I’m honored to have Gravity Imprint author H.M. Jones here today with us to share her experiences as a parent who suffers from panic disorder, and how that has affected her. Look for Jones’ amazing book, Monochrome, on August 1!
An oppressive heaviness settles like an elephant on my chest, fear pricks my fingers, shooting pain through my arms. Something evil is trying to inhabit my body. I can’t breathe. I want to open my eyes, wake up from this nightmare, but I can barely move, can’t seem to get oxygen into my body. I’m a cement block of fear. When I’m finally able to open my eyes, I’m so afraid of what I’ll see, but I’m not sure why I’m afraid. I’ve never been a fearful person, until I had children. I guess that’s when the panic attacks started. My lungs start to work again, pushing air in and out of my body. The air awakes my senses and my body tingles with pins and needles. My husband comes out of the bathroom and stares at me, noting my wide eyes, my labored breathing. “Are you alright?”
[share ]I only nod. I can’t talk yet. I just need to breathe.[/share]
The Panic Attacks
The panic attacks began about 2010, just after having my first baby. I wasn’t prepared for all the little things that would go wrong: the fact that my breasts would not produce enough milk to nourish my baby, that she would cry, all the time, starved. That her jaundice would not go away and I would have to hold her, awkwardly fumbling, over a UV belt. I thought it would be immediate—the urge to mother, nurture, to love. But it wasn’t for me. It was all sleepless nights, my body failing me, her yellow body a mass of hungry screams.
My sister came to visit when my baby was three months old. She picked up my skinny little girl, the baby that the lactation consultants swore was probably just fine, was getting all the food she needed. They told me my breasts would produce what she needed, but they just didn’t. My sister picked up that scrawny baby and tears came to her eyes. She took me to the store and bought me a can of formula and a bottle. She told me to feed my baby girl from my breast all I could, and then switch when she became frustrated, which was always (since one of my breasts never produced actual milk).
I put her to my sore, un-swollen breast and she ate for a few minutes, until the nutrition ran out. It never took long for that to happen. I could feel they were empty after only a few minutes. [share ]My body had failed in one of its simplest functions[/share]. I was failing as a mother. My sister saw the light leave my eyes, saw moisture collect under my lids. She went to the kitchen and mixed the formula into a bottle. She sat next to me and put my hand around the warm bottle. It felt like hope. She placed the rubber nipple next to my chapped, bleeding one. Clara ate the entire bottle, burped, and fell asleep. The ache in her stomach satiated, she stopped screaming.
I gave her to my sister, went to the bathroom and bawled. I’d been starving my child because I was told it was the best for her. I was so mad at myself, at all the “help” I’d been given, at the advice that fell short and at my body for not doing what it was made to do. I had a panic attack, then, for the fifth time in three months.
Baby Number Two
I have another child. I fed him both from breast and bottle. He was happy immediately, slept well and was content. He had jaundice too, but it left him much more quickly since he received proper nutrition and vitamins from the start. The panic attacks stopped for a while.
Recently, they’ve started again, though. And I don’t know why. My children are 5 and 3 and are helpful, fun and generally manageable. But since 2013, I’ve had several more panic attacks, and guilt plagues me. Guilt over what? Over not bonding with my first right away, over putting stress on our relationship that we are still repairing? Over bonding immediately with my son, understanding him right off? Over allowing my husband to take the financial burden, after spending years and years getting expensive degrees, so I could be with the kids? Over being good at something that just doesn’t pay the bills and may not ever pay the bills? I don’t know where the guilt comes from, but I now understand the phrase, “Mother’s guilt” in a way I never could before having children.
The Daily Struggle
Every single day I struggle with my mistakes, my misspoken words, my harsh actions/reactions. I feel like a walking, talking screw-up, in a way I never did before having children. Would I trade it? Never. The payback is that I have two amazing, funny, smart companions to share my thoughts, dreams, talents, hobbies with. And they are their own hilarious people, so different from me, with their own fears and thoughts and stories and desires. And it’s all so amazing that I grew them in my body! They give back as much as I put in. It’s amazing, this “parenting” gig, but it’s also done a number on me.
I think (read overthink) things all the time now. I’m afraid of everything, what “A” will do to them, how they will react to “B,” whether they will be hurt by “C.” The panic attacks that come with the job are the worst part. Being a mother with a mood disorder is overwhelming, but it’s manageable. We all get by. Even panic attacks only last so long. And I feel braver, just living life as a mother.
There is nothing more frightening, after all, than a parent worrying over their children.
About H.M. Jones:
H.M. Jones is the B.R.A.G Medallion author of Monochrome, re-released with Gravity, an imprint of Booktrope. She is also responsible for the Attempting to Define poetry quartet and has contributed a short story to Master’s of Time: A Sci-Fi and Fantasy Time Travel Anthology. A bestseller only in her mind, Jones pays the electric bill by teaching English and research courses at Northwest Indian College. Jones is also the moderator for Elite Indie Reads, a review website for Indie and Self published books. Besides buying enough second-hand books to fill a library, Jones loves to spend time helping her preschoolers grow into thinking, feeling citizens of this world, run, weave, pull with the Port Gamble S’Klallam Canoe Family and attempt to deserve her handsome husband, who is helping pay the other bills until his wife becomes the next big thing. Connect with her on her website.
That’s the question that Abigail Bennet, a new mother, must answer in this dark fantasy.
The cries of her new baby throw Abigail into rage and desperation. Frightened by foreign anger and overwhelming depression, the first-time mother decides to end her life to spare the life of her only child. But before she acts on her dark intuition, she is overcome by a panic attack and blacks out.
When she awakes, everything is blue: the trees, the grass, the rocks and still, scentless sky above her. Everything except the face of the man who stands over her. He is Ishmael Dubois and claims to be her Guide through the dangerous world of Monochrome, a physical manifestation of the depressed mind. But in a place where good memories are currency, nightmares walk, and hopeless people are hired to bring down those who still have the will to live, Abigail starts to wonder if she’ll ever make it back to her family. Despite her growing feelings for her handsome, mysterious Guide, Abigail must fight for the life she once wished to take or fade into the blue.