In my last post, I wrote about some events I'd attended, some I was going to attend, and my reaching out to those in positions of power about more resources for those affected by the bombings. I have been feeling all of the anxiety, emotion, etc again but it was not too bad. It was hitting me in certain settings and wasn't lasting longer. As in the title of this post, I was treading water. And then I was hit with the weight of everything.
I attended a beautiful event for survivors and first responders where I was asked to come and take pictures. I knew some people attending and the event itself was a great night for people to come together, relax with less media around than many marathon related events, and just have fun. At first, I stayed around the back and outside. I was looking around the room where there were small groups of people who knew each other and had established relationships and really didn't know if I fit. A new friend came over and pulled me over to the group she was with and explained how she "knew what I was doing". She said she does the same thing sometimes, stands on the outside and sort of drifts off and isn't sure what to do. It can be very reassuring to have someone tell you what you're thinking/feeling because they know exactly how it is. I started to talk to some more people and they were all great, even giving a hug and smile. I still felt that small bit of anxiety though and it took me a good hour and a half before I felt comfortable enough to walk around and take pictures. That is a difficult thing about this, it affects my job at times (at least that involve events/crowds). I was volunteering and it wasn't a "job job" but I do find that it has become hard to walk around a crowd of people I don't know and just approach them to have their picture taken. It doesn't happen all of the time and depends on the event, but it has affected how I do my job now which can be frustrating. The event was beautiful and I made some nice connections so all in all, it was a good night.
That night, I had a nightmare. I won't go into detail but it was vivid and disturbing about a young family member being killed. I woke up so panicked, I couldn't even move. I was so freaked out that I couldn't bring myself to go downstairs to use the bathroom. About an hour later, I finally gave in and went down, turning on every single light along the way. This isn't the first nightmare I've had like this recently but it was the most clear and took me a lot longer to calm down and feel I could go back to sleep. I know the nightmares aren't real and I am not surprised i'm having so many with that content because it happened last Spring/Summer. The next day, most of my family (like, 20 of us) went away to the cape. As the time got closer to leave, I started to get anxious about being away from home. Then, in the car as my sister drove, I was having trouble catching my breathe almost the entire way there and I just tried to regulate it and take deep breathes and focus on the music, or anything else. Once there I felt better, but completely exhausted and the weekend was good, playing with the kids and catching up with everyone.
For the next week, I was back and forth between feeling good to moments of emotion, anxiety, or anger. I paid attention to what was happening at the time these would hit. It was usually triggered by a news story I saw on TV or FB, a siren going by, someone talking or posting on social media about the marathon in any way. But still, it was all minor and I was pretty able to make it go away pretty fast. That changed Friday.
I went to a big event. At first, I was okay. I did what I always do now and immediately found people I knew and talked to them, ignoring what was happening around me and the little flutter in my chest. Then I found a good friend in the back and went to stand with her, my back to the crowded room. It was when someone said, "Wow, there are a lot of people here" that I turned and really noticed just how full the room was and I immediately felt my heart beat faster and my breathing become more shallow. My friend asked if I was okay and I just took some deep breathes and pulled myself together. I even went back to my seat for a bit since it was mostly a speaking program, but was feeling the pressure of the large number of people in the room around me. I made my way to the back of the room again and stayed there. It hit me on the walk home. I'm doing my best to to just ignore and push the anxiety away at these events but then it hits once i'm out of there. Again, deep breathes.
The next day, I decided to take a long walk and take photos since it was nice out. I started walking toward Storrow Drive and once I was near the Esplanade, I realized I had been listening to what was my "marathon playlist", a playlist I made of the only songs I could listen to after the marathon (it was very strange, but I would listen to certain songs on repeat). I switched the playlist deciding I needed to break these patterns when I notice them. I ended up walking 6 miles before going home to get ready for yet another event. Walking seemed to help, it did back in the Spring as well. Again, I went to the event and stayed in the back of the room with people I felt comfortable with and left early.
Sunday, I went on another walk, this time for 7.5 miles. It's like I don't want to stop walking once i'm out there. As I stopped on the Memorial side of the Charles to take a few pictures, I looked at Back Bay and had an instant sad feeling. So, I turned away and kept walking. Monday morning I woke up not feeling so great. I got myself out of the house to do some work at Zume's and visited a friend later in the day. By afternoon, I felt okay. That night, I read a post on Facebook that upset me. Whenever there is anything about the marathon bombings or PTSD, I feel like I need to say something since people sometimes seem negative and don't "get it". As I was reading the post, my breathing got very difficult and my body literally started shaking. I felt compelled to comment, but that actually made it worse because it makes me even more anxious to have people argue with me on things (in general and especially the last year, especially about this subject). I tried to go to bed and was up for hours tossing and crying at times for many reasons and trying to calm down. I had another nightmare. In this one, multiple people were trying to kill me. Again, I was up for a while and it felt like the next thing I knew, my alarm was going off. Luckily, I started going to my therapist again last week knowing I may need it in the coming month. It was a rough day and I decided I needed to end it with another long walk, this time along the waterfront and back for 6 miles followed by a visit to my little cousins to hug and kiss them.
Today was easier, but I found when I was walking downtown and there were a lot of sirens that I became a little panicked and had to stop and watch where the firetrucks and ambulances were going. The good thing is that so far, I'm not having the really big anxiety attacks and the ones I have, don't last too long. The constant small flutter in my chest is at least bearable, though sometimes it feels like my heart will beat right out of my chest or I won't be able to catch my breath. I can't stand the crying (I swear I've cried more in the last 11 months than ever before). The intrusive thoughts (like picturing worst case scenarios) are annoying but I push them away. The decision of what to do on the anniversary and the marathon itself weigh on me but I am trying to let myself not think about it and just decide when the time comes. I have been feeling really sad and frustrated by not being "myself" still and trying to find the joy in the things I used to love. Sometimes I'm afraid that person is gone, but I know I'll find "me" again in time. It just feels like it's been forever and I had given myself a timeline in my head that I have not reached.
I'm realizing that I have to take it day to day and even hour to hour again and that's okay because it's how i'll get through it. As always, work helps (how could taking pictures of babies, adorable kids, and beautiful people no help?) and I do have a few friends/family that continue to be fully supportive. Again, i'm thankful for having some great people in my life. The goal for now is just to keep pushing forward and letting myself have moments if I need them, but trying my best to focus on the good. I don't know what the next month is going to bring, but i'll ride the waves as they come and let myself rely on those supporting me, also something difficult for me to do- but another thing I've learned to do.
OH, almost forgot about my talking to those in important positions. All was going well and now it seems things are stalled. The truth is nothing can move as fast as it should at this point. It's been 11 months. 11 months of people not knowing where to turn, 11 months where there has been no outreach to tell people where to go if they need help. And, next month's tribute does no leave enough time to allow these people the time to get invites and the opportunity to even make the choice of whether they would like to attend. Hopefully things can still be done as time goes on, but this is another thing i'm taking day to day, seeing what happens.
As always, thanks for reading. I know I blabbered on a bit today...