Miss Rose has inherited many things from me. She has my grey eyes, my enjoyment in looking after people I love, my imagination, and my passion for stories. She has my stroppiness, my excitement levels, and my fear of rejection. I love our similarities. They help me understand her.
But she has something from me that I wish she didn’t have.
When her biological father left, two months after her first birthday, she started having panic attacks. I would see it and I would understand it and I hated it for her. I understood how terrified she was. I would hold her close, try to steady her breathing, and tell her everything was going to be okay. She was small and I was able to take on the thrashing, hyperventilating, panicking child and go through it with her until she came out the other side.
She’s bigger now. She hadn’t had a panic attack since those first few weeks after he left. And now she’s having them again.
Miss Rose has been through plenty of stressful situations in her life. Since he left and we got through those panic attacks she has moved house three times, she has been in hospital, she has moved in with boys and had to develop a sibling relationship with a stranger and bonded with a new man as her daddy. She has witnessed me in hospital on the brink of death, experienced starting nursery school, and coped with the arrival of a new sibling. Any of these things put pressure on the brain, so why now?
Leaving school on Wednesday she was fine, tired and grumpy, but fine. She didn’t want to get in the car.
As I had the baby strapped to my chest and a child in each hand, I needed free hands to deal with the looming tantrum so strapped the boy child in first then turned to deal with her.
After some general stropping she agreed to climb in. Then it started. She got half way in and she started to panic.
It was different to a tantrum. She looked terrified. She couldn’t breathe and she lost control.
She flung herself back out of the car screaming then hyperventilating, a panicked “No! No! No!” She smacked at me, shoved at me, horror on her face, trying to get away from the car as I used my body to block her, terrified she’d run out into the road. She fell to the ground, shaking and choking out cries. Her breathing hard and gasping.
I picked her up. I wanted to hold her close. Try to help her through it.
She panicked and began to smack and kick. She’s bigger than she was last time and I had the baby strapped to my chest, I couldn’t hold her and I couldn’t risk baby B getting hit and I dropped her down again. And she ran.
She can be a flight risk at times, and I’ve seen her get angry and run from me before, but she wasn’t running in anger she was running in fear. She hightailed it down the pavement and straight towards the busy road. Screaming.
I abandoned the boy child strapped in the car, my bag, purse, phone, keys on top of the car, held the baby as close and still to my chest as I could and ran. I ran and ran and ran.
Luckily she turned the corner and didn’t run under a car but the state she was in I don’t know how. I caught her. She was violently shaking. I got her back to the car but as soon as we got there she started again.
“No! No! No!”
She was struggling to breathe, fighting me like a rabbit in a trap, and absolutely horrified.
I got the baby in her car seat and strapped her in, then wrestled Rose into hers. She fought every step. I held her down and pulled the seatbelt over whilst she foamed at the mouth and thrashed back and forth.
I needed her contained. I couldn’t have her running into the road again. I needed her strapped safely in the car where she couldn’t get out. She wouldn’t let me near her, couldn’t hear anything I said. She was hysterical.
I figured the motion of the car could soothe her like it did when she was a child, and there was nothing I could do right then anyway, so I drove off.
She screamed nearly the whole way to pick up her daddy from work, shaking and screaming. I just cried. The boy child watched in confusion and I told him not to worry she would be fine.
I kept telling her I was there, and she would be okay, just breathe.
She started to calm and then fell quiet. Her breathing was ragged, she was choking out coughs and trembling, but she was through it.
“I’m sorry mummy” she wept.
I asked if she was okay and she said no, she was scared. But she couldn’t tell me what she was scared of. She just hid her face and looked utterly miserable. Her face was puffy and red and streaked with tears, her hair matted down by sweat.
It started to happen again after school the next day. I could feel her going.
We were walking towards the car from school and she started to go. She started to pull down, dragging away from me. I thought she was being naughty and kept hold, told her to stop being silly.
But I looked at her. Her face was a mess. She was about to go. She started to thrash, to hit me, to try and escape and I could see the fear in her face. She was going to panic. The build up was coming. Not only was she scared of whatever it was that was causing the panic, but she was scared of the panic itself.
I understand that. It feels like you’re dying. There’s nothing but a painful, pounding fog crashing through your body and nothing makes sense, everything is huge and loud and drowning.
It was tricky with all three of them but I got them to a grass verge whilst she began to scream and cry and I made her lie down. I got the boy child to swear up and down he wouldn’t go anywhere, and to his absolute credit he didn’t he was an angel, and I lay her down flat. She fought, she screamed, she started to breathe badly. It was coming.
I told her to breathe slowly. “I can’t” she cried. “I can’t.”
I told her to stay there, on her back on the grass. I told her it wasn’t safe. that I couldn’t let her up until she was safe. That I needed her to just focus on her breathing. To calm down. Just think about her breathing.
She began to calm down. The breathing slowed. She got focus in her eyes.
I asked if she wanted a cuddle and she said yes and we had a quick cuddle. Then I thanked the boy for being so good, took their hands again, and we started to walk.
We got closer to the car and she went again. The breathing, the shaking, the dragging away from me.
Again I lay her down on the grass, again she fought. Again she calmed down.
Again she said she’d been afraid. I asked what it feels like when she panics. She said scary.
It is traumatic for me to watch. I know it’s scary. As an adult it’s scary when I know what’s going on and I know how to deal with it. As a child? It must be one of the most terrifying experiences you can have.
And my little girl is having them.
I don’t know why now, all I know is now.
I warned her teacher who was wonderful as ever and understood exactly what I was describing. And promised to be mindful, then she gave her a cuddle.
She has this from me. I hate that. But I will help her. I got her through it before and I will get her through it again. But I’m so sorry she’s inherited this from me. I’m so very sorry.
If you have any experiences you want to share get in touch! I’m on Facebook and Twitter, and all my other links are on my website www.jjbarnes.co.uk. Check it out, let me know what you think, and have a look at my other work too. Always good to hear from people!