Panic attacks and anxiety are things I have, for the most part, got a pretty good grip over. I know how to manage them, I know things that will set them off, and I know how to cut them off before they get there.
I need alone time. I need to take myself away from a situation and breathe and just let my heart rate slow. Sometimes just stepping into the kitchen for two minutes to get a glass of water is enough, it just lets my brain lose it’s impending fog. Other times I need longer, I need silence, I need some real time. If I don’t get it sometimes I just feel sick and shaky and sweaty, and like my brain is full of clouds and chaos. Other times I panic. I struggle to breathe, I struggle to think, I struggle to stand. Time alone, time away from whatever it is that’s sending me into a spiral, is essential.
And now Miss Rose is following. And I’m teaching her as best I can.
“I need some alone time”
That’s what she says. And when she says it, we respect it, and we try to make sure others respect it too. She takes herself out of the living room, sometimes for just twenty seconds, other times for several minutes. Sometimes she sits on the bottom step just outside the room, other times she takes herself up to her bedroom and sits on the bed or hides under her duvet. Sometimes she hides under the table with a blanket and asks just to be left alone and not spoken to. If we’re out she’ll sometimes hide in my cardigan.
Before I taught her that she’d kick off. She’d tantrum and shout, get mad. Sometimes she’d run for the door and, because of the state she was in, we’d bring her back, worried she’d trip on the steps or bang hurt herself or break something. And she’d kick off more. And then I realised what she needed.
It works for when she’s naughty as well, compulsory time alone. If she’s raging about something I take her away. I take her away from whatever situation she is in and just wait. If she’s been naughty I don’t even try and address that until she’s cycled through it and calmed down, and when she does that she’s far more easily dealt with. Shouting at her when she’s raging achieves nothing except a greater level of tantrum. Quietly talking to her once she’s been given space to calm down is the only way. Then we can talk about what she’s done, why she’s done it, and how she and those around her feel. Then she says sorry, we have a cuddle, and she apologises to anyone else who deserves it.
She still kicks off sometimes, she’s nearly four, it comes with the territory. She has my tendency to mood swing and it can result in crushing despair over the tiniest of upsets. She has my fear of rejection and takes it badly, when she offers a toy or food to her step brother and he ignores her or refuses them, she will sometimes burst into tears of misery. Other times she will just shrug it off and carry on. But the serious raging tantrums are significantly less common. She feels more in control. She is more and more capable of recognising her own feelings and emotions. She hasn’t had a panic attack in weeks now.
Alone time, time to breathe, time to calm down, is an amazing cure. Whether its ten seconds under the table or ten minutes in a different room, it gives her control over her feelings and emotions, it helps prevent a more upsetting outcome.
I know how it feels when you start to feel out of control, when things are happening that you desperately need space from. As an adult, even if I can’t escape, as long as I don’t descend into a full panic attack, I can mostly handle the feelings inside me. I can cope. I feel wretched, I take a long time to crawl back to a normal state of mind, but I cope. I understand what’s happening and why I feel this way. If I didn’t? If I was surging with child sized confusion and hormones and lack of social awareness and control, plus those feelings of spiralling chaos. then I’d probably get myself into a screaming fit as well.
A huge part of parenting is teaching our kids how to survive in society. How to cope with life. And a huge part of that is self awareness. Recognising things about us that cause both ourselves and those around us distress and pain, the consequences of who we are and the impact it has. For Rose it’s the consequences of not giving herself time to calm down. How her brain reacts in a way that’s painful to her and how that reaction can also impact those around her.
It’s not an easy lesson, especially for a little child. It’s not easy to comprehend for an adult, indeed I was well into my twenties before I really got a grip on it and even now I miss the triggers, miss my body’s warnings. But I can help her. I can work with her, teach her, guide her.
All of us have something. Something about us that hurts ourselves and/or others that we need to try and understand and work with to make sure we and those around us are negatively impacted as little as possible. Nobody is a “perfect” being, all of us have something we learn every day to deal with (assuming we’re self aware enough to recognise what that is) and this is hers. It’s also mine.
Time alone isn’t always an easy thing to get, especially as a mother, but if it’s doable it really solves so many problems for us!
What are your coping mechanisms? What do you see in your children that they will need to learn to cope with? I’d love to hear from you! All my contact information is on www.jjbarnes.co.uk and I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You’ll also find links there to my podcasts and novels so check it out!