My Fia Freak Out–Can I Be Fixed?

I’ve said it before: I need better coping skills. I am almost embarrassed to reveal the absurdity of my latest freak-out. But here goes:

We went on a last minute, mini-vacation to Sequoia State Park a couple weeks ago. We had a great time. As we were heading home, we stopped at this cute playground for Fia to run before sitting in the cramped car (this time we took the direct route versus our disastrous, vomit-induced one).

Phil was playing with Fia while I breastfed Emmett. I walked over and Phil says, “Do you think she’s running funny?”

I gasped. “What? What do you mean?”

“Don’t freak out,” he said through terse lips. “Jesus, can I not even have a conversation with you?”

Clearly, my anxiety has been an issue before.

I took a breath, “You’re right, I’m sorry. Let me watch her run.”

She starts to run and her legs start hobbling. She keeps falling down. They looked like rubber. So guess what I do? I FREAK THE F–K OUT.

“Oh my god, Phil, Phil,” I pleaded. “Oh my god. What is going on?”

He looked at me concerned, because he was obviously concerned too. But I could tell he was also worried about me. Or sick of me. He has said time and again to get a grip. He says I can’t react with such panic–for all of our sakes. I know he’s right.

Trembling, I got down on her level and took her shoes off. I seemed to remember thinking last week the sneakers were getting tight. She took off barefoot. Her gait was perfect.

In the 10 seconds it took to figure this out, here’s where my head went:

On our mini-vaco. These are not the shoes in question, btw.

She has a neurological disorder. A virus. It is fast progressing and eating away at her nerves. We have to rush to LA to Children’s Hospital. Something life-threatening is wrong with my daughter. If anything happens to her I will not survive. I love her too much.

Basically I had an internal panic attack. I say internal, because I did manage to hold it together in front of Fia, mostly because I was so afraid Phil would forever hate me. And of course, I don’t want to scare my kid. I know all too well from my upbringing what it’s like to have a weak, hand-wringing (then drunk, devoid of coping skills) parent. It’s probably where all this anxiety comes from.

But seriously, in less than a millisecond, my mind goes to the worst possible place. Is that a mom thing or a sign of deep neurosis? My friend Kirsten wrote a beautiful piece I posted on the art of letting go. But I justify (in my warped brain) that this is different–this is about tragedy befalling my children.

Phil was really pissed off. And I don’t blame him.  What I kept telling him was I don’t like feeling this way either. My visceral reaction truly scares me. It’s like my wires explode in my body and code red starts to ring. Then, because my body has basically been in fight-or-flight mode, it doesn’t just dissipate. It lingers. And on this day, it sat in the car for our 3-hour drive home, casting a pall on the once-boisterous mood.

If the scenario hadn’t filled me with such anxiety and dread, it would have been comical, ie: bad parenting moment: Our little girl has outgrown her shoes and mama freaked.

I spoke at length to Peter, my hypnotherapist. We did some really deep work in trying to get my brain to stop this pattern. Old habits die hard. It will take work on my part. But I have no choice.

This sh-t has got to stop.

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  1. by Stephanie Sprenger

    On July 24, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    Love.This. From another neurotic mommy prone to catastrophizing.

  2. by Heather

    On July 25, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    You are being too hard on yourself! Any mom would think like you did. It’s smart to work on your external reaction, and to work on talking yourself through situations internally so that you don’t get carried away, but part of the reason that your emotions are so strong is that you love her so much. Seems to me like Fia is very lucky to have a mom who cares so much.

  3. by Jill Cordes

    On July 25, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    Thank you both for not letting me feel like a total freak!

  4. by Lisa

    On July 31, 2012 at 11:26 am

    I have this same reaction all the time when it comes to my kids. I think my husband thinks I’m crazy (so do I sometimes). Any time there is some minor problem/sickness/health issue my mind goes straight to the worst possible outcome and I panic. I feel for you, and needless to say, I am working on my issues with this as well!

  5. by Julie K. Aponte

    On July 31, 2012 at 11:27 am

    Wow, I am in tears here. In tears because I have this exact tendency. It’s comforting to know I am not alone. Awareness is the key to working it out. Balance is essential too. I know this and will continue to Love my son and work on my responses to all situations. Thanks so much for sharing this.
    I truly appreciate it.

  6. by Raven Dietrich

    On July 31, 2012 at 11:30 am

    There is nothing wrong with you. Nothing. As long as you are holding yourself together while these things happen and not losing it in front of the children then you are doing exactly what every parent with young children does. Especially with their first child. Is Fia your first born? As children grow up and parents are getting to those stages for the first time moms will inevitably freak out. I still think I need to rush my 2 year old to a hospital every time she bumps her head. Injuries in my household usually go like this. Child: *crying* Her Dad: “She’s fine.” Me: “OMG look how she’s crying she isn’t fine! She’s obviously really really hurt we need to make sure she is okay. Are you sure she doesn’t need to go to the hospital? What if she has a concussion. Lets skip naptime just in case. Are you really -sure- no hospital?”

    You seem like you are doing everything just fine. So what if your mind jumps to the worst thing first? Get that worst thing out of the way and then think of how relieved you are when it turns out to just be shoes.

  7. by Melissa

    On July 31, 2012 at 11:30 am

    This is definitely a mom thing, and totally normal! It probably won’t ever stop, but maybe by the time she’s 30, it will at least get better. ;) You’re so not alone. Last weekend, my 20 month old daughter fell and banged her head on my parents’ PEBBLED driveway. It was a gusher. Not only that but she scratched up the rest of her face too. She was crying. I was nearly crying. I worried she would need stitches and wanted to take her to the emergency room (I was assured by everyone else there, including her father, that she did not need stitches). I worried she would be scarred for life (the face scratches are now completely gone, the head gusher is healing nicely). I worried she had a concussion. In fact, I was still worrying about all these things the NEXT DAY, when everyone else had moved on (including her – every time I poked at her “owie”, she smacked my hand away). And every mom I’ve spoken to has had many similar experiences. We’re moms, it seems to come with the territory. So don’t be so hard on yourself!

  8. by Michelle

    On July 31, 2012 at 11:32 am

    I do think you are overreacting but I think that might be due to hormones from pregnancy and breastfeeding, lack of sleep and perhaps your own insecurities for living life separate from your children. That may sound harsh, but I’m not judging you, I’m just saying what it sounds like based on the fact that I have started feeling better, more sane, etc. now that my little one is sleeping through the night. My nerves were raw and every time I heard a horrible news story that involved children, I would sob for at least five minutes, picturing my children as the victims. It’s easy for the husbands to tell us to calm down. To them, we appear physically fine, they just can’t fathom all of the internal, unseen things that have transformed our bodies and minds. I think you’ll be calm again next year…but maybe talking to your hypnotherapist and others can help you return to “normal” faster. Whatever normal is… :0)

  9. by Melissa

    On July 31, 2012 at 11:32 am

    This is definitely a mom thing, and totally normal! It probably won’t ever stop, but maybe by the time she’s 30, it will at least get better. ;) You’re so not alone. Last weekend, my 20 month old daughter fell and banged her head on my parents’ PEBBLED driveway. It was a gusher. Not only that but she scratched up the rest of her face too. She was crying. I was nearly crying. I worried she would need stitches and wanted to take her to the emergency room (I was assured by everyone else there, including her father, that she did not need stitches). I worried she would be scarred for life (the face scratches are now completely gone, the head gusher is healing nicely). I worried she had a concussion. In fact, I was still worrying about all these things the NEXT DAY, when everyone else had moved on (including her – every time I poked at her “owie”, she smacked my hand away). And every mom I’ve spoken to has had many similar experiences. We’re moms, it seems to come with the territory. So don’t be so hard on yourself. :)

  10. by Kim

    On July 31, 2012 at 11:34 am

    I have this very same tendency to head straight to the worst possible scenario (ie. little one was limping SLIGHTLY one morning for an hour, after traumatic x-rays and doctor visit we find out she had slept on her leg funny and it was VERY asleep – I had myself convinced she had the same nerve devouring virus in her hip socket). My husband is very sick of my conclusion jumping and friends tell me I need medicated. FYI, I have the same hand wringing/drunk parents! Glad to hear there’s someone else out there!

  11. by karen

    On July 31, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    It is natural that we are worried when something happens to the ones we love, but to initially panic to each and everything that doesn’t happen exactly how we expect it will create neurosis in our children (and be counter productive to what we as parents are intending to do) or will cause such undo stress in us and could cause our child(ren) to not have a parent.

    When my oldest was born, almost 20 years ago , I learned to use the skills I learned in scouts/lifeguarding/leadership courses. Panicing causes further issues, problems, delay in case of a real emergency. First, have to rule out the basics and work your way up in severity depending on the situation. Next assess the situation, get the facts and information and then act/react accordingly. Have you taken any first aid/first responder classes? Arming yourself on what to do incase of an emergency, knowing how signs and symptoms often start out similar regardless of it being a major or a minor thing.

    As a mom, I have to open up my vision and see the big picture rather than looking at life and each bump in the road through a microscope on a daily basis. If you just look thru the microscope, you miss out on a lot.

  12. by Rena

    On July 31, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    Over the top, but I’ve been questioned on if I ever panic. I’m a down to earth go with the flow type of person whatever my kids and life throw at me is just another thing on the list of “Done it”. However to jump so far into what a problem within seconds you actually feel the need to rush head on to the hospital when the real problem turns out to be something as simple and silly as a too tight shoe or a fallen alseep leg…you may want to talk to a professional about that. For the sake of everyone you live with.

  13. by Felicia

    On July 31, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    I laughed the entire time I read this. And not because I think you’re nuts, but because I do the exact same thing. And my husband has the same reactions your husband does. Poor guys! I’ve actually been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder (several years before I had my baby) and so I take medicine for it. Although it helps, I still have those mommy freak out moments- I’m just slightly more calm and hopefully slightly less annoying to my husband. Don’t know if you’re typically anxious over other things too or just your kids, or how you feel about taking medications for such things, but that’s probably something you can consider if you feel anxious about lots of other things too. Obviously everyone has to make the choice that’s best for them, but it definitely helps keep things a little more even and normal for me!

  14. by Amanda

    On July 31, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    It it so reassauring to know that I am not the only one feeling this way!! My kids are 8,6,3,&2 and I swear some days I think I’m just going to lose it because of my anxiety. Lately I’ve been really trying to stop expressing all my worries because my 8 year old daughter is starting to do the exact same thing, and I feel absolutely horrible for making her feel that way. I do not want any of my kids to ever feel the stress and anxiety that I feel. A simple cough has me up at night wondering if they have pneumonia and a bug bite makes me think they’ve gotten some crazy disease. I want my kids to be carefree and full of life and joyful. So, I am trying my hardest to just CHILL OUT. It’s tough though! So glad you shared this with us! Thanks!

  15. by Rachel

    On July 31, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    Oh my gosh thank you so much! I am exactly like this and I was starting to feel like I’m the only one who freaks out instantly. This made me feel very reassured. And my husband also has the same reaction as yours.

  16. by schyla

    On July 31, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    Yup sounds perfectly normal to me… well normal for a mom. and on a side not my husband too thinks I’m crazy but I thank the Lord every single day I have those OMGosh something is wrong emotions because without them we’d NEVER have figured out that our oldest has Seizures and that our youngest wasn’t eating right because the food was going into his lungs. So do I over react when it comes to my kids HELL yes dose my husband think I’m some crazy psychotic freak Yes but he’s also learned that almost every single time my instincts have been spot on something is wrong even if it was just her shoes being too small.

  17. by Mary

    On July 31, 2012 at 6:47 pm

    I think I would have thought along similar lines if my husband had said something similar to me. My reaction would have been the same and my husband would have gotten upset with me too…where we differ however is after checking the shoes I would have laughed, and laughed (probably out of relief)…then I would have blamed my husband for not checking the shoes first.
    We are human and make mistakes…forgive yourself.

  18. by Alissa

    On August 1, 2012 at 9:43 pm

    I totally agree that you should not be so hard on yourself & hormones during breastfeeding can do crazy things! But the one word that jumped out at me was “drunk” referring to a parent. I hope that you won’t find this too forward from a stranger, but Al Anon changed my life. I think almost anyone could benefit from the skills they teach & one of the main ones is “Serenity” I have found oodles more of it since I started. All Moms worry & overreact & jump to crazy conclusions, what I have learned is how not let it take over my mind. Doesn’t that sound great? I hope that you know that no matter what, you are being a great Mom. What you need is just for yourself.

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  21. [...] However, that meant either Phil or I had to go back with him to keep him calm when the mask went on. The doctor warned me that he might start breathing really heavy, with his eyes rolling back. He wanted to make sure I could handle it. I quickly elected Phil.  I know my limitations and if I had to, I could do it. But I knew Phil would have an easier time keeping calm. [...]