I'll start with last week. It was Bunker Hill Parade weekend in Charlestown. I have been at every single parade since the year I was born. I worked at an event in the morning and then had to march through the parade with my friend who is a politician, and take pictures of him. I have never been at the very start of the parade and so, did not know they shoot off guns. I wasn't paying attention as it happened and I felt it through my entire body. It's amazing how the feeling can be exactly the same basic feeling every time. A friend noticed I jumped and my facial expression and asked if I was okay. I assured her I was okay and just hadn't been expecting it. I definitely felt it inside my chest and whole body, but it just took a couple of minutes to calm it all again. Unfortunately, the militia people were right behind us through the parade and every time the guns went off, which seemed a lot more frequent this year, I felt a wave of something go through my body. However, I was so focused on my job, I was able to just keep going without it becoming an anxiety issue.
When I finished, I spent the rest of the day with friends and had a great time. The curve ball there was seeing and speaking to a person who was sort of tied into the time of the bombings for the first time in 14 months. I felt fine and spent a few days actually proud of how well I handled all of it; the guns, the crowd, the reminders to last year. And then, it started to creep in. I began having some intrusive thoughts from last April 15 and 19, the marathon and the lock down. A conversation Sunday night had brought it back. I realized how fresh it can still be. Some days I think, "Wow. it's been 14 months, a long time." and other days, "It feels like yesterday". The evening it hit me harder, I was alone at home. I realized that I couldn't do what I had come to do in that situation. I would call a friend down the street and ask her to go for a walk down to the water, or I would walk down by myself and sit there. It was my peaceful place, a place to find some calm when my head was going in a million directions. I missed being able to do this in that moment. I worked hard to come up with things to help me at moments like that and it appears, I have to find new options. I was also getting anxious for the next day.
The next day, I was going to Boylston St/Copley with a friend. This friend came into my life after she found this blog via another mutual friend. She had been standing maybe 100 feet to my left last April 15 and we'd never met. Friday would be her first day back to the street. I think my anxiety and little bit of emotion was caused by the events of the week and the realization that I haven't gone back there since just after the marathon this year and knew we'd sort of be going through the events of the day as we walked.
It went well and we grabbed some lunch and drinks outside which was a great ending on a beautiful day and helped bring me out of the place I was in. However, when we returned to my car, I found it was broken into. I had left my laptop bag in my trunk, something I never do, but hadn't wanted to carry it for what we were doing. It was stolen along with other things in the bag and trunk. I think I was in shock and just had no clue what to do and it didn't sink in right away. Knowing this could trigger anxiety (losing your computer that has all of your work life and a lot of person things on it can do that), I took half of an anti-anxiety pill, so it wouldn't hit once the shock went away. After filing a police report, I went to use a friend's computer to change my passwords and to contact my bank since I had a checkbook in that bag as well. I ran into some friends and talked to some on the phone. Many had the same response, "Seriously, like you haven't dealt with enough."
That was the thought I had as well. Just as things had gotten really good again, quite a few things were thrown at me to cause a little shake up. But, as much as that was frustrating and as much as it has been very difficult to deal with the financial burden of this event, the sadness over losing personal things, and the feeling of violation at having things stolen from me, my response has been, "I've obviously been through worse, so I just have to figure it out and move on." This has not been very easy, but I've managed to keep major anxiety away so far. The other frustration with this is that the money that I will put into a new computer was money that would have gone into the extended trip I plan to take to Italy, so, yet another curve ball. I'm determined to deal with all of this and still make everything happen that I have planned.
On Saturday, I spent the day with a friend, hiking and then attending a party. When we first got there, anxiety hit. I was in the middle of a crowd of people I didn't know in someone's yard with loud, live music. I felt it inside. I felt overwhelmed and anxious and like I wanted to escape. But, I also felt determined to try and stay. I just talked to myself in my head to calm down. It took a good 30 minutes, but I finally felt more at ease. That was the first time in weeks that I've been in a situation like that. At the parade, even though there were crowds, I wasn't stuck in the middle of them and I knew a lot of people anyway. This was different. Again, it's amazing how that feeling can just come back so easily. In the end, I stayed and had a good time, which was good.
Sunday, I attended a forum at UMASS put on by the Massachusetts Office of Victim Assistance (MOVA). It was good to see some familiar faces and I looked forward to hearing what the speakers had to say. The first was a woman who has been a social worker for many other large scale event such as 9/11 and Katrina. She said a lot of things I already knew. But, the frustrating part was her dismissing survivors from this attack having PTS. She claimed that under the specific definition, that most people would not have it. This is all interesting to me. I have met vets and amputees who have been diagnosed as having PTS that experience the same symptoms as many people I know affected by last year's tragedy. And yet, this woman was telling us we have "stress" and "depression" and "anxiety" but that even though we expereince them all together, we don't have PTSD. On the National Institute of Health website, it says,
With PTSD the body's response to a stressful event is changed. Normally, after the event the body recovers. The stress hormones and chemicals the body releases due to the stress go back to normal levels. For some reason in a person with PTSD the body keeps releasing the stress hormones and chemicals....PTSD is diagnosed when you have had symptoms for at least 30 days.
The thing that struck me most was the thought that went through my head as she spoke. When she listed events that she deals with that cause trauma and she got to "terrorist attack", I said to myself, "I can't believe I am sitting here for this reason." It was as if, in that moment, it sunk in that I was witness to such a thing.
Another speaker spoke about mind body medicine, which I already know about and incorporate and the last spoke of EMDR, an effective treatment for anxiety and PTS that I have thought about trying. I felt a little anxious at the forum and had plans to go to my uncle's to pick something up. I got to visit my cousin Matt and relax a bit which was a good way to end the day.
Today was a day full of running around. I had to get a new license and open all new bank accounts due to the car break in. I spent a good 2 hours at the RMV and another hour at the bank. I was spent and mentally exhausted after. I think I'm handling all of this better than even I expected I would. People have remarked the same observation and all I say is, what I said above, "I've been through so much this last year, I can't let this get to me." The financial burden of this most recent thing is the most stressful part, but I just have to deal with it and move forward. Nothing can be changed. I have finally come out of the fog I was in for that first year after the bombings and I realize that, like I said in my last blog post, I need to focus on going forward and have attainable goals. Going back in time and changing events is not attainable.
Yes, life throws us curve balls, but that's just what it is...LIFE. I believe we aren't given more than we can handle and that each experience teaches us something. It is hard to see, especially when you hear about more school shootings and people dying from car crashes who were great people. It makes you wonder if there's a God or a reason for everything. It's hard to see when you think of being part of and witness to such a horrific event, but if you lose faith that there's a reason for it all, what do you have left? I'm still working on managing the anxiety and emotion that come up. I'm also still working through what my lessons are from everything that has happened in the last 14.5 months, but I will continue to have faith that it is all leading me down the right path to where and who i'm supposed to be.
Until next time,