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".