Cooped Up

The wires are getting tighter.

Yesterday ended on a bad note.

Halfway through my day at work, I had a panic attack. Sudden, shaking, throat-clenching, heart, racing and pounding at the same time, chest tight with fear. I couldn’t look around, just knowing that everyone was staring at me. (They weren’t, logic tells me this, but panic doesn’t recognize logic)

I had to tell my supervisor I had to leave right now, and she understood. She knows what’s been going on, some of what I’ve been dealing with with E, & that my anxiety has been bad. But this panic attack kind of took the cake.

When I got home, it was all I could do not to crawl under my covers & hide. As it was, I had sharp, stabbing pains in my stomach, more blessings brought by the panic fairies, thanks, & had to curl up with a heating pad till they faded.  Thank all the gods for antianxiety meds…even if they make me groggy in higher doses.

I couldn’t even talk to my Beloved Nephew on the phone last night, it was just too much. I needed the silence, the darkness, the….nothingness….

And today, it seemed as though it lingered, yet. It’s not completely gone. But, then, until this situation with E is resolved, until I know that he’s out of my life for good, I will remain wire-tight…and that’s going to be rough.

Case in point…

I had to go to Hellmart today, to stock up on supplies for OnlySon’s graduation party. I wore my earbuds while shopping, as usual, so was OK for most of it. But, when I got in line, there was this one woman who got in line behind me, who almost sent me over the edge into another panic attack.

Or, I almost attacked her. 

One or the other.

See, I have this thing about Personal Space.

I like some.

Especially around strangers.

And she got up in mine.

Like, really CLOSE.

LIKEREALLYREALLYCLOSE.

As I maneuvered myself around my cart, putting some distance between us, she closed in again…and I angled the cart to prevent it. She glanced my way, as I quickly looked down to avoid her eyes. Eye contact is to be avoided at all costs to maintain personal space, folks.

For a minute, I thought she was going to move my cart, she came so close to putting her hands on it, I was actually going through responses in my head, ranging from a simple “Don’t” to a more direct “You need to take 3 steps back, Now.” And, I had a fleeting thought that, from the look she gave my cart, she really contemplated rifling through my stuff, including my purse.

My hands clenched, my face heated, my chest tightened, & I could feel my breathing getting shallower, the closer I got to the cashier. I needed it to end, quickly, so I could get the hell away from there, & her. 

As I told a friend, later, you could almost SEE the porcupine quills standing up off my skin as I stood there.

Luckily, I was able to get the cart angled across the aisle in such a way that the woman couldn’t get any closer to me, & I got my stuff paid for & escaped the store as soon as I could.

But, it was as close as I’ve gotten to losing my shit in public as I ever have.

Ever.

Not exactly feeling like the most stable chicken in the coop right now…

So, it’s back to the lab for the benefits of modern chemistry.

And a heartfelt prayer to KwanYin, for some serious guidance for one of her children in serious need.

Just Call Me Alice

What do you do, once you’ve fallen down the rabbit hole, dusted yourself off, and realized you’ve followed that white-furred thing into a place you don’t recognize?

How do you get yourself back to a place of sanity, to some semblance of normalcy when everything around you seems to be running amok?

There’s a part of me right now that’s running on fear.

And I don’t know which way to turn.

But, there’s another part of me that fiercely screams out – We will NOT run away! We will stand firm & defend our ground! We will come out the other side of this stronger & better than we went in, even if the fire burns us, we will rise from the ashes as the phoenix! Get up, bitch!”

I like her better than the coward.

But, still, at times, I find my hands shaking, my stomach queasy, unable to eat, or think clearly. Anxiety sets in, and the panic attacks are coming more frequently.

It’s getting a little frayed around the edges, and I’m afraid that July is going to be a really rough month.

He’s coming here in July- or so he claims.

He was subtle, convinced me of so many sweet things, showed me such a bright future…Kept me dangling on such a long string with the pretty treats always just out of reach for so long.

Then came the manipulation. And the emotional blackmail. The secrets & the lies. The broken promises, the plausible excuses, piling up, until it was hard to crawl out from underneath them.

And now, he says he’s finally going to live up to every single word he ever spoke, all at once.

After I told him I was Done – I’m out. Finished. Full stop.  

He insists that he’s got to come, and nothing I say will stop him. 

He says he will right the wrongs, win me back, fix everything.

I said No.

But what the fuck do I know, right?

There is no going back for me.

I’m O.U.T.

Full STOP.

Go home.

Jen doesn’t live here anymore.

Call me Alice.


Exit Strategy

Graduation approaches swiftly, & I’m heavily in planning mode.

OnlySon has his cap & gown, & is eagerly awaiting the day he can kick high school to the curb.

He has requested Texas chocolate cake (a much-beloved recipe of our family’s) for his graduation party, which will be held at my house after the ceremony.

And…it’s going to be a joint party for my son…with his father, my ex-husband.

I know the ex really only wants to do a joint party because he doesn’t want to be bothered with having to plan a party, buy the supplies, host the damned thing, clean up afterwards, yadda, yadda, yadda… It’s always been his MO, to make me do all the work when it came to this sort of thing, while taking a share of the credit. Asshat. 

He says he’s bringing a second cake (he works as a baker at a grocery store here in town, so OnlySon requesting a homemade scratch recipe has wounded his pride, I’m sure), but I know his family… I’m making 2 of my cakes, just to make sure there’s some left for my family.

All the while, my anxiety has me in heavy emergency exit-strategy mode.

Except…

How do you get away from someone when they’re at your home? And they bring their family with them? Their very loud, very confrontational, very Greek, family? (If you’re picturing My Big Fat Greek Wedding in your head…Yep, you’re seeing the right people).

If anyone gets up in my face, I’m going to have a tough time holding my cool.  I will try, for my son’s sake…

But, as I’m passing out pieces of cake, I might be tempted…

Glass

Today is not a good day.

I woke up with a migraine- breath-stealing, nausea roiling, light/sound/smell/touch-sensitive; and all I wanted to do was take my meds & sleep it off. Stress has been high lately, & I’ve had more migraines in the last few months than is normal. I can’t afford some of the meds they want me to try, so I have to deal with them by smothering the pain in sleep. The doctor doesn’t understand… It doesn’t matter if a drug might help me, if I can’t afford it. It’s not even a guarantee of pain relief, just a chance. A maybe. 

I don’t make enough to throw utility money at a Maybe.

Then, I get a call from my regular doctor’s office. 

I have osteo arthritis in my hands, diagnosed by a rheumatologist. Most of the time, my hands, mainly my finger joints, feel as though they are full of broken glass, grating & grinding on itself, just under the skin. Occasionally, when there’s pressure put on those joints, the glass sets itself on fire, just for that extra-special kick.

He told me he couldn’t do anything else, as far as treating the pain long-term went, that I had to go to the Pain Clinic for that. I was to call my regular doc & have her send a referral to the Pain Clinic for me.

They sent a note back to her this morning saying they won’t see me.

Regular doc says I have to call rheumatology doc back, to see what my other options are. 

So, basically, the health care system here is telling me they want someone else to deal with it. No one is willing to actually sit down, LISTEN to me, & help figure out a solution. I don’t know if they don’t believe me about the pain, because no one is actually talking to, or listening to, me. They’re all looking at xrays & blood tests, thinking that tells the whole story.

I’m not a hypochondriac looking for attention. I’m someone who’s been through a lot of medical crap in her life, & because of that, has built up tolerances to certain pain meds. 

I don’t like taking pills. I don’t want to feel stupid & slow at work, & I don’t like the loss of control the drugs make me feel. I’m a control freak when it comes to my own body. I’m in charge, & I hate not feeling like I can say what happens with it.

In 2001, I finally had surgery that fixed a problem with one of my kidneys – that took 5 years & every test known to man & his dog to figure out. 5 years of flaring, excruciating pain, without a diagnosis to even give me a sense of reason. 

In just the past 3 years, I’ve had to deal with having my gall bladder removed due to gall stones & severe pain caused by inflammation.

I’ve had endometriosis, adenomyosis, & an ovarian cyst, which ended up with me having a hysterectomy. Following my surgery, my surgeon said he couldn’t figure out how I’d been walking upright, much less how I’d gotten into the hospital on my own two legs, due to the extensive pain the numerous occlusions of endo & adeno would have caused.

And now, the arthritis diagnosis.

I know pain.

I know how it steals your breath, messes with your senses, & turns your world into a small, very self-focused, & seemingly selfish, place.

I know that other people can’t feel my pain, they don’t understand that – even picking up files, taking a cap off a water bottle, using a pliers to take apart rivets & staples (part of my job, taking apart books held together by these things) – all these things cause my hands to flare, & tears to spring to my eyes because of it.

I gave birth to all 3 of my children naturally, without any drugs to aid the process, & ended up in shock due to blood loss during one of the deliveries.

I know pain. Don’t tell me I’m not perfectly aware of what my body is telling me.

I just want to be able to go to work & live my life without being either half-stoned on pain meds, or in constant, grinding pain.

Where do I turn now?

While I sit here with my hands full of glass, my head pounding, & my chest full of anxiety, depression & hopelessness.

What do you do when all the doctors, the “professionals” tell you that you’re not worth their time…..

Mindless Drivel

 There are days when I just need to be alone inside my own head. These are the days when I seriously retreat from society. I don’t talk, won’t pick up my phone, & many times, don’t even leave my house.  It’s just me, decompressing, processing, trying to work things out inside myself, before I have to interact with society at large once again.

On these days, it’s best to just leave me be.

I’m not fit company for anyone when I’m wandering inside my own head. Let it go. 

I’ll be fine.

If my decompression days get disrupted, it can throw me off for yet another week, struggling to get through, because I didn’t get that time for myself. 

If I’m out of touch, not answering, leave it alone.

Please.

I’m not lost, I don’t need help, I just need to recharge, regroup, & relax.

And while it might seem like mindless drivel to someone on the outside looking in, to me, it’s the little things, if not dealt with promptly, that end up becoming the largest issues for me.

I used to shove everything down, all the time, stamping on the emotions, the little hurts, the aches and pains of daily life…until they would suddenly burst forth like a volcano. And then, everyone within the blast radius would get burned.

So, when I take these days, it’s not just for my mental health…it’s to prevent Krakatoa 2.0

The Pendulum Swings

Yesterday was…awful.

Mom called in the morning while I was at work, & told me that Dad’s best friend had passed away. This man was someone I’ve known for practically my whole life. His daughter & I were best friends and nearly inseparable from kindergarten through 5th grade. (The following summer of 1981 we moved to ND)

He and his wife were like second parents to me, as I spent almost as much time at their house as I did my own.

But, he was also the father of the boy who molested me when I was a teenager.

After Mom told me of his passing, I attempted to go back to work at my desk, but couldn’t concentrate. My head felt heavy, & I could hear a buzzing, ringing, in my ears as everything else around me started to fade out.

Then, the panic attack began.

I told my supervisor I had to go home, & bolted from the office before I went into full-meltdown mode. I didn’t want them to see me like that, couldn’t let them see me like that.

It was my worst panic attack yet, save one I had while separated from my first ex (whole other story). 

Tears rolled down my face the whole drive home, but I held my shit together till I got in my front door.

Then – game over.

If you’ve never had a real, full-blown panic attack…you have no idea how frightening one is. I hope you never have to experience it, because it’s…well…I’ll try to describe it.

As soon as my front door closed, the trembling started. I’m not talking about just “feeling shaky”. I’m talking – my whole body went into earthquake mode.  Someone just watching would have probably thought I was having a seizure, or that I’d just gotten out of ice-cold water, I shook so violently. I had to sit to take my shoes off, & struggled with the zippers because I couldn’t keep my fingers still long enough to grasp them.

The cold set in. My house is generally warm, as I can’t abide being cold. I usually have the heat set at 76. But, yesterday, I couldn’t get warm. I wrapped one of my fleece blankets around me as I stumbled through the house to the fridge for my water, & it still wasn’t enough to warm me up. It took 2 blankets & my 2 cats (curled up with me in the chair) to finally warm me.

After taking another dose of my anti-anxiety meds to try to quell the panic attack, it went to the next level. Hyperventilating.

I almost blacked out, so it’s a good thing I was already in my chair when this hit. It dragged on for what seemed like forever, swinging between hyperventilating & hitching sobs. Coupled with the shaking trembles, it most likely would have looked like a grand mal seizure. 

Finally, the meds started to kick in, after interminable seeming hours, and I started to calm. It was most likely just a handful of minutes, but time stretches out unceasingly when in a panic attack, your brain screams fight or flight!! And there seems to be no end, no exit, no rescue. 

And when you’re dealing with this alone, with no one there to comfort you, there’s no surcease of the pain until your body, quite literally, shuts down. The adrenaline of the attack does eventually run out. It has to.

But when you’re panicking, it doesn’t feel that way.

When you’re in PA mode, all you know, all you see, is the black, horrific, panic. It’s a heart attack, stroke, earthquake, flood & mental apocalypse, all rolled inside of your head & body.

It, quite literally, feels like the end, while you’re in it. Logic has no place there. None. It’s not a matter of “just breathe, you’ll be fine”.

You can’t “just breathe”, when every breath has to be fought for.

You can’t “just calm down”, when your heart is racing so fast you feel like a jet engine is going to bust through your chest.

For me, tunnel vision set in, & all I could see was whatever was directly in front of my eyes, but my brain wasn’t truly processing even that. It was in overload.

Once the attack finally crested, & I started to come down, it was like falling off a cliff.

I crashed. 

I slept, weighted under 2 blankets & 2 cats, it was more like falling into a coma, in that I didn’t dream at all. It was just – black sleep.

Today, I am out of PA mode. My anxiety is still very high, but I’m watching it. Keeping quiet, avoiding going out, & taking meds as needed. 

For those of you who do have anxiety & have experienced PA, you know the aftercare, & what I’ve been through. I know another attack could happen, so I’m being careful. Doing all the things I do to relax, soothe & comfort. Reading, to keep my brain occupied on something other than the situation. Wearing my comfort clothes to feel good against my skin. Burning candles and/or incense as needed to use aromatherapy to soothe. Staying away from caffeine, as that can trigger another attack while in heightened stress moments.

And blogging. This helps me, almost as much as the meds. Because this is my emotional outlet, my “scream into the black” of the internet. My way of getting the words out of my head, onto the “page”, & away from my emotional distress.

The worst has passed, and I’m still here…but the pendulum swings. And the moments are tentative & tenderly susceptible to another PA. Hang on, we’re not out of the woods entirely, yet.

Tremble

Anxiety has been so bad tonight. It’s been bad for the last couple of weeks.

But not to look at me.

If you just look, I am normal – smiling, joking, & getting along, doing my work, handling my business…

This is the face of anxiety.

But…

Take another look at the eyes.

Take a good look.

There’s tension there.

There’s a twitch, just there in the corner of one eye, constantly fluttering.

There’s a tightness around the eyes, pulling at the edges, headache darting between the brows.

The smile looks almost real, though, doesn’t it?

Slightly wilted, tired, resigned.

But it fools the masses.

And makes sure that no one notices the trembles.

The hint of vibration that never leaves.

My body is wound so tightly I feel like an over-tuned violin, ready to snap as soon as the bow draws across it the first time.

And this – is the face after the crash.

The face that no one sees.

The worry drawn tight over the brow.

The grief and guilt filling in the mouth.

The resignation that smears the vision.

Knowing it’s just a matter of time before the other shoe drops.

Nobody gets to see this face if I can help it.

It shatters the illusion that everything works. That I’m Ok, all lights green across the board, engines full and running at capacity.

This is the face after the mask comes off.

I’m tired of hiding, of pretending. I’m tired of everyone thinking that anxiety is just a random worry.

It’s not.

It’s real, it’s painful, it’s constant & it’s not something I can be rid of just by “calming down”.

I take medication every day to control the worst of it, or I probably wouldn’t be able to function.

This- is my reality.

It’s not the whole of who I am.

But it is real.

And that’s what I’m here, blogging for.

To be in one place where I can be real.

My nephew and I talk honestly to each other all the time. We don’t pull our words back, because we don’t have to. 

But there are times when I need to see the words in front of me, splayed out like a bloody corpse, flayed, raw & bleeding all over the page.

Therapy at it’s deepest level.

Minus the shiny buckles on the strapped jacket.