In my head I knew that panic attacks would never happen to me. But I was wrong. The definition of a panic attack is a sudden feeling of acute disabling anxiety.
These can’t possibly be panic attacks that I am experiencing. You see I am too strong for that. Well I was wrong again. I was sitting in Sydney’s IEP meeting back in Michigan. This had been an extremely difficult year for Sydney. She had a different substitute every other month. She was put in the bathroom by herself for a time out unsupervised. During Leadership Day she was in the teacher’s lounge eating with the para-professional, because eating kept her quiet, while the entire school was at an assembly. The list goes on but it still hurts to think about how my daughter was treated by adults.
This was her annual IEP and I had a list of concerns. One concern was that the amount of therapy services listed on her IEP were not being met. When I asked to see the data from her sessions, you could hear crickets in the room. My goal was to have Sydney transferred to another district. But you see kids like Sydney come with a price. They bring a lot of money into the district because of their disabilities. There was no way that our home district would release her because that would take money out of their pocket.
That is what made me so sad. When they saw Syd they saw $$$$$$$, and not my child. I was prepared for the meeting. I had requested the director of special education to attend so it was full round table.
I remember sitting at the table listening to everyone share their reports and I would ask questions. Everyone would look to the director and she would say “Let me check on that.” Seriously? You are the director, what do mean you don’t have the answers. You would think they would want to get rid of me since I was going to agressively advocate for autism.
The next thing I can remember is that I felt sweat dripping down my face. My chest tightened and I could not breathe. The mouths of the teachers were talking but I could not hear any sounds. Six years of stress and fighting for Sydney since she was 18 months old all caved in on me at once. The look on my face had the entire IEP team on edge. I went to stand up to excuse myself and I felt like I was going to faint. I was light headed and confused. My hands were trembling and shaking. Was I having a heart attack? I thought I was dying. It was a feeling that is too painful to continue to describe in words. They walked me to the door to get some fresh air. I remember praying to God and asking him to save me. The entire episode lasted for about ten minutes. Of course they were mad because I requested to adjourn the meeting.
I never realized how anxious my life was at the time. This panic attack came out of the blue. When I heard the special ed director tell me that Sydney would not be transferred but remain at the same school, I was devastated.
The panic attack happened for a reason. It forced me to learn how to relax and release whatever is bothering me. Keeping emotions and feelings inside can destroy you. There have been three panic attack episodes that I have had. I know that the triggers are IEP meetings, epilepsy and autism and a few other things that I won’t reveal. But when I learned to embrace autism and epilepsy and pray for wisdom and discernment before going into IEP meetings, something changed. I haven’t had a panic attack since then. God knew that Sydney would eventually be in a school in Delaware, where she would be accepted and loved.
My take away from my panic attack experience was not to let fear get the best of me. I know it sounds easy, but that is the key. If you or someone you know suffers from panic attacks. They are not attention seeking or drama queens or kings. Panic attacks are real.
“Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I, your God, have a firm grip on you and I’m not letting go. -Isaiah 41:10,13