When I was a young child I started to feel as though I did not exist, not real. As though every thing around me were in a dream. I did not know it at the time, but what I was experiencing were panic attacks. I went to my mother to talk to her about the feeling I was having, how I would break into cold sweats when it happened, that I did not feel real. My mother upon hearing of my fears pinched me and said “I see you felt that. You are real, you are not in a dream. Now go on with your life”. I did not realize it until much later, but I think my mother suffered from the same attacks I did. By bringing mine to her attention must have been not only uncomfortable, worrying that I might have inherited her problem and most especially probably cause an attack in her. In her time, people did not talk of these things. I do not think she ever realized that her problem was panic. I could be wrong and she did not have them, but when I think of all her actions, what her eyes looked like when she was acting strange, I come to only one conclusion. That she suffered from the attacks. We never talked of them again after that one time.
When I told my father about these feelings he was more understanding. Maybe because he knew of my mothers possible attacks as well as having seen them in his own mother. But he told me he also experienced the same attacks. It was during the war and he was far from home, fighting to keep our country safe. He told me that when he would get these attacks he would go out of his way to find eggs and potatoes to eat. That the problem came from a deficiency of some vitamin or mineral they possessed he thought. This reassured me. I began to eat potatoes and eggs. The attacks disappeared completely for a few years. When they came back I tried eating more eggs and potatoes, but this time it did not help at all. I began to realize that my father always ate a lot of potatoes, at least 3 times a day, as well as eggs every morning. Was he too fighting of panic? Is panic even passed on from parent to child? I do not have these answers. I also do not know for a fact that either my mother or father suffered from panic attacks. They are no longer alive to ask.
As I write this it brings to mind my mother. I think of my mother after my father died. She had become a widow. I felt as though I were almost an orphan, lost in my own grief, not seeing my mother’s pain. Though I talked with her on the phone we rarely talked of grief, loss or pain. When I saw her which was not often, she always looked to me as though she were lost and afraid, even though she put on a brave face and acted upbeat, happy. I never mentioned it to her or other family members. My husband saw it too and would urge me to call her more often. My mother died nearly ten years after my father. To me, looking from a distance, as I did not live close, she never got over my father’s death. She never managed to get over that hurdle to start a new life, the one she wanted, the one she told me about. Maybe I am wrong and she did, as I said, I was not there. Thinking about my mother’s ten years without my father, makes me very sad for my mother. But also for myself, which seems selfish. I am much younger than my mother was when my father died. If she felt that loss for ten years, I wonder if I will find a way past the sadness and start a new life or if I will suffer the same pain but for a longer period of time.