Panic disorder

Repercussions of my ugly reality

I smoked my first cigarette when I was 15.

I had this friend, her parents smoked and she would sneak a few away and hide what became a habit for her, and as it would turn out, for me as well.

When I was fifteen, I went to this high school football game to see the guy I was starting to date, it was a small town in the deep recesses of Georgia and high school football was where everyone gathered on a Friday night.

The popular kids, who were my friends from church, invited me up to their section in the stands. My smoker friend was excited for this, getting an invitation was the first step, so I went.

In the stands on that football field, the guy I was dating, and the girls I was friends with from church seemed thrilled to have me with them, I had this warmth in my heart that I was being accepted, when only moments before I had been scared that the guy I was seeing wouldn’t want to see me since I had confessed to him that I had been raped, but everything seemed so good in those first few moments.

Knowing what I know today, I should have known that they weren’t thrilled, the smile that Lizzy had on her face wasn’t excitement, it was treacherous and manipulative, but I was young and naive. I wasn’t prepared for her to come at me with a full blast of accusatory statements, there was no time for me to get a word out of my mouth. I was embarrassed, humiliated, horrified that everyone knew now and then they all turned their heads away from me. I reached my hand out to touch the arm of the guy I was seeing and he jerked it away, not even looking at me. I burst into tears and he moved past everyone to get away from me.

In shock, I walked down the stairs to leave. I found my smoker friend, she asked me what was wrong but I had already pulled back deep into myself to keep the wounds I felt inside from bleeding any further.

I was broken, she took me to her house, we sat on her bed and she lit a cigarette. I didn’t say anything, I just took it from her, I coughed, choked, but the pain that it caused made me feel better. It took my mind off of the destructive abuse of rape, the searing pain in my lungs momentarily made me forget the humiliation of being shunned by my peers, the high of it – that sharp pain it causes in my brain – filled the void that had been left behind when I felt like I had been stripped and beaten from the inside out.

Today

More than fifteen years have come and gone as a painful blur. I dissociated to save my thoughts from the pain that my body went through, even though the emotions live inside like a black mold eating my body from the inside out. I blocked and blacked out in order to try and survive just one more day.

The healthier the people I surround myself with and the healthier my life gets because of therapy, the more it hurts and the more I hurt myself.

When I would dissociate, I could have an argument and I wouldn’t be present for it, I would go to an inner place in my head while my mouth spewed words that I would later be sorry for. When I am present and I have an argument, the adrenaline spikes and the trigger that it is, causes my face and body to ache in the locations where I have been hit. These areas on my face, my neck, my back, my stomach, my arms, they ache with the hurt of the past.

The monsters of my past haunt me every day and without realizing it, I’ve been helping them.

I felt like I was the worst kind of garbage after years of rape and abuse. I became so broken that deep down I believed I deserved to be treated this way, even though outwardly I was smiling and telling people that I was strong enough to stand.

The repercussion of the physical and psychological monstrosities is that I treat myself like garbage.

I hide from people I love in order to sneak cigarettes because the pain I feel when I smoke fills an ache of pain from my past and I think I deserve that. I drink too much at night in order to make sure that I won’t lie awake in bed terrorized by memories of my past, the headache the next morning … I think I deserve that.

I have stomach issues, lactose intolerance, GERD, and an ulcer, but I don’t stop eating food that is bad for me, because the pain it causes affirms that emotional feeling that I deserve to feel bad.

As it is every day, my vision isn’t clear because I have headaches that build into migraines. My stomach is burning with pain from eating. My neck tension is so severe that when I turn my head I hear cracking noises and pain reverberates, shuddering through my brain.

I panic that every day will be my last because of the amount of stress and pain I feel. I used to think that I was going to die from this pain, suddenly and swiftly.

I think about stopping all of these vices. These vices which have not helped me, but have only monumentally added to the pain I feel. My inner struggle is worry, that without these vices and bad habits – I am afraid I will feel everything. Is the pain from these vices really worse than the ugly reality of what happened?

Is the pain worse than finding out I’m a terrible at keeping a clean house and it isn’t just laziness?

Is the pain and fear worse than tossing and turning for hours, trying to shut out the monsters that haunt me in the dark of night, when the world is silent, but my mind is screaming?

Is it worth the pain and fear of dying sooner in life due to my vices and habits, because they help me dissociate from the agonizing terror of dying at the hands of someone else?

With these vices of mine, I have perpetuated and continued the feeling that I deserve to be in pain and that I deserve to feel bad. As the black tar of cigarettes coats my lungs with every inhale and the bottle of wine half finished is poured into another glass, I tell myself that I will get better, that I will do better, ironically, that is the same thing I used to say when I was being abused.

It is stunningly clear to me today, that the monsters of my past have evolved into new monsters in my present, in the form of things that I can become addicted to.

My addiction is clear for me, I am addicted to not wanting to feel, not wanting to remember, not wanting to look at myself in a mirror and seeing who I have become.

I did not want to acknowledge how I felt about myself, my face, or my body. So I embraced vices and habits that made me numb to everything but the pain that they themselves cause.

I have come to a place in the last few weeks where the vices and habits are making life harder, the purpose they served in the past is missing.

I have nothing to give this world but who I am, if I am numb and my eyes are vacant, I am not living. If I am in pain from a hangover and smoking, giving my body and mind less oxygen than it needs to function, I am only hurting myself.

There is a great quote, unknown to me who said it first, but it goes … I will remember and recover, not forgive and forget.

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I miss the person I once was, I sometimes dream of the person I had hoped to become. This life, with all of the good, the bad, and the ugly, is my reality and I think it is time that I confronted it.

I think it is time I fight for me, for who I want to be, and for what I want out of this life.

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Eyes to the sky

Tuesday. It is gray and overcast in Seattle today, I love gray days though… and I like the rain, this is my perfect city. I have a lot of things that I need to do today, like actual HAVE-TO’s that I’m feeling a small glimmer of excitement about. Small glimmer, but still a glimmer.

1. Lunch with a friend that has been out of town – normally I would flake out at the last minute, but this time I’m doing it. I have reset my lens that I’m looking at the world through and I’m thankful that I have a friend who wants to have lunch with me, I’m going to embrace it.

2. Bake cookies for my brother who is off at training. A care package, if you will. With a new perspective I spent some time thinking about my whole family, and he is someone who reminds me so greatly of our dear dad, but have I ever told him that? Have I told him how much respect I have for him? How much he is loved by our family? These little things we think each other knows, but as of this weekend’s quote “You never know when a moment and a few sincere words can have an impact on a life.” – Zig Ziglar. I want to start opening up to those that I know love me, I feel like starting to open up …is making my heart lighter.

aaaaaaand that’s all on my short list, it’s two steps up from laying on the couch and watching Netflix all day, so for me, on day 6 or so – this is my version of kicking ass and taking names.

To focus on technique is like cramming your way through school. You sometimes get by, perhaps even get good grades, but if you don’t pay the price day in and day out, you never achieve true mastery of the subjects you study or develop an educated mind. – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

This one is a little more difficult for me to translate to my own situation… I do believe that when you’re panic-stricken, in a black hole of depression, the basic technique of being able to cope every day just to get by is your saving grace at some points. However, to pull ourselves out of this, we do need to master our own minds. I needed medication initially in order to calm my panic enough to start therapy, I don’t think it is shameful to take medication for panic, depression, PTSD, these are conditions that if you haven’t experienced it … you can’t know how difficult it truly is to even get out of bed on some days, yet we beat ourselves up for it and we are embarrassed to admit medication sometimes. I feel stronger without medication, weaning off of it was one of the most horrible experiences though, withdrawals are painful. We have to get by, but mastering our mind and our bodies to become healthier, stronger, happier – that is my goal.

The thoughtful little things you do each day have an accumulated effect on all our tomorrows. – Alexander Stoddard

I do believe that thoughtful little things we do for others has  a great and wonderful effect on us, it feels amazing to do things for other people, but what thoughtful little things do we do for ourselves? On days that are very hard for me, my husband is always in my ear saying “do something for yourself, take a hot bath, relax, candles, bath salts, take a nap, go treat yourself to a chai… etc” I’m pretty sure he has a list that he keeps on hand.. but he’s right. The problem is that I give myself a lot of grief for having a hard day, I beat myself up that I should be better, it seems so easy for other people, why do I have pain???? When he is home with me, I’m not able to beat myself up, he takes it out of my hands and will take me out for coffee, gently push me into a hot shower, then he’ll cuddle with me on the couch – foregoing what other plans he might have had. On my next hard day, I’ll try to do a thoughtful thing for myself, let’s see if the cycle of self-flagellation can be interrupted.

I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past. – Thomas Jefferson – To Your Success

I want the dreams of the future, I’m really trying to think of what my dreams are, but I draw a blank right now. I’ve been so focused on the past and the time that I’ve lost, seven years, to this panic and depression. My history is so convoluted, messy, awful, scary, and sad that I feel if I take my eyes off of it, it might rear it’s ugly head and attack again. It’s like in a movie, the bad guy gets shot, laying on the floor dying but the good guy turns his BACK on him before taking the gun away from the bad guy… and blammo. Bad guy is able to hold his hand up for one last shot at the good guy and …. usually a side kick or love interest saves the good guy’s life, but what if I don’t have a side kick there? I. Just. Can’t. Close. My. Eyes.

I’m not even saying that I’m a good guy, but the bad guys in my past haunt me, will it stop? If I start to make dreams for my future, can I actually step out of my past? As I type this, I realize I’ve been holding onto my past to keep myself safe, but what if that is what has been detrimental about it?

I will start to dream, even if it is simply writing out a bucket list, I need to let go.

To look up with unquenchable faith in something ever more about to be. That is what any person can do, and be great. – Zane Grey – To Your Success

Don't look back

Motivation

It’s a Thursday, it’s Halloween, and it’s 2013. I’ve done hardly anything this entire week because I haven’t felt motivated. I can feel my slump turning slowly back into depression and it’s time that all of this changed. It’s been seven years since my panic began and for the first time I feel confident in taking charge of my life. I will fight this.

I need daily motivation, I know this. So I’m going to make it public. I can’t sit back if I tell everyone I’m going to do something. So here it is. I’m going to do this.  Day 1.

If we want to change a situation, we first have to change ourselves. And to change ourselves effectively, we first have to change our perceptions.  – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

My perception of almost everything has been bleak for the last seven years. I thought the worst of every situation, person, and dreaded interacting because they would see all of my past, my shame, my hurt. So how do I view today with a different perception? My short list for the day is that I need to do the dishes, I need to drag some things out of storage, and I need to take my mom on a drive to pick up a vehicle. None of this sounds exciting and ordinarily I would put off all of it except for the necessary, because the couch is calling and my pain level is at an 8. However, new leaf.  I will put music on while I do the dishes. I will get myself dressed and ready for the day instead of dreading leaving my apartment for storage and the drive. I get to spend time with my mom this afternoon, as well as my sister and her beautiful babies. I need to remember that every moment I get to spend with my family and friends is valuable. When we lost my dad a year ago I promised myself that I would never take the people I love for granted again, our time together is too short to be spent dreaded, put off, or unhappily.

If you can dream it, you can do it. – Walt Disney

Every candle lit; every home, bridge, cathedral or city ever built; every act of human kindness, discovery, daring, artistry or advancement started first in someone’s imagination, and then worked its way out. You have that power – use it. – To Your Success

I haven’t thought that I have the ability to do anything good in the last seven years. I’ve only thought negatively of myself and what I’ve accomplished. I’ve been wrong, even if it is simply human kindness today, I can do that. I’m an artist, I should be creating. We all have an ability to make more out of our lives… but depression, panic disorders, and PTSD, suck that belief and strength right out of us. Fight back. Today, I’ll fight back, human kindness I can do and maybe I’ll even crack a try at a little Instagram creativity.

Some people make the world more special just by being in it. – Kelly Ann Rothaus (The good life, celebrating the joy of living fully)

My dad was one of those people. My mom is as well. They have this innate ability to simply be wonderful. My dad took enjoyment from anything and everything, no matter how hard the day was – he was happy at the end of it. I remember how a picnic would light up his eyes, he would be spreading all of the food on the table, laughing at jokes, punning, and watching his wife and children simply be, and you could tell that he had utter contentment. I crave that joy. It hurts how badly I want to be happy again, but I have been so lost for so long that it has felt impossible to me. As I think about my dad and mom and their upbeat attitudes in the face of all things strife and contentious, I can’t help but think that the tug I feel in my heart is a shred of hope. I want to be happy, I want to enjoy my life again, that has to count for something. I gave up on it a long time ago, but today, I will embrace that tug on my heart as hope.