First, I was reminded this week that this subject is a sensitive one, not just for me, but for everyone around me. I keep track of the activity on this blog and on my regular website and blog. I did a beautiful photo shoot last week and wrote a blog about it. An amazing woman I know is fighting breast cancer and her story is inspiring and beautiful. In the first hour, the blog post got 150 views. Over the next 24 hours, it went up to 600. I want to say that I could not be happier that there was so much attention to it. She was getting amazing feedback and support and that is exactly what I wanted. I feel blessed to have been able to share her story in the best way I knew how. The other thing that blog did for me was make me realize that people are much more likely to read a blog about cancer than PTSD. This blog gets maybe 60 views (and then, only on certain posts). It is understandable that people are uncomfortable with the subject matter, but extremely frustrating at the same time. There is a common frustration among everyone I've met through this experience about the lack of awareness and acceptance that this is happening to so many people. I'm hoping to do everything I can to change that, for myself, the others affected that day and everyone who experiences emotional trauma, no matter how big or small. As frustrated as I am (multiplied this week with what is happening) that out of 700 Facebook "friends" and an email list I send the links to, that such a small percentage are reading this, I feel supported by that percentage. There are people who have reached out that I didn't really expect to be reading it. I've received beautiful messages from those who are and I appreciate it like no one can imagine.
After my rough day on Thursday and start to the day Friday, I hoped things would just keep getting better and that Thursday was an isolated incident. Unfortunately, I was wrong. I had many moments on the way to work, at work and on the way home where tears were just sitting behind my eyes (and sometimes, coming out). I just kept going, though I have been feeling really unproductive. The tightness in my chest that I had gotten used to for months and had finally gotten rid of, was back. I got home and decided I was exhausted so I got comfortable on my couch and ended up, as I always do, with my computer on my lap editing and trying to catch up. And then, I felt it. Tears behind my eyes that started to come out faster and faster. My chest began to tighten more and then it hit. I couldn't breathe, I was crying uncontrollably, and my body was shaking. I immediately had an awful headache and my chest felt like it was going to explode. This "episode" that had happened four times in the 10 days following the marathon, had now happened three times in two days. As it was happening, I got very angry. I just wanted it to stop and never happen again. I am so unbelievably sick of going through all of this, even though I do know it is "normal" after what I experienced. However, in those moments, it is so intense and scary, I feel like I can't keep going.
I called my friend Shawna. She does Reiki and energy healing and lives just down the street. I asked her to go out for a walk with me because I couldn't breathe and needed air. She had me come over. I bundled up and when I got there, was crying and still having a lot of trouble breathing. My head was killing and my body was still shaking. As she put her hands on me, I ripped off my scarf, which felt like a noose around my neck. She also gave me some herbs and vitamins to help. It took a bit, but my breathing finally eased and I stopped shaking. I actually felt better in my chest than I had in two days. I was still crying. After we talked a bit, we went for a walk, all the way to the Navy Yard, the place I go so often since this all started happening. I felt better, though still sad and alone (yes, alone, even though I was with someone). I've had moments of feeling alone through all of this. It's the moments I realize that most of the people around me don't understand and I never know who to talk to about it. I also feel like a complete burden for talking about it, so I tend to keep it to myself sometimes. The support group has helped that. However, I experience that alone feeling a lot these last few days, the same I did back in the beginning when I would walk around town and sit in a park by myself because I didn't know where to turn or what to do.
I went home and actually got some work done before bed. I can't even describe how tired I feel. I work a lot this time of year and i'm usually a little tired physically, but this emotional/mental exhaustion is so much worse. I woke up at 1am, jumping up. I was shaking a little and for a moment, felt very afraid. I do not remember a dream or anything, but i'm assuming there was something. It took a while to fall asleep again and I woke up at 6:00 to start my day. I had 3 photo shoots and was supposed to attend two events.
I don't know what I was thinking for the midday event I was supposed to stop by. It was at Old South Church right on Boylston near the finish line. I was already pretty much constantly anxious at this point, with that overwhelming feeling and tightness in my chest, lump in my throat. As the time came closer to the event, I had a small anxiety attack while thinking about the logistics of going (parking) and realized there was no way I was putting myself into that position. Instead, I went to see a friend. I ended up having a small anxiety attack and crying a lot. She is always helpful and at this point, I'm just so unbelievably thankful for anyone who is willing to listen and understand (not truly understand what i'm going through, but understand that it's normal and is happening). I had one more session and it was luckily with people I know well, so I pulled myself together and did it. I then went home, feeling drained and although I tried to get work done last night, not much was accomplished. Then, I felt that all too familiar feeling. I went numb and knew what was coming. My chest tightened even more, my breathing got even more shallow, my body started to shake and it all hit. I sat on my bathroom floor crying uncontrollably. Once it was over, I felt utterly exhausted and just "over it". I decided to bag the second event I was supposed to attend.
I think the hardest part of this is that I wasn't expecting it. I knew all along that this was a possibility, but I tried to assume it wouldn't happen. I figured I may still be struggling at times, but that it would stay that way for a bit and then just get better. I did not think about the significance of the six month mark or the other things going on in my life that i'm sure have helped to trigger it all. One is wanting to go see my cousin Matt in the NYC marathon next week. Until this week, I considered it a challenge I could handle easily and now, I'm questioning it. However, I feel if I'm with people who I feel supported by, I will be okay and that as long as I have a plan on what to do and where to go, I can do it. I am also supposed to fly at least once, but maybe twice next month, one short trip and one long trip. I love flying. I fly alone oversees. I have never been afraid to get on a plane, even after 9/11. However, I am now questioning if I'll be okay getting on planes alone. I'd love to have someone with me, but it is too much to ask someone to join me, especially for the farther trip. So, I have some big decisions to make.
I woke up at 3am this morning, shaking a bit and startled, with one image in my head. I was standing in the middle of a city street and looking at fire in front of me. It was fire and smoke covering the whole street and cars were turned upside down. It was just that one image, nothing else. It took a while again to fall asleep and I felt like a weight was on my chest. I slept a little later than I have been (which is good). I'm just hoping to make it through this day and all of my sessions without more attacks.
Well, I thought things had eased. They hadn't. I spent all day pulling myself together for sessions, but then falling apart once I was back in the car. When I got home, I grabbed something quick to eat and then went to my room, sitting in my bed. I was drained. As I sat there, I thought about how difficult the 4 days had been. I started to cry and that led to another attack. I'm so over all of this. I knew it may not be gone. I've been told this is a process. But, I just don't know how much more I can handle. Four days straight of this feel unbearable. A call with a friend helped me a bit. There is something about having even one person who you know is 100% there for you, who understands to an extent and always has the right thing to say. That's a person you know you'll never let go.
I'm now just hoping for some relief. Any kind of relief.
More than ever, thank you to those who are reading. I can't express how much I appreciate it.