Panic attacks

You’re living your day just fine then all of a sudden an intense wave of anxiety flushes over. Hands get fidgety. Heart starts racing. Unsettling feeling sets in the pit of the stomach. What is it? Dots cannot be connected of what is going on. 

Warmth floods outward from the center of the chest. Tears involuntarily start streaming down rounded cheeks. I am not feeling emotions that should be equated with tears. Confusion sets in. Palpitations start occurring. Damnit. Not again.

I sit in the chair and lean back. My 6 year old is in the bathtub playing with a boat he made listening to kids radio. I want to ensure he doesn’t witness me losing my shit. I must try to shelter him from the possibilities of my emotional pain (totally realistic right?). 

As my head is tilted back, my eyes are open and tears flow out the sides. No blinking is involved, how are they just flowing? I consciously focus on breathing in and out. It’s so restricted. My pants are too tight. My shirt and bra and suffocating me. I can’t move. There’s no way I am going to be able to keep this up for much longer.

15 minutes pass. Heart rate is extremely high as well as respiration rate. Feels like someone is sitting on my chest. Nausea settles. I hate feeling nauseous. I need to go vomit just to make it better. No, not worth it. I should probably call someone. 

Almost 45 minutes of symptoms. About 30 minutes in, I hit the peak of running out of breath and feeling as if it were to last hours. I lay on the bed, hands over my head taking long deep breaths focusing on the feel of my wrought iron head board to keep me present. 

Even after the bulk passes, anxiety is high. I am supposed to go out and that is definitely not an option! Wait… What will I do internally if I don’t go out? I have to go…. 

I can’t wear what I was going to wear. I need to hide myself. I don’t want to be looked at or touched. After going through my closet, I realize I truly don’t have too many options and wearing an oversized t-shirt isn’t truly plausible. I settle for a light cover-up jacket to wear when I’m not feeling comfortable. 

The day after, I am completely emotionally hungover. I can barely function normally. There are so many things I need to do but I can’t do any of them. I am utterly drained. I hate feeling so useless. Why can’t I get my act together?

You see… PTSD panic attacks are strange as a phrase can be said and one time it affects me and another it doesn’t. Same with sounds, smells, songs, people, actions, etc. It’s odd as I never know 100% what could trigger it. But with me starting a new job, having the long hours, feeling bad about being away from Asher more, etc my stress levels have been higher. This means I have been more likely to experience symptoms. When I don’t take proper care of myself, shit happens. 

While I have been dealing with this for 10 years and can handle what’s going on, it’s still inconvenient. I found a good site that’s simple to understand- Panic Attacks

Reach out to others. Have support. Don’t do it alone ❤

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good enough

I have a severe fear of “fucking my child up”. I expect a LOT of myself as a mother. When I first had my son, I felt I had to make up for the fact that he had no father. I lacked severely in discipline because of this. I felt awful for disciplining him, so I wasn’t that harsh in my tactics. Eventually, I was able to notice that I was doing not only a disservice to myself but to him as well. I was able to change my parenting techniques and structured things better.

Keep in mind, parenting does not come with a handbook. When I was handed my son at 22 years old, the thoughts that crossed my mind were along the lines of “now what do I do?” and “why would someone trust me with this for the next 18 years……”

Sometimes I feel like I am just winging it and praying I am doing something right. The past 7 years I have spent most of my time making sure he is taken care of no matter what it costs for me. No matter what, this is always the story that I tell to show people where I have come from and where it is possible to go.

The years 2010-2014 were extremely rough, especially financially. 2013/2014 was some dark times and it was more apparent since I had a tiny human to take care of that could talk. At the time, I was donating plasma twice a week to make ends meet as I could barely afford rent. I had just enough money for the grocery store to buy milk. I take Asher to the grocery store and he asks for oranges. I had to tell my child “no” to oranges. My heart sank so low. He couldn’t understand why he wasn’t able to get oranges, he was 3/4. The fact was, I was willing to go without so many things to provide the world for that child…. yet I still couldn’t even buy damn oranges?? It was utterly defeating as a parent to feel that.

Within a year and a half, my financial situation did a complete turn around. Not only was I able to buy oranges, I was able to buy apples if he wanted them too ;). Slowly but surely, I no longer felt regret of not being able to provide little things for him and I was able to focus on the big picture. He had a roof over his head. Food in his belly (and NEVER went hungry). Clothes on his back. A mother who loved him beyond life. Nothing else mattered.

You see, my son has meant more to me than my own life. But that is the problem….. You can never put someone else’s value above yourself. Period. If I were to tragically lose my child, what would happen? My life would probably not go on. I am confident in knowing that is where I am at. That is not okay. As much as it hurts to say that, he cannot be the center of my world. Over the past 8 months, I have finally started putting myself on the list of things to care for. I cannot adequately take care of that boy whom I love deeply, if I am not taking care of self.

So as I sat in my car driving in traffic on my way home today, I felt defeated. As a mother. A student. A human. I didn’t feel good enough. I let out a few tears primarily for the fact that I feel like I am not doing enough. I hate that my son has to spend so much time away from me for the next year as I finish out my last year of graduate school while I am working full time. I feel utterly guilty as it is MY responsibility to do it all. I shouldn’t have to rely on others to help me. That is when I had to stop and realize that my independence will kill me. I have my parents and best friend offering help for me to achieve my dreams and goals. I don’t have to walk this life alone. This also means that I am setting my expectations of myself way too high. I will continue to feel not good enough if I continue to do that. Something has to give, otherwise that decision will be made for me.

 

Suicide

That’s never an easy word. I was 11 when I first wanted the pain to end. I didn’t know that it had a name to it. I was 16 when I first was personally touched by suicide. July 29, 2004. 

A girl about a year younger than me that I had met through soccer took her life. 15 years old. She took her last convulsing breaths in her dad’s arms that night. She had decades ahead of her but she only could focus on the pain that occurred now. 

July 22, 2009 a young girl who was like a little sister from treatment the year before took her life after battling anorexia, trauma, and depression for years. 13 years old. She is still the one who has impacted me the most.

August 8, 2008 while I was in treatment, another young girl contacted me after she attempted to overdose and realized she wasn’t sure she was ready to go. Luckily I was able to call her dad who got upstairs to her to take her to the hospital. The pain i heard in that dad’s voice will forever be in my memory. To hear him thank me letting him know that his daughter was in the same building as him dying. 

Those who die by suicide just cannot fathom the fact of living in pain for the rest of their life. The statistics are real. They will continue to rise if it is not talked about. As stated below, 90% of those who die by suicide have a diagnosable psychiatric illness. This means that with proper help, there is hope. 

If you or someone you know is struggling, please seek help. 

Nationalsuicidepreventionlifeline.org

1-800-273-8255 

Expectations

I have learned to have as little expectations from people as possible. This leaves less room for me to get hurt. Over the years I have had the ability to feel emotions and feelings on the level of “normal” people, shocking I know! Going through the counseling program, I have noticed how vulnerable I feel especially over the past few months. It is an extremely scary feeling for me. The last time I allowed myself to feel vulnerable, I got hurt. Now, I do not expect to go through life without being hurt. The extent that I seem to get hurt is past the emotional hurt, I get the physical pain or get taken advantage of.

It took a long time for me to find my voice. I still find times of being fearful to speak out. Will I get backlash? Will there be repercussions that I cannot handle? Will it upset them? Many thoughts swarm my head in short time frames trying to analyze the outcomes. The only fear I have never had before is if my heart will get hurt. Will I get emotionally taken advantage of. While I have been emotionally invested in friendships and have been drained from those, I have not let the door open for a male to become emotionally invested with me.

It is as if I am willing to risk my face getting punched in quicker than my heart to be shredded. You see, the physical harm that I have endured is tangible. I cannot see my heart. I don’t know what it is like to love someone. I cannot see the damage that can be caused to that part of the body. Someone assaulting me, I can physically see what has occurred. That is easier to identify, therefore easier to patch over. I have been psychologically damaged and emotionally damaged which are not tangible. I have also endured that for years so it is something I know how to handle. So how can I set an expectation of possibly getting hurt from opening up my heart to someone?

The answer is simple: don’t have the expectation. You cannot fear for the worst. You cannot live life waiting for the other shoe to drop. Yes, you might get rejected. Yes, your pride and ego might get bruised. What can you possibly gain from allowing someone in? The possibilities are endless.

Raising an “abuser’s child”

A dear friend of mine has been an activist about “raising a rapists baby” after getting pregnant from a brutal rape. I have admired her strength to not only continue to pursue life to the best of her ability but her strength to be a voice for other individuals who have struggled with fears after getting pregnant after rape.

It is time that I find my strength and finally be willing to fully speak my story about my beautiful boy.

You see, my child was welcomed in my heart as 2 months before I found out I was expecting, I had a horrific loss 12 weeks into my first unexpected pregnancy. I was 21 years old dating a man who was 39 years old. We got together in November 2009 and I found out I was pregnant in early December 2009. Within a couple of weeks I had already found myself trapped in a controlling and emotionally abusive relationship. Since I was young, naïve, and weak, I did not realize what was occurring.

By February, I had become completely controlled that by the time I lost the pregnancy, I did not stand a chance without outside help to get out. Due to the state of mind I was left in after the miscarriage, it became the easiest way for sexual abuse to integrate into the mental, emotional, and verbal abuse. Unfortunately, I was unable to notice that my whole life had become manipulation right under my nose. Things that I thought were my decisions, weren’t. I would say no, but magically they somehow became a yes without me understanding the reasoning.

That understanding took 4 years. 4 years for me to verbalize that yes, I was raped on almost a daily basis for months without me even realizing it. How can someone be abused in that many different forms and not be aware? How can someone be raped and it not be forcible yet just a coercion? Better yet, how can someone be raped by someone who is saying “I love you” right after? These are all valid questions of many survivors as well as bystanders. You see, abuse of all forms can be obvious as well as subtle.

I found out I was pregnant again at the beginning of May 2010. I had 5 months of constant abuse of some form without knowledge. Within 2 weeks, the first attempt at physical abuse occurred. Knowledge came to light. This was something easy to grasp onto. It is not normal for someone to slam a car door on someone’s head. Months caught up to me as I now started to slowly put together pieces and warning signs that I had been so oblivious to. Fear set it. How do I get out? I am pregnant. With this man’s child. Does he have the capacity to kill?

2 weeks pass as I try to compile a plan to escape. The plan fails. I grasped for life that night as I repeatedly get strangled and suffocated nearly to death. As I handled police that night, I got yelled at after I tried to touch the blood coming out of my ears. A nurse took one look at my swollen and bruised face and neck and said, “I bet this isn’t the first time is it?” People are trained to handle victims as just that. Victims.

For the next 5.5 months, he goes to trial where he ultimately takes a plea bargain for a 7 year sentence after his 3rd violent felony. During trial I spoke in depth with a previous survivor. She tells me her story as he held her hostage in her home by her hair overnight. His previous charges? A few other counts of assault and battery by strangulation, domestic abuse assault and battery, stalking, rape, protection order violation…… So a 7 year sentence turned into him serving 2.

When people originally heard that I was pregnant and not staying with the father, I got backlash. When they heard that he was not going to be involved, I got more backlash. When they found out why, they understood. But there have been many who have questioned, “how do you feel about the fact that he is a violent abuser’s baby?”. My answer? “He is my baby.” DNA does not define an individual. My son has healed me from the things that I was unfortunate to handle in this life. He completed me. I chose for us to be survivors instead of victims. I continue to choose to be a survivor. I will continue for him to be my child not an “abuser’s child”.

Part of PTSD is intrusive memories, nightmares, recurrent thoughts, etc. My PTSD is manageable but it hasn’t always been. I have actually only had one panic attack in the past 3 or so years which is amazing. I get a lot of anxiety but I have learned to manage it. I no longer am scared to have my back exposed, meaning I can have my back facing a door or open space. That still doesn’t stop a startled response if someone touches me from behind, even when I KNOW that they are coming up behind me.

The most obvious trigger I have is when things get close to my neck due to the fact that I was severely strangled by my son’s father. Here is some sobering information about strangulation and domestic violence:

-Strangulation is often one of the last abusive acts committed by a violent domestic partner before murder.

-Strangulation is one of the most lethal forms of domestic violence.

-Abusers often use non-fatal strangulation as a tactic to terrorize and control their victims by holding over them the literal power of life and death.

StrangInfoGraphic_STI_cropped

When the police got to me, I had four fingerprint bruises on one side of my neck and a thumbprint bruise on the other side of my neck. I already had swelling along my jawline, above my left eyebrow, blood coming from my ears, and swelling on my cheekbones.

So because of my past with strangulation, when things get close to my neck sometimes with pressure sometimes with no pressure I can freak out. The most recent occurrence, I actually freaked myself out because I was grabbing on to my neck/chin fat (yes I know, negative thinking). Because I grasped too firmly, my body froze. I caused myself to have a negative reaction? How in the hell does one do that?! When people are grasping on to my shoulders an move upward I have to talk to myself reminding myself that they are not harming me. Just little things. This is not to say that I still cannot be caught off guard.

The panic attack that I had occurred in public after someone jokingly used both hands to go around my neck. Because it came unprepared, I fully froze, couldn’t speak, started crying, felt like I was going to vomit, couldn’t move and just stared in a trans for what seemed like hours. The friend I had with me kept talking to me attempting to get me to move from the spot I was at. I couldn’t even verbalize the fact that I could not move. My legs were non functioning. If I attempted to move, I would have collapsed. After about 10-15 minutes I started coming back to. Even though I wasn’t back to normal, I was able to slowly come back to reality which is the best you can ask from someone with a panic attack.

The recent struggles that seem to be taking up space in my life are memories, flashbacks, nightmares (regarding sexual assault but not my specific assaults), and insomnia. It is extremely inconvenient when there is a song, movie title, phrase, smell, etc that triggers something in the brain that just fucks you up. It can be completely exhausting to take the time to redirect yourself out of that pattern of thinking. While the severity is nowhere near where it has been, damnit I am ready to be “fixed”.

 

Pregnancy With ED

As I watched To The Bone last night from Netflix, I couldn’t help but feel it was just yet another movie showing a poor example of eating disorders. Yes, there were moments where I was like YES THANK YOU! but overall, it was a poor description of treatment, how inpatient truly is like, doctors, etc are. It did show a small amount of the turmoil among the clients but it could have showed more about the constant battle of what goes on for an eating disordered patient. The every minute battle that is going on in the mind. I did like that they touched on binge eating disorder, bulimia, and anorexia but once again, was primarily focused on the anorexic.

The only part that seriously struck me was when the pregnant anorexic had finally hit 12 weeks into her pregnancy, she was “in the clear”. One of the next scenes shows her screaming from the bathroom and a bloody mess as she had miscarried. I was right at 12 weeks gestation when I lost my first pregnancy and I will never forget the fears that I had swarming in my head on a daily basis praying that I could just not fuck up this ONE thing on my body. When I saw my baby’s heartbeat, 10 fingers, 10 toes, full head, body, face…. on that sonogram at just under 10 weeks I just knew that he/she was going to be okay. I was going to be okay. For the first time in 5 years I had a true reason to not starve myself or make myself vomit until I tasted stomach acid after every fucking thing I ate. So when I lost that child just two weeks later, I was done. Not only did I go through the labor alone on my couch crying myself to sleep for 2 days over the weekend while the hospital “could do nothing for me”, I knew that was my last chance for a reason to live.

You see, what most do not know about that stage of my life is just how dark it was. Summer 2009 was the lowest part of my depression I had ever hit possibly in my life. I was suicidal. Not passively. I had a plan. I had a note written. I was done. I was ready. I literally could not handle the pain any more. The only thing that kept me from executing my plan at that point in time was the fact that I did not want my roommate to be the one to find me dead nor had the heart to allow my parents to have to pick up the last of my pieces. I would rather have seen myself suffer than known that my parents and others were going to have to suffer on my behalf.

As Summer crept into Fall, that is when I had gotten pregnant. While it was not at all planned, the moment I found out I was pregnant I stopped cutting, restricting heavily, and binging/purging. I had a few slips of purging here and there but still to this day, my last time to cut was about November 2009, so I believe it was when I got with Rodney. Between mid November and February 1st, I probably purged less than a dozen times which is a huge deal considering I was purging daily.

January 31, 2010 I started cramping severely and bleeding heavily. I knew what was happening. We had a decent ice storm but I was only 4 blocks from the hospital. I called Rodney and he met me there. While there, they check me where I am diagnosed to be a “threatened miscarriage” as my cervix was still closed. Supposedly they didn’t have an ultrasound machine so they couldn’t check, nor would take me up to L&D to get checked for a heartbeat. So I went home without fully knowing. That night, I went through full labor with contractions as my body was naturally trying to deliver or “expel” my baby which was not viable. Even though I knew what was happening, I still refused to use any medication or heating pads in case the baby was still okay.

The following day, February 1st which also was my 3rd sobriety birthday, I went into my doctor where he confirmed that my baby passed. My cervix had opened and the baby was delivering. To prevent me from needing surgery, he helped deliver the fetus where I had to come to terms with the fact that I was no longer going to be a mother.

The purpose that I had found to keep on living? It was just left behind at the doctors office. I was useless once again. I no longer found a point in going on. As I walked into my session with my therapist, she took one look at me and stated, “do NOT shut down on me”. She knew what was going to happen and at that point it was more than just one person concerned as to what the end result would be.