Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

Panic Attack Hangover: The Aftermath

When most people think of panic attacks, a certain image comes to mind. Maybe it’s one of someone sitting on the floor in a far corner, or on a chair bent over, hands over their ears, or on their head, hyperventilating and struggling to breathe normally. For some, that’s the case. But nobody ever talks about what happens after. I  recently read an article that sums up what happens when one has a panic attack “hangover”–and I just had one.

This is one post I could do without writing, but I feel compelled to write, so bear with me a moment, would you?

As I type this, after spending 25 minutes in panic attack mode, I’m still struggling to ground myself. I’m still in a dissociated, not-quite-here-yet state of mind. My mouth feels dry even though I just ate a salad drenched in lemon juice and Italian dressing. My hands are still shaking and my brain is still going 100mph. 25 minutes may not seem like a long time, but when you are in the midst of a panic attack, especially one that evolves into a flashback, you lose the sense of time. It’s 5:19pm right now, according to my clock, but that means nothing to me. I have a major headache from crying so much in that 25-minute time span. My eyes hurt and I am emotionally and mentally exhausted; I’m surprised my brain hasn’t exploded yet. For now, I need to take care of myself. I think a shower and a nap could help. Maybe tomorrow will be better.

Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

Need Feedback

I am bored and need feedback on writing. Here are the first two pages of what I wrote tonight. Have fun and let me know your thoughts good, bad, or otherwise.

~Day 1~

On the day everything went to hell, Catherine Dawson sat across from me, with her chestnut hair pulled back into a loose ponytail that only a high school sophomore who is trying to be cool would wear, and with typical counselor concern in her eyes, asked, “What brings you in today?”

I gripped the arms of the plush maroon chair and swallowed my spit before answering. “I, um, had an impulsive suicide attempt last night. I tried to jump off the roof of Parking Garage F but the wall was too high, so I walked back to my room.”

“Hmm,” she said in that annoying voice that every shrink uses. “How do you feel right now?”

“I feel like getting a chair maybe, or a crate, or something and heading back up to the roof.” My eyes darted across the room, looking everywhere but at her. Neither anxiety nor cerebral palsy are kind mistresses in times of stress. I wrung my hands together and firmly planted my feet on the ground to prevent shaking. Stupid tremors.

“So, you’re still fixated on getting on the roof?”

“Yes.”

In hindsight, that was a trick question; one that, had I known better, I wouldn’t have answered honestly. She pondered this new information for what I thought was a bit too long. Trying to process what I just told her, probably. She didn’t say anything for about thirty seconds, alternating between writing notes on her brown clipboard and chewing on her pen cap. Then she told me she was leaving to talk to Victoria.

“I’ll only be gone for a little while. Hang tight,” she said before closing the door and leaving me in her empty room. “A little while” turned out to be 45 minutes though. I could hear pieces of conversation on the other side, including a deep masculine laugh at one point. I took inventory of the room. On the far wall hung her Master’s degree in Psychology from the University of Central Florida. Go Knights, I thought to myself. On my left was a small table with a lamp on it and behind it, a bookshelf filled with dusty, old-looking books. I didn’t bother to read any of the titles. I just sat on the marron chair waiting for her to return. As I sat there, intrusive memories of him started to float about. I shook my head in a vain attempt to gain control. My grip on that stupid chair got tighter.

I’ll be honest, it’s been a real shit fest to deal with the aftermath of sexual trauma, especially since being diagnosed with PTSD three months ago. Last week, I gave my therapist Victoria my scissors because I can’t trust myself with them. I know I did the right thing, but damn, the withdrawals suck. I’ve been sneaking alcohol, too; drinking it only when my parents are gone or asleep when I visit on the weekends. Not wine bottles, but those mixed drink concoctions you have to freeze for 4-8 hours. Pour them right into my water bottle and hide it under the frozen veggies, let it get cold, and then I guzzle ‘em down. Makes me feel warm inside, slows everything down, and there’s nothing but quiet for once. I miss the quiet, but it’s not worth the hangovers in the morning. All this just because I don’t want to process my trauma. I’m scared it might break me. This morning, before I was sentenced to this Hell hole, I tried to explain that to Catherine, but she didn’t understand.

 

I distinctly knew something was wrong by the way she came in the door. Her gait was stiff, like she was holding her pee and trying not to let it come out. She didn’t look at me right away, she waited until she sat down to do so. She didn’t smile, but her eyes were both sympathetic and serious all at once. I tried unsuccessfully to swallow the lump lodged in my throat. She said I was “a danger to myself” and “needed to be protected.” I thought I heard her say “police” and “nearest hospital or psych ward” but I can’t remember her exact wording. I was there but I wasn’t there. Her words washed over me as if I were underwater. She also said something along of the lines of “If you walked out of this room and did something to yourself, I wouldn’t be able to live with that.” I remember thinking, Geez, lady, give me a break. It’s not like I’m trying to shoot up the entire campus, I just don’t wanna live anymore. I hate people like her. The ones who say that suicide is selfish because loved ones have to deal with the aftermath. Yet, they gloss over the person herself and the deep, deep pain she endures every day so that her family and friends get to see her, never knowing that the image she portrays to the world is not her, not really, just a shell, a broken façade.

She suggested that I let someone know what was going on, so I scrambled around in my bookbag, feeling for my phone to text Jason, my boyfriend. I couldn’t tell my parents, not yet. They’d freak out and I didn’t need to deal with that and the police coming to get me.

While I texted Jason, she said, “I know you probably hate me right now.”

I looked at her, into her eyes, for the first time. “I don’t hate you,” I said. “I’m just scared shitless.”

She nodded in response.

Apparently being in panic mode made me more open and honest. After about two minutes of deafening silence, I saw two campus police in the doorway: a man who looked like a mix of caramel and honey, and a woman with the blended pigment of white-out, vanilla ice-cream, and off-white eggshell wallpaper. Despite the serious, dreadful situation, I saw kindness and compassion in their eyes. What a contrast to the fear I felt that must have been pouring from my eyes like the tears I wanted to shed but couldn’t.

“We’ll lead you out the back way so no one sees you,” they told me as they ushered me out.

I didn’t even know there was a back way. I turned my head to meet Catherine’s eyes one last time before she went completely out of my line of vision. Her eyes seemed to say, “Get better, Nicole” while I wanted to know why she was doing this to me. We went down a hallway and passed by counselors’ closed office doors. Do they know what’s going on? Does Victoria know? How could she do this to me?! Get me Baker Acted? All I felt was betrayal, anger, and confusion as I walked down the hallway, twisting, turning, and going through a place once so familiar, now unfamiliar and foreign. We reached outside and there were three concrete steps leading down to the cop car waiting for me.  The only thoughts in my head were, I hope I don’t fall. I hope my kneecaps don’t dislocate. The male officer drove a separate car while the woman officer opened the door for me.  I got in, terrified. Because of the handcuffs, I had to turn my back to the door and then throw my legs in the car, with no help to balance myself if I did fall. Once in, she came around, buckled me in like I was an incompetent child; the first step to dehumanization.

Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

Defying Gravity (and Religion)

Dear Lovelies,

The words Elphaba sings in Defying Gravity are a testament to where I am right now: “Something has changed within me, something is not the same. I’m through with playing by the rules of someone else’s game. Too late for second guessing, too late to go back to sleep. It’s time to trust my instincts, close my eyes, and leap!” (If you didn’t sing that in your head, you’re a liar. I know you did!)

It’s funny and interesting the things you can learn and discover while taking a walk. Friday afternoon, I walked home from the bus stop, which is a good half-mile distance. Given that my quads and calves were already screaming from standing in one place since early morning (cashier life), I was dreading this walk especially when grey storm clouds loomed overhead like a bad omen. On this walk, there is a steep hill that is horrendous to travel on whether going up or down it. My main concern was that I wouldn’t lose my balance, or if I did, that it wouldn’t cause my kneecaps to dislocate, as they often do (gotta love cerebral palsy; it definitely keeps life interesting!) Anyway, I’m making my way down this hill, my clothes and body sticky from sweat, trying to beat the rain. Finally, my house came into view. I breathed a sigh of relief and said, “Thank you, God, for letting me get home before it rained.” I paused. Considered what I had just said. Repeated it. It shook me. It shook me because I meant it.

Just a minuscule event: getting home before it rained, but something changed. I still don’t know what or why that moment, as opposed to another, like when I’m in church, but it happened. It wasn’t a huge thing. The heavens didn’t open and I heard no chorus of angels singing, just a small shift within. At the time of this writing, I have not yet prayed and I think I have more questions than answers currently. I’ve been thinking a lot about how I should approach God; maybe that’s the problem. Maybe I’m thinking too much. I admit, it feels weird on my part, like getting reacquainted with an ex. It’s awkward and kind of scary, but exciting too. Something has changed within me and I wanna see where it leads. I think I’m ready to come back home now.

Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

Being in a State of Unicorn

Yesterday, J., my therapist, suggested, in the middle of a conversation, that I write down every emotion I was afraid to face and name while going through this process, this balancing act, of belief. The first thing I wrote down was “confused”. That one came too easily, followed by more expected feelings like “emptiness” and “loneliness.” The last one I wrote was the hardest to write because I didn’t want to admit it; I was afraid of what naming it would do to me (it almost caused a panic attack): “Abandonment.” As stated in my previous blog post, I’ve lost friends and acquaintances while on this journey. It hurts, I’m not gonna lie.

At his request, I sat with those feelings for a minute and just when I thought they’d overwhelm me, he surprised me with another challenge. “Now, look at the top list again. If those things were not present, how would you feel?” The first word that popped into my head was “light” but that didn’t seem like the best descriptive fit, so I wrote “iridescent” and then “peaceful” after that. Again, I had to allow myself to feel those different emotions. I felt free. He later asked me what that felt like, to feel those happy feelings and actually give myself permission to feel them. I told him it felt unicorn.

Tonight, as I cleaned the kitchen, broom in my hands and Katy Perry’s “Roar” in my ears, I felt unicorn. Doing something horribly mundane like sweeping while listening to music made me feel so peaceful. It took me by surprise at first, but then I enjoyed it. It’s hard to retrain your brain, I think, if you’re accustomed to thinking in a certain way, but it’s not impossible. That’s not to say that the hard things in life will be better overnight because of positive thinking, but it’s nice to not have the negativity weighing down so much. So, tonight, my trauma can’t touch me. Tonight, I can express myself without fear. Tonight, I am unicorn.

 

Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

Return from Hiatus: Questioning Everything

Dear Lovelies,

I know I’ve been away from you guys for a while, sorry about that. I took a break because I’m still, 3 months later, trying to figure out what my beliefs are and trying to discover what I’m actually leaving: God or the church? I don’t think there’s an easy answer because those two entities, for me, are so closely linked together. So many questions in my mind:

Does a Christian have to go to church to be a Christian?

Can a person be good without God?

Why do so many use fear tactics as a means for promoting their religious message (i.e. “Believe in the Gospel or you’ll burn in Hell!)?

Why let a book over 2,000 years old dictate one’s life?

Is God’s love and character truly unconditionally and unchanging?

Is one less of a Christian for having mental illnesses?

And many others in that line of thinking.

This process, this place I’m in is hard as I have lost friends whose only concern now is preaching at me as if I were an atheist and not an ex-student of the ancient script. I have made new friends who are Christian, and they are sweet and gracious, but I keep wondering if/when they, too, will leave me because of our different beliefs? I will admit that part of me misses the close relationship I had with God, but Christianity, Christian culture, and “Christians’ who either act like they have a stick up their butt and are so “holy” they ignore reality, or those who abuse others in the name of religion have all left a bad taste in my mouth; so much so that I want nothing to do with Christianity or the Church. Yes, I know I’m kinda throwing the baby out with the bath water, but at this point, I’m sick of being hurt by untrustworthy people who claim to be Christians. Sick of having to put on a smile and pretend that everything in my world is fine when it’s not. I’m sick of “living in faith” and denying that my reality hurts. I’m sick of the easy, Christian pat answers that do nothing but make me feel more guilty and alone in my mental anguish than I already do. But I could be wrong. (I also recognize that I’ve contradicted myself somewhere in this post. More evidence of my confusion!) I don’t where this path I’m on will lead me but I’ll see it through.