Hysteria of a Modern Victorian Housewife

(Sounds like the title to the next chick-lit bestseller, huh?)

On Friday I had a panic attack.

No metaphor.  No hyperbole.  A real, honest-to-God panic attack.  I’ve never had one before, and… talk about terrifying.

Friday had started off like any other day, including feeling worn out (because, really, when’s the last time I’ve had a full night of sweet, deep sleep?). The Boy might have been up a bit that night, but the lack of rest was primarily my fault – I had stayed up late writing a 7 Quick Takes post about potty training.  Perhaps you read that post.

So I was tired, and my stomach ached a bit.  I fell asleep on the couch a half-hour or so after waking up that morning, leaving The Boy and his morning antics to my now nine-to-five-working-stiff husband, and slept until he kissed me goodbye and left for work. I absently dressed my son and started the never-ending task of straightening up the house, all the while thinking about potty training.

The long story is that, before my son turned one and in the months following, I tried to do early potty training with him.  We had great success until I diverged from the book’s advice and tried to go whole-hog into it before he was ready, consequently ruining the whole thing.  Now, we’re past the point of early potty training and are on the “traditional” (i.e., post 1950 mode of training) trajectory – that is, waiting until he’s “ready,” whatever that means.  We just moved, our house is a wreck, and of all the personal transitions, getting him back to sleeping on his own is of more dire importance for the overall sanity of Familia Ortiz. Therefore, I had decided, before moving here, to let go, take it easy, and wait.

But there was a diaper incident the other day that rang all the alarm bells in the rat’s nest that is my motherly consciousness.  I didn’t know what to do, and I did what every other good mother does these days:  Take the problem to The Internet.

And that’s what I was thinking about.  Thinking about what others were, with kind hearts and more wisdom than I had at the moment, suggesting I do.  Then I’d think about the incident and I’d start arguing with them.  Everyone was telling me to chill out, but, NO!  No!  I need to do this NOW!

It escalated into sheer panic.  Shakes, feeling like I’m going crazy, unable to think clearly, and going and deleting every reference to my post and any potty conversation on my blog and on Facebook.

Fortunately, my son was fine.  I managed to get him fed and down for a nap.  I managed to make a phone call to my husband.   But I spent most of the day curled up in the fetal position on the couch.  My stomach ached as though the muscles were tied in knots, I was overwhelmed by fatigue, and I had no appetite.

The recovery has been slow.  I exerted myself for Ben’s birthday party at the beach – and it was a happy diversion – but was fatigued afterwards.  I took a nap and woke up with a fever.  I asked Mary’s intercession.  I called my mom.  The fever escalated until the evening, breaking when I finally vomited.

I went to Urgent Care on Sunday.  They took my complaint seriously, ran some tests, and, except for the suspicion that I had something viral in addition to the anxiety, gave me a clean bill of health.  (They seem to have missed the part about me being a complete loon.)

My Google searching and WebMD-ing tell me that one of the causes is the stress of a major life change.  Well, okay.  We’ve just had a major life change, perhaps I’m just now coming to some sort of grips with it, and the idea of potty training was a trigger to set the whole thing off.

However (and this is what I find mysterious), I’ve lived through more stressful situations than moving across the country into a house that’s a construction zone, having a newly-minted two-year-old whose first object in life (after avoiding the potty) is to make it into the Big Bed every night, and learning to parent by! my! self! for the bulk of the week.

Yes, there is something more stressful than this.

Instead of panic attacks, however, I’d have teaching nightmares about horribly disobedient pimply pubescent middle school students jumping all over the classroom and not minding a word I said!

And, yes, I’m a bit lonely, but… I shouldn’t be panicked about being here.  I should be excited.

It just makes no sense.

 The only possible diagnosis left for me is that I’m a Hysterical Housewife.  My hectic life of servants cleaning up my darling’s messes while I make calls in the morning and eat bon-bons in the afternoon has really caught up with me.

That, at least, makes a bit of sense.   Prepare your couch, Dr. Freud.  I’m on my way.

Image Credits: Plush Possum Studio, Follow Pics, and Molland’s


  1. says

    Rhonda, oh bless you! I had tried to comment on the Post That Shall Not Be Mentioned– to tell you that it’s all going to be okay… and couldn’t find the post.
    So let me tell you now: You are going to be okay. I think Panic often rears its head in the most unexpected places. So cut yourself a huge slice of grace and remember that Christ is made complete in our weakness. 2 Cor 12:9: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
    May you have rest and peace today.

  2. Rachel says

    You invoked Freud, so I hope you don’t mind a psychiatrist sharing some ideas. A basic tenant of therapy: thoughts CREATE feelings. Strong feelings don’t come from nowhere. Usually when we feel a strong, unpleasant feeling it’s because we’re thinking something unpleasant about ourselves or our place in the world. Usually those kinds of thoughts are buried in the less-than-conscious-but-still-accessible part of the mind. My wild speculation (and one should never practice psychiatry over the internet!) is that your sense of self-worth is tied up in something that’s going on right now, and your assessment of how you’re doing isn’t a positive one. The rest of the world says, “You’re doing so great in the midst of such chaos!” and probably if you were looking in on a different woman in your same exact situation, you’d say the same. Yet somewhere inside you I bet there’s some sort of internalized, non-negotiable standard for yourself that you’ve not met. It also doesn’t help that your body was fighting something nasty, removing whatever emotional reserve you might otherwise have! Anyway, I say this with the hopes that something I have to offer rings true to you. Even if it doesn’t, I’m praying you make a swift recovery.

  3. Virginia says

    Hey Rhonda,
    Virginia from Dwija’s house here. I think I mentioned we tend to move across the country quite often ourselves and this is one issue I have delt with myself. Panic attacks are definitly frigtening, especially when you are the type of person that likes to maintain a sense of order and control in your life. I’m praying for you and hope you feel better soon and are able to quiet your anxiety.

    ps: The birthday pic of Ben is adorable!

    • says

      Hi Virginia. :) Thanks for sharing that with me – it’s so comforting to know that this can be “normal” (though not “normal,” if you catch my drift) in times like these. In some ways this has acted as a reboot of my system, my expectations, and my life right now!

      Thanks for the prayers, too! Maybe we’ll be seeing you again soon?