Thursday, March 9, 2017

3/9/17 #sol17 Jacob's voicemail

"Hi, Mom. It's Jacob. Um, so this morning, I had an asthma attack and a panic attack."

These are the words I heard on my voicemail tonight from my 9 year old son. I'm in California for work. He's in Ohio. I am heartbroken that I'm not with him.

Immediately, I called my husband. "Tell me everything," I demanded.

It turns out that our boy woke up this morning and was congested. So congested in fact, that he felt like he had something in his throat that he couldn't get out.  His body sent him into a coughing fit, trying to dislodge the phlegm. That coughing somehow sent him into a "what if" spiral that mostly focused on "what if I'm drowning like that commercial warned that sometimes people can drown from fluid in their lungs and what if that's happening to me and what if, what if, what if..."

My husband tried to calm him down, tried to soothe him. He put him in the bathroom and ran a steamy shower. He tried to reason with him. He tried to talk him through it. Finally, Jacob calmed down.

After a visit to the pediatrician and a confirmation that he's healthy and fine and indeed, he had a panic episode, I am left feeling so helpless.

You see, I know this "what if..." spiral too well. I hate it. I know how it can bring you to your knees and despite all rational reasoning, it's voice can loom larger than any other.

Looking back, I realize that I've always struggled with anxiety to some extent, but three years ago a hormonal shift happened in my body and I suddenly couldn't manage it on my own. Where in the past my anxiety manifested in a shortness of breath and a sense of unease, suddenly I was struck with chronic insomnia. Even writing about it gets the anxiety stirring a bit. Luckily the medicine has given me the ability to quiet those stirrings and put them in perspective.

But, now, my son. Ever since the election and the killer clowns he's been having little episodes. We thought he had asthma. Or allergies. Or anything that could explain his shortness of breath. But one night as I laid with him in his bed trying to soothe him with Vix and an inhaler, I saw something familiar.

I don't think he needs medicine. Yet. Right now we'll focus on teaching him mindfulness and helping him work through the moments. But my heart will continue to ache as I try to protect and support him while also trying not to project my own anxiety on him.

And so I'll take deep breaths. Be mindful. Pray more. And thank God for my own anxiety medicine that will help me help him.


  1. And thank God that you are willing to recognize it and talk about it. Your son will be fine - because you will help him to manage it.

  2. We need to talk. We definitely have some overlap in our lives.

  3. I'm so sorry your son was in distress and you were far away. I've had that happen before. My daughter once got so sick when I was out of town consulting and it broke my heart to not be near her. So I can imagine this was way harder on you since anxiety was also involved.

    Have you ever seen the Headspace app? It's a meditation app I've been using for years. There's a kids component to it you might want to check out for your son.

  4. I know it was incredibly hard to be away during this time. Time to do some mother and son mindfulness work, I suggest! You are and will continue to be an incredible role model for him.

  5. As one who deals with anxiety and has been watchful of signs in my own children, your piece completely resonated with me. We want our children to be free from the struggles we have endured, so it is painful when we see them grappling with them. I love the line, "I know how it can bring you to your knees and despite all rational reasoning, it's voice can loom larger than any other." People who don't deal with anxiety don't understand what it's like. Your son is fortunate to have a mother who does understand.

  6. I wanted to come back to this post because I read it, but didn't get a chance to comment on it. Dealing with anxiety is so difficult. You know that Libby has dealt with it for a long time. I have many gifted students who do, also. The important thing is that you have such great empathy and awareness. That's what Jacob needs!

  7. Your son is fortunate to have parents who will help him deal with his anxiety in loving, gentle ways. We live in a world that promotes anxiety to some extent - fears, violence, the what if's.The more we can help our children and our students to put their anxieties (fears, really) in perspective, the more we will equip them to deal with these as adults. Thinking of you.