It’s been a while since I’ve poured out my heart here.
Here’s the story.
I’m not even a full week into turning 30 and yesterday, I had my first panic attack.
I spent this entire week in survival mode navigating some tough decisions at work, balancing my kids on my own, while my husband was at a conference, and putting my heart and soul into a very important and time intensive project at work.
I’m writing this on the other side of the moon, the next day.
I’m not sure what happened, exactly. I spent the early half of this week, following the high of turning 30 and a great birthday, ready to tackle what I knew would be a crappy week. I took the deep breaths, I prayed regularly, and I spent time listening to motivational podcasts.
And I still found myself crouched over on the garage floor, conference call playing in the background, trying to catch my breath. It was terrifying. I’m still terrified it’ll happen again.
I don’t really have a resolve for this post. All I can say is that overwhelm is real, and it can hit you when you least expect it. My best advice in this moment is to make a list (before the overwhelm) of people you can trust. I’m not saying a mental list, I’m talking a legit list. Write down their names on a sheet of paper and on your heart.
In that moment, where I couldn’t breathe, so I couldn’t speak, all I could do was take a pause and mentally try to talk myself out of the overwhelm long enough to call my husband. I couldn’t really speak, I felt dizzy and nauseated and physically, just, weird.
Eventually, I came to, and could not stop crying. Even as I write this, I feel terrified of this happening again. I feel embarrassed. I feel like a failure because I was supposed to moderate the meeting I was in.
My early learnings of this terrifying experience, as a recovering perfectionist:
1. When you’re walking into a pressure-filled time, turn down the pressure. My mom told me mid-week to find ways to make my life easier this week. This would mean take out meals and regular breaks in between “doing all the things.” Physically remove yourself from the things that are causing you overwhelm. As a working mom of young kids, with family that doesn’t live near, this can be hard. But, taking a small break to reset (even if it’s while going to the bathroom), can make all the difference. And when you feel pressure rising, mentally envision a pressure valve in your mind. Imagine yourself turning down the pressure and DO NOT STOP FOCUSING ON YOUR BREATHING.
2. Talk to someone immediately — calling my husband and just hearing his voice helped me to calm down. Even though I still had sad, scared and embarrassed feelings, hearing his voice pulled me out of the trans of the panicked feeling.
3. Rest — I had spent most nights this week working until two or three o’clock in the morning. Following my panic attack I was so freaking exhausted. I rested. I put the littlest kids in my bed with me, turned on the iPad for my toddler and rested (the best I could).
I don’t know why this happened to (for) me. But I do know that God has a plan and can use this to help someone else. I don’t expect everyone to understand the pressures of being a working mom. But I do encourage everyone to try to understand. Even with active fathers in the picture, being a working mom is a mixed bag of rescheduled doctor’s appointments, poor sleep, ongoing important deadlines, intense emotions, and a lot of pressure.
You feel embarrassed that you can’t do it all. Worried that you aren’t doing well enough with the things you are doing. And torn emotions around loving your children and also needing peace and freaking quiet.
It’s a complex life. And emotions hit us sometimes at the most inconvenient times. I still don’t know what happened to me. I have my God, I have people who love and care about me, and I have great resources, but I still found myself in a panicked state that I couldn’t really pull myself out of.
I promise to come back to you with an update. But for now, I love you – whoever you are, working momma, or friend of a working mom, reading this. You’ve got this. If you’re going through a season of self-doubt, deep sadness, overwhelm, or even a great season in your life right now, I just want to encourage you to take some breaks as you just keep swimming and know that I love you and I understand where you are.