Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Re-Independence of Patty

So, I had always thought of myself as a very independent person. I never had a boyfriend growing up, in middle school, high school or even college. This "freedom" definitely allowed me to schedule my own time however I saw fit and with really no concerns or regard for anyone.

Now, I don't mean for that to sound callus, and I also don't mean to insinuate that people that had boyfriends weren't independent, I am just reflecting here.

I was always fairly comfortable going places by myself, going to the movies by myself, shopping by myself, going out to eat by myself, walking by myself, spending time by myself, etc. As an introvert, I revel in my alone time. I  re-energize most when I am alone. I love people, but I can get exhausted, so recharging often happens alone.

I was always good at trouble shooting, I was good at technology, I was good at figuring things out and making things happen. I didn't feel the need to run to others to ask how to do things, or for help. My instinct was ALWAYS to figure things out on my own, it was never to ask "how" or "why" or "who." Again, not trying to sound callus or insinuate anything, but just reflecting on the level of independence I used to feel.

The past few months, however, upon reflection, I realized I was feeling extremely dependent, on those around me and mostly Greg. This was really bothering me. I wasn't used to feeling this way. I wasn't used to feeling like I needed others to answer, fix, help and support.

I started thinking back to when this shift happened. When did I suddenly start losing independent Patty and where did this dependent Patty come from?

For anyone that reads my blogs, it may be obvious to you, but to me, it took me a good minute or so.

Ever since my anxiety attacks starting getting really, really bad back in the winter of 2012-2013, I became afraid. I became afraid of being by myself, doing things by myself and fixing things by myself.

I was living in a world where I was certain that I could either pass out and or die at any moment. For folks that have never had a panic attack, I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. I was walking around the world, walking around the city feeling like I could drop at any moment. I went everywhere with my phone because I wanted to make sure I could call and or text Greg when something happened.

I found myself riding in subways, petrified. I was petrified that something would happen to me on the train, underground or on a platform and NO ONE would ever know what happened to me. I was so afraid for those minutes underground without cell reception. Certain, I was certain that something would happen.

As I would get on the subway in the morning, I would feel the panic reaching fever pitch as soon as the doors closed. I would feel the walls start to close in. I was certain, totally sure I would pass out.

This level of irrational fear followed me for a long time. It started out slow and sporadic. I would get panicky from time to time, starting in 2008. The first time I remember feeling a little panicky (other than my childhood night issues) was in May 2008. I remember sitting at my desk at Rhinelander and suddenly having my first "wave" come over me. A wave of heart racing, panicking and "oh my God I am going to faint" feelings. I remember going into the ladies room and thinking, what is going on. I don't remember what happened, but I do remember that about a month later  I was at the doctor's because I had such a bad headache I thought there was something wrong with me. The doctor literally put one hand on each shoulder and told me I needed to relax. This was my first introduction to tension headaches. I was beyond the point of Advil...they gave me muscle relaxers.

So, started out slow in 2008 and kind of increased over time. Hit a real fever pitch winter of 2012. I became so dependent on Greg. I would text him and tell him I was having another attack and really scared. He would respond and try and talk me down. It put him in a really difficult position and while I know it was what I needed at the time, it was the first time I really felt that way. Really felt like I needed someone with me right there in that moment. That if they weren't there, something certainly would happen.

I can remember, on many occasion, sitting at my desk and all of a sudden, out of nowhere, I would get another wave. Looking back at it, I feel like most often they were brought about by changes I perceived either in  my body or the environment. For example, if the lighting in the room suddenly changed, or I went from a dark room to a light room, if my heart started beating a bit faster or if I felt light headed, if I had low blood sugar. I am really highly sensitive to not only people and things around me, but also to my perception of myself. I am almost too aware of changes that happen, which I think were triggering my attacks.

People would often ask me, "well, what are you worried about??" I feel like more often than not, I wasn't able to pinpoint anything. I am sure there was always an underlying stress of work, my wedding, etc. but other than that, it wasn't like it made sense why I had an attack one day but not the next.

So, I would be sitting at my desk, feel an attack come on and leave my desk. I would text Greg and go to the bathroom. The bathroom was always the first place I would go to see if I could calm myself down. Sometimes  I could and sometimes I could not.

If the bathroom didn't work, I would go back to my desk and grab my purse to walk around the block. I would wait in the hallway for the elevator and I can just remember thinking "please don't die, please don't die." My heart would just race and race and race.  I would get outside and walk around the block.  I would try and calm myself down, talk to Greg and go sit in the park. Sometimes this would help and sometimes it wouldn't.

My last resort was always jumping in a cab and just going home. I always felt so much better as soon as I got home. I would put my pjs on, sit on the couch, watch some tv and snuggle with Norman then it would go away.  I am fairly certain I left work early a good few times because I just needed to.

The other level of my independence being taken away was after I had my huge panic attack while driving, which led to an ambulance trip to the emergency room. This happening while I was driving has made me super fearful of driving long distances. It has really crippled my ability to travel--another thing I never had any problem doing. In high school, college and after college I would drive all over. Heck, Greg and I did a huge 3 week cross country trip back in 2007. I never had any problems and now, suddenly I was paralyzed. I was self-paralyzed.

It has been almost 2 years on medication (Valentine's Day will be two years). Now, while I don't know what the future holds for me as far as medication, I do know that I have finally begun to feel confident about gaining my independence back again. I am finally at a place where I can travel by myself, drive by myself and walk around by myself, not feeling like I need to bring my phone incase something happens.

This all really hit me when I went back to Wheaton a few weeks ago. Now to many, I know this is no big deal, but for me, it really was. I was able to, by myself, take care of Gus, pack him up and bring him to his sitters. This included driving in Queens, which I hadn't done yet and driving to a new place all by myself. Again, I know this may not sound like a big deal, but after the past 2 years it was liberating.

After that I was also able to, for the first time since February 2013, drive all the way to MA from NYC. I hadn't done that drive since my panic attack. After my panic attack I was just driving small distances because there were even a few drives between my parents and Wheaton (about 40 mins) when I first started my medication that were challenging.

Most importantly, perhaps, while at Wheaton I was reminded of independent Patty. Patty that used to take classes by herself, go to the dining hall by herself, go to the library by herself. I was also reminded of leader Patty. Patty that used to be confident in herself, her talents and most importantly feeling "ok."   Not trying to sound like I haven't been confident, but Wheaton really brought me back :)

The meditation, the podcasts, the has all been helping, it has all been making a difference. Being back at Wheaton just kind of snapped me out of it....

I am certain I could take the always feeling like "something was wrong with me" down a psychological path. That is what was always driving my panic attacks, certain something was wrong with me.

So, here I find myself........ Greg gone on another business trip and me finding ways to function by myself. Me finding confidence in being by myself. Me remembering that just because I have anxiety and suffer from panic attacks doesn't me I cannot still rock it. It doesn't mean I cannot still be Patty. I have really found myself with a "no excuses", "grab the bull by the horns" kind of attitude lately.  It may be, in part, because I am feeling some of that confidence, independence come back--thank you Wheaton.

Looking back over everything, I am someone that really tries to be grateful, I try to share openly and to not only help others, but also to help myself. I feel like I am never done growing and will NEVER be done learning. I always feel like I have so much to work on. All that being said, while I have really tried to be open about my panic attacks and anxiety and why I try not to be embarrassed, it really affected me in a way that I didn't realize until just recently. It made me way more dependent than I am comfortable with.

A huge shout out to Greg for dealing with me during my dependent that isn't where I was when we met......

We all need help, we can all use a good hug, we all need support and I am not doubting or questioning any of that. All I am saying is that my panic attacks took a part of me that made me, me and really made it difficult for me to access that part of myself. I was so very afraid.

I can only hope independent Patty is here to stay. She may, on occasion, go into hiding again, as sometimes we all need to be the person being helped and supported, but in this moment, I say again, I am back and happy to help and support anyone that may need it,!  I have been taking for awhile now and am ready to give again.


and thats all she wrote....

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