For as long as I can remember I have always been running around the house doing errands for my two kids.
I know and am grateful for all that I have and as much as I love doing things for them I must say, recently, it has taken its toll on me.
I feel so darned tired that even at work I can't seem to concentrate on my work and I lose focus on my designated tasks. I really feel like a total wreck and having too much coffee doesn't help at all.
Quite often I find myself all woozy and out of breath, especially whenever I have to run up or down a flight of stairs.
I even googled to check if it's a normal thing for most women of my age, by-the-way am in my mid thirties, to feel this short-winded. It suggested I see a doctor. Well I suggested to myself - not right now!
There is just too much going in my life right now to worry about my health.
I said to myself "Anna! Either you are getting too old or you are in really bad shape and you need to hit the gym - pronto".
At the end of the work day, when I reach home, I'm so damn tired to do anything else.
But I have to take care of my kids and help them with their homework and all. They are my kids and my own responsibility - I know, I know and Lord give me strength.
After I parked my car, I took a heaving breath, hoping to gain some energy and strength into my battered-up body before I see my kids. I wonder what kind of devil they might have been up to.
"Guys! Mom's home" the house was a mess and the all the lights and the TV was on "How many times have I told you to turn out the lights when you ain't using them".
"Emma!" "Liam!" I heard their shuffling feet coming downstairs, we live in our own home, a three bedroom small haven, passed down to me by generations.
The kids always hug me when I come home. As usual we update each other on how the day went and what needs to be done.
Oh God please help me - there's dinner to be made and we can't always afford to have take-away, so hear we go!
"Let's fix some Pasta Macaroni" I told them.
The kids are a handful but they help with chores and we do care a lot about each other.
So even though am super tired we three go about cooking and cleaning and go blah blah blah talking while we work together.
It's just another ordinary day here in our home.
I am fine with my life and I love my kids. I mean I might have sounded like I was complaining - no, I am not! This is the life I chose.
And it was I who chose to get married to the man I was in love with. The father of my children.
And he chose to be who he is today. He blames me for all his failures - he even blames me for his giving up on the kids.
Well, what do you know dinner is ready. "Great work guys! Let's dig in!" and so we three sit down together and read and talk and laugh - like most families do.
After dinner I was having my usual cup of coffee. Emma was telling me something about her friend Lisa but I wasn't really listening.
I was worried about this sudden heaviness in my chest like as if it was leaden. Maybe it was just gas - I should have gone easy on the cheddar.
Emma was repeatedly calling me "Mom, are you alright? You look kinda pale and old!"
"I'm not old!" I laughed. In an attempt to not worry the kids I feigned it a bit and said "Am fine kids it's just all that work at the office"
"Mom's just awfully exhausted, Emma!" I could see the concern in Liam's eyes, he was the emotional one. "Stop bugging Mom with your silly stories - Dumbo".
They seemed rather concerned. "Mom why don't you see the doctor" asked Emma, always the more practical of the two.
"Hmmmm" I nodded and quickly added "Okay guys once you are done clearing the table and washing the dishes we will work on your homework."
I saw Liam's shoulders droop "Mom I need to go to the neighbours" he saw my hands-on-hips stance "Come on Mom - Mike needs help with his report!".
"Liam you know you can't do that without finishing your work first!" I was not in the mood for a discussion. I don't want him playing online games with Mike for hours on end not during week nights - they just don't know when to quit.
Was that my heart missing a beat? My heart feels so heavy! I really do think I need to go and see the doctor tomorrow.
It was after 10pm and with the kids finally tucked in I straightened out the house a bit and made a chamomile tea to calm down my nerves, hoping for better sleep.
With the house all calm and quiet I tried to clear my mind and concentrate on my breathing. I can't understand this growing sense of alarm that keeps going on and off inside of me.
I really can't seem to put my finger to what it really is - but all I know is it's somewhere between a panic and total despair.
Whatever it is, it seems to have developed all of a sudden or has it been there all along? I mean throughout my chaotic marriage.
I told myself I shouldn't delay it no more so I finally decided to make a doctor's appointment that very instant.
I got an appointment at a new hospital because I didn't want to go to my old hospital, where I have been to my whole life for every nick and cut and ache and baby delivery.
I don't feel so fine when the much familiar doctors and nurses. Now they just look at me with smiles trying hard to mask the pity they felt for my life and all that had happened to me.
So here I was at the new place being examined by a GP and then referred to a shrink since they felt it might be psychosomatic - stress related.
I was trying hard to put my feelings into words. The Doctor was asking me to describe my emotions.
"During those odd moments all I wanted to do was to leave everything - to run away from everything in my life" I was on the couch with my eyes closed.
The Doc asked "Have you shared your concerns with anyone?"
I do admit now that it was my fault that I didn't share all that was happening to me with anybody. Actually I wanted to tell my Mom but then again I changed my mind. I just didn't want to get her worried over something so mundane.
"No. I haven't" was all that came out.
Good or bad, I always had this habit of keeping secrets. I like to keep my life very very private and that's one reason why I keep a very small circle of friends too.
And even with my friends I usually try to refrain from complaining about my life.
"How is your relationship with your mother?"
"We are really fine. Yes!" I replied. And it is true.
To whine about my troubles I can always call my mother. My mother and I have always shared a really understanding close friendship. But after getting married and moving away things have changed a bit.
I was getting impatient "Doctor I really would like to talk about my shortness of breath and why I keep getting alarmed for no real reason" I babbled on. "I have very little time off from work".
The shrink asked me a bunch of more questions and when it was finally done with all he said was I would get a full report after further review blah blah blah so I just thanked him and fled.
I needed to call Mom and get her opinion.
Being the practical, overly cautious and the no-nonsense woman I know her to be, she got very concerned and gave me orders to go see our family doctor at my old hospital - pronto, right away!
And since there is no arguing with my mom, I called in to see him.
"As strong as always" his stern face unreadable as usual, he looked at my test reports "Hmmmmmm - I hope there is not too much stress and tension going on at home?''
My smile and a slight shake of my head was answer enough.
He pointed at the results "the blood pressure is quite high!" he went on "The last time I saw you, your husband had beaten you up so badly - is he still at it?!"
I had to think hard before I could reply. Life had never been easy with my husband's drinking and the unimaginable violence.
It wasn't so long ago - 2 months back to be precise.
"Well I suggest you go report to the police about your husband or someone else will! he warned.
"No Doctor, it's not like that anymore!" I tried to laugh a bit for humour but it came out more like a guffaw - most inappropriate and embarrassing - I know!
But I really don't know how I should react to the shame I felt - I mean he is like family, I 've been here since childhood.
I quickly added "I meant - our case is in court?"
"Well at least that's a relief to hear my dear" he nodded as if with approval "I need to run a few more tests before we can finalize anything".
I heard myself ask "It's nothing serious right - Doctor?"
All he said was "Let's see how it goes."
As I walked out into the afternoon sun I was feeling relieved to know that it was not anything serious. I told myself, if it was anything fatal they would have bedridden me!
I had some spare minutes before I pick the kids from school. So I strolled around the familiar neighbourhood and soon found myself standing in front of my favourite Baker Shop.
The familiar aroma of baking filled the street. It brings back such fond memories of my childhood and much of my teenage hood - when life was sweet and all fun.
The shop was busy like always, filled with people and it's display of delicious pastries and cakes.
I thought of having coffee and cake, to calm myself down and make me relax. Some alone time always help me to unwind.
After I was done with my coffee I walked over to the counter to choose my usual delicate collection of pastries for my kids. The owner, old Mr. Hugh, was there and we exchanged pleasantries.
There was that funny kind of feeling again as if my heart was stopping but I told myself that I was fine. And since I thought I had walked enough, I headed back to my car.
And just then all of a sudden I felt palpitations again in my heart. It went on picking up tempo like some kind of a tribal drum with an erratic beat.
I don't know what came over me. I just freaked out and found it awfully hard to breathe.
Oh my God please help me! I thought I was going to get a heart attack!
My heart kept on beating erratically. I leaned against the car for support. I was feeling faint. I kept on panting and panting. I tried to call out for help but no one was around.
I can't remember how long it took as I leaned against the car with my eyes closed, waiting for my breathing to come to normal.
It never did and I was feeling drained so mindlessly I got into my car and sat there. It was followed by shallow breathing.
I thought of going to the hospital so I sped away haphazardly as if I was drunk.
I couldn't go very far. So I found some solace weeping, inside my car, in a deserted alley.
I had no idea how long I stayed in there - I had lost all track of time. I thought maybe my breathing had come to a normal and through the haze I thought of my kids and panic stricken I quickly glanced up at the dashboard digital.
I was alarmed to see how late it was so I sped off as fast as I could.
I prized on my clean record for punctuality besides I hated when parents stood up their kids after school.
The real truth is I have been picking up my kids ever since we separated. I was scared that their father might take them and that I might never see them again. I can never trust him - ever.
Weaving through the traffic like a lunatic I got a fresh bout of palpitations again.
I can't remember how it all happened but in a flash I was momentarily blinded. And the next second I heard a loud thud. The last thing I remember was my head coming in contact with the steering wheel.
I had crashed onto a car.
I woke up on a gurney and through the agony and haze I saw my younger brother John with my kids, they all were looking at me with forlorn faces. I lost consciousness again.
When I woke up again I was unsure of where I was?
But I was very sure that I must have lost a limb or two! I couldn't help but cry.
My Mom was at my side and she reassured me that I was fine and everything was intact - that I was still in one piece.
I closed my eyes and said a silent prayer.
After a couple of weeks of medical check-ups and therapy later, I was diagnosed with panic attacks, caused by my predisposition to acute stress - partly from genetics.
As recommended I met with a special Therapist who explained that the physical symptoms I had experienced earlier; breathlessness, palpitations and racing thoughts were all warning signals of an oncoming panic attack.
She was kind enough to offer me advice on the importance of practicing Self-care and Relaxation Strategies.
She also suggested Apps for Mindfulness, Breathing Exercises and Yoga which have found to be really helpful for my condition.
I have learned that it's very important to communicate your worries, thoughts and feelings with family or a close friend .
My brother John is really a Godsend - he moved in for a few months to help look after my kids and even encouraged me to join a Yoga class.
I had to practically reschedule my life.
My Mom calls a lot more to check up on me and to remind me to take some time off for myself through the course of the day.
Now I do try not to worry as much as I used to and while I take time to enjoy, pamper and relax myself - I can't help it but I still do have nagging feelings of guilt.
Me, having always been the saviour of my family, to my brother and Mom, I found it a bit hard to be on the receiving end. Especially after I had messed up my life.
I do know I need to learn to care about myself as much as I care about those whom I love.
But it will take time, I know, and especially after all the hurt and pain I have been through in life and marriage.
I believe I must try my hardest to make things work- at least for the love of my children.
Until next time, with love and care.
Anna the Avenger.