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.

1 comment:

  1. These responses to my blog were posted on hubski ( Hubski is a great online community that I (Lil) visit often. Check it out. Two responses to my blog on PTSD:

    reply by mk
    "My father lived as a quadriplegic for 20 years. My mother was his sole caretaker during this time and it wore on her terribly. She used to get panic attacks when driving over long stretches of newly paved asphalt.
    Your story reminded me of these episodes, except that I was the one in the passenger seat. I never want to get them. I know they are real, and I also know that you can't simply will them away. They are a real symptom of a much larger issue. Congrats on getting clear of yours."

    reply by thenewgreen 1 day ago · link
    "They're the sidewalk gum of romance" -Well put.
    I have not experienced PTSD. But I do tend to have an over-active "internal dialogue" at times. They aren't "voices" but sometimes my thought patterns are noisy and unproductive. I tend to worry about events that haven't (and likely never will) come to pass. I fret about past decisions I've made etc. Truth is, all we ever have is the current moment. When I am getting worked up over something in my mind, I ask myself this simple question, "What in this moment is lacking"?

    It works for me.

    I enjoyed the post Lil, I'm glad you got that "gum off your shoe" :)

    Thanks mk and newgreen. - Lil