In the middle of the night

The middle of the night seems to be my favorite time to have a panic attack. When no one is awake to distract me, and I don’t want to wake M because we get so little sleep as it is thanks to dear A’s nighttime antics. Plus, I know he doesn’t quite get it, and gets frustrated by his inability to do anything to help. Last night was a particularly horrid night. It took many hours to get A to bed, then she woke up screaming at 1 or 2 am and couldn’t be calmed easily. I lost my temper, and went back to bed leaving her in her room while I calmed down instead. After many interventions, she finally went back to bed, but by this point I was pissed and wide awake.

Then my left shoulder started burning and I thought “That’s it, I’m having a heart attack.” And I lay there fretting about it, which of course made my shoulder hurt even more. I tried all the various mantras therapists have given me at one point or another. I tried the deep breathing from Lamaze, but couldn’t quite remember it and just ended up hyperventilating. I tried reciting Goodnight Moon and Moo, Baa, La La La. Nothing really work and I just lay in bed silently freaking out until my shoulder finally stopped hurting and I could fall back asleep.

Logically I know that at 34, especially after having every heart test possible short of an angiogram because of my palpitations, the likelihood of actually having angina or a heart attack is almost impossible. But in the middle of the night, the little voice in my head latches onto the “almost” and reminds me of all the horror stories one reads in women’s magazines about young mothers having undiagnosed heart disease, or cancer, or whatever the deadly disease du jour might be. Logically, I know I fixate on heart disease because I saw my father-in-law have a heart attack, flatline, and get shocked back to life less than 24 hours before A was born (thanks postpartum hormones). But I don’t know why I can’t let go of the fear like almost everyone else in the world is able to do.

During the day, I can now shrug off most of my panic attacks by keeping busy, taking the kids out to the park, the grocery store, or calling a friend. But once the rest of the world is asleep it is just me and my fear. I wish I could send it to the moon with A’s Trader Joe’s balloons, or vanquish it with a monster spray. But somehow, the tricks that work with small children don’t quite work as a grownup. So in the middle of the night I am forced to take on my fears alone and at the moment they seem to have the upper hand.

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