Monday, October 17, 2011

Things Seemed Fine. What Happened?

Post-traumatic stress (PTS) is real.  I know that.  A reader asked me to expand on my recent post (Is Hockey Necessary?) where I mention panic attacks and PTS.  So I shall.

I'm not an expert, but here is how I see it:  When you are dealing with a crisis, you don't have much chance to breathe.  If you are dealing with an ongoing crisis, you may be out of breath for a while.  In my case, I freed myself from a stressful and abusive situation with an emotionally unstable partner.  Partners like these are easy to find, but hard to lose.  They're the sidewalk gum of romance.

When I began to breathe the air of freedom, it was exhilarating.  Life was difficult and I had a lot to learn, but I was eager to learn.  I could relax.  I knew I was starting my life over and it was wonderful.  Then the panic attacks started.  All the stress I had repressed for five years was seeping to the surface without asking permission.

Before this time, I had occasionally experienced panic attacks while driving over long, high bridges.  Bridge phobia is not unusual, but I began to have panic attacks driving anywhere.  City driving was mostly okay; highway driving was unpredictable.  The symptoms would happen unexpectedly and included breathlessness, nausea, shaking, fast heartbeat, inability to speak or think clearly, detachment from reality, and maybe voices or hallucinations.

At one time I believed I had recovered sufficiently to drive several family members home to Hamilton from an event in Toronto.  A heavy rainstorm began and so did my panic attack.  I started driving very slowly hoping to make it to the next exit.  My mother kept saying, "What's going on?  What's the matter?"  Me:  "Nothing, I'm fine," as I went slower ... and ... slower and finally pulled onto the shoulder unable to drive any further.  My mother was the only other driver in the car, and she had just had cataract surgery.  She said she would drive, and we changed seats.  She turned at the next exit, seeing badly out of one eye, and we took a back road to Hamilton.

She kept asking, "Do you want to take over now?"  I'm still listening to the other voices, but I manage to say, "No!! You're doing great."

That's how bad it can be.  There's was no way I could get back behind the wheel.

A few years later, a friend with NLP training, taught me how to stop the panic attacks.  I learned to focus on a memory of personal empowerment as soon as the panic attack began.  I was able to cure myself.  I also learned to avoid bad relationships (see July 28 blog).  All that happened 20 years ago.  I've been building bridges for a long while now, and even crossing them.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What's Your Flag?

     I was on my bike and stopped at a light when another cyclist behind me said, "What's your flag?"  During the last World Cup, I put a flag on the back of my bike to celebrate Africa's participation.
     I said, "Cameroon."
     "Oh," said the cyclist as he took off ahead of me.  "I love those coconut cookies."

     This got me thinking about nation states.  No world problem (the environment, terrorism, infectious diseases, computer crime) can be solved by national governments.  Here are the questions from a WorldCitizen website:
  • Does the nation-state still play a significant role in global relations?
  • Has it lost its power and influence in a globalized society?
  • Is it an out-dated concept that needs to be replaced?
Posters answer, yes, yes, and yes.
  • and ask, how do we get from where we are to where we need to be?
         I have a feeling that the Occupy Wall Street Movement - that by October 15 will involve at least 650 locations - is related to a global need to work together towards more fairness. 
          Read their one demand.

    I applaud their demands and their list of grievances.  They seem to be modelling themselves after the women who met in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848 with a list of demands and a list of grievances.  It took 150 years, but most of the demands of early feminists have now been met by western democracies.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Is Hockey Necessary?

A few years back I was teaching conflict management skills to a class of apprentice plumbers.  Mike, one of the students started shaking his head, his eyes wild.  He put his head down on his desk briefly, then stood up and ran from the class.

Later, I saw him sitting in his van in the parking lot.  He apologized for leaving and explained that he'd had a panic attack in the middle of class.  He couldn't leave the campus yet, he said.  He was still feeling shaky.  He was worried it might be affecting his work.  He was seeing a doctor for it, taking pills - but he was still getting two or three panic attacks every week.

Image result for hockey"I used to play hockey after work four or five nights a week," he said.  "After my wife had our first baby, I cut it down to twice a week.  After we had our second baby, I stopped playing hockey altogether.  That was four months ago.  Then the panic attacks started."

I knew about panic attacks.  I'd had several years of them when my post-traumatic stress kicked in, but this didn't sound trauma-related.

"Sounds like maybe you should play hockey." I said.

What Should I Believe? (Part 2)

My friend C. continues to add to his "What I Believe" list.  There are at least 92 items on it.  Here is one of my favourites:  "It is not the water’s fault for failing to mix with the oil, nor is it the oil’s fault for failing to mix with the water. They just don’t mix."

I recently opened one of my notebooks from the 1990s and, in the back under the heading Lessons Learned, I found some of my beliefs, including
  1. Sometimes the antidote is to stop taking the poison.
  2. Since people often marry their lovers, be careful who you sleep with.
  3. Expect from people approximately what they can deliver (but treat them the way you want them to behave).
  4. Avoid arguments during meals - it's bad for digestion.
At the bottom of the list was this one:

"Think about what you throw on in the morning - you might end up wearing it all day." 

I don't remember what led to me learning that lesson -- but it sounds bad.