Hello, dear friends and Happy New Year!
I have been busy recovering from the exhausting challenge that is interstate road trips with small children, Christmas festivities and catching up with friends.
I am also recovering from adrenal fatigue. Yes, once again, the closing of the year tested my sanity levels and found them wanting, although admittedly, I had my panic attack on the eve of New Year’s Eve this time around. Maybe this will be an on-going trend and I can get my end of year panic done and dusted early, a Christmas in July kind of deal.
Of course, it’s fun to joke about it now but I can assure you that hurrying my family into the car at 4:30am leaving nothing but an apologetic note for the friends who no doubt woke bewildered to find their houseguests had stolen away under cover of darkness felt anything but funny at the time.
It’s never funny at the time. And though I know, I KNOW it will pass, this thought never comforts me at the time.
Stuck in a vehicle with three children in back and 700 kilometres stretched out in front of us, I was a mess and growing ever more so by the minute.
We pulled in to a rest stop and while Bren took the boys to the toilet, I hopped out of the car and paced, ignoring the truck driver quietly sucking down his cigarette , too busy trying to suck the crisp morning air into my own lungs, to stop the pins and needles in my fingertips.
I am aware I looked like a crazy person.
I am aware I am a crazy person.
I called my mother-in-law. It was 6:30 in the morning and truthfully, she can give me that shits in that special way mothers-in-law seem to have, but I called her and she answered and when I sobbed into the phone that I couldn’t keep driving, could I please stop at her Southern Highlands home and try to get my head right, she told me to come right away, that she would take care of me. And in that moment, something in me collapsed a little, softened, so that I could breathe, unclench my teeth and become aware of how exhausted I was. This is always the first sign that the panic is passing. My wired brain gives way to sleep.
Returning from the toilets, Luca fell in step with my pacing, his skinny arm around my side, clutching the fabric of my t-shirt.
“This is a beautiful view! “ he exclaimed.
And then I was seeing what he was seeing, the sun just beginning it’s ascent into the morning sky, casting a golden hue over the green paddocks that ran alongside the highway, glinting off the dam just metres away. Here we were, at a busy rest stop on a Sydney highway, trucks and weary travellers and mothers in the dying throes of a panic attack and it was beautiful.
By the time we arrived on her doorstep, I could only collapse into my mother-in-law’s arms before collapsing into the bed she had gotten out of and remade just for me to hop into again. And though she was only just recovering from having had us as guests over Christmas, she took care of the kids for two hours while both Bren and I slept.
Eventually, we got back on the road. I tried to stay out of my brain and instead, fixated on what rolled endlessly past my passenger window, miles and miles of yellowed grass, shorn sheep sheltering under the cool of the giant gum trees that dotted the landscape, wondering at the lone houses that would appear out of the blue. Who lived there? Who chose to live by the side of the Hume Highway? What kind of life was it, isolated but for the steady hum of engines speeding other human beings to anywhere but here?
I stayed staring out of the window this way for most of the trip which proved awkward as Bren overtook cars and trucks whose drivers would glance over to see my face right there, pressed against the window.
It was so late when we arrived back in Melbourne. But we were home.
Before I had the panic attack, it had been a wonderful holiday. Messy and tiring in that way that everything with three kids can be, but lovely. Before I had the panic attack, I might have written about Christmas with Bren’s family and how our three kids provided the joy of the next generation to relatives we could not have guessed would care. Before the panic, I almost certainly would have gushed about staying at Whale Beach with my cousin, about seeing the boys delighting in the ocean, about bonding with my aging aunt with whom I had never been particularly close. Before the panic, I would have told you that there are friends you might not see for five years who still make you laugh until you cry.
Before I had the panic attack, I would have told you life is too short not to get on the road and visit the people you love. Forget the distance, the car literally stuffed with luggage, the travel-weary kids and the endless packing and repacking of suitcases and go on an adventure.
In hindsight, my advice would differ but only very slightly. In hindsight, I would tell you to pack Xanax and then head directly for Whale Beach. It’s seriously fucking beautiful out there.