Until my early 30s, I had never known panic. In fact, I had always been the cool, calm and collected type, the one who could always be relied upon to administer first aid, find the way back to the trail, keep everyone calm and work out a solution. Then in 2006, I started having panic attacks. With the help of cognitive behavioural therapy and a fierce determination to not let anxiety rule my life, I overcame the disorder. Now, whenever I notice the first warning signs, I know it’s time to pause, breathe and disengage from whatever freaky thoughts have messed up my brain waves. Anxiety and panic are a thing of the past… well, almost.
Since then, I have had a much more difficult time mastering my emotions. Maybe I haven’t tried as hard.
Maybe somewhere down the road of cutting myself some slack (a necessary step toward recovery), I stopped demanding that level of emotional maturity from myself, and I allowed myself to get angry or frantic.
The fact that that might be an issue never occurred to me until recently, after two minor incidents threw me into a crazy panic spiral. Once, I accidentally locked Samuel in the car by -35 degrees, and another time, he disappeared from view at one of our favourite indoor playgrounds. There was no danger in either situation: on the former occasion, I called CAA immediately and they assured me they would be here within minutes. Sam was wearing his winter coat, hat and boots and… we were in our own driveway (don’t laugh). On the latter, we were in a very safe place, with a lot of vigilant parents around, and competent staff. Samuel was located within 10 minutes, but somehow that had been enough time for me to conjure up far fetched scenarios of abduction, deadly falls, or simple exploration gone wrong.
In both cases, by the end of it, I had made a complete idiot of myself, brought nothing constructive to the situation, and even compromised my own ability to make good decisions. Worse, in both cases I modeled terrible behaviour in front of Samuel, who himself is just learning how to master his emotions and impulses.
No wonder I am having trouble teaching him patience,
when I am the one who can’t rein in runaway emotions.
And so it has to stop, right here, right now. I don’t know as of yet if it is something I can just decide, a flip I can just switch, or if I am going to need some help to get there. But I have to find the cool, calm and collected side of me again. If, HaShem forbid, I am ever in a situation where the danger is real, especially if my kids are involved, I need to trust myself to keep calm and make rational decisions.