Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Address of Sanity

So, I had a panic attack this week. I never really knew what panic attack was until I was weeks away from delivering my first child.

Due to some wacky blood pressure readings, I had to go into my doctor’s office twice a week and have the baby monitored. It always put me into a foul mood. I hated being hooked up to those sensors and, in my opinion, they don’t even work. The baby’s heartbeat was constantly being lost and then some crabby nurse would come in and force me to lay in an extremely uncomfortable and impossible position, instructing my 9 month pregnant self, “not to move.” Seriously, it was torture. Of course, in the end, it was worth every agonizing minute, but still.

One day, while eating my ice and watching the monitor spit out the papers of my baby’s heartbeat, I was thinking about starting a baby scrapbook. I would start with my first ultrasound, maybe some pictures of myself growing over the summer months, and BAMMM! I started feeling like someone had shut me into a box. I couldn’t breathe, my head felt full of pressure and I thought I was going to pass out. I thought, for sure, that something had happened and I was going to die. It was then my mommy instinct kicked in. If I was going to die, the last thing I better do is get some help so they can save the baby. Joseph can handle being a single dad….

Because I was in a back room, I decided I better yell for help. I tried to shout, and could not find the breath, or the voice to do so. I yelled and yelled, like one does under water or in a bad dream, and was amazed there was no sounds escaping me. Finally, I got out a meek, “help, I think I need help” and was able to pound on the door to get the attention of a medical tech who was passing. Just as she entered the room, I collapsed into her. She called for doctors and suddenly there were people all around me.

The remainder of that day is a blur of embarrassment. At the time, we only had one car. I had to call my husband at work and have him ask his boss to drive him to the hospital as I was not allowed to drive until it was determined what had happened to me. My OBGYN was called in, the baby was checked, and I was sent to a neurologist for a consultation and a CAT scan. In the end, the neurologist diagnosed me as having had a severe panic attack. I tried to telling the doctors this could not be it – I was thinking about scrap booking for crying out loud! Who has a panic attack over that? They told me it really sounded like a severe panic attack and that maybe some part of me was really getting nervous for the birth and becoming a parent and the whole lot. I still question, but haven’t really needed to think about it too much (well, except when I write the check every month for the treatment I’m still paying off) until I was reminded of this incident this past weekend.

Sunday after Mass, I received a work e-mail informing me some pictures I was counting on could not be found. It really was no big deal to me, I half expected it and had already created a plan B for going out and taking the pictures myself. I charged up my camera, put the gals down for a nap and headed out to a semi-local suburb to take some pictures of the community.
The drive was rather enjoyable. The location is about 40 minutes (that is how you measure distance in Wisconsin, in minutes or hours) away and I was enjoying the alone time and singing along with a CD I had brought. I do remember I was sitting in an odd position as I was trying to hide my rather pale and pasty self from the hot sun.

After the first hour of scouting out the town, I decided I better get going and actually take these photos and get on with it. I parked my mini-van between two BMWs and set out on foot through the town square shopping center. I got most of the shoots I needed of the building and general “American-ness” of the people milling about on the weekend. However, I started to feel strange. I was clearly an observer in this summer-scene snow globe. People were shopping, kids were running, parents were loading their expensive trucks with groceries and so on. I was there with a camera to capture it, not experience it. It is amazing how different things look through the lens of a camera.

I started to feel some of those same feelings I had on the day of, “the- day –I- will- refer to- as- the- incident- even- though- the- doctors- insist- it- was- a- panic- attack- I- am- not- buying- it.” It was, by no means, anywhere near the same experience I had in that doctor’s office a year and a half ago – but I could recognize some similarities. I didn’t know what was happening then, but this time I knew exactly what I was thinking. I was thinking, this is NOT me. This is not what I want for my life and for the lives of my children. We are not fancy pants suburb type people. We are those annoying people who really do sit around talking about books and foreign films while wearing black and looking into alternative education for our children. The quant little town center I had thought was cute a minute ago suddenly became a prison cell and I wanted out as fast as I could! The sky seemed clearer and bluer here, all the cars looked the same, all the people looked the same!

Now, I have nothing against suburbs. I like most of the benefits they offer to families. Good schools and Churches, safety and a sense of community are all wonderful things I want for our family. However, I think I may need to find these things in a smaller or more artistic town, rather than a super fancy pants suburban community. Just a personal preference, but one I feel strongly about - apparently, more strongly than I knew!

Since we moved to Milwaukee two years ago, I have been complaining to my husband, “I hate it here and I will not raise our kids here.” My thinking was that it is the most expensive city in Wisconsin to have a family and the only way to stay in a safe, family friendly area and send our kids to good schools, would be to move to the suburbs and we could never afford that, so what in God’s name are we living here for? His answer always has something to do with the fact that, “this horrible place” is where his job is. He is also from this part of the state and although it would not be his first choice in a location, he doesn’t mind it nearly as much as I do.

Now, I do technically live in a suburb, but we don’t own our place of residents, so in my mind it doesn’t count. I feel like I went out to the land of Stepford and it literally spit me back out! That’s ok, I didn’t want to be swallowed up by it anyway.


Kim said...

Holly, what a terrible feeling! But I suppose it's not a bad thing - in fact it's a good thing - that such an experience affected you so deeply. It shows you have a holy longing for the things that are of God and have no need to build your life around the empty promises of the world. It's great that you realize that is not what you want for your family.
I had a similar thing happen to me after one of the boys' Baptisms. He had gotten so many gifts, and after everyone had left, I sat in the living room looking at all the things he had been given. I felt such a deep, anxious, empty ache in the pit of my stomach. I don't think I would describe what I felt as a panic attack, though, so maybe it wasn't as strong as what you felt... there's no way to know of course. While I didn't like that feeling, I was glad I felt so strongly against so many material gifts, especially after something so blessed as a Baptism.
Andy and I know something about wanting to move away from the city... though Green Bay is not quite Milwaukee. Small town life has been great, and this "city girl" did get used to it quickly, especially with all the young families around the town we're in. Maybe someday, if God wills it... but God's will is always what's best for us no matter what it is, even if it's staying in Milwaukee. God bless you, Holly!

Roxane B. Salonen said...

Holly, I have had one panic attack, several years ago, and it definitely was an out-of-body sort of experience. What I was seeing on the outside and what I was experiencing on the inside were in great contrast. It was the oddest feeling, and very scary indeed. Like both of your incidences, everything around me looked serene but it was contradicting my insides. From what you described, I would say the doctors were right. I hope you can get to the bottom of it so you can live without the fear of this being a repeating experience. Just know that God is with you and will continue to be through all of your probing, praying and discovering. Hugs from afar...

Katie said...

Hey, Holly. As noted in other comments, you are NOT alone! I, too, have dealt with anxiety (although not on that same level, and you know I am not a fan of big city life either. I'll keep praying that you guys have a strong calling to some place more suited for you and hopefully that place will be closer to us!

What is beautiful, is that you know where you do NOT belong. And that means you have an idea of where you DO belong, and even though you aren't there now, it's still good that you know these things. I think it's kind of like heaven. We are stuck in this world - the big city you are in being a good representation of that - but we want to be in heaven, where things are peaceful and reflect God's will for mankind. Even if you don't get to your "heaven" on earth, your dealing with the world can be a blessing that brings you closer to Him daily.

edawson said...

Hey Holly - I'm veteran of those things. But that doesn't matter because when they happen they're still scary. You'd be surprised what can cause them though - simple drop in blood pressure, not enough something in your diet, or crazy hormones, and then since you've had one before you have residual feelings about them and there you have it - another panic attack.

Your feelings of couped-up-edness could be causing them. But always remember this too shall pass. And even if you end up living in suburbia for some reason - you can create your own island of culture.

Anne said...

Holly, I'm so sorry that you are unhappy in Milwaukee and its suburbs. I grew up in Manitowoc (80 miles to the North) and have been in a Milwaukee suburb for 23 years and absolutely love it! I couldn't think of a better place to live, especially with beautiful Lake Michigan nearby. Like you, I am not wealthy or materialistic, my family and I make do with simple things. I hope you will be able to find others in our community who appreciate you and with whom you can relate so that you can come to love Milwaukee (or at least tolerate it!). With prayers!