This has been a wonderful Christmas for me, for so many reasons — and the greatest of these is that my family and friends are all safe and happy this holiday season. Although this is what I want the most for EVERY Christmas, it was extra special this year.
Last year, on Christmas Eve, I had the Mother of All Panic Attacks. I had only started getting panic attacks again in November, and they were the first round I had ever endured as a parent. I had panic attacks aplenty in college and grad school, but the overwhelming feeling I was worthless and everyone would realize that and no one would ever love me (or would at least STOP loving me) was a mild and breezy concern compared to the shit parental panic attacks can bring to party. Seriously, I have become nostalgic about those crippling panic attacks prior to 2005. They were, in relative terms, a piece of fokking cake.
See, starting just after Halloween in 2011 my newly minted panic attacks began to go for the throat. First they centered on Sweet Babou and his long-ass commute. The terror at the thought of losing him was so immense I would shake and weep until I made myself ill. I got to do this twice a day as he drove to and from work. Fun times.
But by Christmas Eve my brain had decided that it could ramp up the fear until I was no longer functional if it put a little effort into it. Thus, my brain came up with the “you will lose one of your children because you are unfit to have such wonderful kids” meme. It smacked me with it during the candlelight service at church. We had to leave because I was NOT holding myself together. Worse, I was terrified beyond bladder control with the possibility that it wasn’t a panic attack — that is was a precognitive warning that my world was effectively OVER and now I could just wait for the agony that would break me forever.
The panic attacks never got worse than that, but they never got better either. The welling feeling of overwhelming dread and terror would hit me like a sock full of bricks to the solar plexus, and then I was down in fetal position sobbing hysterically on the bathroom floor begging God to keep my babies safe until the attack finished ripping me up. Eventually it got to the point where I was dully hoping to die because 1) that would guarantee that my children would outlive me and 2) the panic attacks would be DONE. When I started to think maybe I should help matters along in the predeceasing of my beloved husband and children, I made an appointment with a therapist/psychiatrist because I knew Mommy Needed More Meds because that shit was nuts.
Once I had added Prozac to my daily dose of Anti-Crazy-Pills the panic attacks ebbed and have become the more “normal” (for me) constant worry and paranoia. I can handle that.
However, there was one hurdle still to cross: the fear that I had foreseen my doom. Thus, I didn’t so much experience the pre-Christmas excitement and preparation as I endured it. Every day got me a little bit closer to “safe”. Every morning I woke up and trembled and pleaded with God to keep my husband and kids safe. The school shooting at Sandy Hook broke my heart on every level, including the knowledge that the horror I feared had become a hellish reality for other parents. I felt selfish and even greedy begging God to keep me from suffering the way other good people suffered, but I still begged.
Last night I was sitting in church with my family around me and I can promise that there was NO ONE in that building as happy about it as I was. This morning I opened my eyes and instead of sobbing in fetal position with fear I sobbed with joy and thankfulness. Dickens could have not have written a story with a character that awoke on Christmas more frantically grateful and jelly-limbed with relief than myself.
I don’t know why I am the luckiest person alive on Earth, but I am so damn happy with the life I have been given. It is my sincerest wish that everyone could have as much rejoicing in their lives, and it will always fill me with sorrow that I don’t have the power to give the whole world safety and bliss, but I can at least appreciate and be grateful that my own blessings have continued unabated without the hubris that I somehow “deserve” my luck.
Merry Christmas, everyone.