Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

As You Heal, You Will Hurt

“…What year is it?” I asked J. near the beginning of our session as I tried hard to ground myself to reality. I’m safe. I’m safe. I’m safe.

“What year do you think it is?” He, being the therapist that he is, never gives me a straight answer; always opting for me to figure it out myself. Usually, I appreciate this about him but Tuesday, it gravely annoyed me.

“…2006?” I hesitated before answering because I was attempting to logic my way out of a middle school flashback; my efforts were futile.

“What makes you think it’s 2006?” he asked. No judgement, merely curious and wanting to gain understanding.

I don’t remember my answer but I do know that was the beginning of the end for me, at least that day. That session ended with an intense panic attack (brought on by another flashback) that took me a little longer than normal to come back from, even with J.’s help.

~

After reminiscing on the session, I grew frustrated with myself. Even while in the session, after the panic attack, I was frustrated.

“I should have better control!” I yelled at J.

“You will, with time. You’ve already come so far.”

“No! I need to be better, stronger…” (cue mini panic attack)

“Give it time. You’re still healing.”

~

As healing starts or progresses, you are going to hurt. It’s ironic and sounds a little backwards, doesn’t it? You get a little stronger and unknowingly put ridiculously high expectations on yourself to do everything you can to prevent yourself from ever being triggered by the trauma, and when a trigger or painful memory materializes physically in the form of a panic attack or rage or fits of crying spells at odd moments, you think you’ve failed and punish yourself.

But as you heal, after a while, you find that your old coping skills don’t work anymore. You get tired of your arms stinging in the shower after a relapse; the harshness of life you used to chase away with a bottle of Jack Daniel’s, or with a rum and Coke, doesn’t go down as easy anymore. For me, I’m finding that the places I finish growing up in are the same ones in which I heal.

Abandonment and abuse in childhood gives way to independence and strength in adulthood. Sometimes, the scars itch, and on days when I’m tired of being strong I scratch them, but they are more often forgotten memories, reminders of where I’ve been and how much I’ve grown. I still have a ways to go, as repressed memories emerge from the past like the Loch Nest monster rising from the murky, dark waters into the autumn sun. Is it scary? Hell yea, but I’m healing. Come hell or high water, I’m healing even though it hurts.

Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

A Letter to Panic Attacks and Anxiety

Dear Anxiety and PTSD-induced Panic Attacks,

I hate you. No, I loathe you. You are the bane of my existence and the reason I can’t enjoy the things that once brought me peace and happiness like God or writing or reading. Yes, even reading (don’t ask, just know that it is horrendous). You make me second and triple-guess everything that concerns me. Did I lock my door? Did I cook that too long? Am I performing well enough at work so I don’t get fired? What if I get fired? How I gonna pay for food and rent? Did I spell that word right? Do my friends actually love me or do they just tolerate me? Am I annoying and they’re just too kind to tell me? What if I’m not as good a writer as everybody says I am? What if I only think I know God and don’t actually know Him and end up in Hell? 

See what I mean? Anxiety, and you as well PTSD, make a vacuum of my breath and drain me of all my wonderful. You take correction and turn it into a cemetery. You take labels and tattoo them into my self-worth until I believe that who you say I am is who I actually am. You have turned prayer time into a prison cell as I sit and hold back tears that originate from unknown sources of some secret panic. (Who gets triggered by prayer anyway?!) You are illogical at best and highly annoying at worst but you won’t win. You may keep me up at night, but by morning, I’m coming with a vengeance. Make no mistake. I may seem weak, but understand that every implemented coping mechanism and whispered cry of “God help me” in the midst of night’s debut is me regaining power.

Sincerely,

Anxiety Warrior

Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

Travailing through Trauma: A Night With PTSD

Last night, PTSD won. I spent most of the night curled up in my closet, like a child afraid of the Boogeyman, trying my best to be as small as possible, like nothing at all, because the amount of open space my room offered was too much. Around 11 p.m., I laid on the floor with my deep plum blanket and a pillow beneath me—as the carpeted floor is hard after some time—surrounded by decorative pillows, shoes, and a worn hamper full of dirty laundry, trying not to cry from intrusive memories that transformed themselves into a horrific flashback. I could feel his warm breath on the back of my neck and his hands claiming me against my will…

I tried to breathe deeply to remind myself that I was still here and not there anymore (his hands weren’t actually on me). I tried to externalize the flashback by using a visualization of a TV screen, whereby the trauma is reduced to a 2-dimensional picture instead of with me, clouding my senses and distorting my reality, but it only made the flashback worse. Memories danced across my dark closet ceiling like a silent film and as much as I wanted to turn it off, I couldn’t. So, I let it play out. I had a panic attack, or two; I can’t remember. I don’t remember getting up and crawling back to bed nor do I recall falling asleep, but these things must have happened because when I woke up in my bed this morning, my knees ached with pain. When I woke up this morning, my brain felt like someone had melted it with a blow torch: I couldn’t concentrate on anything, I was experiencing dizziness, and I was just completely out of it. Still, I had to go to work.

Somewhere between me leaving my house to catch the bus and the end of my shift, chronic pain showed up. I have dealt with headaches, chest pain, and pain stemming from endometriosis all day. I want nothing more than to take a hot, long shower and climb in bed. I want my mind to not be so cloudy, as I don’t remember anything that happened at work today. I want to rest more than anything.

Today, the residue of PTSD, and chronic pain won. Sometimes, it’s like that. Bad days happen. In spite of that, strength is still there. Even if it’s hard to see or feel, even if it’s as tiny as a grain of sand, it’s still there. Maybe tomorrow, more will come, but right now, I’m holding on to what strength I have for tonight.

Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

Travailing through Trauma: A Night With PTSD

Last night, PTSD won. I spent most of the night curled up in my closet, like a child afraid of the Boogeyman, trying my best to be as small as possible, like nothing at all, because the amount of open space my room offered was too much. Around 11 p.m., I lied on the floor with my deep plum blanket and a pillow beneath me, as the carpeted floor is hard after some time, surrounded by decorative pillows, shoes, and a worn hamper full of dirty laundry, trying not to cry from intrusive memories that transformed themselves into a horrific flashback. I could feel his warm breath on the back of my neck and his hands claiming me against my will…

I tried to breathe deeply to remind myself that I was still here and not there anymore (his hands weren’t actually on me). I tried to externalize the flashback by using a visualization of a TV screen, whereby the trauma is reduced to a 2-dimensional picture instead of with me, clouding my senses and distorting my reality, but it only made the flashback worse. Memories danced across my dark closet ceiling like a silent film and as much as I wanted to turn it off, I couldn’t. So, I let it play out. I had a panic attack, or two; I can’t remember. I don’t remember getting up and crawling back to bed nor do I recall falling asleep, but these things must have happened because I when I woke up in my bed this morning, my knees ached with pain. When I woke up this morning, my brain felt like someone had melted it with a blow torch: I couldn’t concentrate on anything, I was experiencing dizziness, and I was just completely out of it. Still, I had to go to work.

Somewhere between me leaving my house to catch the bus and the end of my shift, chronic pain showed up. I have dealt with headaches, chest pain, and pain stemming from endometriosis all day. I want nothing more than to take a hot, long shower and climb in bed. I want my mind to not be so cloudy, as I don’t remember anything that happened at work today. I want to rest more than anything.

Today, the residue of PTSD, and chronic pain won. Sometimes, it’s like that. Bad days happen. In spite of that, strength is still there. Even if it’s hard to see or feel, even if it’s as tiny as a grain of sand, it’s still there. Maybe tomorrow, more will come, but right now, I’m holding on to what strength I have for tonight.