Saturday, June 15, 2013

Life Behind the Bars

It is unmistakable when it starts.  First, there is an overwhelming feeling of heat.  A cold sweat beads up on your face.  The heart begins to beat faster than what anyone thought was possible.  You cannot remove the invisible hands around your neck that choke the life out of you.  No matter how deep you grasp for a breath, there isn’t one.  There is so much panic that only death will relieve you. 

When I reach for my shoes or keys, it begins to coat me.  When the sun has gone down, and I am only feet away from the front door, that is when I feel soaked in it.  There is darkness about it that is nowhere near your typical sundown.  This darkness is one that is crippling.  One person out of seventy-five can share my hell.  Panic attacks are made comical on television and movies.  However, Panic attacks are anything but funny. 

I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in 2006.  I have suffered from anxiety my entire life.  I guess you could say that my anxiety controls me.  If I get to the front door, and my anxiety medications have not begun to work, I will turn around and head straight back to the comfort of my room.  Yes, I have one spot downstairs, and one spot upstairs that I go to for comfort.  

I must admit, there is nothing worse than having your two children watch you collapse into a pile of tears and fear.  My children know my story.  My children have met my mother.  My children are incredibly understandable.  My children see my strength.  

As hard as it may be to grasp all of this, there is also strength that picks me up everyday and forces me out of my bed.  Strength that forces me to drive cross country with my kids on a vacation to Maryland.  It is during those times that my kids learn my strength and perseverance. 

I am fortunate to have a therapy dog that assists me in my daily life.  My eighteen month old Newfoundland, Teddy, positions himself behind me at the ATM.  He reassures me that no one will get past him to hurt me.  Teddy walks with me at the store and down the street.  Teddy alerts me to people that he does not trust.  Teddy is my shadow, my guardian, my friend.  

I was a stupid, careless, foolish, and reckless teenager.  I am capable of looking back now, and see that I had a death warrant.  Things that I thought were just crazy and stupid teenage behaviors, were in reality, attempts to take my life.  Despite those subconscious attempts, I survived.  

Some nights, while I’m lying in bed, I listen to Bridge Over Troubled Waters, and I cry.  Silent tears of a heart that was crushed beyond recognition.  Bloody tears from a broken heart that tries to make rhyme and reason to why God wanted me here so badly.  

For a long time, I was angry that God spared me.  I hated God for my being alive.  I had suffered so much pain throughout my lifetime that I thought I deserved peace.  Some say that you can reassemble a broken heart if you have the pieces.  I do not agree.  I believe that a heart can be taped together, but the binding may not last.  I believe that the brain and the heart develop an intricate mechanism necessary to survival.  

Unlike some of my blogs, this blog has no single happy ending.  I still battle demons.  I still run from dark shadows that chase me.  I hold my childhood in the cells of my body, where a frightened little girl peers from behind a post to see what is safe.  I battle the feeling of suffocation and lack of control.  I feel frustrated that other people can get dressed, put on their shoes and drive to a movie theatre.  I feel frustration that my outings require time for me to build up strength and courage.  I feel sorrow that there are some places I just will never be able to go.  

I am grateful for the best doctor in the world.  A doctor that heals both the mind and body.  It is he who has helped me remain strong.  Jeff always tells me, “You’re tougher than nails Linda.”  I hang on to those words when I feel that I am at my weakest.  

I am grateful for my Teddy that is with me every step I take.  This one hundred pound dog that has given me every ounce of his heart.  Teddy has given me his love, and if necessary, Teddy would give me his life.  I am so fortunate that he is part of my every move.  I have a bond with Teddy that only other trauma survivors would understand. 

I am grateful for my family.  They stand with me through the times that are the hardest.  They quickly jump in to anchor me when I am vulnerable.  My family does not allow me to agonize over an upcoming trip to the store.  They do not throw me a life preserver, they become my life preserver.  My family does not allow me to feel like a freak.  My family, instead, bands together to hold me up.  They are my rock and my pillar.  My family and friends band together to become my tower of strength.  

Not all survivors of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder have a strong central foundation and core.  Many survivors not only seek what is familiar, but they are unable to acknowledge the situation as dysfunctional.  My childhood and much of my adult life has been steeped in unhappy memories.  I have tried to evade the source of my misery.  I have tried to confront my misery.  I have prayed for a shield of protection and a shield of body armor.  As for my soul, there may be an impenetrable wall surrounding it, but it is gentle, caring, protective, loving, and compassionate.  My soul will leave its fingerprint, long after I have physically departed this earth.

Photo by Josh Allyn

                ** If interested in Photo's by Joshua Allyn, please message me. 


  1. Feel this too...have for many years..
    Of course your story brings I would love to hug you..maybe for my own self pleasure..not that I'm self absorbed but u felt it and you feel it too...would certainly like to find out how u found a doctor....this has been my hugest fear...seeing another doctor...finding help for my irrational mind n facing my fear..

  2. When we move back east next year, you and I will be closer Kat. We definitely will need to get together. Anxiety, PTSD, and pain change who we are for life. We'll get through it together though.