Monday, March 1, 2010

down with the sickness

Once again, I cannot go outside.

I have a chiropractor's appointment, and I need to get some shopping done. I really have things I need to take care of today. But instead I am sitting here with the door locked tight because it's happening once again.

First I start to shake, a tiny tremble that starts from deep inside... down in the stomach... it slowly builds, spreads through my limbs until they are trembling as well. My throat tightens up and it gets hard to breathe. The tears come, burning my eyelids. Nausea boils in my stomach. I try to control my breathing so I don't hyperventilate. My whole body seems to crunch in on itself, my spine aching, I double over. I hug myself in mute protection from my terrors.

I don't want to go outside.

Outside holds every danger and every terror imaginable. My mind races with it. Will someone hurt me? Will I hurt myself? What if I get stranded, sick, injured out there? What will happen to me? The dread mounts and mounts into flat-out panic.

This is the point where most people tell me I am over-reacting. Sure, bad things might happen out there, but hey! Someone would surely help you out! Really, there is nothing to be afraid of! Your fears are unfounded!

Except that they're not. I think back to the awful day, years ago, in New Jersey... when I had no car, no friends, no help... and my beloved cat Tiger went into diabetic shock... I hustled him into a carrier and started running down the street, trying to get him to a vet before I lost him. In a strange city, a strange state, a strange neighborhood, I had blocks and blocks to run but I kept going. The carrier was heavy, my lungs were giving out, and I started to go into the panic. Things got blurry. The world tilted. Still, I kept running on. A big crack in the sidewalk blindsided me and I tripped, slamming onto the ground... my pants ripped, knees shred... my head spinning, can't breathe. The carrier lying sideways on the ground next to me. I'm try to get up but I can't, I am paralyzed, it is all that I can do to breathe because my chest and throat are locked up.

This is the part where the good Samaritan is supposed to come along, right? Only, they didn't. As I lay broken, bleeding, and struggling for breath on a cracked sidewalk, a thousand cars whizzed by me 6 feet away on the street. Some even slowed down to gawk at me. I was mouthing wordlessly, breathlessly, for help. Not one single car stopped. Not one single pedestrian came to help. They just flowed around me, looking down at me before moving along. I must have laid there for about 10 minutes before I could get up and continue on. I knew then that I could have died right there on that street, and none of those people would have helped me, or even cared.

And I have had this experience countless in my life. Like the time when my truck broke down at a busy local intersection... smoke billowing out from under the hood... and dozens of cars passing me by, honking at me, and even angrily screaming at me for blocking traffic, throwing me the finger. Or the time when a guy got violently drunk one night and started choking me and pushing me down onto the hood of a car, right on the street, and I called out for help while countless people just walked by and did nothing. I have never been 'saved' or even helped. I have been taught the lesson by life, over and over, that if anything bad happens to me out there, I am completely on my own.

Those are the big scary things. Then there are the small agonies.

The agonies of random strangers out in the grocery store, at the bars, on the street who make fun of my physical scars.... pointing and laughing right in my face. The agonies of intimacy and betrayal, like the many, many, many 'friends' I have had who cheated with my boyfriends, turned on me, lied to me, or just abandoned me completely. The agonies of the bully squad here in El Paso, that group of 'popular' people who hang out at certain bars and events and who- even though we are far from high school days- still spread completely made-up rumors about me, make fun of me, and still send me messages threatening to beat me up if they see me anywhere.

And what about the other things... the intense fear I have that anyone I see out there, outside, in the random crowds, could be anyone... serial killer, maniac, someone out to do serious harm...? This is where they tell me, 'Oh you can't think that way, you're just being paranoid... do you know how rare the chance that you will randomly run into a maniacal killer are??" *scoff* Except... I have run into killers. I had a friend murdered by a serial killer when I was 13. My own sister was murdered in her own home by a guy she randomly met. I was once targeted by an alleged killer who was found by the FBI to have photos of me that he downloaded from the internet hanging in his torture trailer. And I have also been assaulted by strangers on the street, and in my own home.

In none of these instances have I ever had another human being come to my aid. I have been in situations where I literally screamed for help and nobody cared. Life has taught me, over and over by experience, that everything outside of my highly-controlled safety zone is, at best, ripe for dealing out the pain, and at worst, potentially life-threatening. And this was a lesson learned at a very young age. I will never forget the years of physical and mental abuse we endured at the hands of a violent, drunk stepfather, and how not one person in the family ever stepped in to help us... even though we children were crying for help.

In my years of cognitive behavioral therapy, my therapists encouraged me to get out of the house and to do the things that I feared. The point being that when I see that my fears are unfounded, they will start to fade away. Instead, every time I pushed myself to do just that, yet another terrible thing would happen to me to reinforce the opposite theory- that I was right to be afraid. It got to the point where even my therapists saw that this was only making things worse and they were helpless to change it.

So now I live on medication. The pills give me my breath back when I can't breathe, but they don't erase the horrors of the memories in my mind. The pills lower my blood pressure, but they don't stop the nightmares. The pills calm my panic attacks, but they do not make me feel safe.

Is it surprising that I have been living all these years with debilitating extreme social anxiety, clinical depression, panic attacks, and PTSD? My life experience pretty much guaranteed it.

And now I get to dwell with it for the rest of my life.


I appreciate you guys reading this, and please do not take it as a total negative... I just needed to vent. Despite my disabilities I am always striving for a happy life and I won't ever stop doing that. Sometimes though, you just need to get stuff off of your chest. So thanks for listening.

Anyone else out there who is going through these issues, I promise that you are not alone. Hang in there...