Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

On the Rare Mornings I Feel Too Much

On the rare mornings I feel too much, my heart slams itself against my trachea and the world nestles hard on my esophagus. It is not unlike a hummingbird flinging itself against a still, sharp, rain-washed window.

On the rare mornings I feel too much, my breathing collapses upon itself, repeatedly, like someone squeezing my cheeks together in a vain attempt to release the smoke inside. Breathe, baby but I can’t. I never can. My brain is on the fastest merry-go-round and I fight to not faint. I fight to remember and remind myself that I am more than one of PTSD’s lovers.

On the rare mornings I feel too much, I feel like I’m betraying J. somehow. I hear his voice instructing me to balance my thoughts, to breathe, to speak truth aloud, but this merry-go-round of death is too quick, too cunning. It knows my soft spots and how to exploit them, so that all I want is to curl up cat-like in my bed that’s always a little too warm—even with the fan on—and never move again. It takes an act of the supernatural to not be afraid on a morning where mantras and breathing techniques prove themselves inadequate. Maybe, if I statue myself, he won’t find me.

On the rare mornings I feel too much, I wonder why my friends are my friends. I question if they only tolerate me. They tell me they love me, but warn me, as subtle as a caterpillar crawls up the flesh of a human arm, to “get over” my trauma because it’s been seven years and “don’t you wanna move past it?” It is seemingly trite advice for a body—a life—massacred by trauma and memories. Or maybe, I’m just projecting my insecurities into places they shouldn’t be.

On the rare mornings I feel too much, I hear my mother quoting the Bible, the part that says, “Be anxious for nothing…” and I want, ever so much, to body slam both her and Jesus.

On the rare mornings I feel too much, I throw myself into the jaws of theology to let my analytical mind escape the acidic rain of my tortured hippocampus, the part of my brain that loops trauma memories on repeat like a good 90s song. I can’t be PTSD’s lover when I’m reading A. W. Tozer and C. S. Lewis.

On the rare mornings I feel too much, the world keeps moving. No one cares. People walk and drive to work, to church, and to the bar. Children are picked up from school or ballet or karate. Wives try to remember who they were before they became mothers, and husbands cook a meal most chefs would envy. I wonder what Heaven tastes like.

On the rare mornings I feel too much, I force myself to cook breakfast, if for no other reason than “my body can’t survive without food.” I watch the sunset in all its glorious wonder and eat whipped cream from the can. I fight to remember and remind myself that I am not one of PTSD’s lovers, and that trauma doesn’t own me.

Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

Panic Attacks Make Recovery Worth It

I know how to stop myself from having a panic attack.

Sometimes, it doesn’t work.

On the days that it does, it makes recovery seem like within the reach of my fingertips. On the days when it doesn’t, on the days when I hide in my bed, under my bedsheets, hiding myself from the world, recovery seems like some kind of sick joke someone would tell to just be a jerk. Like telling someone who’s drowning to just “think happy thoughts” or “you need to fight harder against the waves; that’ll save you!”

Panic attacks make recovery worth it. When you’re not fighting an enemy, the victory seems… stale like crackers that have been left in the pantry two months past their expiration date. Panic attacks aren’t always hyperventilating, hands covering, protecting ears from triggers or familiar faces, eyes covered to hide sounds that remind you of the things that your nightmares are made of.

Sometimes, panic attacks look like a silent scream in the middle of a prayer session. Contortions as you silently fight against your body, wanting to let it all out but you can’t because you’re in public and you have to control yourself. You wouldn’t want others to think something’s wrong, now, would you? Of course not. Don’t be silly. So, you hold it until you get alone and then you can let it out. Silently scream or actually scream into a pillow… or the air.

Sometimes, panic attacks look like an open chasm of broken tears. The kind of tears one would make when one steps on glass—barefoot—in the middle of the night. Almost as bad as stepping on a Lego. Almost.

Panic attacks aren’t always hyperventilating. Sometimes, they look like anger. Sometimes they look like numbness… like void… like nothing. Sometimes they sound like you picking a random color, maybe blue or red or magenta, and naming everything you can think of that’s that color to trick your mind into thinking: “You’re not crazy. See? You have control. You can still recognize colors, cars, shoes, books and… purses and… blankets. Anything to forget the touches, kisses… angry, loud, cacophony of voices… see? You’re fine. You can recognize the TV and your lamp that’s on your desk. And the tea bags. And the books that are scattered all over the room. And the car outside. And the green grass outside your window. You’re not having a panic attack if you’re in control, right?”

I know how to get rid of a panic attack. Sometimes, it works. Sometimes, it doesn’t. The days where it doesn’t… are the days I fear. They do nothing more than validate the thought in my head that I don’t actually have control, that I can’t get better.

One day, this’ll be over. and I’ll be happy again. And won’t automatically look for the negative things in a good situation. One day, I’ll be at peace. No more fear or panic to control me. One day. But until that day comes, panic attacks make recovery worth it.

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

Panic Attacks and Sexuality in the Church

My pastor talked about sex last Tuesday night. I knew that before I got there, thanks to the Facebook post on our mid-week service page. In hindsight, I probably should not have gone, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

For context, we’re currently going through the book of Ephesians and Tuesday night’s passage of Scripture provided an interesting backdrop to all the loud, destructive, cornucopia in my mind. Let me illustrate my point so you know what I mean. Pastor Doug read Ephesians 5:1-14 (For the sake of not making this post unnecessarily long, I won’t post the whole passage here, but here’s a link if you want to read it).

In this passage where you have beautiful and encouraging imagery like “be imitators of God as dearly loved children” and “walk in love” and verse 8 in particular which states, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light…” So beautiful and true. You would think my heart would soak that up, right? Wrong.

My brain and heart decided to dwell on verse 4: “For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” (NASB). My wonderful, little traumatized brain said “Ooh, let’s focus on that! ‘The sexually impure…can’t inherit God’s kingdom.’ I was sexually groomed and assaulted, and have PTSD. That makes me sexually impure…” Huge sigh. I hate my brain sometimes.

By the time Pastor Doug got really into his teaching, I was already floating (my word for “dissociating”). I recall him saying “high school,” “hormones,” and then this phrase, “You ever pray for God to just take away your sexuality?” In my head, I screamed, “YES!” I wanted to stay seated but I couldn’t. I could already feel the sweat on my palms, feel my chest tightening with every labored breath I took like a skilled boa constrictor killing its prey, slow and meticulous. I knew what was coming.

The Panic Attack

The topic of sex, or anything sex-related, has always made me uncomfortable, even before the trauma. After a whispered direction to my friend to “watch my stuff,” I hobbled as fast as my panicked body would allow, trying to mentally prepare myself to face my triggers and intrusive memories in the cool, Floridian air. I flopped on a nearby bench, put my head in my hands, and begged myself to “calm down” and “stop, just stop please,” while hyperventilating in time with every memory that passed through my hippocampus. I walked around for a bit, still in a daze, but decided, after a while, that my time was better spent attending to my newfound dehydration. (Panic attacks tend to cause dizziness, dehydration, and headaches. They suck).

I entered into the church to grab some water with the intention of going back inside and actually returning to my seat. A rare moment of optimism that was crushed before it could take root. I went away again. And again. Each time, hating myself more than I did before. See, the thing about trauma and, by association, PTSD, is that it produces a myriad of shame. It is this shame that alienates you and makes you feel different from others, like an outsider.

If I could have, I would have stayed outside all night, but that would have been awkward and caused even more concern on my behalf from my friend who was keeping watch over my stuff.

Restoration?

Back to my seat I went, with more water in hand. I have to laugh because the exact moment I walked back in, Doug was just beginning to mention the two “unmentionables” in the church. Namely, pornography and masturbation. Oh, the awkward silence and laughter that followed! (This definitely goes down as his most cringe-worthy sermon ever.)

Yet, I have to give him props for even bringing it up because a majority don’t discuss sex in church, or if they do, it’s always in a “don’t do it before marriage or you are damaged goods” kind of way.

He talked more about God’s grace to restore and redeem than anything else that night, in regards to sexuality, and once again, I felt different than those around me. Here’s why: I’m asexual. When Doug gave us time to reflect and pray about what God was telling us concerning our sexuality, telling us that God would “restore our sexuality” the immediate thought in my head was, “Does my sexuality, or lack thereof, need to be restored?” I don’t have an answer for that. I’ll write more about this later, but all I can say for now is that it is extremely hard and lonely being asexual in a sex-obsessed world.

Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

6 Reasons for Midnight Tears

I’m sitting on my bed, crying because all the floors in my parents’ house are tile, which is a problem because I want to sit and be as small as possible but I can’t because tile hurts differently than carpet.

I’m crying because this is the second, no, third anxiety attack I’ve had in a 24-hour period, I’ve been awake for 20 of those hours, and my body cannot relax.

I’m crying because I had a great, long interview with a marvelous company last week and I’m afraid of calling because I don’t want to annoy them. At the same time, I don’t want them to lose interest in me, and I don’t know the balance between these two concepts.

I’m crying because if I don’t hear back from them, that means they gave the job to someone else, and what’s worse, I’ll have no idea why, what I did right, or what I could improve on, which will only fuel my disastrous anxiety-depression cycle.

I’m crying because PTSD and anxiety held me hostage today, which is a terrible thing to admit, especially as a Christian, but there it is. I have no desire to sugarcoat truth and trade it for chewable lies.

I’m crying because I don’t know what the future holds and that is terrifying.