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Seeing Things

Seeing is believing or so they say.

I have been searching for a way to articulate anxiety. It is something that I have great difficulty putting into words so that others can see a little of what it is like to live with anxiety. I believe that if you can catch a glimpse of what others are experiencing in their personal struggles then, more often than not, we find a little more compassion and  understanding for things we don’t completely comprehend. At least, I hope that’s the way it goes.

I can only speak for myself but the more I begin to understand my own struggles with PTSD and anxiety, the more I wish someone else would just say, I get it, I get you. Intellectually, I know that there are a lot of other people living their best life with PTSD and anxiety. I know, that I am not alone. Bold, honest truth is that sometimes what you feel trumps what you know and those are the moments when we long for someone to love, accept and understand our struggles.

This past week, I’ve spent a fair amount of time watching the BBC hit, Luther. Thanks to Netflix, I’ve been able to catch up on four series just as filming begins on series five of the show. During one of my late night binge sessions, I came face to face with anxiety. It was the episode where Justin Ripley has been taken hostage. He is being held by the demented villain, hanging from a noose in a dark, damp, stone tunnel. He’s been beaten, branded and left for dead with a plastic bag over his head. Miraculously, Justin Ripley frees himself and begins to run toward the rusty ladder and a creaky hatch door that is presumably leading to his freedom. Up the ladder he goes and boom…that is when I see anxiety.

In a split second, as Ripley reaches the top of the ladder, I think to myself, “Oh no, don’t go out there! You don’t know what is out there!” Slamming the hatch door open, he barges out into the streets on London and his freedom. I slump back on my chair and mutter, “Oh my gosh, that is what anxiety like…” I am stunned. Suddenly, I have a visual representation of what my PTSD and anxiety feels like.

Life with anxiety and PTSD is just like being held hostage, constantly tormented by a nasty villain, all the while knowing that to survive you must break free. When you muster the strength and make a bold dash for freedom, the what if’s stop you at the bottom of the ladder. You never make it to the top and throw open the hatch door. You are crushed by a fear, worry and long list of unknowns and what if’s at the very first rung. You can see the door. You can see the noose on the wall. You need to get out. You want to get out. You’re paralyzed just long enough for the boogey man to get you again and suddenly, you’re hanging by your neck staring up at that hatch door, summoning the strength and courage to make another mad dash for freedom.

Hostage. Break out. Collapse. Repeat. Once a day or ten times in a day. It doesn’t really matter. To accomplish anything against anxiety and PTSD, you inevitably have to do it a hundreds times before you reach the top of a rusty ladder and find your freedom.

You see, I’m not trying to fail. I’m not the big screw up that you told me I was. I am not incompetent at life. I’m just a little tired. I’ve broken free a hundred times just to make a phone call. I’ve scrambled down a long, dark, damp tunnel repeatedly just to make a social event at Christmas. I’ve stood sobbing at the bottom of my rusty ladder under the weight of a thousand villainous thoughts attacking and dragging me backward just to mail a package at the post office.

I know you can do these things with ease, trust me, I know freedom is easy for you.
This is what it is like for me.

Be brave.
Jamie Christine

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Connections

October 3, 2017 – Day 3

I am moving in slow motion this morning. I woke up with one of the worse migraines ever. Nausea, eyeballs hurt, dizzy, blurry vision and my head felt like someone was pounding on it with a sledge-hammer.  Iced my head for an hour, took some medicine and drank some coffee which is my magic combo for chasing away migraines. Currently, it is down to a soft roar of a headache. I am doing my best to function as much as possible.

I am also moving slow because of something I did yesterday morning. Typically, I keep my blog and Twitter separate from my Facebook page. Sounds silly, I know, but I do it. I do not let A know what B is doing or more precisely, what B is saying. There it is. I may honestly share my thoughts with a few but there a few folks that I just do not tell things too.

I have a problem speaking up. Sounds absurd because if we are close or I really click with someone, I never shut up. I could talk for hours. However, if the situation or person causes me anxiety, I clam up. Sharing my blog with my Facebook has my hands shaking and heart pounding. Tremendous anxiety at the thought of connecting the two worlds.

What am I afraid of? Rejection? Abandonment? Judgement? Maybe all of these or none of these.

When I five years old, I entered kindergarten like most kids. After two weeks, my mother receives a phone call from Mrs. Flood, my teacher. Mrs. Flood inquires if I am deaf and can I speak. My mother laughs and tells her, at home, I never stop talking. My mother thought that perhaps all the recent changes in our life had something to do with it. In the world of anxiety, it is known as selective  mutism.

Selectivemutismcenter.org describes the conditions as follows:
“Selective Mutism is a complex childhood anxiety disorder characterized by a child’s inability to speak and communicate effectively in select social settings, such as school. These children are able to speak and communicate in settings where they are comfortable, secure, and relaxed.”

Me in a nutshell. I’ve battled this all my life. My most recent scrimmage was the job I just walked away from in a flurry of tears. It was a customer service job processing insurance claims on the phone. The closer it came to me getting on the phones, the greater my anxiety, the more tears and panic attacks until I simply could not move. Paralyzed by fear, unable to articulate my situation and fears so I had to walk away, crying.

Connecting Facebook, Twitter and my blog is something I have never been able to do because I either can not speak or the fear of people hearing what I think or feel or say is just too great. Seems so stupid doesn’t it?

In so many ways, I am still that mute five-year old girl and no body even knows it. I make excuses for a get-together or clubs or jobs or lunch dates. I never know when it is going to strike. I’ve spent the majority of my alone because of anxiety. Sometimes, it is so great that even simple things like paying the rent or getting a tire fixed is just too much for me. I must have help but help in a way that nobody knows they are helping.

It sucks. Anxiety so severe you can not buy a tire sucks. In one way, I do not want people to know. I just want to be normal. In another way, I wish I could explain it everyone so that they would not think that I was just lazy or using them or whatever ill thought they think of me when I don’t behave like they think I should. My own family doesn’t know severe it is. That’s terrible.

And so, now I realize how disconnected I am and have always been.
Connection. Yeah.

Be Brave.
Jamie Christine