Archives for November, 2012
(This is the seventeenth post in a series called “Anxiety Society”, in which I interview everyday anxiety sufferers from all walks of life about their struggles, their triumphs, their coping methods, and more. I believe that the more we openly talk about our mental health, the less of a “thing” it becomes. Conversation can reduce stigma, and my interviewees want to be a part of that.) Earlier this week, we met Sveta, a twenty-year-old blind woman with complex PTSD and dysthymia. Today, Sveta shares the story of her emotionally abusive childhood. SB: I'm so sorry to hear about the abuse. What was the abuse like and how did it affect you as a person? What did you do, if anything, to cope? S: My parents didn't like me because I was blind. My mother was the main abuser, though Dad ranks a close second. He once told me he doesn't think emotional abuse is real. I assure you it is. SB: Wow. S: I was alienated from my brothers because my mother claimed I was a liar. I was home schooled by my mother who would punish me severely if I got anything wrong, stating it was a "reflection of her teaching skills". I was sent away to a boarding school, where the abuse from the students and restrictions by the staff only made things worse, and then Mom left and didn't even say goodbye to me. Heaven forbid if she was angry with me. SB: What happened if she was angry with you?
(This is the sixteenth post in a series called “Anxiety Society”, in which I interview everyday anxiety sufferers from all walks of life about their struggles, their triumphs, their coping methods, and more. I believe that the more we openly talk about our mental health, the less of a “thing” it becomes. Conversation can reduce stigma, and my interviewees want to be a part of that.) Meet Sveta. She loves music, listening to bird calls, and reading. Although she's just in her early twenties, she's already been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and dysthymia. Her diagnoses follow a difficult and abusive childhood. What makes Sveta's story a bit different from most stories of PTSD and abuse is this: she's also blind. Although she can perceive colors and shapes, and distinguish between light and dark, that's the extent of her visual ability. The blindness affects everything from her ability to escape triggering situations to her anxiety coping strategies. Her parents still largely control the minutae of her everyday life, so Sveta finds herself struggling to carve out her own strategies for controlling her environment. Summer: Have you always been blind, or were you able to see at some point in your life? Sveta: I was born 3 months and 2 weeks early. I was put on oxygen because I couldn't breathe. The result was that not only could I breathe, but the blood vessels in my eyes grew too fast, forcing the retina and the eye apart. SB: And you suffer from an anxiety disorder, correct? Do you mind sharing your diagnoses? S: I have been diagnosed with dysthymia, also known as chronic depression and complex PTSD, which is like BPD but to a lesser degree. SB: Do you feel the dysthymia was always present, or did it develop at some point in your life? S: The dysthymia was always there for as long as I can remember. My parents used to make fun of my love for minor keys saying, "You only like songs where someone dies". This, of course, isn't true. I like the minor key, not the death. It happens, sometimes, that songs where someone dies are in minor keys. It also happens that in songs in minor keys, sometimes, someone dies.
The other day, I wrote about how I woke up in the middle of the night at about 3:50 am. My left leg was completely numb -- and, amusingly, the full-blown panic attack that followed did not begin as I was limping around my living room with a pins-and-needles leg. The panic only started after my leg had returned to normal. In my last post, I explained how the panic rose (and so did my subjective temperature!). I left off here: there I lay, on my kitchen floor, with cold and clammy skin and a paralyzing fear of losing consciousness. Was it low blood sugar? Was it some other frightening medical problem? Or was it just panic? Just thinking about the prospect of possibly passing out after not being able to bring my blood sugar up (and was it even blood sugar problem? I'll never know; it was only a guess, anyway) convinced me to run to the bathroom, full speed, in case of vomit. I collapsed on the bathroom floor, shaking, feeling only mildly safer to be positioned in front of an acceptable vomit-receptacle. You know, just in case. Just in case. But of course, I'd left my ice pack in the kitchen...and, the baseboard heater was chugging along, right next to the toilet. The heat was unbearable. It took all my strength to lift myself off of the floor, burst into the bedroom, fall onto the bed, and ask my husband for help. Why didn't I ask for help to begin with? Well, see, that's the thing about panic attacks: I want to be able to "come down" from them myself. If I always rely on my husband, or a friend, or someone else, then what happens when I'm driving in my car all alone on a country road and begin to panic in an area with no cell phone reception? If I'm used to relying on someone else to calm me down, I'm screwed. If I can rely on myself, then I can probably cope no matter what the circumstance. Right?
Yesterday, I wrote about how I woke up in the middle of the night at about 3:50 am. The reason for my mid-night wakeup? I'd fallen asleep on the floor in an odd position, and my leg was completely numb. I'm not sure if the numb leg triggered the panic. Surely, there's some level of fear involved when you can't feel a part of your body. (Note to self: this is why I'm scared to death of getting an epidural. No, I'm not pregnant -- not yet, at least -- but the idea of a numb lower body on delivery day is already plaguing my mind.) But no matter what the cause, my body and mind went absolutely haywire just minutes later at 4 am -- after my leg had returned to its normal, non-numb, non-prickly-feeling state. First, I started feeling a little nauseous. Perhaps that's not out of the ordinary, really, given that I'd gotten through a migraine the previous day. (Migraines often cart along nausea as a travel buddy.) So, I sat down on my living room floor and tried to ride it out. But then, sitting in the dark and listening to the click and hiss of our baseboard radiators, I got inexplicably hot. Not "sitting outside on a sunny day" hot. Not "the thermostat is turned up too high" hot. I felt hot enough to pass out and/or melt.
Well, I thought last night at 4:30 am, at least tomorrow's Panic About Anxiety blog post just wrote itself. But let's rewind a a couple of hours first, shall we? I had a hard time falling asleep last night. I don't know why, but I don't often question it. It happens. It's no big deal. What I do know is this: laying in my bed while tossing and turning never seems to help. If I can't sleep, I like to change locations until I'm sleepy enough to return to bed. So at about 2 a.m., Netflix kept me company as I lay curled up with a soft blanket on my living room floor. I fell asleep to TLC's My Strange Addiction. (Who in the hell watches that before bed, you might ask? Well, for context, I was watching an episode about a woman who was addicted to sleeping with her hair dryer every night. So, um, it was sleep-related programming. Sort of.) I fell asleep on the living room floor wrapped up burrito-style in my blanket. It was oddly comfortable. Until 3:50 am rolled around.