In my last post, what I didn't talk about much was my health. Many know about it from talking to me or may read my other blog. Basically, to sum it up, stress caused me to have holes in my stomach. They aren't ulcers. It is basically tiny holes that already exist in our stomachs but mine expanded and let in a crapload of bad bacteria that overtook the good bacteria and killed it off. I spent months trying to figure it out and unable to eat much of anything. I am now on a super strict and gradual diet since January and will take a long time to heal completely. And also, since I get this question a lot, it is a not a gross stomach issue. I get a lot of "so you spend a lot of time in the bathroom?" No. I do get bloated from stress and sometimes foods and end up looking like I'm a few months pregnant at times, but it's mostly complete exhaustion, dull or severe headaches (for which I can't take anything because pain relievers can make this condition worse), foggy headed, and some other things like that. I get discomfort in my stomach but not usually any real pain. This week, however, is different.
Our bodies give us signals that something isn't right and that we need to slow down. My body used to shake all the time, and has recently to let me know it's feeling the anxiety. But my stomach has been giving me some signs. I noticed in the last month especially that when I was stressed at all or around others who were stressed, I would immediately feel either nauseas or pain in my stomach. It didn't last long, just a little "hey, I'm just letting you know". Nausea was one of my body's signals this last week along with the shaking and chest tightness and lots of emotion. That all caught up with me Saturday. During the race, I was focused on running but as soon as I turned that corner onto Boylston, the stomach pain hit. It was as if all of the anxiety was just going right there. It got worse at the finish line and continued to get worse after the race to the point where I was on the floor at one point in the Hynes curled up. For the rest of the day, once I was home, I barely left my couch. Sunday, it was the same when I woke up and lasted on and off throughout the day. I listened to my body and rested Saturday, but Sunday, I had fun plans that I was not willing to cancel. But, I'm listening. I'm realizing why it's happening and knowing it will ease.
Now, to some fun stuff. I went with some of my girls to the Red Sox game. We were excited. It was chilly but the sun was out and we were looking forward to some fun. As soon as we sat down, the leg started. MEH. I wasn't surprised. We were surrounded by people I didn't know and when I feel like I'm "trapped" in a way, my body reacts. It was only the leg and nothing else, so I just let it happen. We left and made our way to Boylston where we walked a bit and visited Marathon Sports to see our friend, survivor and man who became a first responder that day. We talked for a while about the week, the strangeness of seeing images and things from the trial and some other random stuff. We told him we were trying to come to the finish line for the marathon and he told us we could hang at the store and use the bathroom, and keep our stuff downstairs. So, we decided that would be the plan. It would be just two of us. Many people were either running, still can't bring themselves back there, or simply made other plans. We talked about it and I said, "We'll be okay. It's not like before where we had no one and nowhere to go. If something were to happen, we have people around and a place to go. We did logically know that something bad most likely would not happen, but there will always be that question and that worry that comes. We never thought two bombs would go off two years ago and we never in a million years thought we'd be part of such a statistic. So, it's only natural that we have those thoughts come in at times. We got some dinner and then drove home and were chatting along the way. I mentioned how I've been waking up between 3:30 and 4:30 for a couple of weeks and how it was the same timeframe from after the bombings and throughout the year when things were harder, especially the month leading to the first anniversary. I then found out that it's the same time others are waking up and had woken up. We decided maybe it has something to do with our REM cycles. You have more fragmented sleep patterns with PTS or TBIs and when we reach the third cycle, we just wake up.
I woke up yesterday at 3:45 from a nightmare. I had been happy up to this point to not have any since last year they were frequent and awful. I was standing in front of Marathon Sports watching the race and it was a clear day (unlike yesterday but exactly like 2013). We heard a loud noise and everyone started looking up and then running. A small plane was coming down the street toward the finish line and then crashed right there in front of us. All I saw was fire and smoke at the moment of impact before I woke up crying and shaking. I spent the next hour reminding myself that this was my mind getting nervous but nothing bad would happen. I finally fell asleep again for about 45 minutes before waking to feeling a little anxious. I started to get ready but found myself going in circles trying to figure out what to bring, what to wear, and thinking about the logistics of it all, questioning whether this was a good idea. The rain and cold were both good thing and a bad thing. The bad part was trying to figure out how to prepare but not bring too much stuff with me and trying to make sure I was warm enough and that my camera and other things wouldn't get wet. The other part of the rain that I didn't like was that it made me worry for my friends who were running and for Matt, since it would be so windy and cold as well. The good part was that this weather was the exact opposite of that day. If it had been the same, there would be something eerie and possibly more difficult about it.
I left and made my way to Charlestown where we were parking to take uber over. I sat in Zumes waiting and my leg started. Someone came in that is all too familiar with my shaking and looked worried. Everyone knows this had finally stopped in November, so when they have seen it this last week or the little bit is has happened in the last month, they get concerned. I assured him that it made sense, that it would go away at some point during the day and that I still felt okay. As we walked down Berkeley Street and neared the checkpoint to get onto Boylston, I felt a little lump in my throat. Okay. Noticed. Still fine. As we walked Boylston, I felt like I was on a mission to just get there. We talked and laughed a bit and remarked on the good energy in the air. As we got closer and got stuck a little in the crowd, that lump got bigger and we both felt that bit of "get me out of here" and knew we just had to get to the store, so we pushed our way through. The first half hour or so, we brought some of our stuff downstairs to leave it and stood outside, feeling okay. I felt sort of weird, taking it all in and focusing on tracking people to keep myself distracted. I pulled out a picture I took that day from when I was standing on this block when we first arrived, about 45 min to an hour before the bombs went off. I hadn't been able to place exactly where I had originally been standing and wanted to compare the flags. Again, there's still so much about that day that's not really clear and I have a need to piece it all together.
I sat down just inside the door and my leg started. I told myself it was fine and I was okay but my body started to react. My other leg started shaking and I felt my chest get tighter and my eyes fill with tears. My friend came in at that moment and saw me and asked if I wanted to go downstairs. She knew exactly what was happening. When we got down near the bathroom, there was a line for it. I kept my head down, embarrassed in front of strangers to be having this happen when it hadn't in so long and stood against the wall shaking. They asked if I wanted to use the bathroom first and I went in, basically slammed the door and started to cry, hard. I couldn't catch my breathe, grabbed some tissues and suddenly just needed air. We went back upstairs and I stood in a corner near the entrance feeling like I wanted air but shouldn't go back outside. My friend thought differently and she guided me out and stood me right outside and to the side of the door, facing me. I continued to cry and shake. The noise was too much for me and I blocked my ears and then remembered I had brought my headphones (purposely since I sometimes need a particular song when the noise is too much). I tried to get them out and they were tangled so she took them from me, untangled them and placed them in my ears all while talking to me and telling me to start trying to take deep breathes. Once the music started, I closed my eyes and tried to breathe deep but having trouble with it. She continued to talk to me, her hand on my stomach, telling me to keep trying to fill it with air. Eventually, I did. I opened my eyes at the end of the song and told her I thought I should go back inside, feeling calmer, but still shaking. She said she didn't think I was ready yet, as I felt it coming on again and tears filled my eyes. I closed my eyes again and continued to breathe as I started the song again.
This is the thing about being with people who had the same experience and the same reactions. They just know and it's so helpful in those moments. When about half the song was done, I felt much better and we made our way inside. My head was hurting (headaches come when this all happens). We chatted with people as I tracked Matt and Lucas to know when they'd be coming in. But, then I realized according to the tracker, they hadn't gained any distance for a while. I texted Matt's mom but by the time I heard back, she said they'd finished. And I'd missed them. I was right at the finish line and I missed them because I had anxiety and had to be inside. Frustrating that I had it at all and especially that it made me miss Matt (along with their tracking messing up), but I just told myself it was fine and there would be next year. I needed a break so we made our way to Matt's party. It was good to get away from the race, see some people I love and take a breather before going back to see more people finish. Lots of emotion on and off all day. Many times just some tears filling the back of my eyes and then pushing them away and other times they came out, both happy and sad tears.
We went to a hotel to see some of our friends who had run or hand cycled and then went home. I'll just take a moment to say again how inspired I am by these people, all of them and especially those that ran yesterday. They had injuries and struggles these last two years and they continue to show everyone how strong they are and spread positive energy around. My headache had gotten worse and as soon as we were in the cab, the exhaustion hit me. My whole body felt completely drained and my head hurt so bad, I wanted to close my eyes and by the time I was home, my mouth even hurt just from the pain in my head so I was in bed by 9. What a long and emotionally and physically exhausting week. I was frustrated that I had that anxiety attack but with reminders from others, I realize it was fine. It happened. It made sense. It didn't last too long and I didn't run away after. As a friend commented on a photo from yesterday, " You win! One is in the grave, one is rotting behind bars. And YOU are at the finish line. Check and mate!" Have I mentioned I have so many great people around?? I'll just keep saying it. :) Fun, beautiful moments outnumbered the bad this week. Amazing people and wonderful stories and inspiration. And love. Because love wins.