I want my life back.

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There hasn’t been one morning since Trump became president that I haven’t woke up with my stomach in knots and my heart racing. It’s impossible to get back to sleep and the first thing I always do is pull up Twitter to find out what the latest calamity is.

I’m edgy with people, edgy at work all the time, edgy with my family.  I can barely function due to the constant nerves.  And it’s all because of the political situation which occupies my mind 24/7 and is growing worse with each passing day.

Self care (which I recommend!) is only a temporary respite from the endless rollercoaster of anxiety, anger, dread, and depression.  Going on vacation helps, but I can’t afford to do that more than once or twice a year.   And even then, in the back of my mind, is the heavy feeling of knowing that soon,  I’ll once again have to face our dark reality.   Self care activities are necessary, but all they do is keep me from falling into the abyss.  They don’t remove me from its edge.

I have NEVER had this kind of reaction before to ANY president.   Even when I didn’t particularly like the president or his political platform, in the back of my mind I always knew he knew what he was doing, was going to protect democracy,  and that we were more or less safe from terrorism, both foreign and domestic.  I could focus on other things besides politics. Since January 9, 2017 I can’t.

I read somewhere that in functioning democracies, people don’t obsess about politics. They can actually live their lives.  Since January 9, 2017 I feel like my life has been on hold and I can never relax.

Maybe in 9 days, we can put some much needed checks and balances back in place to keep this despotic president under control.   Perhaps then I can relax a little.  But I have a feeling no matter how the election goes,  calamity will ensue.   Trump’s base is so huge, so violent and so full of hatred toward most Americans, that I fear if we win,  there will be civil war waged against us (which Trump himself has threatened).   Already there seem to be bands of roving vigilantes and right wing militia groups sprouting up like metastatic tumors in the body republic, and not just at the southern border (where they await the “caravan” which consists primarily of women and children seeking asylum, not rapists, MS-13, and murderers).  I have no faith these groups will be kept in check by our military, and no faith our military will even take our side (even though they’re supposed to protect the Constitution, not the president).

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Two days ago, pipe bombs were sent through the mail to Democratic leaders and reporters by a Trump supporting white supremacist (yet the Trump camp, as they always do, blames the victim, claiming Democrats sent the bombs to themselves).   We were fortunate this time that the bombs were intercepted and defused before a disaster (or many disasters) happened, but next time, someone may die.  And there will be a next time.   We have become as tribal and violent as a third world country — and the violence isn’t coming from Antifa (which is a tiny minority on the very far left that engages in vandalism, not violence against actual people) or the left.   Resistance protests have been peaceful, with any violence that occurs stirred up by counterprotesters (Charlottesville) and far right domestic terrorist groups like the Proud Boys and other far right extremist groups.   The left (which now includes what used to be moderates and Never Trumpers due to the rightward shift of the Overton Window) has been gaslighted, demonized, and smeared by the Trump regime and its cult members to the point that anyone who disapproves of Trump and the toxic fear based rhetoric he spews at his rallies is seen as an enemy.   We have been identified and marginalized.   Removal of our rights and finally elimination will follow.   People are going to die.

If we lose, I don’t even want to think about what’s going to happen.   It’s too terrifying to contemplate.

I just want this madness to end.   I don’t want to have to obsess about politics anymore.

I just want my life back.

 

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Update about my son’s mental health ordeal.

This is just a quick update about my son, who started suffering severe panic attacks/dissociation episodes and a week later, from near-suicidal depression.

He is doing much better.   It turned out the medication the Emergency Room gave him to control the panic attacks (lorazepam — commercially known as Ativan) had an adverse effect on him and caused the depression.   Since he stopped taking them, he has not been depressed.

He’s been a lot less anxious too, but that may have been job-related.   He was transferred to a different location which is closer to his home, and is less stressful, and he has not had another attack.

He still plans to find a therapist, since he is an anxious person who has OCD and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, which my daughter also has).  Having these disorders together makes a person likely to suffer sudden panic attacks.

Thanks for everyone’s thoughts and prayers!  I do think that helped too.

“George.”

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Linda Lee, who writes “A Blog About Healing from PTSD”  wrote this article about how she learned to deal with her panic attacks — and the advice is quite simple.

GET ANGRY! 

Yes, get angry.   While anger isn’t an ideal place to be, it’s a much more proactive and stronger emotion than fear.

The other day, I wrote about the panic attacks my son has been suffering from.   As his concerned mom (who used to suffer from panic attacks myself), I’ve been talking to him every day, monitoring his progress.    He’s been getting some good advice from his friends, since he hasn’t been able to see a therapist yet (but is planning to soon).

The best advice I heard of came from someone who told him to name his panic attacks.  By naming them, you effectively separate them from yourself, and they become an outside “person” instead of a part of yourself you can’t separate from.

So he decided to name them “George.”  Whenever he sees George coming, he tells him to get lost and yes, he gets angry at George.   He tells George he’s nothing but a big bully with no real power over him.  My son is much stronger than George and he tells him so.    George hasn’t gone away yet, but he’s having less power over my son than he did, and doesn’t seem quite so dangerous.

Panic attacks, dissociation, and my son’s anxiety issues.

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Geometries by M.C. Escher

 

My son, who already suffers from OCD and ADHD (both diagnosed) tweeted this the other night:

I just had one of the strangest things happen… and it was the scariest experience of my life. I just had a Depersonalization/Derealization episode. It was SO FUCKING TERRIFYING. I thought I was gonna wake up in the ER or never sleep again.

Then later:

Other than OCD, ADHD and depression i have no psych disorders i know of. That shit LITERALLY made me feel like i’d lost my grip on reality and self.

The next day:

I’m going to the emergency room.

A few hours later:

Guys, if anything happens i love you all. Absolutely terrified in the waiting room rn feeling like death.

Late last night:

I got released. They gave me an anxiety pill. It was officially diagnosed as an anxiety attack.

Today:

Looking into therapy. my anxiety is getting REALLY bad.

As his mom, of course I was alarmed by these tweets.  But, as someone who used to suffer from panic attacks just as debilitating during my 20s and 30s, I KNOW HOW HE FEELS!  Panic attacks suck, and the type that involve dissociation are absolutely the worst.   For me, the dissociation usually involved derealization (feeling like your environment was unreal) but sometimes depersonalization (feeling like you’re disconnected from the world or like you’re not in your own body) too.

The panic might be hereditary.  His father suffers from anxiety attacks too.   I used to have exactly the kind of panic attacks he describes — always some kind of dissociative hell where I felt like everything was a dream and the people around me suddenly looked very frightening — either robotic or demonic.  Sometimes they looked like wax figures or seemed like they were being run by machines, and the environment itself became very surreal and dreamlike.  Sometimes it looked like a cartoon or two-dimensional.

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Museum installation by artist Peter Koler

During the worst attacks, I used to feel like I was literally outside of my body, and that really freaked me out.   I actually would have trouble controlling my body.  I remember once this happened to me on the subway in New York (which is scary enough as it is!) and I literally had to run off the train as soon as it stopped and ran into a corner and started whimpering.    Sometimes I used to have to bite my hands to feel “real.”   There were a few times I actually drew blood from doing that.    These dissociative episodes felt just like a bad drug trip, and I’ve had a few of those too.

I suffered from my first dissociative panic attack at about age 10.  I was playing outside in the early evening in the driveway and suddenly I felt like I wasn’t in my body.   But I wasn’t able to find the words to describe the feeling, and when I tried to tell my mother about how “weird” I felt, she had no idea what I was talking about and said I was being overdramatic and imagining things.   Eventually it passed, but from then on, every so often I’d get that weird feeling again.   As I entered my teens and twenties, the attacks became worse and more frequent.   They eventually tapered off when I reached my thirties and I haven’t had a full blown panic attack in years.

In my case, the episodes may have been due to my generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or possibly from C-PTSD and/or BPD.    I don’t think my son has BPD, but he likely has PTSD or C-PTSD (his father is a narcissist and we had a very toxic marriage when the kids were young, which I have described elsewhere in this blog).   OCD can definitely cause a person to have anxiety or panic attacks, and I’m sure having ADHD just exacerbates the tendency.

I talked to him tonight for a while about this, and suggested some mindfulness tools that have helped me.   I think CBT could help him with this.  Thankfully, he has health insurance with his job, and has set up an appointment to see a therapist.  The emergency room gave him a short term prescription for some anti-anxiety meds (not benzodiazepines though).   But there are many things he can do to help himself too.

He has never sought therapy for his anxiety or OCD because he’s been able to deal with it  on his own until now, but he does need help with the panic and dissociation.   He also admitted his new job is much more stressful than he expected, and he is already looking around for something else.

If you pray, please send your prayers his way.  No one ever died or went crazy from a panic attack, but as someone who’s suffered from them, I know they can certainly feel that way when you’re in the midst of one!

*****

Further reading:

Derealization and Depersonalization in BPD and NPD

My worst nightmare.

I’m a natural worrywart.   A few days ago, when Irma was still out in the middle of the Atlantic and Harvey was still the #1 topic, I wrote a post about being worried that Irma might hit my son, who lives in the Tampa Bay area.   My rational mind told me I was probably just catastrophizing, because I tend to do that.  I mean, what were the chances the eyewall of this storm, would actually go right over him?  It really didn’t seem all that likely.

But I couldn’t shake the bad feeling I had.   I have good intuition, but my intuition tends to get mixed up with my tendency to catastrophize everything, and it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference.  As a result, my intuition doesn’t always work very well, since I get “bad vibes” even about things that pose no danger.

This time, my intuition was accurate.   As the days passed since I wrote that post,  Irma appears to be doing exactly what I prayed it wouldn’t do.   Like a sadistic narcissist, this bitch has been teasing me and giving false hope — she moved to the east for awhile and looked like she was going to head up the Atlantic, sparing the Tampa area from the worst of the storm.   I was able to relax a bit and laugh at myself for having been so worried.

But yesterday she shifted back to the west.  Unless a miracle happens, she will be skirting up the western coast of Florida, with the eyewall passing directly over my son’s area.  It won’t have weakened too much by the time the worst of it hits late Sunday night or early Monday morning — at best it might be a category 3 hurricane, which is still pretty bad.

My son is in some ways his father’s son.   He lacks his dad’s narcissism and lack of empathy or conscience, but he definitely has his stubborness.    I’ve been begging him to evacuate and drive up here until the danger passes.   He said he didn’t have gas money.  I told him not to worry about money and that I would provide anything he would need, but his answer was no.  He’s determined to stay and ride this thing out.  Now it’s too late for him to evacuate even if he decided to finally do so (which I know he won’t).   The roads going north are bumper to bumper and there is no gas to be had.

I think there is another reason for his decision to stay besides his stubborness.   Since he was a small boy, he’s always been fascinated by storms.   When he was in his early teens, he flirted with the idea of being a tornado chaser.  He used to watch all those Weather Channel shows about brave men and women who put themselves in the paths of dangerous tornadoes just for the adrenaline rush and to take videos of them for the rest of us more faint-hearted people to marvel at.

So I think he sees this as the opportunity of a lifetime, an adventure like no other, a dream come true for any fan of severe weather who is a bit of an adrenaline junkie too.  He wants to have a story to tell, a story that few others will be able to tell.   It’s like being a fighter pilot in World War II and or having climbed Mount Everest.   “I was in Hurricane Irma back in ’17,” is something that will definitely get people’s attention.

My son is not going into this blind.   He has been tracking this storm, paying attention to the warnings and evacuation orders, has gotten all the supplies he needs, and has chosen to leave his apartment (which is in the storm surge zone) and go slightly inland to a sturdy one story brick home where he will be riding Irma out with about 9 of his friends (it’s still in Tampa though).   They are well prepared and he tells me they are not in an area prone to storm surge or flooding.

But this hurricane is a beast, and who knows what havoc she will bring?  Irma is unpredictable, and not like any other hurricane.  Even if my son and his friends are safe from storm surge, they are not safe from the furious winds, which will be around 100-112 mph as the eyewall passes over them.   More than anything, I am glad he is not alone.  But I’m still terrified for him.

Please keep my son and his friends in your prayers.

I feel like I’m about to snap.

I’m not handing all the bad news well today, especially now that I have to worry about a major hurricane possibly hitting where my son lives next weekend.   All my C-PTSD and BPD symptom are triggered — dissociation, hypervigilance, obsessive monitoring of the weather/news in general, physical symptoms (fatigue, headache), snappishness, mood swings, isolation, feeling helpless, and intense anxiety are all symptoms that have returned and threaten to overwhelm me.

I recently quit therapy because I felt guilty about not wanting to talk about anything but the political situation, but dammit, it’s so triggering and I take it very personally, given my background of abuse.   So I might have to go back soon.

I’ve been busy on Twitter (I’m meeting a lot of fellow #resisters there and it’s how I get the most up to date news).  Today I just had to sound off.    It was just stream of conscienceness venting.   It feels good to get all this off my chest, even if no one was really paying attention.  (Read bottom to top).  

I chose my new Twitter user name because it makes me laugh and I need all the laughs I can get.   Gallows humor does help.

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Free-floating anxiety.

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I’m a nervous wreck today.  I didn’t go to work because of my nerves, and even though I always spend the whole day feeling guilty about staying out of work,  I keep doing it anyway.   I tried to sleep in, but wasn’t able to because the anxiety kept flooding in and making my heart pound.  I finally gave up on trying to sleep.  I got up and tried to identify what was making me so jittery but I just can’t.  Every little noise I hear makes me jump.   I don’t feel like going out or doing anything, but if I stay inside I will go nuts.    I turned off the TV because the news makes me crazy.  I tried to read a book but it’s hard to focus.  Maybe I’ll bake something or just drive somewhere.   I hate this feeling.  I feel like jumping out of my skin.      It helps a little to write about it though.   Usually in the evenings it’s better, so I just have to wait, I guess.

 

Last night’s anxiety dream.

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I don’t have that many anxiety dreams anymore, but when I do have them they are doozies and tend to be extremely vivid.

The one I had last night bordered on being a nightmare.    It was nighttime (for some reason, in these dreams it’s always late at night) and I was in a vast subway system (like New York City’s) and had no idea where I was.   I was trying to make it home, and kept taking the wrong sets of stairs and getting lost on the wrong platforms.  I’d go and ask people where the platform I should be on was to get home, but no one seemed to be able to answer me.    I was becoming frustrated and upset, and was on the verge of crying.

Then the strangers I asked for directions began to make fun of me — somehow knowing I was originally from the New York area, and unable to believe I couldn’t find my way around a big subway system.   I continued to climb stairs and look for my train on different platforms (there seemed to be thousands) and then I realized with horror that I couldn’t even remember where I lived!   That’s when I woke up and it took me a few minutes to shake off the dream — and I spent a minute or two trying to remember where I lived before it came back to me.

*****

Later today, I’m going to an ACA rally in downtown.   I’ll report back later, with photos.

 

Your fear is trying to tell you something.

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The Truth about Depression and Anxiety.

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Credit: @TheWeirdWorld on Twitter