Pandemic Parenting When You Have A Child With Special Needs

I just had a full blown pandemic panic attack. I haven’t had one in years. A general panic attack I mean—pandemic specific panic attacks are a new thing. 

If you’ve never experienced a panic attack, they’re pretty awful. It’s a slow build that can also feel like an out of the blue gut punch. It’s hard to breathe. Picture a floundering fish, gasping for air. There’s sweating, a racing heart, and a tightening in the chest significant enough to question whether or not to call 911. There’s also a sense of doom. Big time foreboding. There can also be tears. A lot of them. It’s nothing I would personally recommend. 

During the SARS outbreak in 2003 I was busy giving birth to my first child and fairly oblivious to the hysteria. I was, from what I can remember, pretty chill for its entirety. 

But pandemics are clearly panic proliferating. I mean, have you been to a grocery store in the past three days? The frozen food FOMO is enough to set anyone enough off. But I think what I experienced earlier today is rooted in something above and beyond the regular “I don’t have enough toilet paper and sandwich bread” panic. 

This recent, as in “still have tear soaked lashes” panic attack was somewhat unique. It was pandemic inspired for sure, but it has deeply rooted PTSD origins. 

Ask any parent of a child with disabilities and/or complex underlying medical issues and they’ll tell you that a fast spreading virus is unnerving. It’s scary for everyone, and especially frightening for those in a more compromised population. We nearly lost our daughter when she was an infant and to this day, I watch her and worry. The sound of an ambulance in the distance makes my palms sweat and my heart pound. PTSD is always there, under the surface. 

This pandemic—the actual virus and the storm of news swirling around it—has awoken my PTSD from its uneasy slumber. 

Apparently people with high blood pressure (hello, me) are listed as comprised by this infection. Great. That information is doing nothing to lower my BP. I’m worried about what will happen if get sick. Specifically, how will my family cope without me. And even worse and something that has been keeping me awake at night (which I acknowledge is only amping up this mental distress) is what if I get really sick and die? I know, dramatic. But try telling that to my racing heart at 3:42am. I won’t die. I know that. It just feels that way when I’m doubled over. I won’t die, but lord love a duck, it feels pretty desperate until I can get that first deep breath in and the panic begins to subside. 

As a control freaky deaky Capricorn, the uncertainty about the world right now is rocking my world. And not in the “party on” kind of way. It’s shaking my foundation and I don’t care for this instability one bit. I prefer to stand (or sit in a comfy chair) on solid, non-rocking ground whenever possible. 

On a happy note, my sixteen year old son got his first job!! I’m so proud of him. He applied on his own, did a thirty minute interview with confidence, and was hired for a relatively adult position at a pharmacy near us. Of course, he was hired just days before this Covid-19 situation really blew up. He started training as a cashier at drug store right in the middle of a pandemic. Do you know where sick people go during pandemics?? Drug stores. Oh my god, hold me. Seriously, can somebody come over here and just stroke my hair and tell everything is going to be okay? Oh right, you can’t. Social distancing. 

So instead, I freaked out today before his 7pm-midnight aka “touch all the dirty money and germ ridden stuff”, shift. I thought about him catching this virus and getting sick himself. No offence to my 6ft’ 4″ strapping young offspring, but his immune system is crap. He picks up bugs like a hobby. 

And then of course I thought about him bringing the virus home to us. Don’t get me wrong, I’d be happy if he brought me a Corona, especially on a Friday night with a bag of zesty nacho chips. But not this kind of Corona muchas gracias. 

There’s so much at stake. Me, and my chronic hypertension aside, what would happen if his sister gets Covid-19?? Fevers cause her to have seizures. And those are scary in the best of times. The best of times being when the medical system isn’t over-run. What happens if she has a status epilepticus seizure (seizures that won’t stop without medical intervention) and an ambulance doesn’t come? I can’t even imagine. Yet I do. 

So my sixteen year old man-child took it upon himself to handle this on his own, despite my insistence that I mama bear this situation and speak to his boss on his behalf. What a great kid. He explained his sister’s compromised condition to his new boss who was totally empathetic under these uniquely stressful circumstances. 

Thanks to my son’s employer for being so understanding. I appreciate you and your Optimum Points. 🙂 

So that’s one less thing to worry about. And oh my god was I worried. More than I realized until now. 

Hopefully this panic attack was a one-off; a physical reaction to a new and overwhelming physical stress on my mind and body. I know we’re going to be okay. I also know what I need to do to get through this. So here’s me going off to do those things. 

I love you guys. Thanks for having my back and for breathing through it with me. 

I can’t wait to social un-distance with you soon. 


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