"Life always offers you a second chance, it's called tomorrow...the past cannot be changed, forgotten, edited, or can only be accepted."

Monday, November 11, 2013

PTSD...a life in the shadows

I mentioned panic attacks in my post last night, and I realized that I’ve never provided a real description of what the panic attacks do. I’ve made a few little comments here and there in posts, but I’ve never truly explained what they are.
               My panic attacks are from an underlying issue of PTSD. PTSD is post-traumatic stress disorder, and it’s typically caused by certain traumatic experiences in one’s past. It is most often seen in people returning from war. The most common examples for them would be hearing a car backfire and hitting the ground out of habit. They also may deal with certain events bringing up feelings, and having their mood suffer because of it.
               My PTSD is obviously a little bit different. Mine is coupled with depression which is in itself a never ending battle. For me the symptoms manifest in anxiety and panic attacks. Occasionally I get flashbacks…many times while I’m sleeping. There have been times where I’ve had these flashbacks in a dream, and I’ve woken up in a strange place…completely freaked out. Happened once this past summer right after my father’s funeral…I woke up on the living room floor next to my father’s picture and his box of ashes…with no recollection of how I got there.
               When I first started dealing with the panic attacks they were incredibly strong. I would be fine one minute, and something would trigger a feeling of nervousness. My body would essentially shut down and my actions were out of my control. Suddenly it would be hard to breathe…kind of like when you go outside and there is an extremely cold wind…and you get that feeling that you can’t take a breath. Finally I would get a huge gasp of air…and it would turn into hyperventilating. Breathing would get faster and faster until I’d get so lightheaded that I would see spots and start to pass out.
               My body would shake uncontrollably. Mini attacks would make my hands go numb and my feet tingle. Bad attacks would leads to convulsions that felt like when you get unbearably cold and can’t stop extreme shivering. Most of the time I had to sit down because my legs would shake so badly that I wasn’t sure how long it would be before they gave out completely.
               The biggest and scariest problem during the attacks were the thoughts. Many times my brain would take me right back to the past. My vision would cloud over to where all I could see was some horrific experience in my father’s house. I would hear whooshing noises in my ears until I couldn’t focus on anything. Deep down I knew that I was safe, and that nothing bad would happen…but I couldn’t bring my brain and body back to reality. It was like being trapped inside your own body…knowing that everything is still going on around you…but not being able to reach it.
               I learned to ride out the attacks. I could start to tell when they were going to happen, and I learned my triggers. Men yelling, watching any kind of fight between a man and a woman, watching a parent really yell at their child, or being hugged unexpectedly. Any time I felt physically uncomfortable or vulnerable…I could feel that slight catch in my chest that I knew was going to lead to bad news. I got better at removing myself from those situations, or breathing slowly through the trigger. But the dream attacks have always been the worst because of their unpredictability.
               PTSD is no joke. I’m lucky to have people in my life that understand it now. But too many times I’ve been told to “calm down” in the middle of an attack…or I’ve had people tell me that I need to stop being “dramatic”. I get so sick of close minded idiots that refuse to admit that there are scarier things in life than bills or minor family drama. Just because PTSD is a disease of the brain doesn’t make it any less painful or hard to deal with as a disease that manifests itself in a visual form. I don’t walk around with a walker, I don’t have some physical problem, and I don’t take medication (anymore)…but I still have a disease and I can admit it.
               I have been lucky in my battle…but it doesn’t change the fact that it is a daily fight. It doesn’t just “go away” with time…and it doesn’t necessarily get any easier. I have seen things that no one should see…and that will never leave me. I thank God all the time that I essentially beat my PTSD and depression. I had enough support around me, and the right tools to be able to combat it head on. Too many people don’t have the same.
               As I said before, a lot of times you can’t see the effects of PTSD or depression. Unless you’re very close to someone, it can be next to impossible to spot it. But it has to be understood by the public that both of these diseases take lives. I don’t even mean in the physical sense, such as suicide…which unfortunately is WAY too common in these situations. But also in the sense that too many people fight the battle alone. They get trapped inside their minds, and hide all the pain they’re in. “Fake it until you make it” kind of idea. It’s not life when you’re living like that. It’s painful, scary, and restricts you from enjoying all of the beautiful aspects that life has to offer.
               So I guess in part to honor Veteran’s Day, and in part just to raise awareness of PTSD and its effects…I encourage everyone who reads this to open their minds and realize just how serious this is.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Panic attacks and a seance

I have had an insane amount of anxiety over the last few days. I was thinking that it had something to do with how busy I’ve been and how many things I have coming up in the near future. But
I’m starting to think that it has nothing to with all of the things that are stressing me out.
                I’m about to talk about something that a lot of people are going to either A) Ignore, B) Think I’m crazy, or C) Think I’m just making it up. About 2 weeks ago I went with a friend to a séance. For those of you that don’t know what that is…it’s basically a group of people run by mediums, that contact the dead. Now trust me, my first reaction was that it was all going to be a load of crap, but it was something for me to do on a Friday night. I’m a psychology major, I study the brain, and how to analyze it…so while watching this woman go around and talk to people, I was trying to prove that it was all fake.
                I sat through the circle, and watched other people receive their readings from the medium that was working with us. And honestly, it felt like crap. She was digging for information, and then playing off of people’s reactions. I could have predicted the things that she would say…and I shut myself off from believing. She got to me, did my reading, and honestly I didn’t feel anything. However there was another medium that got my attention earlier on…so I decided to stay afterwards and talk to her.
                What happened next really kind of scared me. She asked me who I wanted to hear from, and I showed her my father’s picture. As she did her reading, I was very careful in my responses and body language because I wanted to know for sure whether or not it was fake. Right off the bat she told me that she felt large amounts of pain, and not just because of his death. She said there was a deeper pain there, that something had clearly been very very wrong. She looked at me and asked if I was sure I wanted to contact him, and I said yes and asked her why. She said that he had tried to contact me, and that every time I thought about him, it was him trying to contact me. But that I had been completely closed off, and that I wasn’t receiving any of his messages. She said that he knew I was way too angry to speak to him…and then she said that in her mind…I had every right to be. She said he was horrible, and he had done some terrible things…and my anger was clearly justified.
                I was still skeptical. And then she channeled him again, and she asked me a very simple question from him. She asked me why I hadn’t spread his ashes. I almost fell out of my chair. I didn’t tell her when he died, that he had been cremated, let alone that I hadn’t had the strength to scatter his ashes yet. There was no way for her to guess that. I was absolutely amazed, and started to trust in the things she was saying.
                As she continued, she said that my father was basically talking her ear off. She said it was hard to get what he was saying because there was just so much of it. She went on and on about different things, and one thing she kept telling me was that he wasn’t mad at me. He wanted to justify everything that had happened (shocking) but that she was getting the feeling that he had been very sick. However her next comment made me go from tears to laughter. She said that he was very mentally sick, and that his mind was never in the right place. She told me that he was warning me to be very careful, because it was a family problem…and it was all hereditary. I must say…I think I already knew that…
                As she continued to channel him, she told me that he was starting to piss her off. She essentially told him that he needed to leave me alone, and that I would contact him when I was ready to talk to him again. She said the main thing he kept trying to get across was that I needed to spread his ashes…for myself and for him. She said she kept seeing a picture in her head of a black shelf…with a box, a picture, and a candle. Ironic considering his ashes are on a black bookshelf in my living room…next to his picture and a candle. She then asked me if I had any questions for him…and I said all I wanted to know was whether or not he did it. She tried to clarify what I meant…and I told her that he would know.
                She looked at me and asked if I was really ready for that answer…was it something I really wanted to know. I told her I did…and before she answered the question she told me that the second I asked that question…she felt an extremely heavy weight that made her want to fall over. She said it was an overwhelming yes.
                Now I’ve always known that my father set the fire. Since the day it happened I knew he was guilty. But he never went to court and was never convicted…and he denied responsibility until the day he died. Hearing the final admission of guilt was a lot to me.
                But anyways…I’ve been getting this anxiety lately…my PTSD has been kicking in full force. I’ve been doing really well with it all until these last few days. They’re strange little panic attacks…and happen at completely random times. My chest tenses up, and I get a very overwhelming feeling of negativity. It’s hard to explain but I just get this feeling that something very bad is about to happen…and the feeling lasts for a few minutes. It gets overwhelming sometimes.
                After talking to the medium…I think I know why. It’s time to scatter the ashes. It’s a constant reminder in my house…and I think these feelings I’m getting are my father trying contact me in some way. It’s past time to get them out of the house and send him on his way. The more I hold on to him in a physical sense, the more he’s going to haunt my thoughts.