There Was Always Someone Else To Take Care Of


11:45 pm on a Sunday:  I awake suddenly from sleep with my heart racing.  I nudge my husband awake and whisper “something’s wrong”.  My teeth begin to chatter incessantly, and by brain becomes hotter and hotter until it feels like it’s on fire.  I try to communicate to my limbs – begging them to move, but they don’t.

These symptoms are similar to the side effects I had a few nights before, after my first dose of an anti-anxiety/depression medication.  I am on something else.  I am certain I will vomit.  We wake our two boys and head to the emergency room.

1:30 am:  I am able to fully move my arms and legs.  I am told I must ride out the medication until it leaves my system.  The doctor gives me an anti-nausea medication and suggests I no longer take the meds.

I don’t.

2:45 pm on a Thursday:  My two two boys bop their heads to Christmas music in the back seat as we drive home from school.  While stopped at a red light I begin to feel dizzy.  My chest begins to feel tight, and breathing becomes difficult.  The light turns green and I drive while hyper-focused on my breath.

While stopped at the next light, my left arm goes numb.  I try to wiggle my fingers, but they do not move.  I grab my phone with my right hand and clumsily type a text to my husband – hospital.  I look back at my boys in the back seat and turn toward the direction of the hospital only two blocks away.

“Where are we going, Mommy?  Where are we going?”

I push the button on the dash to turn my hazards on with the knuckles of my right hand.  Both hands are now curled into a claw position and will not uncurl.  I slowly drive with my hazards blinking in the direction of the hospital.  My lips begin to quiver, and it takes incredible effort to open and close my jaw.

I can see the hospital half a block in front of me, but am uncertain if I will make it there.  My eyes begin to tear and I tell my five year old through a clenched jaw not to be scared.

“Mommy’s going to be fine, baby *breathe*… but someone may have to come get mommy out of the car *breathe*.  Hold your brother’s hand *breathe* and be brave.  We are going to the hospital.  Mommy’s fine…. Mommy’s fine..”

The car in front of me is waiting to turn left, but I begin to honk my horn repeatedly in desperation.  I begin to wave my clawed hands at them, hoping the person will see me, get out of their car, and help.  I chant silently to myself, please don’t die, please don’t die.  The world starts to spin as I am finally able to slowly turn my car into the drive way and follow the sign with red letters that says Emergency Room.

My right foot has lost the ability to press on the gas, and as my car rolls into the parking area, I open my door and fall out.

I haven’t quite made it to the emergency room, but I can see the doors about 100 feet away from me.  I start to scream from the pavement, “HELP! Somebody help me!  I can’t move! HELP!”

Two people come running toward me with a wheel chair, and wheel me away.  I point back toward my car and yell, “My kids!  Someone help my kids!  My kids are in the car!”

And just like that I became a scene in a movie.


The above happened several weeks ago despite not being on any medication at the time.  At the hospital they did blood-work, gave me a sedative along with oxygen, told me I had a “severe panic attack”, and gave me some pills to bring home in case it happened again.

The next day it did.

I was on my way to a blogger/press function and had to pull over into a gas station.  I took one of the pills they gave me, tried not to throw up from nausea, called my husband in a panic, and drifted in and out of consciousness in my car at the gas station.

Two days later I had another attack in my sleep.  I awoke unable to breathe or feel my hands and feet.  Apparently you can be asleep, not feel an ounce of panic, and still have a panic attack.

Since then I have gone as a cash-pay patient to a Naturopathic doctor who is not covered by my insurance.  The two medications I tried from my psychiatrist have done nothing but make me feel worse, so I am working closely with the naturopath to manage some of my anxiety/depression, and now panic attacks.  This seems to be the better, though more expensive route for me.

Apparently, it is not uncommon for years of chronic stress to lead to full blown uncontrollable panic attacks.

I am taking homeopathic remedies, have been instructed to take some things off my plate to help lower stress, and talk therapy is next up on my list.

Taking things off my plate seems to be the most unattainable as it is the holidays, I have two young children to care for, no family in the area, and am in the middle of preparing my family for our seventh move in five years.

Since I started this blog over four years ago, people have asked me the same question repeatedly – “How do you do it?”

How did I take care of a colicky newborn while learning to walk again after splitting my pubic bone giving birth?  How did I overcome the postpartum psychosis?  How did I care for my bed-ridden husband after knee surgery while chasing around a two year old, and then get through suffering a miscarriage  afterward?  How did I find time to do the required physical therapy three times a day for my dog healing from back surgery while pregnant again?  How did I care for my toddler while healing from a split pubic bone a second time after giving birth?  How did I deal with no sleep, another colicky baby, and bad infant reflux that kept our baby in an upright position for the first four months of his life?  How did I write, and still do my contracted work for, while my reckless 18 month old was in a half-body cast and needed constant care?  How am I moving AGAIN?

I’ll tell you how I did it.

I put everyone else’s care ahead of my own.  I ignored my own needs because over the past five years there has been no time for them.  There was always someone else to take care of.

There was no one to take care of me, and I did not take care of myself…

and I grew resentful while playing the martyr.

I don’t suggest it.

It was never the remedy, and now it is the cause.

I am at a point now where my nervous system is haywire.

I am in “disorder”.

If I am sleep deprived, my body says sleepy = panic and begin to die.

If I haven’t eaten in a while, my body says hungry = panic and begin to die.

If I am cold, my body says chilly = panic and begin to die.

If I am relaxed and trying to fall asleep, my body says sleeping = panic and begin to die.

So I currently attempt to handle myself with kid gloves.  I battle to be gentle with myself through the chaos that is our lives…

I fight for a moment of rest…

I bravely say, “I need help”…

and this week is better than the last.

Be gentle with yourselves, my friends.

Stress does kill.

It’s impossible to always put yourself first…

but poisonous to always put yourself last.


meditation, me-time, replenish








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Comments (25)

  • Alison 8 years ago Reply

    I’m so sorry that you’re dealing with this, it sounds incredibly frightening.

    I am glad though that you recognize that you need to look after you too. AND let someone else look after you.

    Feel better soon. xo

    Jenni Chiu 8 years ago Reply

    Incredibly frightening.
    The worst of it was weeks ago. I feel I’m on the right path now.

  • Debi 8 years ago Reply

    Jenni, I am so, so ,very sorry that you are going through this. I am also scared for you. I have had the dizzy, about to faint , hear my blood rushing and all my limbs go numb while driving once…from stress and it was enough. As mothers we learn to live with all the responsibility, and we soldier on, or so we think and then our bodies say, “Fuck you! I am done. I need release.”
    Please take care of yourself. I know it’s easier said than done. But now you know that you have to, not only for your sake but for your boys. You will be of no use to anyone if you are dead.

    Damn, I am so worried about you. I wish we lived closer to one another. Get yourself ONstar so you can call for help if that ever, God forbid, happens again and just remember sometimes you just have to let shit go. None of it is worth your health. LOve you and I am here ( ALWAYS) if you need me. XOXO

    Jenni Chiu 8 years ago Reply

    Thank you, friend…
    And yes, my body has given me the biggest “fuck you” ever.
    I am hoping the worst is over.

  • I love your honesty. You know what you need and good for you for addressing it. I had a similar situation in 2011 where my body and mind literally broke down. I’m finally back. You will get there! xoxo

  • Alexandra 8 years ago Reply

    I am your friend, Jenni. Know that.

  • Nancy Davis Kho 8 years ago Reply

    Jenni – keeping you in my thoughts and prayers. And taking deep breaths with you. You’ll get through this. And your kids will too. xoxoxo

  • allison carmen 8 years ago Reply

    Jenni, Awareness is always the first step to healing. I am glad you are trying to pull back a bit and you are getting good support. Sometimes life is a tough gig, but still a beautiful one! I have a feeling that you will find a lot of strength on this journey and your light will shine brighter – it just takes time.

  • Shannon 8 years ago Reply

    That sounds terrifying. I am so sorry that you have had to suffer through this. Thanks for sharing your struggle. Your words will help so many. Stay well. I am thinking of you.

  • pauline campos 8 years ago Reply

    There’s a reason we share our words, Jenni. One is because we need to, even if no one else is reading. The other is because once shared, the people who need to find them, do.
    Thank you for sharing. You have no idea how much.

  • bonnie kenaz-mara 8 years ago Reply

    Wish we lived closer!!!! Thanks for braving up and sharing. I’m sure you’ve helped untold numbers of others who need health or emotional support but are too busy taking care of everyone else to do it. I’m always inspired by your words.

    I’ve been limping around for months, when I know I need to go to the Dr. because knee surgery is too expensive… nobody else can drive the 2 kids everywhere… I can’t physically/practically/etc afford to be laid up for months. So I don’t get it checked. And I just keep pretending I’m not in a lot of pain and carry on carrying everyone else…la la la. Too bad our bodies have to literally shut down sometimes to get our attention!! Healing vibes & energy to you.

  • Jenn 8 years ago Reply

    I’m so sorry you’ve been going through all this!! I’ve fallen into the habit of putting everyone else’s needs before mine in the past and it definitely wears on you. I’m so glad you’re in a better place now. Thank you for writing this all out. xoxo

  • erin margolin 8 years ago Reply

    i wish i could help. i wish i lived nearby and could take your kids for you.
    they might get yelled at, but at least you could perhaps try to rest without so much panic.

    i definitely think talk therapy should move up on the list, and am glad you’re checking out a naturopath.

    there’s no denying that these meds are not for everyone, and/or that some meds are not for some people, and/or that a lot of them have potent side effects.

    there’s also the part where if you’ve taken it for even a few days and then stop… there can be consequences. which sucks.

    i feel this post so much. i keep putting myself last, too. yesterday i ran around stocking my car w/ stuff for the homeless and volunteering at the kids’ school, then cooking a decent dinner and doing laundry, etc.
    today i cooked dinner for a friend who had twins 6 weeks ago. it was probably the last thing on the list of thing i should’ve been doing… and i’m exhausted. and husband and i have couple’s counseling at 5, so i’m shuttling them to the in-laws, along w/ their dinner, so i can go and listen to how horrible a wife/parent/person i am for an hour.

    it’s fabulous.

    i love you. and i love this post. i love your wrenching honesty. it’s refreshing in a world (bloggy or otherwise) where people hide or fake so much. i can’t stand it.

    so thank you. for being you. for being real. and for being my friend across the miles, across time.


  • Jennifer Cullen 8 years ago Reply

    Your honesty is beautiful. And frightening.
    I’m glad you are getting help.

  • Thinking of you, and grateful you put it out there for the world to see. Acknowledging it all is huge, knowing you can fix it somehow sounds easy when they tell you to ‘alleviate the stress’ I am working on this, but … then life gets in the way and I am back in my snowball …
    We go to the ends of the earth for our children, we make appts, dr’s check ups, make sure they eat right, … yesterday the therapist told me that I have to put me first, that I have to heal to be useful … we shall work on that healing, both of us xxxx

  • “Poisonous to always put yourself last”, I know this very well…I feel for you and what you’re going through. I hope you’re able to find some peace and maybe carve some time out for you during the day to meditate or just relax in silence. XOXOXO

  • Marta 8 years ago Reply

    Jenni, oh my god I had no idea it had gotten so bad. None at all. I am so sorry. I know apologies are going to make it better. I can’t possibly say I know how you’re feeling because I cannot imagine the terror you’ve faced during these attacks and just generally terrified when and if they’re going to come back again. Keep breathing, one step and one breath at a time. We are all here for you. You’re getting help and it will get better. xoxo

  • […] don’t visit enough personal blogs.  This year has been an exceedingly stressful one for me, and the blogging community has been so very supportive of me.  I honestly have been lacking in my […]

  • Jess @ Chaos & Love 8 years ago Reply

    Thank you for sharing.

    And this? “It’s impossible to always put yourself first…but poisonous to always put yourself last.” I need that hanging on my wall.

    Jenni Chiu 8 years ago Reply

    Good idea… I think I’m going to hang it on my wall too.
    Thanks for reading. xoxo

  • Amanda 8 years ago Reply

    Is it ok to say that I just wish that I could hug you or sit quietly with you?

    Jenni Chiu 8 years ago Reply

    Perfectly acceptable… and welcomed.

  • Laurie 8 years ago Reply

    I walk this road. It started in the latest stages of my drinking and has continued off and on in the past ten months of sobriety. You describe it very, very well. I mostly find it indescribable.

    This made me cry with empathy and a little bit of anger that this happens at all, to anyone. Please feel free to reach out any time. It’s a son of a bitch.

    Jenni Chiu 8 years ago Reply

    You walk this road too, Laurie? I’m sorry that you (and so many more than I knew) understand completely what I’m going through. How did so many of us get here?
    I wish I could say I’m no longer on this road, but I think I still am… just driving slowly… with my hazards on.

  • […] take care of, and the consistency with which I have put myself last finally broke me last year when my body went haywire and I developed a panic […]

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