Monday, November 26, 2012

Conquering Crazy

I stared at my doctor, my allergist, "So basically I'm making all of this up, and I'm not allergic to anything?"


I laughed, "Awesome.  Always good to know you are a little crazy."  I stared at my arm with little prick marks tracing it from my wrist to my elbow, "You've had this happen before, right?  I'm not like the only one who thinks they are dying, but are really having panic attacks?"

He nodded.  I chose to believe him.  Not that I went immediately to the nearest seafood restaurant and ingested my growing list of food allergies: shell fish, hazelnuts, unusual cheese, hard cider....

"Something is triggering the beginning of your panic attack and that part is legitimate.  You had a real reaction to penicillin when you were young and the body remembers and so is mimicking the symptoms."  This made sense.  I remembered from my college acting class that truly, the body does remember.  You'd better be careful what you practice or when the show comes up...that's what you'll do.

"What do you think is the real symptom?"

"Heart burn?  Too much chocolate, so heart etc."

I looked at him. I looked at my arm, "OK, I believe you.  This is cheaper than counseling."

Not that convincing my body that I wasn't going into anaphalactic shock would be easy, no way!  My challenge was great and my admiration for my mind was unparalleled.

I told my story to my friends.  I refused to be ashamed.  I think this was perhaps the first part toward conquering my mind.  It is always good to admit you are crazy, right?

First I decided to try rare and delicious cheese.  My mind began to work: my heart started to race, and I was sure my throat was constricting.  I sipped water and told myself over and over that if my throat was constricting then I would not be able to drink the water I was swallowing.  Slowly I calmed myself down and the symptoms went away.  The cheese was delicious.

Next I moved on to hard cider.  This was tricky because the night when I was sure I was having a reaction to this drink, my friends all saw the red rash climbing up my throat and neck.  It seemed so real. I had witnesses.  But then I remembered the words of my doctor, "No one is ever allergic to alcohol.  Many people come in here thinking they are allergic, and they are just not used to the effects of alcohol or they are eating really rich foods and having heartburn." (Mine was probably a combination...we were all enjoying some nachos together, nachos and jalapenos.) I pushed through the panic, and trusted the evidence.

Hazelnuts were fairly easy to break since they were my most recent allergy, and the panic attack I had associated with them was fairly minimal, plus I really wanted to continue my love affair with Nutella.

But the shell fish.  That one I wanted to hold on to.  I mean, couldn't my doctor have been wrong on at least one of his tests?  I mean, people die from shell fish allergies.  The time I reacted to shellfish the reaction had been so immediate, so real, so connected.  I decided to avoid all seafood except salmon.

This last weekend I was helping myself to the Thanksgiving snack bar and didn't realize the dip that I was thoroughly enjoying had crab in it.  Into my second helping I cautioned myself, "Wait, that looks like crab."  Sure enough, my symptoms began.  I tried to battle it myself, tell myself that I only began to have the reactions once my mind knew what it was, but the crab panic was hard to break.  I pulled my husband aside and told him what was happening.  He laughed.

And so did I.  "No, that's good...make me laugh.  That will help me relax.  So he did.  I sipped some water and he made fun of me."  Victory!

This has been a powerful experience for me, really.  One I am glad I've had.  I have new respect for panic attacks in general.  I think I might have made this all sound too easy, but really it has been almost a year of working through these matters-of-the-mind.  I also have great sympothy for people who have panic attacks.  It is really horrible and gets worse with each attack.

I know so many people who have gone to allergists and are told they are not allergic to anything, but they disagree. They find another "expert" who gives them a list of intolerances and they continue to avoid many delicious foods.  I hardly want to recommend doing what I did...I mean, what if I'm wrong, but I certainly can't be the only one out there.  I know I'm not the only one who has had this happen to them or is letting this happen to them.  Right?  Thoughts?

(Note:  Food concerns/beliefs have become fairly major in the last few years and there are some very real allergies, but I just wonder if a lot of it is all in our heads.  I feel a bit risky posting this because beliefs on food can be just as sacred as beliefs on religion or politics.  Let the comments begin!)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Why Is Three So Hard?

Why is three so hard?  My memory is not kind either, because unfortunately I’ve forgotten how tricky the other two boys were at this age.  In the moment, I feel like A is my nemesis, my nightmare.  He’s the one proving to the world that I am an unfit parent, mother.  Hans tells me B and C were both rough at this age.  I seem to have forgotten.  I’m sure A is the hardest.

My nightly reading is a book titled, Knowing Your Three-Year-Old.  I find comfort and encouragement from this read.  My favorite line goes something like this, “The three-year-old sees his mother as his enemy at age three-and-a-half.  This is a good age for the mother to enroll her child in preschool, to give her and her child a few hours off from each other.”  Unfortunately it is hard to take this book’s advice since I am my son’s preschool teacher.  Oh dear.  We are doomed.
I have put all my faith, hope, and love into the fact that his 4th birthday keeps getting closer and closer.  February, come quickly. 

I try and remind myself that he is cute, sweet, plays well by himself, is smart, creative, and ingenious…focus on these things.  But it is hard when he seems so volatile.  I pleaded with his oldest brother to play with him and build a furniture fort with our little demon on a day when A was especially difficult.  A was so excited, so giddy.  He adores B.  “Yeah, let’s build a fort B!”  But something wasn’t quite right with the fort.  A’s toes stuck out and were exposed to the harsh weather elements of our living room.  Rage ensued.  Couch cushions scattered.  B looked for an escape.   

“B, you don’t have to play with him.”  Relief.

A was devastated, “But I wanted to build a fort.”

“Yeah, but when you get angry like that it is scary to play with you.”  Tears.  Favorite blanket, chair snuggle…calm.

At preschool last week we were at a total impasse.  A refused to sit and eat his snack with the other children.  He crumpled his pathetic body into the corner of the classroom.  It had been a rough morning up to that point and it felt like my limit of tolerance.  I was ready to call Grandma and send him home.  I knelt down beside him, “Can you use your words and tell me what is wrong?”

“But I wanted to share my fruit snacks.”  I wanted to cry.  This stubborn tantrum came from a really good place.  Here I thought he was just being obstinate, but instead he was devastated.  I had no idea that the fruit snacks he asked me to buy him were supposed to be passed out and share with his friends.  Sweet boy.  “Let’s go get them.  I think they are in your cubby.”  Up he bounded, joy in his step…making sure each classmate got a handful of his special treats.

I have to remind myself to look at what is motivating the meltdown.  Usually it is sadness, frustration, or disappointment…not pure anger…just miscommunication.

And then the memories begin to come back.  B, at a young age had to sort out his feelings over his new baby brother, C.  Oh the meltdowns!  Whenever it was time to nurse this new intrusion, B, would wail and moan as he tossed and turned all over the living room carpet.  C had certain expectations and desires at age three too.  He threw a royal fit during his swim lessons when his instructor handed him the pink floating noodle.  Wow, what a scene.  I was at a total loss.
And guess what…C and B are very nice little boys.  I always get compliments after play dates and birthday parties.  No complaints from their teachers.  They are kind and thoughtful; they communicate their wants and desires, and can balance their emotions with the world around them.   

Still, I forget this, I forget how far they’ve come.  It is always good to take time to remember.  However, in this particular era, A is very frustrating, and I’m still looking forward to four…along with everyone else.

(I wrote this after a week of intense power struggles with A.  This last week has been blissful.  He's been sweet and good at communicating.  We've had special one-on-one times, like making his famous cookie pie and playing games together.  But when I wrote this I was in a very frustrated state.)