Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Day 13: Courage and Determination

A flood of emotions are overwhelming me as I write this. Today I attended what I thought was going to be a simple school outing, little did I know today I was going to be taught the lesson.
The district in which I work holds a track and field event for the 5th graders as a way to round out the year and give them the opportunity to see friends and show off all the hard work they have been doing over the school year. I attended in hopes of cheering on some of my co-worker's children and getting a chance to get out of the stuffy office for a little while, no real intention of enjoying anything other than the sun and cool breeze.

Little did I know some real life inspiration was happening right in front of me! I watched student after student= take their place at the starting line, the sound of the gun signaled the start of the race...suddenly a flood of cheers overcame the bleachers. 300 students began to cheer on one another even if they didn't know that student personally. "Come on you can do it, you got this, you're doing awesome" reigned over the crowd. In this moment it made no difference if they were friend or foe, they were a team! Every kid that ran had a cheerleader, even the ones who lagged behind had another student cheering them on to success. The amount of love and respect for one another was amazing!

I happen to love photography so I decided to take a few snap shots and offer them to the parents in case they were too preoccupied to focus on the camera. I will admit, I was only haphazardly taking photos myself due to the fact that I was consumed by the cheering and electricity happening around me. So as I got back to my office I sat down to my computer to edit the photos to be sent out in emails. Scanning the photos one stood out immediately. It was a photo of one little girl. As I zoomed in on the photo I could see the agony in her face as she was trying so hard to continue on the long, demanding race she was chosen to run. Her eyes were red as if she were fighting back tears, sweat ran down her forehead, her posture was hunched forward in utter fatigue...she was in last place. I saw the pain in that photo and thought "I just wanted to get out there and save her". I wanted to climb that fence and take all that pain away. I wanted to run next to her and cheer her on so she knew, although at the end of the pack she was not alone. I saw her struggle and fight her way through the last quarter of the race never giving up, crossing the finish line to a crowd of encouragement.

So why would this bring tears rather than pride for her? I draws out the sadness in me when I see her pain, I can relate. Not that I run marathons, but that I have been physically to the edge and felt like I couldn't go any further. Like I wanted to just collapse right there and never get back up. I have felt alone, at the back of the pack. As if I was forgotten cause everyone was to busy to wait or too occupied to notice. I have felt alone, struggling to keep myself upright and push through with no one there to cheer me on. It is lonely, frightening, and the hardest place to dig down deep and capture all that you are and push on.
This photo...this little girl...she gives me the encouragement to do just that; push on and over come. This little girl was the frightened little girl inside of me, and she made it! She concurred, beaten and alone but she did it! And so can I! At the end loving arms were there to embrace her and welcome her back. When I finish this journey of recapturing my strength I know there will be many loving arms to welcome me back too!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Day 12: A day panic free!

Yesterday was day 1 of panic free! Over the past few weeks I have been exhausting every possible reason for the way I feel. Everything other than panic/anxiety. I have seen neurologists, dietitians, general practitioners, cardiologists and chiropractors. Sounds like a severe case of hypochondria right?...

Well yes and no. I was asked a few weeks ago what I needed to be able to surrender to the anxiety. After pausing a moment I responded by saying "I need to know these physical symptoms are not something bigger, more devastating". You see, for years I have been told I suffer from PTSD. Well not one clinician bothered to tell me why and how they came to that conclusion. No extensive testing had been done, no real investigation other than me sharing my assault and them drawing a conclusion. For four years I walked around feeling like these clinicians have just swept all my concerns under a blanket diagnosis with out bothering to research it or rule out other possibilities. I walked around with a feeling of mistrust in those doctors and a disbelief that something that could never be proven with black and white conclusions could be so powerful.

PTSD or panic/anxiety seems to me to be a ghost. Doctors can't find it in a lab result, neurologists can't find it in brain activity or sleep patterns, dietitians can't pinpoint is due to a lack of nutrients. No one seems to be able to explain where they come from, what trips the anxiety/panic switch. There is no explanation as to why I begin shaking while putting laundry away or singing along with the radio in my car. "It just does" is the only explanation. Well let me tell you, when you are going about your daily life attempting to enjoy it and all of a sudden you are overcome with tremors and a racing heart and cold sweats "it just does" does not help you!

What I think most people do not understand is that PTSD after an assault does not happen only when you are remembering that specific moment. You don't have to be back in the exact location of the beating to feel the effects of it. It can and does happen anywhere, any time, without warning! It rears its ugly head into my work day, it screams out when trying to treat myself to a day at the mall, it paralyzes me from traveling to far off destinations. Even though I am not directly thinking about the moment I was attacked the effects of it haunts me every day.

With all that said my next adventure is to choose to medicate or go the "natural" route...will keep you updated.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Day 11: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Disorder may refer to :
* Chaos, unpredictability and in the metaphysical sense, it is the opposite of law and order.

Chaos, that is exactly what my body and spirit is experiencing lately. Insomnia, but then exhausted, loss of appetite then starving, happy then crying. Uggggghhhhh! All of these are "expected" according to all of my practitioners. Turns out opening Pandora's emotional box reaps havoc on the body and spirit.

So far I have seen a cardiologist for palpitations, a neurologist for tremors and lack of sleep, a physical therapist for chronic headaches, and a therapist for mental stability (if there is such a thing). Guess what everyone's conclusions are....... Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I am told I should be thankful that there is nothing "major" wrong with me. Major?...PTSD feels major! I admit I am thankful and counting my blessings, but some days I wish it had a diagnosis that could be "cured". Today I feel PTSD is incurable. I feel as though it is going to overpower me for another 4 years. Some days I think it would be easier if I had MS or anemia; something that a prescription or a multivitamin could cure. Today I feel as though I am cursed with PTSD for life and there is not resolution.

A light has appeared on the horizon...After a therapy session and sharing my current perspective on PTSD my therapist kindly reminded me that PTSD and anxiety is curable and has resolution. It is chaos today, but it is a chaos that can be organized and overpowered! I admit I am still extremely skeptical, but am holding out hope for gaining the skills to regain power over the PTSD and take back control over my life. The first step is allowing myself to experience the PTSD and panic attacks when they happen rather than fighting them. Whoa...just sit there and let it happen? Surrender? That sounds like the hardest, most frightening first step I have ever needed to take. But, I take a deep breath and think "bring it on, I can and will do this"!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Day 10: Insomnia

Had a sleep study performed this weekend and ironically I couldn't sleep. Go figure! My doctors are hoping to find a reasoning for the tremors that seem to come and go for no apparent reason (and sometimes with reason). Hypothesizing that it is the sleep pattern or lack there of that is creating this form of exhaustion.
Trouble is what do you do when the sleep study recreates some of your PTSD? Being hooked up to dozens of electrodes, beeps and alarms going off randomly, not being able to roll from side to side in search of comfort. The room is pitch black and disorientating, my only light coming from a red lazer beam shooting down from the ceiling. I hate the dark. It sends all my senses into overdrive. While I know there is no one else in the room with me something inside me is on high alert. I react to every sound, sensing every smell,as if someone is sneaking up on me. And I am supposed to relax and fall asleep?

When you have walk in fear, afraid that your attacker was looming in the darkness for years it is virtually impossible to find relaxation and comfort in the silence of darkness. While still in the violent relationship I would find myself in places like the local coffee shop, mall, movie theater, or my own home and suddenly he would appear. One afternoon I had been in my home with my father and a guest enjoying a baseball game on the television. It was a hot summer afternoon and the front door and windows were open letting in the sunshine. Suddenly, I received a text message from my assailant. "Go look outside" it read. I walked out my front door, just feet from where I had been sitting with my family enjoying the baseball game and what did I car was covered in thorn covered roses. How did he do that when we all were just inside with the screen door and windows open? Surely I would have heard his car pull up or the activity outside...We all were oblivious to it all. Mixed in the roses was a not that read "each thorn pricked me and created pain just like the pain of you leaving me but I withstood the pain to be near you again". This was just the beginning of his stalking behaviors. Even at my most alert and surrounded by others I was vulnerable to him.

Needless to say I don't think my sleep study went to well. Rather than the clinic getting an accurate sleep study I am pretty sure they got a better account of a panic study. Waking and wanting to roll over only reminded me that I was hooked up to all these machines and I was stuck. My senses heightened again and again each time I woke. When I finally woke up for the day I was beyond exhausted, emotionally and physically. Now all I can do is wait and continue moving forward. As one of my favorite professors would write on all of my paper "onward and upward".

Friday, April 29, 2011

Domestic Violence: A Story of Survival: Day 9: 4 years later and I am still frightened!

Domestic Violence: A Story of Survival: Day 9: 4 years later and I am still frightened!: "I am so frightened, the tremors continue to creep up on me, my legs shake, my heart feels like it is pounding, my stomach is churning and my..."

Day 9: 4 years later and I am still frightened!

I am so frightened, the tremors continue to creep up on me, my legs shake, my heart feels like it is pounding, my stomach is churning and my hands are barley able to type these words. What is it I have pent up inside me that needs to come out?....anger, sadness, fear, embarrassment....EVERY THING AROUND ME ANNOYS ME! My friend's cell phone ringing and his lackadaisical manner of answering it, the way he wiggles his feet all the time as a nervous, unconscious habit, the fact that my dishes still sit in the sink because I am to tired to do them...all of this chips away at my patience.

I AM SCARED OF THE PHYSICAL SHIT THAT COMES OUT WITH OUT ME BEING ABLE TO STOP IT, I AM TIRED OF THE TREMORS AND PALPITATIONS BECOMING ALL I THINK ABOUT RATHER THAN THE LIFE HAPPENING AROUND ME! I AM TIRED OF SITTING ON THIS DAMN COUCH AFRAID OF DYING! Isn't that what I am doing? Letting my spirit die but not celebrating it, not living in the moment and being thankful for what I have? Not laughing when a joke is funny because I am so stuck inside my fears, not getting a good nights sleep because I am so afraid of not waking up to see another sunrise.

I am so angry that my sense of safety has been taken away from me! I walked around for a year afraid of a man who deep down I knew was going to hurt me. I walked on pins and needles afraid to wake the sleeping bear. I put on a smile big enough that no one questioned. I pretended to be supportive and become agreeable to everything. All of this because I am afraid. Afraid that one day he will snap! One day he will actually begin poison me little by little. One day he will take me on that Sunday afternoon drive down some remote road and leave me there bloody and beaten. I walked around for a year fearing what he was capable of.

I used to find books on the female psyche tucked in far corners of the closet or basement. One time I got caught looking at such a book (titled the psychology of women) and was told he reads books like this one because he wanted to know what makes us women tick, so he could better deal with out PMS or depression issues. Played it off as a caring, loving gesture rather than the sociopolitical behavior I later began to realize. I would find needles in the bathroom drawers. He would tell me they were left over from when his cat had needed injections for an illness and he found them useful for extracting zits. I found random vials of prescription drugs belonging to other people, Ambian, Xanex, and chemo drugs from a relative. His clever answer to justify these were...why waste them, doctors wouldn't prescribe them if they were harmful. He would tell me he never took them, or that he only tried them once. I walked around wondering if the food he was pushing on me was tainted with these medications to harm me. Seems totally irrational right? Some say it does, to that I tell them this...

He was obsessed with convincing me that he was someone that could be trusted! He told me over and over again that if anything ever happened to me he would be the one to rescue me. He would drive with me various routes to the local hospital to show me he knew the fastest route and I had nothing to worry about. Thing is...why or what did I have to worry about in the first place?...Why would he think I had no trust in him, I basically was a yes girl. I am not a psychologist so I couldn't even begin to speculate, but my intuition was telling me that NOTHING about any of this was safe! Yet I stayed.

Perhaps part of me wanted to rehabilitate him. Perhaps part of me wanted to be the one to get through to him and get him to be a better person...Mostly I was just afraid. Frightened because every time I tried to leave the attacks got worse. Every time the urge to flee arose I convinced myself that it was safer to just ride that moment out and the next time would be a better opportunity. I wanted to run every moment but felt paralyzed. Instead I sat there, heart pounding, hands sweating, stomach in knots, feeling totally disconnected from my body day after day.

So why do I still feel this way? four years later and I am still afraid something in going to kill me. A heart palpitation, the tremors, food, medications, you name it. Why am I still walking around afraid if he is no longer in my life? Is it because he is still apart of my memories or deeper...Oh that frightens me to even contemplate such a disgusting thing. It absolutely appalls me to think of him still apart of me! yet, every time I walk in the footsteps of fear that is exactly what is happening. I am allowing this emotion he instilled in me to take control. I am giving the fear he created the power, and I MUST find a ways to stop the fear. Take away its power and control. I need to harness the power to control my own emotions and take charge of my life. I need to empower myself to take back my life, rediscover my laugh, polish up my smile, and paint my life colorful!

Taking check on my body as I end this blog I notice: I am not shaking anymore, I am not focusing on every single breath I take, I am not listening to my heart pound in fear. When I take a deep breath I can feel my body slowly letting go of the tension. Slowly, I am gaining on this fear, preparing to attack and dismantle it.

Day 9: FairyTail Wedding

So like many of you around the world I tuned in this morning to watch Prince William marry Kate. I loved everything about the wedding. Watching the guests arrive with excitement, their parents beam with pride, and Williams look of adornment as he first caught a glimpse of Kate for the first time. The way the two of them gazed into one another's eyes was magical. The way William continued to glimpse at Kate and give her a wink letting her know everything was going to be OK made me long for a moment like that.

I have been married once before. When I was 19 I married a man I knew as a kid growing up, but never as a man/woman. I was in love with the idea of love. I was in love with the ideas of a family, a home, a man who adored me beyond words, a man who would protect me from all things wrong in this world. I wanted a sense of belonging, safety and security. What I got was all but those things. I married a man that was emotionally, financially, and eventually physically abusive.
I struggled to make sense of it all for 5 years. I thought this was what a marriage was, the man controls everything and the woman stays home and bears children. My family was aware of the stress I was under, aware of his behavior, yet no one said "get out now!" It wasn't until I was in the Emergency Room (for other reasons) that I realized what I was participating in was not OK. Up on a wall of pamphlets I noticed the Violence wheel. It depicted all the ways a person could be abused: financially, emotionally, physically, sexually... I was flabbergasted at what I read. I had always thought abuse was purely physical or sexual. I was in the midst of something more traumatizing; emotional abuse. For 5 years I was bullied, controlled, and criticized by the one person who swore in front of 200 guests to protect me from all things hurtful.

I had lied to family and friends about holes in the wall from punches that thankfully missed me. I covered up the insults and verbal attacks with a smile. I hid the financial control by making excuses. I pretended I was happy for 5 years so well that I eventually believed it myself.
Thankfully I was able to see that the way I was being treated was never acceptable for any person, and I left the relationship. I taunting, harassment, verbal abuse, and threats lasted for 8 years after that. The only times I got relief was when he would push too far and an Order for Protection could be put back into place. Currently I have a permanent order in place making things much quieter and giving more room for recovery.

Since the divorce 11 years ago I have been engaged twice. Once to to my attacker and once to a man who loved me, but I never loved back. I agreed to both of them out of a yearning for that "Whit Picket Fence" dream. I wanted to be like everyone else, a home, a dog, and 2 kids playing in the yard. I wanted the fancy wedding with all the pomp and circumstance a princess deserves. Honestly, I was never in love with either men. I wanted the idea of them. Instead of accepting either of them for who they are I struggled to make them into what I needed. Being alone was far more frightening than being married to an abuser. Thankfully for myself and both those men I did not follow through, although it caused an attack from one and heartache for the other.

Still single I morn for the adoring glance from across the room, the kind-gentle-loving touch, wink letting me know everything was going to be OK. I cry because I don't know if I will ever find that person who loves me unconditionally and I love them back. I am sad because I fear I will not be able to shop for a wedding gown and daydream about the man standing at the end of the aisle. I desperately work on saving myself so that one day I can be with a loving man and love him not because I need him, but need him because I love him.