Do you ever have a thought enter your head or a picture of something happening? Like, for people afraid to fly, they think of the plane crashing. I didn't really have that before with the exception of a few weeks while driving after a bad car accident. I do have those thoughts and images now. It's not rational and it comes when I am not expecting it. An example is yesterday at the mall. I was emotional yesterday and tried going out walking, keeping distracted from thinking of anything marathon related and tried to focus on a meeting I had late in the day. It wasn't working well as tears kept filling my eyes during my walk, I had to keep catching my breath and my brain wouldn't stop. At the mall, I got on the escalator and all at the same time, I felt my legs shake a bit and feel weak as a vision went through my head of a bomb going off under the escalator and it crumbling beneath me. I literally shook my head as I noticed I was holding onto the rail very tight and told myself that was not at all going to happen and everything was fine. The good thing is that it didn't lead to a full blown anxiety attack. Below I will share a good illustration describing anxiety.
I visited Boylston last Wednesday with a friend and also paid our respects at Engine 33/Ladder 15. I felt sad there and my legs were shaking but I did all I could to hold it together with the many people around and media across the street. We grabbed lunch (and early birthday drink) and then walked down Boylston. Again, I had the numb feeling and some tears behind my eyes, feeling almost like I wasn't walking there. It's a difficult feeling to explain, but it's so much more bearable than the anxiety attacks.
Thursday was my birthday. I was determined for it to be a good day. I had texts, calls, Facebook messages with birthday wishes and plans throughout the day for a walk with a friend, a spin class with another friend and dinner with three great women . I got emotional a few times realizing I had some great people who have been there for me this last year and even though the birthday messages from everyone were nice and appreciated, some just meant that much more. This included getting a bouquet of flowers delivered that was completely unexpected. For some reason, this made me cry a little harder, though they were happy tears to know people care. When the ptsd gets harder, I feel more isolated and alone, so having that day showed me i'm not.
The rest of the weekend was ups and downs. I have barely been sleeping, waking very early in the morning with my muscles tense and not feeling rested. I had some photo shoots, fundraisers, plans with friends, and tried to stay busy, but really wished I was sleeping. I was so tired Saturday evening that I fell asleep when I laid on my bed for a minute after my shower. I woke up 20 minutes later, rushing to get ready for a fundraiser. There was a trigger at the fundraiser. A person sort of tied into the marathon that I haven't seen since the day after. My legs were shaking and my chest was tight, but I finally pushed it all away and did something I rarely do, and used vodka to get through the night. That ended in crying once I was back home alone, but again, no big anxiety attack.
Sunday morning was a nice morning. There was a picture being taken at the finish line by the Globe of people affected by the bombings, first responders, the Mayor, and Menino, and even some Bruins and Red Sox players. I was in a rush, running late, and found a spot on Newbury and ran over. When I came down Exeter and saw a firetruck, cop cars, and ambulances with the street blocked off, the tightness and flutter in my chest was there. I reminded myself to notice everyone was calm and nothing bad was happening. I talked myself through it, that all was okay and it was safe and found some people I know. I got a nice picture with Bergeron, Chara, and Big Papi though I do wish I had it taken with a real camera and not just my phone. After the picture, I met some new people, saw the Mayor and some of his staff that I haven't seen in a while, and then joined some of my new friends for a nice breakfast at the Oak Room. I was already a bit anxious, but then something was dropped behind us that was very loud and my legs started shaking. That, combined with everyone at the table talking about the upcoming Marathon hearing that will take place on April 16, kept me shaking and I tried to just go on my phone and not pay attention.
The rest of the day was spent on a photo shoot, visiting some family and having a good talk with a family member. We talked about anxiety and how the big ones come on suddenly and that you can't always pinpoint what causes them. It could be a smell, a shirt someone is wearing that is like one a person near me was wearing that day, or something more obvious like a siren. We also talked about how this will always stay with me but will dissipate over time. The images in my head, the intensity of the anxiety and emotion, it will all lessen as I get farther away from that day. I look forward to that. I found the following illustration which was helpful to me and does give some insight into what happens. You can see it here: Anatomy of Anxiety
Sunday and yesterday, I had an empty feeling on and off, another feeling that is hard to describe, but a feeling I had a lot after last April 15. I went for a long walk yesterday hoping it would help as it usually does. I couldn't stop my brain and I kept getting tears in my eyes with no idea why. I found myself needing to catch my breath at times. Regardless, it was still good to get out and walk. I had lunch with my mother after and chatted about many things and then went shopping and back home to get ready for a meeting with the Mayor.
I finally got to see the Mayor at his office to bring him a coffee table book that I had created, 100 pages full of pictures from the Inaugural weekend. I was exhausted and anxious as I walked toward City Hall but when I got upstairs, I was happy to see and chat with some people I haven't seen in a while. The Mayor and I sat as he looked through the book. He loved it and told me he was going to bring it home to show it to his mom before bringing it back to take a place on the table in his office. I will include some images of the book below.
Before I left, he asked if I needed a ticket to the Tribute on the 15th. I told him I'm already going and he asked if I wanted a pass to the finish line on Marathon Monday. I told him I might but that I hadn't decided if I will go because of the anxiety attacks I've been having. I told him about jury duty. His response was "Nicole, don't go." I told him I felt I needed to and he pretty much insisted that I shouldn't do it and to do all of this on my own time. He talked about trauma relating to his own life and to alcoholism, how it takes time and stages to heal and deal with that trauma. He told me I shouldn't push myself before I'm ready. It honestly took all I could to hold it together in that moment. I refused to let any emotion take over there in the Mayor's office. I pushed the lump in my throat down and just nodded. Here I was with the man who runs the city, who has a million things on his mind and he was giving some very compassionate and honest advice. It means a lot.
Last night was hard. I am really struggling with the fact that I will probably not attend the marathon. From day one last year, I said I would be there. I want to be there to support my cousin Matt and his hero partner, Luke. I want to be there to support the many others I know, some survivors who will be running. Most importantly, I wanted to be there to prove I could do it. Now that I feel like I won't be able to, it's very hard to accept. It's making me frustrated and sad. I know there will be more opportunities to go back, but this one is the one that is significant. And that thing that everyone says, "there will always be another one" doesn't mean as much anymore. It's like the "what are the chances of something bad happening". I was part of that one in a million chance. I have a new reality. I am still not making any definite decisions, but they will be some of the most difficult decisions i've made to date. Stay tuned...
Lastly, I have been trying to find "happy". When I post pictures or things on social media, I use a hashtag #HAPPYAprilmemories to highlight mostly for myself that I'm replacing bad memories with better ones. It was easier last week and I've found I have done it less the last two days, so I'm committing to find at least one "happy" every day. It's hard since I spend a lot of time alone working and everyone else is busy with regular life, but I'm determined to find some happy.
Thanks for reading. If you want to leave a comment or let me know you were here, it's nice to know who is taking some time out of their day to read this.