In all honesty, I was always a fearful child, well before Vader. I was once stuck in the loft of our barn for what seemed like hours because I could not force myself to climb back down the ladder. My cousins had had no problems up or down, so they tried helping me, to no avail. I cried, I panicked, and finally I gave up to the fact that I would have to wait for my parents, who were in the field baling hay, to come get me.
However, Vader reaffirmed my fears, added to my distrust, and caused me countless post-traumatic stress disorder panic attacks. These attacks occur when I least expect them. They often happen during moments that should be happy and joyful.
Many times, Choo-choo and I have been cuddling on the sofa, with him lying on me, or hugging with his arms around my neck, and something snaps in me. My chest stops moving. I can’t breathe. My heart pounds. I start to see spots and fuzzies instead of real objects. Tears fall. Sometimes I feel like I’m going in and out of consciousness.
Let me tell you, it is an awful feeling to have to gently move your child away or lift him off of you because this is the only way you will breathe again. There was one moment in particular I wish I could forget. Choo-choo and I had had a bad day, and he wanted hugs before bed. I held him as long as he needed me to. Then he moved his arms tighter around my neck. It was so tight, I could barely breathe already.
Of course, I know he wasn’t trying to hurt me. Quite the opposite. He wanted love and comfort, and I was giving that to him. He just squeezed in a time that I needed him to let go.
I literally had to hold him at arm’s length as we both sobbed. Diesel wasn’t home, or I would have asked him for help and support at the moment. The crying lasted for at least five minutes straight, this I’m sure of. Once I’d calmed down, I held my son again, telling him over and over again how sorry I was and that he didn’t do anything wrong and how much I loved him. I said it again and again until we were both sure he understood and believed it.
Thankfully, I haven’t had attacks like this in a very long time. I have learned to step away if I need to long before the panic sets in. Of course, sometimes it does still pop up unexpectedly and without warning. In these moments, the best I can do is breathe and remind myself that the attacks won’t last forever.