**Reading this is best (and makes more sense) if you read all of the blog posts iin order. :)
My anxiety came back on Bunker Hill Parade day. The bomb sniffing dogs before the parade started, the crowds, the loud noise, the guns being fired, and seeing people I hadn’t seen since the marathon; it was all difficult. But, I focused on socializing, taking pictures, and enjoying the day I have always loved. The bombings had already taken away time from me and I refused to let it mess up one of my favorite days of the year, next to holidays and the marathon. It may not have been the best way to handle it since it all hit me late that night once I was home. I was overwhelmed with anxiety and sadness and it lasted for a few days.
I realized that I had been pushing it away. I had actually still been feeling anxious, sad at times, afraid, but I was so determined to feel better, that I ignored it. I wasn't doing what I should be which was taking care of myself. I was doing what I had done when I was younger, suppress and pretend. It wasn't working and so, I decided I would face it head on again. I continued to keep myself busy, but let myself have quiet moments at home or in the car to let it out. After, that sadness and anxiety stayed, to different extremes. Sometimes, I’d have it for a little while and then it would be gone for hours or even a full day at a time. I worked, but not much, so, I tried to keep busy socially so it wouldn’t consume me. I went away for the 4th of July, which I haven’t done in years. I forced myself to go and watch fireworks. I found that when I looked right at them, it was easier, even though I was having anxiety and literally jumped a little at every 'pop'.
Fast forward to July 15. My cousin Matt was in Children’s Hospital recovering from a spinal fusion. (Matt was paralyzed in a hockey accident 3.5 years ago.) I decided I wanted to see him and then I had to go shopping at Lord and Taylor on Boylston for a dress I needed. I went to visit Matt and as I walked into the hospital, I looked down at my phone and realized what day it was. Not only was it the third month anniversary of the bombings, but it was also a Monday. I felt the tightness in my chest get worse (it had been mostly constant but varying in level of tightness since April), but I was there to visit Matt and that helped. I was the only visitor at the time and I was blessed to have over an hour alone with him. We chatted about the Ranger jacket that Andrew Ference had given him the previous week, about his summer and going back to college, and about life in general.
And then, Matt being Matt, looked at me very seriously and said, “But, Nicole, how are you doing? Really, are you doing okay?” I told him every day was hard but I was okay and working through it. And then we talked more. We talked about what happened that day and he asked me questions. We talked about the similarities between the mental trauma he experienced and my own trauma. Like with anyone who has been through a traumatic experience, it was nice to talk to someone who understands. And I just thought, I am still so lucky to be physically okay, as difficult as the mental ups and downs can be. I also, as I always do, thought about how lucky I am to have Matt in my life. He’s a 19 year old who isn’t afraid to talk about real life. He isn’t uncomfortable and he faces challenges head on like I do and so, it’s easier to talk to him than it is to talk to many people who are older. We talked about positive things that had come and things that would come out of both of our experiences. We talked about next year and how he would be in the marathon and I would be right there at the finish line waiting for him. I have said since day one that I would be back there next year to watch him and everyone else I know who runs, finish.
We chatted more about regular things and had some laughs before I had to go. When I left, I decided that it was a good challenge to still go to Boylston, even though I was more anxious than I had been that morning. I parked in the garage and walked out of the Prudential Center. I hadn’t eaten so I went to Starbucks for a smoothie. It was the Starbucks next to Forum, where the second bomb went off. When I came out, I stood on the sidewalk and it felt almost surreal. I also felt sad and at the time, still had very little memory at all. I then, looked toward where we had been standing that day. And I had a realization that it seemed to get closer each time I came. I hadn’t been back in quite a while. I had spent weeks going back at 6:30am a few mornings a week to retrace my steps and try to remember anything. I visited the exact spot we were standing and the memorial as long as it was there. Going back was also a way for me to feel more and more comfortable there, as I always had before April 15.
As I had said back in those first 2 weeks, I went from placing the bomb all the way near Fairfield St. to placing it 150+ feet away. As I stood there that day on July 15, something didn’t make sense. I walked across the street and looked. I counted the number of cars between the spot I was standing in and the location of the bomb. I realized standing across the street how close it was and again, realized how lucky I was to not be any closer. I googled the average length of a car and also google mapped walking from Forum to the address where I was standing. They both added up to about the same distance, 112-115 feet. I double checked both and realized I had still kept myself placed farther away all of that time. It didn’t really matter. It couldn’t change anything, but any info about my experience that day helps me work through it. I almost felt more justified to be feeling the way I was knowing just how close I was, if that makes any sense.
I think that's enough for today. :)