My knees trembled as I fought to stand up. Worried I might crash to the floor, my heart pounded in my chest. Fighting to breathe, my eyes darted. And I had to concentrate just to keep my feet planted as the ground I stood on threatened to swallow me up.
I begged my husband to abandon the overwhelming pile of groceries thrown quickly on the conveyer belt in the checkout line. (I wanted out quick! And the quicker I could unload the groceries, the better!)
It didn’t matter to me what anyone thought. It didn’t bother me that I might appear crazy as I pushed my way out of the checkout line.
Lovingly, my husband willed me to stay put and finish checking out so we could take our groceries home. The pile of groceries that took every once of my will power to gather, since panic overwhelmed me for the entire shopping trip.
Inside, I was dying.
But worse yet, my 14-year-old daughter was there, witnessing every single moment of my melt down. I felt like such a bad mom.
MY GREATEST FEAR – FAR WORSE THAN PANIC
The stifling feeling of panic is one I know all too well. If you’ve ever been there, you know the feeling.
The wide eyed, deer caught in the headlights look. Nothing makes sense as you fight just to hold on to the last ounce of sanity. There is no rhyme or reason and despite well-intending on lookers advice, you can’t just relax. No matter how hard you try.
But my greatest fear? Teaching my daughter to be just like me. (All my kids, really.) I’m so afraid they will grow up to be just like their mother.
For years, I’ve lived in terror (this is a fear apart from the sheer feeling of panic.) I’ve worried that my daughter (well all of my kids, really) would see me fight through panic and they would acquire my most debilitating traits and become just like me.
It sends shockwaves down my spine every time I think about it, because I wouldn’t wish panic on anyone. Ever.
BUT HOW CAN I BE A GOOD MOM AND KEEP PANIC FROM THEM
In short, the answer is, “I can’t.” I tried tirelessly to keep my kids from knowing that I struggled with panic attacks.
Not because I was embarrassed and didn’t want them to know. Simply because I didn’t want to pass on the awful plague (or at least that’s what I thought it was) of panic. I thought that if I could hide it from my kids, I could spare them the struggle that panic brings. Of course, as a mom, I don’t want my babies to feel any pain. At all.
My panic is so severe, that I can never be too far from my husband (my safety net) and so I learned to hide behind him. Instead of taking my daughter for breakfast, the three of us would go out to eat together. When it was time for a shopping trip, he would accompany me with some given excuse so the kids wouldn’t wonder why he was with.
BUT WHAT IF THEY FOUND OUT
I thought that if my kids found out about panic. I would ruin them for life. Kids seem to pick up on our worst traits and model them. In this case, I would rather my kids mimic any other of my bad habits. But not panic.
My heart broke just to think of what would become of my kids if I taught them to be like me.
I felt like such a bad mom.
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WHAT PANIC DID INSTEAD
But then the day came when I couldn’t hide it from my kids anymore. Despite my best efforts, somewhere along the line, my kids saw me. In full glory. In all my weakness they saw the raw side of panic.
And I was devastated. For their sake.
Because in my mind, now that I couldn’t shelter them from the effect that panic had in my life, it was as good as passing panic on to them. As far as I was concerned, my kids seeing me in a terrified state was like passing the torch in the ‘Olympic Ceremonies.’
“Here you go, son.” Now it’s your turn to continue on in the panic race.
And yet, there was nothing I could do.
But you know what? It didn’t destroy my kids. It didn’t cause them to automatically adopt my weaknesses. And it didn’t make me a bad mom.
WHAT HAPPENED WAS BEAUTIFUL
When my kids saw that I struggled with panic, they knew that I was (am) a real person. That even though I’m their mom, I am still a person in need of God’s strength Every. Single. Day.
They saw (see) that God’s power is perfected in our weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:9). And that only through my faith in God, could I ever be where I am today. Because the weaker I become, the bigger God gets.
And I have enough weakness to display God’s amazing splendor in my life. My kids can see God in me despite the panic.
They know that I have to cling to the cross daily, just to survive. (I realize that everyone does, but for me it’s very tangible.)
I’M NOT THE SAME
One of my disappointments with panic is that it has made me different than all the other moms. I long to do things with my kids that other moms do. Take them on overnight trips one-on-one, sit in the front row of their recitals, cheer as loud as I can at their sports events, but I can’t.
I’m not the same as the other moms.
But my kids know that I love them. Now that panic has been revealed in my life, my kids know what a sacrifice it is for me to do the things I do as a mom.
They know that every time I’m at a basketball game, it’s a step of faith. They know that getting groceries is an act of love and they know that without God, I am nothing.
IT HAS STRENGTHENED OUR RELATIONSHIP
Panic has tried to take things away from me. But instead I have learned to see panic as a gift.
Instead of ruining my kids, (like I was afraid of) it has caused us to have an even better relationship.
They know there are times we have to pull together as a family in order for me to do some things that are normal for others to do. Because that’s what families do. When one person in the family struggles, everyone pulls together.
They have learned that life is about walking together as a team. That sometimes you have to wait up for the weakest member to catch up. They’ve learned that everyone has struggles and everyone’s struggles are different.
I’d like to think that my having panic, has taught them a love and understanding for others that will one day serve them well as they raise their own families.
That love is patient, kind, and long-suffering.
Panic hasn’t made me a bad mom.
PANIC HAS MADE ME A BETTER MOM
I have to be intentional about everything I do. It’s just the way it is. But in doing so, I think a lot more about what I am doing for and with my kids and it makes me try hard to deliberately be a better mom.
And I have been able to pass on a living faith to my kids. A strong faith that they see has deepened my dependance on God.
And every time I fight through the panic. I realize that panic has made me a better mom.
LET ME ENCOURAGE YOU
Maybe you find yourself in the same shoes, thinking that panic has made you a bad mom. Perhaps you have found yourself comparing yourself to other moms whose battle isn’t with panic. And maybe you’ve wondered how you can still be a good mom and struggle with panic.
Let me encourage you, that like me, you can become a better mom as a result of panic. You, too, can teach your kids that panic can make you stronger. It doesn’t have to defeat you. Panic can make you a better mom.
I know it made me a better mom!