Fear and Shame are the 2 biggest feelings I had/have. Fear that this might never go away and will stay this bad. And the feeling of shame that I somehow am failing my family...
I've been talking about being a victim of your emotions. Your emotions can change a lot. They can change how you perceive the things around you. They can also change a great conversation you had to one where the only thing you remember about that conversation was one word or phrase that gave you anxiety. Meaning you forget everything else that was mentioned. This happened and is still happening to me a lot! Even conversations about treatment, about possible avenue's we could try. I would only focus on a single point at the expense of everything else. Usually I just ask the people involved to send me a text or an e-mail. It's just better that way.
The other thing your emotions change is the way you perceive something like family time. Or visiting friends. Even something like running. Family time can be all fun and games, but I can still feel so very much alone. I can still feel ashamed of my emotional outbursts. And even while looking at my children I sometimes see the little ones I had to give CPR. It frightens me. I don't know when my next flashback will be. I don't know how I'll react. And I certainly don't want my children to be more affected than they already are. I can be out running/jogging. And while I'm jogging a car comes a bit to close for comfort. In actuality, the car did nothing wrong. It's just my perception of it. But it can trigger a whole range of emotions. That's what makes exercise a roll of the dice for me. Most of the time it helps me clear my head. And I definitively need it. Other times it just freaks me out and I come back worse then when I left.
After visiting the In practise mental Healthcare, she gave me some pointers and a breathing exercise. Overall she said I was doing the right things. I kept to a schedule. I was exercising regularly. I was still going out. I still did all those things even though I just wanted to crawl in to bed and stay there. She said I should keep on doing those things and incorporate the breathing exercise whenever I felt anxious but before the onset of full on panic. Now that's easier said than done. Often times we're talking about seconds between anxiety and full on panic. And then you still have to remember to breathe. Even when the feeling of fighting or running for your life overcomes you.
During this time, one of my wife's friends finally got married. My wife has this group of 5 friends who have been seeing each other since middle school. Of course they threw a party. There were about 30 people invited. when we got there, I was still ok. But then the music started. The people got closer together. And I didn't know what hit me. I just needed to go outside. Once I came back it was like walking into a wall. It was physically impossible for me to enter that room. I started panicking, fear started to control me. Eyes wide open and nothing that actually threatened me, but the feeling was there. My wife looked over from across the room and she me. When she looked at me, she knew and walked right over. In the hall I calmed down a little. But I couldn't go in again. I didn't want my wife to have to leave the party because of me. So I went home by myself so my wife could at least enjoy the rest of the evening.
I am very glad that my panic attacks usually subside pretty quickly once I leave the environment that caused them. But the shame and the fear are constant. Even though I know I shouldn't feel ashamed I still do. Of course knowing there were going to be 30 people there should have made me think a bit. But I just had to accompany my wife, sit there and be pretty :). That turned out a bit different. It was a good thing my wife regularly speaks to her friends and already mentioned something about my anxiety. They were very understanding. But I just got mad at myself for having to leave. Why can't I just be like everyone else and not lose my mind at a party.
Struggling every day
Daily life was a struggle. Trying but failing to minimize the triggers. Still having 2-3 flashbacks a day. Having to coop myself up sometimes just to handle them. Leaving the kids, troubles, chores, everything basically to my wife. Thankfully the flashbacks didn't get worse. sometimes it were the same flashbacks. Other times new things popped up. Most of them incidents from work. As mentioned before, my childhood was rough. We'll get into that in another blog. But let's just say I grew up very fast and saw too much. One of the things that popped up was seeing my mother with her belt around her neck trying to commit suicide and me untying the belt. I think I was about 6-7 years old. I don't know the context, but the image is still there.
My flashbacks aren't usually visually appealing. In fact, the only visual flashbacks I have are blips of horrible occurrences, which means I don't have a whole image of what happened, leaving me to wonder what happened to the remainder of the story (which puts me on edge instantly).
Somatic and emotional flashbacks are more common than visual flashbacks for me. I'll become emotionally overwhelmed by something that reminds me of traumas and find myself unable to settle down for a period of time. I'll either panic and hyperventilate, shut down entirely, become really angry/argumental, or sob uncontrollably. However, the bits of my visual memories that I do remember are extremely vivid, and I feel as if I'm back in that dang moment, even though I'm not.
I finally got to see someone who knows what they're talking about. I was panicking again because I knew I had to talk about everything again. Then when I was driving they were working on the road so I had to take a detour. There is no fashionably late when you're seeing a psychologist. That made me even more anxious even before I got there.
When I finally started talking to the Psychologist she first put me at ease and afterwards I was able to open up and be very honest about what was happening to me. That's when she, someone with authority on the subject finally said: " you have PTSD." Now I finally knew, well I expected it already, but now it was official. It explained all the weird stuff happening to me. The thing she said next got me all jumbled again: " You will probably have it for life, but there are ways of treating it to control it." Off course, my next question was, what does that mean for me, and for my family?
And then she explained that there are treatments, some intensive, some mild, but all of which have a very long waiting time. But they are proven to help control the symptoms.