe PTSD. That’s the truth man- and this is the six year lesson:
This year Milo teaches me.
Want to know what’s harder than having a panic disorder when you're married and think your husband is a saint for hanging in. Oh- it’s having a panic disorder and caring for your 1.5 year old WHILE recognizing the onset of a panic attack. Yep. Happened this year for the first time, happened three times in the past week. We’re alone- and so it begins. Panic is tricky- one time it started as we transitioned from the indoor pool to the changing room at Goldfish Swim School. I mean, seriously- can you imagine a more benign location, free of triggers than toddlers in swim dipes and a mascot named Giggles?
As we got into the changing room on Tuesday I thought, oh I’m going to be sick. No. Wait- I can’t really breathe. No. Wait- oh shit- this is panic. Milo, dripping in his suit, precariously balanced on a bench far too high for him stares up at me and all I could think was- you need to keep him safe. I gave him a yogurt pouch and sat down beside him. Eat mama- he looked at me. And so I ate half the banana I brought for him. Breathe mama he looked at me and as I watched his little belly rise and fall, I breathed. My brain on over drive. Just get him to the car to his car seat. He can’t go anywhere then. He’ll be safe.
Historically, giving me a task- make a shopping list, do a handstand, pack a bag- doing something, however meaningless helps dispel my panic before I am down for the count. And so I dressed the guy. I put on his dipe and clothes. I put on my own clothes as I shook in my skin and tried not to cry. I packed our stuff and went to the car. Milo made it to his car seat and started to cry. Helllllppppyyyy. Milos version of "help please" voices from his mouth as he reached for a piece of train tracks from home beside him. I handed it to him and he was pleased. We made it. I made it to my seat, shaking, tearful and all. And then I was able to call in the support of Dan.
I couldn’t drive because I couldn’t really breathe and my mind was on fire with grief of unknown ending- but M and I waited, together.
Milo has so much to teach me. That is this years lesson. Listen to the pace of my kiddo. Follow his lead on needs. Be safe. Cry when required and ask for help please.