i left the house for the first time in 24 days yesterday. well excluding two trips to the doctor but those don't really seem to count towards getting back my confidence about getting out and about. two days ago i walked a street over and picked up a movie from a friend. that felt like another small victory. but by and large i am at home 24/7. i can go to the edge of the yard in the front and back and i can go to my neighbors house or on their porch for a few minutes, because they are so comfortable to talk to and aware of what's going on and supportive. this week no friends were scheduled to come and sit with me. my doctor really wants me to try to work this out in my own head and heart and not rely so fully on the presence of others to get me through the panic. to which i sputter "but... but... you can't know how this FEELS! i CAN'T suffer this alone!" but i know it's something i am forced to get used to as in a very very short time augustine is starting full day kindergarten and a few weeks after that olive starts preschool 3x per week for 2 1/2 hrs at a time. the idea of being alone so consistently makes me want to crawl out of my skin, cry, and lose my crap but I HAVE TO GET IT TOGETHER. every sunday david and the kiddos go to church and i am alone. i literally sit, tensed up, watching the minutes tick by, willing myself not to have a panic attack or cry.
until this past week i was wondering if the post traumatic stress disorder diagnosis given by my doctor was accurate. i mean i associate that with Really Horrible Things like war or genocide or something. i kind of have guilt thinking that what i've been through is "worthy" of such a dramatic and serious diagnosis. but then my good friend maggie turned me onto an author/speaker/professor named terry wardle who struggles with PTSD and shortly after all of this was unleashed in my memory, my friend jamie brought me the book strong winds & crashing waves which is about a christian's response to handling and healing from deep trauma and pain. wouldn't you know it, it was a book by terry wardle. i wasn't sure if the book would be too stressful to read honestly. would it trigger a powerful emotional response reading about the path to processing pain? for the last 10+ yrs my emotional response to triggers has been to shut down, go inside, and take an ativan to push the feelings away. to begin to touch the pain, to face the hurt, to not pull my hand out of that fire is the hardest thing i have ever done. so i cracked open the book with much fear of what i'd find inside both it and myself. tears flowed as, for the first time i read words that could have been written by my own hand on this subject. i no longer feel silly or unjustified about my diagnosis having read this book. i can look back and see how 10+ yrs of pain has lead to the dysfunctional stress management techniques that i use now (from the book):
- emotionally over reacting to normal life stresses
- being unable to modulate feelings of fear, panic, and depression
- avoiding situations which may trigger a flood of emotions
- having difficulty thinking clearly about the situation and potential responses
- withdrawing from life (hello, last 3 weeks!)
- constructing various "life rafts" as a way of feeling safe
me to a T! now outside of a bout last fall-winter i have never really struggled with depression. my doctor told me that basically there is an imbalance in my chemistry and that for some it manifests in a depression and others it manifests in the opposite, hyper-reaction/anxiety as in my case. not that a person can't be anxious and depressed but for me it's not the case. anyways, i am feeling real freedom replacing the shame and embarrassment of this disorder having read this book. i now don't mind disclosing to any appropriate person in my life, what i am struggling with. and it is just that, a disclosure, not a "confession".
so yesterday i decided to try to kick off a little from my life raft and we went to see my dad, who is at home now recovering from his open heart surgery. first stop was to a bookstore to get my dad something humorous and uplifting for him to read while he's recouping. i planned to get him The Book of Awesome but well, i didn't know how to get out of the car. it felt like too much, too soon to go to a public place so david kissed my face, asked the name of the book and what section it was in, and said he's be out in under 2 minutes. the kids and i made a little game of it and we started counting. david came sprinting out of the store after 87 agonizing seconds. we held hands the rest of the trip to marysville to see my dad. (baby steps, baby steps) the visit was blissfully unremarkable on the anxiety front. it was SO GOOD to see my dad, as i hadn't been able to see him since he got so ill and had his surgery. he seemed tired but upbeat and healing well.
also, i transitioned from 5 mg up to 10 mg of celexa two days ago. the last two nights i've woken up a little disoriented a few times but not enough to trigger me as in previous days. which means overall i think the medication is working. or maybe my coping techniques are working? the point is that three weeks ago the trigger of being disoriented and "high" would have instantly transported me back to one or both incidents of trauma that i experienced in high school and my body would have responded with terror. it is not as though i never experience the terror, but they are not every hour around the clock nor intense to the point where i am curled in a ball, gripping my husband's chest, writhing in panic. so for that, i am so thankful.