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I had an anxiety attack in Disneyland. I was stressed about making the most out of our vacation.

Karen Habashi   

I had an anxiety attack in Disneyland. I was stressed about making the most out of our vacation.
  • Before going to Disneyland, I checked social media for what to do.
  • The amount of information was overwhelming, and I was already stressed planning this trip.

A week before our big Disneyland vacation, I started checking all the Disney groups and accounts I followed on social media. The amount of information I found was overwhelming. Some people even shared spreadsheets of what to eat at each restaurant so as not to miss anything.

I already felt stressed planning it; with the high prices of vacationing, I needed to make sure we went on all the rides, ate all the delicious treats and foods, and got every signature we could from the characters.

The trip started out great and ended terribly

Our first day wasn't as bad as I thought; we went early, as everyone recommended, and we used many of the tips I found to help us maximize our time. The day was perfect — other than the long walk back to our hotel, the kids were over the moon.

On our second and last day, my dream vacation turned into a nightmare — at least, that's what it felt like to me. Everything went wrong from the start: We woke up late, the kids were complaining, and by the time we reached the park, it was midday. I felt we had already wasted half of the day. The kids couldn't decide which ride to do first, and on top of that, it was extremely hot and crowded.

My chest started to feel tight, and I thought my asthma was triggered by the heat. I took my puffer, but then a series of symptoms followed. That's when I knew my anxiety was creeping in. My breathing felt heavy, I started to sweat, and I could hear my heartbeat in my ears.

I was having an anxiety attack

"I can't have an anxiety attack at Disneyland," I thought.

I kept thinking about how we had saved a lot for this trip and there was still so much to do. I was worried about what the kids were going to think of me, how I was letting them down. My thoughts raced.

My guilt made the cycle even worse, and I became emotionally paralyzed. I sat at one of the restaurants and asked my husband to get me a frozen lemonade. I thought that might help. I lied to my kids and told them we needed to sit down there and try a snack or two.

I couldn't move from my place for an hour, and I started to cry uncontrollably while simultaneously apologizing to my kids. "I'm sorry," I said repeatedly to my kids.

My kids hugged me

My kids formed a circle around me and hugged me really tight. My teen daughter whispered in my ears, "It's OK, Mommy," while rubbing my back.

Suddenly, my shaking stopped, I felt I could breathe again, and I started to calm down. The rest of the day turned out even better than I'd planned.

I was stressed, and I was also stressing my kids. In my attempt to do everything as planned and squeeze in every single tip I read about, I ended up not enjoying my time. It wasn't a vacation anymore — it was a mission.

While I felt terrible at the time, looking back at this, I'm grateful that my kids saw my vulnerability. As a high-functioning person with anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, I always look like I'm handling everything perfectly. I think my plate was overflowing from the combination of being a mother of three, planning a dream vacation, and trying to get the best bang for our buck.

We often forget to have fun ourselves when we are parents; we focus on our kids, finances, and planning day-to-day activities or sightseeing when we're supposed to be vacationing. But maybe after that day, I will learn to take it slowly and learn my limits.

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