A journal of healing

Panic Attacks

reaaching      I have not written in a while because of a situation going on in my husband’s family….well sort of his family. His ex-wife, the mother of his only daughter passed away. We thought originally it was sudden but as time went on this past week, we have discovered there was a whole lot of BS being flung and it has put an even wider gap between this daughter and father. It is sad all the way around. A short synopsis to explain how this story evolves will get me to my topic.

Almost twelve years ago, I met my to-be husband. He had a 13 year old daughter and he had sole custody. Things happened rather suddenly and they ended up moving in with me. She had her own room and it was fun being a family. It was pretty disruptive for E. (the daughter) because she was used to having her own way and doing nothing. Long story condensed; she did not like having to do chores, walk to school (less than a 1/8 of a mile) and having to share her father. Things got ugly when her mother, who lived in California, interjected into our lives and then promised her a trouble free existence and no demands. Her mother had remarried and up until that point had made no mention of ever taking over the custody of her daughter. E. wanted to move out and so with our blessing she left for the summer and stayed there. That was nine years ago. The day before she left, she ripped into her father and I do not have the whole story, nor will I ever. It destroyed him and he actually ended up in the hospital with chest pains. His heart was truly broken. To this day he gets a tear in his eyes when he mentions it. Whatever she said must have been awful. In the years that followed, the gap got wider and wider to the point where they did not talk much at all. We still had high expectations for her. But she was not challenged to grow and become independent, so she remained dependent on her step-father and mother. Within a short time of her moving out there, her step-father died. We knew her mother was not the type to change her extremely unhealthy life style and was counting on E to be her caregiver. Time stretched on and the connection of father and daughter pretty much evaporated.

What we know now is that her mother’s condition was diagnosed a couple of years ago and at that time, the only thing that would give her a chance was a lifestyle change. It was too little too late. E. emulated everything her mother did. Terrible eating habits, no exercise and self-care was pretty much non-existent. Their idea of physical activity was to go from one chair to another. She worked at home. At 52, she died of liver failure which created kidney failure and then heart failure. It is known as HRS or hepatorenal syndrome. Prognosis is poor or basically terminal. We did not know this until later this week.

A week ago, Joe noticed on Facebook that E. had posted that her mother was in the hospital again. So with urging, he called. His daughter was all upset and yet we still did not have a true picture of what was going on. We called off and on all weekend until finally on Saturday she called him crying. She finally admitted that her mother was terminal and things we very bleak. She was alone and scared. Both my husband and I are standing in Wal-Mart crying, our hearts were breaking for her. WE got home and called a couple more times to hear if anyone else was on their way to the hospital to be with her. We heard nothing more until the next morning when we heard her mother had passed. None of her mother’s side of the family had made it there in time. I guess a friend of her mother had finally come up to the hospital to be with her. E has no friends of her own.

Friday night, the first panic attack hit me. I had gone to bed and was very tired. I fell asleep easily. Around 3, my eyes flew open and I realized something very physically was starting to happen to me. My mind started to race with all the scenarios of the past conflicts with his daughter and myself and the overall theme of how I was taken advantage of by both of them. My emotional state ran from sad to angry and with such velocity. I laid there and realized that all my muscles were in a clench and my shoulders were up at my ears. Then the first wave hit. I felt nauseous and like a blanket of dampness, the terror fell from my head to my feet, inch by inch. In my mind’s eye, it was like cold caramel slowly being poured over me. I felt like I was slightly levitated off the bed as I disassociated. Anyone who has been sexually abused will understand how you disassociate. You actually leave your body and watch from a distance. I was almost panting my breath was so short. I felt sweaty but I was not sweating. I actually got up and went and walked around for a bit and then went back to bed. I tried to get back to the present moment and thankfully I was tired enough to fall back asleep.

The next night, a repeat performance was on the docket. But I anticipated it happening. So as soon as I startled awake, I started my slow breathing pattern. This calms me down usually. I closed off as much thoughts as I could and focused on my breathing. But like a slippery fog, I felt the wave start. It came from above my head and washed down slowly. Being weak, I succumbed to the perseveration of the “what if’s?” Once I get on that merry-go-round, it is very hard to slow it down, let alone to get off. As much as I tried to refocus my thinking, I kept trying to make sense of all that was going on. How were we going to help E and how were we going to bring her into our home. I thought about all the renovations we just had done to create a nest for two, an office for Joe and remodel her old bedroom. But we did not finish all the work in the bedroom because I had not made up my mind what I wanted to do in there. But because we enlarged the bathroom to make it “handicapped” accessible for me… the room was smaller. Off my what-if’s would start again.

I was having panic attacks because I was unsafe. My body flared in pain terribly. My home life was about to become completely turned up-side down. I was going to have to have this young woman who was so totally different from me live in my small home. She and I got along well until her mother got wind of that. Then she would tell her daughter she did not have to listen to me, follow my “orders” and she did not have to do chores. She totally undermined all the work I was trying to do to get her to grow up and become independent. She needed to thrive. This ongoing battle escalated and was horrible to live with. Joe was in the middle. One time I woke up and she had been standing very close to me while I was sleeping…. with my sewing shears in her hand. Trust me, that will give you pause.

My temper while driving to work at the beginning of the week was very short fused. Fortunately once at work, she would be off my mind. But on arrival back home, I would start in with worrying about what we were going to do. It was not until the middle of the week that we got a more realistic picture of what had happened with the disease and her mother and what was really going to happen.

The plans were all in place for E to move back east. . She had told us on Friday that her plan was to move back East and I thought here. That was what started my panic attack. What we did not know was she was going to move in with her mother’s brother and his family downstate. There is a lot more to this which is all a bit underhanded and has to do with (of course) money, but the result is that this is what E wants, she says. It is not at all the best thing, but she is 25. It will be nice for my husband to see her when she is living in the same state. I am hoping that there may be a chance they can heal some of their discrepancies.

Tonight was the last time I am going to let this get to me and be concerned. She was very curt on the phone with us as if we were the enemy. Last night she was almost jubilant as they were all going to a very expensive restaurant for the wake. Her mood was not befitting a grieving daughter at all. Tonight, she was back to the curt tone and illusive answers. She had told her father she was going to continue her education. So tonight I asked an innocent question. What was she going to school for? (Aside: she has been attending a two year community college  for six years and we do not think she finished the degree.) I was floored when she answered she was Pre-Med… OMG….(Not with that scholastic record) As we were talking with her, someone picked up the phone to listen in on our conversation. I am sure it was the Uncle who we think stands to make some money by helping her and is afraid he will lose out if Joe steps in to help her and make her come back here. Or worse, they might think we are after any money that may be in her mother’s estate.

Silly girl. Two weeks ago, Joe and I went to start planning for our retirement and saw a financial planner. The next step is finishing  our wills. Because she has not called to talk to her dad , he always calls her, and the fact she has not said a civil word to me in years….. Well, she has no idea what our estate will be worth. This just makes me smile. Actually, I have been driving to work just grinning the last two days. And I will sleep tonight for sure.

………..Can you say sqwatchola.


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