I pushed it all away and focused on picking out cupcakes and getting out of there.
The next day, I visited my friend and we laughed a bit and talked about what she is going through. I know that even though she's going through something big, she's a strong person, a good friend, and it was nice to spend the time just sitting with her. We were both excited about the cupcakes. I mean, who's not excited about cupcakes? After I left there, I went to a birthday party for my friend Jen's daughter. I walked in and like always, I was trying to get my bearings and get comfortable even though I knew a lot of the people in the room. Jen's sister, Kristen came over and gave me a beautiful gift. Her family member works for the FBI and was able to get me the commemorative coin shown below.
I have also started writing, trying to piece together all that happened from the beginning of last April, forward. I'm having random flashbacks and memories filling my head, so I figured writing it will help. It is, but also frustrating and realizing I still have many missing pieces from before, during, and after the bombings, even days before and days after. I don't remember things about my cousin being in the hospital, I don't remember certain things that happened in the personal life in the weeks leading to the marathon, things I would normally remember. These days, I find it normal to forget what I did yesterday. There's something really disconcerting to have so many blank spots, especially when it's not just because you are 21 and drinking with friends...you know most of you have had that experience. Instead, it's because what you were experiencing was so horrible, your body wants to keep it away until you're ready.
Monday was a day to get a lot of work done, feeling completely drained and ending with a new support group. It is a weekly meditation group with a Buddhist Lama. I enjoyed it and think it will be helpful as time goes on. One thing I noticed while there is that I'm "shallow breathing" again. This has become obvious a few times over the last year. I think I just get used to it when it happens and it takes a moment like meditating and focusing on my breathing to realize it's a problem. I have to be conscious of it and take deep breaths, which can be uncomfortable.
Tuesday was another work day and ended with an event I was working taking pictures for a performance and book signing by a man named Daniel Beaty. His new book, "Transforming Pain to power" sounded interesting. As he was up giving some summary of the book, I was listening to every word. His traumatic childhood and life experiences were different, but the tools he used were ones I have either already been using or realized would be helpful to use. Like always, I think everything happens for a reason and I think I was hired for that event for more than just the job itself. I went home feeling good but tired, got the photos uploaded to my client and headed to bed.
I woke up Wednesday, not feeling well. I was exhausted and had a sad feeling. I went to a therapy appointment and found myself shaking like I used to, both legs uncontrollably. I can't stop it when it starts because then it builds in my chest. I'd rather shake. I cried a lot and talked about how frustrated I am to be back at this point, even though I'm still trying to use all of the "tools" i've learned over the last 11.5 months. April is approaching fast and for me, April was full of bad memories from day one. Even when I'm trying to stay distracted and not think about any of it, my body starts reacting to the littlest thing, a siren, a noise, realizing I'm surrounded by people I don't know.
I didn't only talk about all of the negative things happening, but also shared the great new people I've been meeting through marathon related events. There is something so incredibly comforting about talking to and being with people who truly "get it". It actually makes for less anxiety in moments that would be hard in a room full of strangers or full of people who can't understand it. Instead, it's comfortable and easy. We laugh, sometimes it's emotional, and it's safe.
I left and went to lunch with Jen and her daughter, which was nice and helped me get back on track, though feeling completely drained. After running some errands, I stopped at home and then caught the bus to attend a meeting at the convention center. I figured going to listen to information on the casino we are trying to stop from coming, would be a distraction. On the way, I saw the news that there was a horrible 9 alarm fire in the back bay, just a few blocks from where the bombings happened. My heart sank for everyone there. When I got off the bus and started walking, there were sirens far away and a couple of first responder vehicles passed, sirens blaring , heading to the fire. I could feel that tightness in my chest and tears behind my eyes, but I pushed it all down and took some deep breaths. I arrived at the meeting and felt okay, at least at first. An episode there sent me into full anxiety attack, more intense than I've had in a while. My whole body shook, I felt my heart beating in my throat and couldn't breathe, and started crying uncontrollably. Luckily I got out of the building before it hit hard and I immediately went home.
At home, I was glued to the TV and internet, trying to see what was happening. I thought of the people who live and work near there who were there last year and who may be triggered by such a large first responder presence in the neighborhood again. I thought of all of the men and women running into a fire and risking their lives and it made me anxious for them. I worried about the many firefighters I know and tried to figure out if they may be there. Then, there were reports that two had died and many were injured. I immediately started crying, hard. I couldn't stop. I then sat waiting for them to say who, frozen and not being able to bring myself to reach out to the firefighters or firefighter families I know, for fear I'd hear bad news. Yes, I was watching the news waiting for names yet not wanting to know at the same time.
I cried again when they announced the names, realizing that once they said them out loud, it really confirmed that two men, risking their lives to save others, were dead. Two men part of a larger group of people that I have always had an appreciation for, but even more so since the marathon. And I automatically assumed that they may have also been tied to the events of last year, given their location. That was confirmed and I also became aware that he was at the event I attended and photographed just a few weeks ago for first responders and survivors of the bombings. It all made my heart hurt. I knew they were not people I knew and that was somewhat of a relief, but I knew they were friends of friends and that they had families and loved ones who would be devastated. So, with my ridiculous amount of emotion that has come this past year, I cried on and off and then tried to go to bed, feeling like I had been up for days.
Sleep was not my friend and I spent all night tossing and trying to quiet my brain, trying to mediate and breathe, but nothing worked. I was up early to head to jury duty. I was anxious about going since I knew it was coming. But, I figured I'd raise my hand if they asked if there was a reason I couldn't serve. I sat near the front so I wouldn't focus on being in a room full of strangers, which tends to be a trigger. I read my book and texted and felt okay. I even was texting friends, remarking on the man sitting in front of me with the "Adoption YES, Abortion NO" shirt. He obviously was making a statement that would get him excused from having to sit on a jury. Though, I didn't agree with his shirt, I found it a crafty move. I joked to friends about how maybe I should have worn a political shirt. I was called around 10 and headed to a courtroom. As we got in the elevator, packed full with the rest called with me, I felt my chest tighten.
We entered the courtroom and sat down and my legs started to shake. I tried to stop them because I didn't want people to see, but it wasn't working. I then had to stand in the back, waiting to see if they needed me to come tell them why I couldn't serve. I tried to take deep breaths, think about something else, talk myself through it. "You are okay." "Nothing bad is going to happen in here". But, it didn't work. It felt like the room got smaller It started to feel it coming and knew I had to get out of there. I asked the court officer to go in the hallway and told him what was happening. He said yes and I ran out. It hit me as I walked out the door, full shaking and crying. When he escorted another juror out, he asked if I was okay. I said "no" and he said I should sit on the bench near the doors, so I did, trying to figure out what to do next and trying to take deep breaths and make it all stop. Then, the doors opened and apparently, the rest of the people not chosen were heading back downstairs. It was embarrassing and awful as they all passed me, staring at the mess in front of them. Part of me wanted to just yell at them or tell them what was happening because I feel the need to justify it all. Later, I joked that at least they had a story to tell from an otherwise boring day. I walked to the officer and he told me I had to go down and talk to the head guy downstairs. I felt I couldn't get in the elevator, so I walked down 8 flights, legs shaking and feeling slightly lightheaded. When I walked up the next guy, I started crying again and shaking, telling him my situation and he excused me, asking if I needed anything. All I needed was to get out of that building. Luckily, I called a friend who was actually close by and she came to pick me up. I calmed down once out in the fresh air, taking deep breaths and going home.
These moments are awful. They come when I'm not prepared, they come in public, they come with such a force, that everything I've learned on trying to deal with them feels impossible. I am embarrassed and frustrated. Still, I'm not giving up. I'm now willing to try some as needed medication because if the last two days are any indication of what's coming in the next month, I need some help. I feel supported. Unfortunately, some that I would like to support me in my family and friends can't handle it or don't want to, but I am focusing on those who are there and have been along the way. I am more thankful for them than ever as the ones i've spoken to or been with the last two days have been greatly supportive.
After a spin and sculpt class with a friend, I felt better. The shaking finally stopped once I worked out and got all of the energy out of me. I'm now going to get ready to attend a dinner I was invited to, along with other marathon witnesses and survivors. It is put on by the Semper Fi Fund for those affected last year. I think it will be nice to be in a room full of people who get it, so as tired as I am, I'm going to rally and get myself there.
Here's hoping for an evening and day tomorrow without any huge anxiety attacks. It's the little things.
As always, thank you for reading. You have no idea how much I appreciate it.
Oh, lastly, I am going to do a fundraising effort where I take many angles/views of the Boston Skyline like below with the same wording and sell prints to raise money for those affected by the marathon. It will be called, "What's your favorite view of Boston?" Stay tuned...