I have shared much on here about my anxiety/panic attacks. They can occur several times a day. I struggle on waking to get moving. I scan my body as I lie there checking if I am releasing or holding my breath, at times I wake up with what feel to be like 1,000 volts of electric fire coursing my system. I then often struggle after I eat food as I feel my body pulled this way and that. The other critical times for attack are in the afternoon after returning from time out and around that critical time between 5 and 7 pm which is the time of day I was born and the time of day I had my accident in 2005 after a cranio-sacral session.
But what I also remember from the day of the accident was I had spent a lot of the day in bed in the room in my lodgings (at that time with a family in Cambridge). I was only about 12 months out of my separation with my husband and I had made a friend at the Psychological Astrology Course in London called Lucy. Lucy and I connected for a long time but this day on the phone she was rattling pots and pans and my anger got triggered and I got upset with her and accused her of not listening and hung up. We haven’t ever spoken again and I had my accident later that afternoon after my cranio session where I relived the trauma of my smash up in 1979.
I am thinking about all of this this week because I am reading the book Calming The Emotional Storm and in it they talk of how our interpretations of an event can drive and amp up our feelings. For example I assumed Lucy wasn’t listening to me when she probably was, my own abandonment wound was triggered too as a deep part of my own mother wound was Mum was always too busy to be there for me and often I was left in the car while the whole family went into the club to have drink and pay the poker machines. Oh and sometimes Mum would just ‘forget’ to pick me up after school and I would be standing there waiting feeling a mix of painful emotions, sadness, disappointment, anger, frustration and loss. Later in life I learned to turn to booze or drugs or food to cope with these feelings which is probably why, when I eat now, I can get an attack. (Just really made the connection while writing.)
The other day I subverted one of these attacks by trying as hard as I could to get the focus ‘off’ of my body symptoms. I actually managed to eat and bath and get out for a walk with Jasper all without having one panic attack. I felt so empowered by that as these attacks when bad have often left me feeling suicidal and could keep me paralysed or debilitated for days on end.
I read in the book The Power of Panic that it is the perfectionists among us who suffer most from panic attacks. We can drive our own anxiety by setting impossible or unrealistic standards and that is part of my problem and my sister’s too as I see it as we were raised in a spotless house where no fun was to be had until chores were all done. We had to polish our own shoes, iron our own school uniforms and we lived in fear if things weren’t perfectly in control as my Mum could fly into a rage if so and she had this way of flaring her nostrils like a wild horse and that was a trigger sign we better run for cover. I remember being hit by a flying hair brush once, having my bottom pierced by the bristles of a brush when she laid into me one day when I didn’t stand still while she tried to brush my hair. And oh she had my long hair cut off because it was too much work to have to take care of long hair.
I once got in trouble with an AA member for getting upset when a hair dresser took too much off my hair and making a complaint. I was told by this older sober member that I was ‘off the programme’ and that she didn’t want to speak to me any more. At that stage of my life I was living in almost complete isolation at the family coast house and she was my one contact with the world, apart from a wonderful therapist in Sydney, Brian Hunt who first started to try to help me deal with my buried childhood trauma in 1992, just a year before I got sober. When I had asked this person if I could move back to Sydney to be closer to her, she said it was too much to ask (fair enough but gosh it hurt then.)
Anyway I eventually got into a disastrous relationship with an Adult Child of a violent alcoholic who didn’t have any interest in recovery and more pain and panic rained down on me. And it was frustrating for him too that I could not manage to get my focus off of my symptoms long enough at times to be fully emotionally present. I don’t blame him any more but I do know his empathy muscle was wasted down to zilch due to his own unaddressed trauma.
Today I use my wise mind to get off my painful absorbing symptoms as much as I can. I am not always successful. I am also trying to get a better handle on when I drive more emotional reactions with thoughts and interpretations which may or may not be valid. I wish to God I bought that first book I mentioned a few years ago when I first read about it. Its such an invaluable resource as it has a chapter which explains what each emotion is and how it feels to experience it in the body. It also helps us to name those emotions so we don’t need to be so overpowered by them. I will share more of it in time as I like to help others here too who may not be able afford these resources. Today I am having anxiety and panic but I am addressing it. I am not sure it will ever leave me, the best I can do is try my very best to understand and manage it.