Monday, December 06, 2010

the panic that stopped

i had a panic attack last week and it didn't ruin my day, which is progress. i went with my mom and olive to a restaurant and i had a flicker of panic while we waited for our table, as restaurants with all of their hustle and bustle combined with strangers and aromatics can often be sensory overload for me. we ate and laughed and all was well. then my mom wanted to do a little shopping (for olive) so i took olive to the car so "maw maw could use the restroom". just moments later i felt pressure in my stomach and bladder and that is when it hit

i recognized immediately what i was flashing back to. The Night. the feeling of being powerless to leave a situation and to have to use the restroom but being unable to (in this context because i had to basically hide olive outside while my mom shopped and on The Night because i was incapacitated by trauma and drugs in a strangers house so i didn't even know where the restroom was let alone how to make my legs and feet move to get there.) the feeling of being in public and having to go to the bathroom RIGHT NOW is the most powerful trigger outside of feeling high/intoxicated. both are of course strongly linked to That Night. when it happened i ended up peeing all over the floor in my sad state, adding further shame/confusion to the memory.

so we are walking around outside, also - it's 30 degrees out with a dusting of snow on the ground "YAY", and i feel the darkness roaring inside me. i start to do what i always do, grab my bag, fumble through it looking for my ativan. but the consequence of living better and walking in recovery and healing made me pause and emotionally do a 180. i decided to try to stay with it and not medicate it. first, just having the mental/emotional space to DECIDE anything in that context is a big statement. a trigger-response has thus far felt totally automatic, a default, a survival method of my most basic core. and really, it has been i guess. but surviving is not the same as living. and "not feeling terror" is not at all the same as "being better."

if i start to compulse (as i realize that is the true word for my calming techniques whether they be avoidance, medication, pacing, tapping, etc. though the term is typically only applied to those with OCD.) i must stop myself and do the opposite if i have any hope at recovery. instead of avoidance i must confront. instead of medicating i must stare right in the face of my triggers with all of my faculties. it will hurt. it does hurt. but it's the only way to ever heal. so i put my bag away and meditated on the many affirmations that i have memorized. again, just having the space inside to think of anything but FLIGHT FLIGHT FLIGHT is really amazing. the one i really drew upon yesterday was: No matter how I feel or what I experience, God is present and constant.

to think about God during a moment of panic is not typical. in fact really i am bewildered at the purely biological response. it feels animalistic in it's call for self-preservation through escape. but i did pause, i did linger on the big picture of the moment. that how i feel does not determine whether God is present with me nor his enduring before, within, and after that either. and if that is what sustains me, then that will be the fears undoing. AND IT WAS. i also reflected on Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane on the night he was betrayed. if you really read that portion of the bible, knowing that Jesus knew not only that his friend would sell him out but that he was going to get tortured, his response is like PRE-traumatic stress disorder. He says "My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death.", "Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me.", and "He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood."



Eva said...

This made me teary eyed!
Reminds me of that orthodox hymn, "Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger."

It frustrates me because with my anxiety I can't seem to find a core trauma, any real cause. Makes it hard to know where to go from.

It's funny though once when I was dealing with anxiety for something big that was coming up, I went into a bathroom stall and right across from me was a sign that said "There's nothing so big that you and Christ together can not handle".
It was so exactly fitting for the moment.

jenny mae. said...

i dont think there has to be One Big Moment that triggers a persons anxiety. when i look back i can identify 5 moments in my life that i feel greatly contributes to my stress and panic. it all has to do with what happened, in what context, and what my life was like (i.e. support, etc) when it happened. some things happened when i was a little kid, some as an adolescent, others as a teenager or older but all related to be very painful

Lisa said...

Thank you for sharing your difficult and insightful experience. I also struggle with anxiety, and panic attacks = no fun at all. Good for you for being able to take yours to a place of spiritual growth. May your healing journey continue to add more to your life than it takes away.

Madelyn said...

that hymn is the bomb; your panic attack sounded bad, maybe the Holy Spirit was like "I'm here! I'm here!" ;
and now I'm contemplating carrying a sharpie with me to random bathrooms now so I can graffiti scripture...