Panic

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.

0480bca2f176c822d43372f74ec6b76d

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.

9c2000a5ebca06b49bfbb09013dd1dda

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

A confrontation of sorts

I used to be unafraid. I remember that. I’m trying to keep that thought present so that I can logically move through the things I face today. Although now, since I know evil personally, I understand the difference between having a lack of fear and being brave, strong. As so many speeches start…. “Webster’s dictionary defines the word ..” brave – as ….. ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage.

It was less than five years ago that I thought I recognized someone from my past, someone that I knew was volatile and slightly fucking crazy. I didn’t want this person to know I still existed, much less that I was living back in Seattle. Looking back on that day I realize I did not need to be terrified, but I was. We were in a crowded Starbucks in the middle of Pike Place in Seattle, yet, I still snuck up to the barista making my coffee and waved her over urgently. I whispered to her that someone was in the shop that I couldn’t have hear my name, so could she please just hand me my cup when it was done instead of calling my name.

I remember the look on her face when I begged this favor of her. I know that my chest and neck had broken out in hives and that I was sweating and obviously, I looked panicked, but I could see understanding and sympathy in her face. She handed me my drink with a look that spoke of wishing me good luck and I hid behind a group of guys that were leaving on my way out.

Now, that was years ago, but I still avoid certain areas of Seattle and the Eastside based on when and where I know my abuser will be. Yet, when I drive down the interstate near his ext, I panic, I can’t help it. I can be focused on happy thoughts and when I see the turn in the road .. suddenly I can’t breathe and I feel that my death is impending.

All that to say, today, when I went to my regular gas station, I saw a vehicle exactly the same color, model, and year of his. My heart dropped and I expected the panic to hit me, but it didn’t, in that moment I only felt calm. I could see myself clearly, if he were to walk out and confront me, I wouldn’t run, I wouldn’t faint, and I certainly wouldn’t die because he was confronting me.

Do I know what I would say? No. Have I rehearsed it a million times? Yes.

I have run into this man a few times since I left him. An unfortunate circumstance of working in the same city and having to frequent many of the same businesses (incidentally, how we had met in the first place). Running into him after the breakup was a nightmare. I could feel the bruises that were no longer visible in my face and throat when I saw him, I felt the terror in my stomach. Those times that he came up to me, I forced a smile, I hid my shaking, and I stayed civil. He would smile his sick smile and I would count my breaths in and out waiting to escape the office and get to the safety of my car, with my locked doors.

Today was different though. It wasn’t him, no, but I didn’t have a panic attack when I thought it might be. That is huge for me. I feel stronger tonight for not having panicked, I feel that not only will I fight for myself, but I actually can. I wouldn’t classify myself as brave, but I’m a step up from hiding in a corner, so I’ll take it.

In other news, my macbook pro is still under the weather and I’m slightly devastated by this. Off to the apple school of wizards this weekend we will go.

 

Limitations.

This weekend was pretty rough. I have issues with bulging discs in my neck and when there are flare ups, inflammation, and pinched nerves I get a lot of sensory nerve pain. Everywhere. It wages a strong war against my motivation to go, go, go, and I find myself feeling limited in every way. limitations

If I take a second to really think about it though, it is pain, depression, and fear that make me feel limited. It is the exhaustion from pain that makes me unmotivated and when these go together I have always crumbled. I felt a shift happen today though, I realized that I have been limited, I let myself be limited by the fear and the pain. No more though. Swapping “What do I have to do….” with “What do I get to do.”

You can decide within yourself how circumstances will affect you. Between what happens to you, or the stimulus, and your response to it, is your freedom or power to choose that response. – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

One thing I know to be true about myself is that in when hard times strike in life, I rally. Which is really strange considering how much a panic attack devastates me. The difference to me is that when tragedy strikes, or times are hard for people that I care about, I can put the war paint on and push as hard as is needed.

When Aeron abused me I didn’t think ::wow, I should leave him, what an asshole:: I would instead take the worst of what he said to me and about me and I would make a plan to be better, to be what he wanted, to be skinnier, prettier. This was the wrong type of rallying. I was fighting the wrong battle. I should have been fighting for myself.

Aeron was cheating on me, not only was he physically abusive, but the emotional destructiveness he wreaked was overwhelming. Every single time I found emails, chats, photos, and video’s of him cheating, I would try to breathe deeply and suck it up. I would go to the gym the next morning that much harder, I stopped eating, I started throwing up. ::not on purpose, but from the stress:: I stopped paying attention to what my body was telling me and I shut off my heart. I wasn’t even able to cry anymore. I thought I had to keep pushing to be better, that if I became what he wanted he wouldn’t do this. One day though, my body couldn’t take it anymore and I had a nervous breakdown. I fought the wrong battle. I should have been fighting for myself.

It is in the shelter of each other that the people live. – Irish Proverb

Dream lofty dreams, and as you dream, so shall you become. Your vision is the promise of what you shall one day be. – James Allen

The future is of our own making – and the most striking characteristic of this century is just that development. – Joseph Conrad

What I never saw when I was in a bad relationship was that I was fighting the wrong battle. I haven’t fought for myself until now. My future depends on the decisions that I make today and if the decisions that I make are for someone that treats me badly, even if I win, I lose.

Fight

Get after it.

I woke up this morning and thought to myself … “Self, make today a great day.” I put the coffee on, made breakfast, and set out on a run. It feels great, my energy is high, I’m motivated to actually do something today. One part of this might be the colder weather, the approaching Christmas season, or perhaps, the wonderfulness that is Christmas music itself. Every year, Christmas season, I pull out the Christmas music. It makes me want to put on a frilly apron, wear cute shoes, and dance around my kitchen baking cookies.

Private victories precede public victories. You can’t invert that process any more than you can harvest a crop before you plant it. – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

I’ve said it before and here it comes again, I really do need to read this book. I’m gaining momentum in this process of changing my mind every day to change my life and it’s getting to a point where those around me are starting to see a difference. My inward victory over the pain, depression, and panic will someday be visible outwardly, and I’m looking forward to that. I’m looking forward to not dreading each day, to instead be excited for it. I’m looking forward to one day being able to say that I am living as my Dad lived, joyfully.

More importantly, I just wrote “I’m looking forward” three times in a row – Four weeks ago I was in a place where I could not look forward, so much was my fear of the past that I had to keep an eye on it at every moment. So raise your coffee cups, here’s to private victories!

The effect of one good-hearted person is incalculable. – Oscar Arias

I have good-hearted people in my life, and it’s true, their effect is incalculable. The problem is, the bad-hearted people in our lives, their effect is calculable, we can tally it. I can remember every single detail of the times when I’ve been torn down, ridiculed, humiliated, and beaten. Every. Single. Detail. I can’t remember even vaguely, what beautiful things that loving people have said to me though.

It’s one of those areas that we have to choose who we surround ourselves with. Who are your closest people? Are they positive, full of life, caring, respectful, loving? Or are they negative, bitter, resentful, disrespectful, and rude? I can’t describe the relief that comes from leaving relationships with negative people, but I can say that the sun shines brighter, the world is warmer, the trees are prettier, and your shoulders feel lighter. Obviously, leaving those relationships didn’t magically cure my depression or panic, but it did lessen the weight I was carrying around. I learned after many years that we can’t make others happy, we can only try to give ourselves a chance at a healthy life by removing the darkness that is negativity.

Keep a daily diary of your dreams, goals and accomplishments. Your life is worth living, it’s worth recording. – Marilyn Grey – To Your Success

Done, and done. Kidding. But seriously, in five words “Your life is worth living” – I know that I’ve been alive these last seven years, but I’ve been far from living. My Dad lived, my mom lives, but depression and panic kept me debilitated and holed up in a safe corner. At many points over the last seven years I couldn’t imagine even walking around my neighborhood because I was sure that I was going to faint and then something horrible would happen to me, so I wouldn’t go.

I changed that, I forced myself to get out, to go anywhere I feel like going. I suppose I’m not so much afraid of fainting anymore, I feel more like screaming “bring it on” and “do your worst” because at this point I’m mad that I lost seven years of my life to this panic and depression and I’m going to fight to make sure that I don’t live in fear ever again.

Sidenote: A huge part of deciding to stop being afraid was taking a five week self-defense course and I stopped saying I am a victim, I started saying I am a survivor.

SurvivorOh and because it’s awesome.

Is it really Tuesday?

I was waiting for the coffee to brew this morning and I thought about when I was in college. I was trying to prove that I wasn’t a screw up to my parents, so I decided to graduate in three years instead of four. Overtime classes that had to be approved by the dean, round-the-clock days involving my classes, homework, and 2-3 jobs, but I did it.

In retrospect, it was a good time for me. I spent what free-time I had with my sister and friends, smoking on the patio with wine coolers, kidding, with beer. It was hard though, I was an art major and wasn’t doing well in my field. Some critiques were so hard that I would leave the building when it was over and sit in my car crying. I stopped being able to eat from the stress, I developed ulcers, and on more than one occasion broke down crying in the cafeteria, on the quad, or in general, where ever I was standing. I was in a mindset though, succeed or fail trying. I wasn’t going to give up and I just kept pushing my limits.

I wish my stories of hard-work, grit, and success were glamorous and sexy but they’re not. In reality, I was a tall, bony, sleep-deprived girl with an art bag bigger than myself and everywhere I walked there was a cloud of cigarette smoke around me. For the last few years, I wanted to reinvent myself as better than what I was even before the traumas, but today I’m comfortable with who I used to be.

To relate effectively with a wife, husband, children, friends, or working associates, we must learn to listen. And this requires emotional strength. Listening involves patience, openness, and the desire to understand – highly developed qualities of character. It’s so much easier to operate from a low emotional level and to give high-level advise.”
– The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

I’ve been operating from a low emotional level. I was talking to my twinsie sister yesterday and she mentioned needing to talk to adults to break up some of her day since she is surrounding by her troops of babies. I, on the other hand, spend most of my day alone, without talking to anyone, adults or babies and I used to prefer it that way. We could blame it on the fact that I’m an artist or I could just admit that I preferred running on a low emotional level, but no more.

I’m starting to put myself out there during the day with family, friends, and strangers – not creepy strangers, but Starbucks-barista style strangers. In the last three days, I’ve found it exhilarating to step out of my comfort zone and to be confident with myself because I am legitimate.

I am beginning to learn that it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all. – Laura Ingalls Wilder

I’ve been sitting here for two minutes wondering what the sweet, simple things are in my life and it’s hard to narrow down my list. These aren’t things that have come to be because of anything that I’ve done, it’s all thanks to those that care about me. Like morning coffee with my husband, spending time with my mom, ::added bonus, shopping with her:: seeing my sister and getting to hug her, my nephews laughter, when my nephews raise their arms up to be held, hearing them say “gramma”. One day there was a photo album open and a picture of my Dad in it, my sweet baby nephew points to him and says “papa, papa”. Some of the sweet, simple things right now are just memories of my dad. I worked at a newspaper once and he would stop by during the day and bring me a cup of coffee to shoot the breeze. I can still see him walking back to his truck, cowboy hat on his head and smiling at people as his went. These are the real things in my life and they are beautiful.

Lord, grant that I may always desire more than I can accomplish” – Michelangelo

When dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly. – Langston Hughes

When you’re through changing, you’re through. – Bruce Barton

 

Shifting

It’s Friday!!! I am going to forecast that I get a lot done around my apartment tomorrow! In the past that hasn’t really ever once happened, but I am excited and hopeful that tomorrow – I will deep clean our home, donate items I’ve been keeping, put away all of our laundry and only then relax.

Many people experience a fundamental shift in thinking when they face a life=threatening crisis and suddenly see their priorities in a different light, or when they suddenly step into a new role, such as that of husband or wife, parent or grandparent, manager or leader.

That shift did happen for me, last year when we lost my Dad. Losing him was the hardest thing I, and my family, have ever been through. He was always the healthiest guy, he was active, no one could ever guess his real age, and he was always jovial. To go from that to stage 4 colon cancer in less than 6 months was devastating, our world got rocked and our family came together and held him until the moment he went to be with our Lord.

Before his diagnosis, I was highly medicated on anti-depressants, anti-anxiety meds, mood stabilizers, I was walking around in a fog but I felt it was better than the pain I had been in before. After we lost Dad I wanted so badly to be like him, I had this burning desire to live life as he did. He never wasted any time thinking negatively, secluded, or angry, he just lived, and he did it so gracefully and joyfully. I wanted that so badly but I couldn’t make it happen in the weight that was my medication. Although numb had been preferable before, I felt I really needed to feel again in order to live this life. So I went to my med doctor, and I proclaimed that I wanted to wean off all of my medications. With my work in therapy and with a schedule charted for the weaning – I was ready.

It took almost 5 months to wean off of all of the medication I was on and it was pure hell. I was extremely sick, half of the time I felt like I needed to go to the hospital because the tremors, sweating, throwing up – suicidal thoughts were also a side effect, but I made it through with the help of my husband, my mom, my sister, and a large part, my therapist. She was a great coach and she really helped me to keep going on the path that I wanted. When I walked back into the med doctor, fully clean of medication 6 months after the initial wean, he was surprised at how much better I seemed and he asked me why it was that I had wanted to do this. So I explained about my Dad, what losing him made me realize about life, and what had been so horrible before in my life – didn’t seem nearly so bad as losing my father. The doctor then told me a saying he had always heard .. “I once was so incredibly sad because I had no shoes, until I met the man who had no feet.”

If someone listens or stretches out a hand or whispers a kind word of encouragement, or attempts to understand, extraordinary things begin to happen. – Loretta Girzartis

Therapy. My family and my husband begged me for years to go to therapy and I always fought it. I was so embarrassed, ashamed, and angry and I didn’t want to talk to someone about it. I just wanted it all to end. Then, after the umpteenth time that I snapped at my husband for no reason whatsoever, he looked at me, tired, exhausted and simply said that I was fighting a ghost. I was fighting a ghost, ghosts of my ex-boyfriends, my rapists, and my bullies. I would lose all control and be an emotional wreck with no instigation from my family or my husband. It was after he said that I was fighting with ghosts and not him, and not my family, that I realized I definitely needed help. I couldn’t do this on my own.

I started therapy a year or so ago. I had weekly appointments and I still do. It was the best thing I could ever have done. Finding the right therapist is key because there are a lot of quack jobs out there, but there are also amazing ones that can really help. It isn’t just the chance to be fully honest, to open yourself up that works – it’s the tools they give you to help you. Therapy and the tools I learned in it, helped to reduce and sometimes removed all of my panic. I would go sometimes days without a panic attack, then it became a week, then two weeks, then a month. There are still flare ups but they no longer send me into a tizzy. I feel my body beginning to panic but my mind is in control and I can focus myself back in. I never thought that would be possible seven years ago. The life I live today, even though it is still hard, was something I never thought I would get back. So I am thankful. I hadn’t realized until now how far I’ve actually come in this last year.

Life is a series of collisions with the future; it is not the sum of what we have been, but what we yearn to be. – Jose Orlega y Gasset – To Your Success

I’m starting to yearn. I’m pushing myself to dream. I have high hopes … to have high hopes again. I want to be successful in getting out of this depression, this slump, this panic-stricken life I’ve been trudging through for the last seven years. To do that, I need to focus on my future, not my past. My past drags me down and beats the ever-loving-snot out of me, but the future I want, fulfills, feeds on love, and is healthy. It reminds me of when someone is having a baby – happy and healthy, brand-spankin’-new. That is the future I want.

When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us. – Alexander Graham Bell

It’s like this, the closed door..? All of my stuff is in there. I went in through that door with all my happy childhood bags packed and ready to be an adult. I didn’t know that there would be a torture chamber, a judgement stand, and a whipping post lined up waiting, none of us do, that’s how abuse works. It confuses you as to what is actually happening until it’s too late. The earnest need to get my childhood happiness out of that room, to take back what was me that is locked behind that door, that’s what I can’t seem to let go of. How do I just…. let go? Can I rebuild?

Re-Reading

A little stronger

Yesterday was a hard day. A migraine that wouldn’t ebb was the leading cause but then I got frustrated. It is so exhausting, like, to my bones, to try to stay positive and hopeful when I want to crumble.

I forced myself to breathe, breathe, breathe through it and then I had a flash, I thought about the future, more specifically, future me. I could see myself coaching a kid’s soccer team, ::I have no idea the rules of soccer, much less how to coach a team:: and my hair looked great. I was blowing a whistle, smiling, and I could see that I was done with this dark mess that is inside me right now. It felt like less than 15 seconds that I went from wanting to call out of the day and take to my bed that I had a rush of what I imagine is adrenaline and I thought – keep moving forward.

Each of us has many, many maps in our head, which can be divided into two main categories: maps of the way things are, or realities, and maps of the way things should be or values. We interpret everything we experience through these mental maps.”  – The 7Habits of Highly Effective People.

Reading this, I feel like I haven’t been thinking hardly at all for the last seven years. I’ve been coping, just trying to get through a day. What is obvious to me, is that my maps direct me to avoid all contact with people for fear of getting hurt or humiliated. If I think about my realities from seven years ago versus the realities I experience today, there is a vast difference.

For example, seven years ago, I was isolated by my then boyfriend. He did not want me to have others in my life, including my family. I was to go to work, come home, make his dinner, put him to bed at 7:30 and clean for the rest of the night so that when he woke up his world was squeaky perfect. I could never clean well enough and there was always a list by the time I got home that needed to be done. A 30 minute lesson on how to vacuum to get the lines in the carpet correctly, then a shove into the wall afterward because I had wrapped the vacuum cleaner cord the way the manufacturer intended – but it wasn’t the way that he liked it. He was very convincing, I believed him that I was the problem, even though my heart ached that this couldn’t possibly be love.

::Something happens when you are in an abusive relationship… almost that if you are in it, you can’t see it. There is no logical explanation for why someone would stay when every day is a bad day, but it happens::

Leaving him was the best decision I had made up to that point in my life. The second it was done I felt free from chains that I hadn’t realized were on me. I cried from relief for weeks. My realities today need to shift to what is truly around me, not be based on what was my life seven years ago.

Just as there are no little people or unimportant lives, there is no insignificant work. – Elena Bonner

 

The greatest achievement was at first and for a time a dream. The oak sleeps in the acorn; the bird waits in the egg; and in the highest vision of the soul a waking angel stirs. – William James – To Your Success

 

Your hopes, dreams and aspirations are legitimate. They are trying to take you airborne, above the clouds, above the storms – if you will only let them. – Dan Zadra – To Your Success

Not only are my hopes, dreams and aspirations legitimate. I am legitimate. Even though things in my past have made me feel like I am not. I have felt like I am not worthy of love, of life even. This is changing. I am. You are. All of us are. I have a dream to be free from my past, I have aspirations to do something great with this life. I don’t need to forget my past, but I do need to not live in it anymore. I need to dream of what I want and fight for it to take root. I will fight for this, for my freedom from the bondage of depression, panic, and pain. I will get stronger.

Get stronger. Be a fighter for yourself. Raise your arms and stand a little taller today. Fight with fervor for the right to make your life what you want.