Monday, February 11, 2013

Frozen in Fear ... Warmed by Love


I groggily arose from the bed, and rubbed the tired edges of my eyes, having crusted over with cold symptoms.  As my eyes finally opened wide, I glanced out the bedroom window to see that thick layers of snow had accumulated, while I slept restlessly, upon the land and the tree branches.  The snow rested heavily upon the limbs of pine trees, weighing the branches lowly down, nearing the ground.  With this sight, I felt as though the weight of this heavy snow was weighing down upon my own body, crushing my heart, making me feel stuck and immobilized. 

I began to hyperventilate.  My mind began to race.  I don’t want to go out there. I can’t go out in that weather.  It could happen again.  It can’t happen to my children like it did to me.  I won’t go out there.  It’s today, the exact day. These racing thoughts flooded upon me; I was drowning in waves of anxiety and fear.  Flashbacks that had formerly been erased from my mind came back to me.  I saw the vehicle come crashing horizontally into me on this day, February 11th, over a decade ago.  Over a decade ago, but the event lingers with me in diagnosed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  I tamped my hands over my ears believing I could hear the loud, crashing, grinding sound of metal automobile exteriors slamming rapidly into each other.  I could hear the sirens this morning, even though they existed only in a memory over a decade away.  I could hear the calming voice of the police officers explaining how I would be removed from my vehicle with the jaws of life, I not fully understanding their gentle intonations as I could only hear my own violent screaming and sobbing, staring forward at a spider webbed windshield, frozen and disoriented in that moment. These violent memories engulfed me. 
 
1988 Buick Electra after the accident - I truly believe this car saved my life

I managed to slow my breathing, call my husband to explain my fears, and then go to the medicine cabinet to find and consume my clonazepam – an anti-anxiety medication.  Yet, even as I write this, my legs are restless, my mind restless, my memory haunting and my mind bound up in irrational fears.  I was alone then, but I would have my children with me if I were to leave today.  No. Not on this day – not February 11th.  I can’t bring harm to them.  The seventeen year old boy in the passenger seat who was declared dead upon impact.  The seventeen year old boy in the driver seat in a coma for four months.  No, no, no.  My children will not meet such a fate, so I must stay home.  I must.
But, fuck, I don’t want to miss any more work.  What do I call and say?  I’m sorry I can’t come to work today, but I’m fucking crazy and I’m terrified that if I leave I will kill my own children in an automobile accident.  The weather is making me anxious, and I can’t form cohesive thoughts.  I’m not okay, okay? It’s embarrassing, but this is my reality. 

I hung up the phone with my husband, who was on his way home from work to make sure that I survived the day and that the children would have one competent parent home with them.  I felt foolish and embarrassed and why didn’t I just suck it up and straighten my shit out, get to work, and stop letting nightmares of past events corrupt my current life.

Another view of the Buick
 
Shortly after I hung up with my spouse, my mother called.  “Are you going to work today, Angela?” she asked.  I replied that I wasn’t, and, with great shame and self-judgment, I tried to explain the flashbacks and the terror– how I felt sick to my stomach and frozen in fear.  I thought she would judge me too, and tell me to get over it already, get the kids ready for day care, and get in the damn car so I don’t put strain on my employer, having to find a substitute with late notice.

She said none of this.  Rather she said, “I know what this day is, Angela.  I know that was a long time ago, but I know it still hurts you.  If the roads were clear, I would tell you to be brave and move forward.  But, Angela, I just went into town and the roads are awful.  I don’t want you to go to work today.  Let your employer deal with it however they need to.  You need to protect yourself and your children.  Your PTSD is real.  Did you take some of your clonazepam?  And will Sam be home?  Okay. Okay.  You’ll be okay.  Just relax and give those children all your love, knowing they are safe at home.  I want you and them safe at home.  It will be okay.”

It’s hard to believe it’s going to be okay now as I sit in tears watching more snow fall upon the roads.  It’s hard to believe it’s going to be okay given the guilt I feel over missing work, and also knowing my husband is losing wages by coming home to take care of me and the children.  It’s hard to believe it will be okay when I feel like such a god-damn burden to those that love me.  But the most important part of that statement is that I have so many people who love me.  My spouse, my children, my parents, my in-laws, they all love me and they all know that my illness is real --- this manic-depression, this seasonal affective disorder, this anxiety, this post-traumatic stress disorder. 

The best medicine for all of these, while I still rely on mood stabilizers and anti-depressants, is the love and support of my family.  I am choosing to believe my mother today.  I am missing work, and the memories that accompany this snow fall weigh heavily upon my heart, but it will be okay.   It will be okay.  I am loved.  I won’t suffer any loss today in the warmth of my home.  Maybe it’s irrational to need to stay here, to be brought to hyperventilation by the thought of traveling those roads, but the safety of my home and the support of my family is what I need today.  It’s my medicine. 



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46 comments:

  1. Way to take care of yourself today.You truly are a survivor in so many ways. I didn't realize you were in such a horrific automobile accident. Thank you for sharing; I hope it helps with the healing.

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    1. Thanks Angie! I still don't recall much of the accident. My head injury was so bad I didn't know my age, and I UW-L and worked at Ship Shape Car Wash (neither of which were true). Very random.

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  2. I'm glad you have the medicine (in the form of your family) that you need.

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    1. Thank you. I consider myself very lucky now. I'm also glad to have awesome "blogging buddies" like you who always have something kind to say and cheer me up. Thanks Stephen!

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  3. Girl, I wish I could send you some of our Texas sunshine; there's plenty to go around! But it sounds like you have a wonderful husband, children and mom, so let them love you and this dark month will pass. Big hug!

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  4. Your Mom is awesome. Her support and validation came at just the right time.

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  5. So glad for you that you have a husband and mother who care so much for you. ((( HUGS )))

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    1. Thank you, and thanks for the virtual hugs. I take hugs however I can get them. Hugs back to you!

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  6. Girl, your family sounds fantastic. That's all you need.

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    1. Thanks. I think I'll keep this husband. :)

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  7. Hugs to you, Angela. Tough stuff. Don't pile guilt on top of it, just love. xo

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    1. Thanks so much for the "just love" part of this. That's so difficult to do, but so needed. Thanks Shannon!

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  8. The outside world can deal. There's nothing wrong with protecting your family and wanting to stay home, no need to feel guilty despite the past.

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    1. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Guilt is a real sneaky little fucker though, always lingering around and creeping in.

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  9. I know those feelings all too well. I'm glad you chose to believe your mom rather than doing the "yeah, but" thing and beating yourself up.

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    1. Thanks. I totally owe you one of Next Step's 18 hour support awards when I get around to giving those out.

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  10. It's so great that your mom gave you the kind, supportive words that you needed and that your family supports you, and that you appreciate it so much.

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    1. Thanks. I did truly feel much better after she told me she didn't want me at work either.

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  11. I have never had post-traumatic stress, but because of this piece, I feel like I have some insight into what it must be like. I don't blame you one bit for huddling in your safe and cozy house on that day of all days. I am glad for you that you have such a supportive mother and family to prop you up when you need it.

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    1. Thank you. PTSD is miserable, especially when it's added on to the other crap. I'm a mess, but I'm a well-loved mess. :)

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  12. Thanks for sharing this story. I know it wasn't easy, but I imagine it was very cathartic to write it all out. I'm glad you chose to stay home and write this piece, and that you have plenty of people who support and love you.

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    1. Yes. Writing is incredibly cathartic. This was probably one of the more difficult things for me to write about, harder even than writing about surviving rape.

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  13. It's so important to have the love and support and understanding of family, especially when depression and anxiety are concerned and I'm so glad you have that. Hugs to you. Such a horrific memory. So glad you're here today to

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  14. Awesome Mom you have, really! So glad you are not suffering alone. Beautiful writing about such a hard subject!

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  15. i'm so glad you stayed home. i so felt your anxiety and guilt. you don't just get over trauma, it stays with you. and some days, like that one, you need to take care of you.

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    1. You're so right that you just don't get over trauma. It doesn't matter that it's been twelve years, it's surely still there. It's not always so evident, but when it decides to make its presence well known, damn it hurts.

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  16. You're a brave woman to walk through this terrifying fear and anxiety. I can't imagine you not having the feelings you described after what you went through. I'm happy you took the day for self care. And I love your mom's reaction - what a gift you are to each other.

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    1. Thank you Mary. My mom's words that day were indeed an incredible gift.

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  17. Your mom said just the right thing at the precise time. I'm glad you stayed home and protected your family. You are lucky to have so much support. I truly understand what impact an accident can have on you long term. My one year anniversary is coming up in June and, although it seems forever ago, I experience trememdous discomfort when memories of my accident slithers into my thoughts. It happens a lot. I get it. HUG!!!!

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    1. Yes. That's why you had the neck brace, am I correct? I broke my knee and was in a full leg cast, and also fractured my jaw, and had traumatic head injury. A few cuts, bruises, and scrapes of course, which I'm sure accompanied your more serious injuries too. I'll be thinking of you and hoping you get over that hump when your awful anniversary rolls around. Thanks for the hugs and right back at you! :)

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  18. You are so fortunate to have such a loving and supportive family. It's always better to take care of YOU first. It's really better that you stayed home.

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    1. Thank you; I am indeed grateful for them.

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  19. I get this. I was in an accident years ago. Minor in that nobody was hurt. To this day I flinch in any situation that appears similar.

    Your mom sounds wonderful - knowing exactly when she needs to push you and when she needs to comfort you.

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  20. Your mom IS awesome. Thank goodness she understands and the rest of your family too. I can't believe the pictures of that car. It did save your life...that big beautiful Buick.

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  21. Those photos are horrifying. My god, Angela! I'm so sorry that happened to you.

    At the same time, I am applauding your mother for saying exactly what you needed to make it OK. You're right: Love is the most important medicine.

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  22. Oh my goodness, I'm so sorry you had to go through this. Those pictures are horrible. I can't even imagine...I'm so glad you have the family support and keep giving yourself grace and you deal with this!

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  23. You come first, my dear. You did the right thing and you are so smart to recognize what you needed. Not what everyone else needed. Bravo. You may not have felt strong but you were. And you are. You are (more than) enough.

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  24. While reading this, I almost felt what you're feeling. Not quite, of course, because I can't really fathom just how awful it must be to live with this memory. Thank goodness you have a strong network of folks who take care of you. Hugs.

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  25. Memories are a powerful thing, good and bad. Hopefully you take the good from surviving, even as the car gave its life for you. Powerful story.

    WG

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  26. I am so glad that you have the support that you do!
    *hugs*

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  27. thank you for sharing your story and your fears. It sounds like you are surrounded by love and support.

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  28. That is just awful. I'm glad your mom is so supportive and that you stayed home.

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