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Getting My Happy On – Life After Panic Attacks


I have hesitated over writing this post now for sometime.It is a post to tell you about how I get my happy on.  A post to share how easy it is to find pleasure in the smallest of things, in the briefest of moments, if only we tune our hearts and minds into feeling them, seeing them and being present for them.

But in order to start, I somehow feel that I must, even in brief, touch on what brought me to that point of realisation.  It is a topic that deserves more time than this post will allow, but I’ll give you a brief run down.

In November 2010, just a few weeks after Bubble’s first birthday I was driving home from dropping Woo at 3 year old kinder when ‘it’ happened.  I had been feeling stressed and frazzled and so very tired for weeks prior.  Hell, that first year of having three small children aged 3 and under is now something of a blur.  Perhaps I had been feeling that way for months.  In hindsight I can certainly identify the heavy weight and the feeling of overwhelm pressing down on me from the moment that I discovered that I was pregnant the third time around.  The Woo was two years old and Foghorn was only seven months old himself and still a baby!  How would I cope?  It all felt like such a struggle.

Surely motherhood wasn’t meant to be that way.  I loved my children with all my heart, so why did I start the day feeling so overwhelmed, watching the clock and counting down the hours until Hubbster would be back to lend a hand.  Why did I find my son’s behavior so challenging?  Why couldn’t the doctor’s tell me why he has speech difficulties, why he toe-walks, why he is so hyperactive….why, why, why?

Why did I feel like I couldn’t breathe?

The truth of the matter is that I wanted to be everything to everyone, and felt like I was failing miserably.

Driving home that day I can clearly remember the sensation.  The tightness in my chest, the shortness of breath, and then the panic as my vision blurred and I was forced to pull off the road.  I tried to shake it off, but I couldn’t focus.  My finger tips tingled and felt numb.  My lips felt the same.  All the time the pressing feeling in my chest grew, choking me and I struggled to stay conscious.

I had never experienced anything like this before and called an ambulance, convinced that I was having a heart attack.

But, as it turns out I wasn’t having a heart attack.  I was having a panic attack.  I felt so fragile in those days that followed.  Was I losing my mind?  What was wrong with me?  I realize now that the constant stress had just taken its toll on me.  My body had switched into flight or fight mode and had forgotten to switch back.  I was diagnosed with anxiety.

But I am not depressed, I remember telling the doctor. And I wasn’t.  I wasn’t unhappy.  I was just majorly stressed, but I agreed to go onto anti-depressants to treat the anxiety.  They helped, but after 10 months I went back to my doctor and told him that I was ready to come off them.  I have my own reasons for this.  I know that for some people they are necessary, life-saving even, but since I did not have a history of depression or anxiety I felt that I would be better to try to manage my stress and anxiety in other ways.

I needed to learn to take ‘me-time.’

I needed to learn to ask for help when I needed it.

I needed to stop putting unrealistic expectations on myself to be the perfect mum, the perfect wife, the perfect person.

More importantly I had to stop focusing on my son’s difficulties and worrying about the future.  I had to stop and take note of all the wonderful qualities he has…and when I thought about it, the good far outweighed the difficult, by a long shot.

I found my calm, my happiness, by slowing down the pace in my life.  I stopped giving myself deadlines and added responsibilities, and gave myself permission sometimes to just be.

Instead of rushing around the supermarket with a tired toddler to do the fortnights grocery shopping before naptime, I realised that it wouldn’t be the end of the world to do a smaller, shorter shop and spend half an hour at the park on the way home instead.

I realised that there was no major urgency to get back into the car.  Taking a few extra minutes to hold my son’s hand as he walked the length of the wall around the park made him happy.  It gave us a few extra minutes to enjoy the sun, to enjoy a joke, to enjoy each other.

I realised that you are never too old to enjoy a roll down a hill, and definitely never too old to enjoy a cuddle, laughing breathlessly at the bottom with the people you love.

I realised that dancing in the rain in our back yard on a summer’s evening, contrary to what my mother may have told me when I was young, wouldn’t give me or the children pneumonia.  But it would give us a few minutes of fun and of freedom.  It would give us a wonderful shared memory.

I realised that lying on the trampoline looking up at the clouds looking for shapes with my children could be an amazing experience.   I soaked up the closeness, the stillness of their little bodies beside me, while their little minds, their imaginations sprang into action, running wild and free and uninhibited.  Before I knew it the sky was a story board full of strange and beautiful creatures, and I marveled at the magic that lurks in the mundane if only we open our eyes and hearts to it.

Most importantly, I realised that these are the important moments.  Life is not about the end goal, or the final destination.  Life is about the journey.  I stopped wishing the time away thinking things like “I can’t wait until_________happens and things get easier,” and took the time to be mindful and grateful of what I have in the here and now.

I realised that the greatest gift I can give my children is my presence, not only in body but in mind too.

This makes me happy.

I’d love to hear about the simple ways or moments that you share with your kids that make you happy.




With special thanks to Kids Business for selecting me to be a Happiness Ambassador at the February Bloggers Brunch in Sydney,

along with these fabulous inspiring bloggers.




Jolene enjoys writing, sharing and connecting with other like-minded women online – it also gives her the perfect excuse to ignore Mount-Washmore until it threatens to bury her family in an avalanche of Skylander T-shirts and Frozen Pyjama pants. (No one ever knows where the matching top is!) Likes: Reading, cooking, sketching, dancing (preferably with a Sav Blanc in one hand), social media, and sitting down on a toilet seat that one of her children hasn’t dripped, splashed or sprayed on. Dislikes: Writing pretentious crap about herself in online bio’s and refereeing arguments amongst her offspring.

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