‘At Times, Our Own Light Goes Out And Is Rekindled By A Spark From Another Person.’ Albert Schweitzer

Dear David (from Gerstein Crisis Centre)

It’s taken me four days to finally be able to compose this letter.

Not because I didn’t care to but because I became too emotional whenever I thought about your kindness towards me during my short stay at Gerstein.

You were the first person during my ordeal who did not see someone who was ‘weak’ and ‘needy’ but instead you saw someone who was tired of fighting so hard.

Someone who just needed a safe place to land.

You gave me that.

From the very minute I stood in front of the office doors as a crying hot mess, until we had talked long enough for me to enter a sleep-like.

state.

You threw me a lifeline.

You listened.

You talked.

You joked.

You laughed.

You related.

You made me feel heard and understood, and there are not simply enough words in the English language to convey my complete gratitude towards you for that.

So from one panic attack sufferer to another…

In words I know you’ll understand best.

I’ll just say:

I’d lay down in the snow with you, until your panic attack passes. 😊

Forever grateful,

Angela

PS if anyone knows him or how to get in touch with him let me know

Advertisements

‘There Are Moments That Mark Your Life. Moments When You Realize Nothing Will Ever Be The Same. And Time Is Divided Into Two Parts – Before This and After This.’ Nicholas Kazan (Fallen)

I had an a-ha moment today in my support group. We were on the first step which is:
1. We admitted to ourselves that we are powerless over our disease. That our lives had become unmanageable.
I got to go last…which meant I got to listen to 3 MS veterans. All having been diagnosed more than 15 years ago.
One spoke of feeling comfortable in being alone on Xmas day.
Someone else spoke of being okay with their sometimes self-imposed isolation. Another spoke of being aware of their limitations, without being self-deprecating.
I sat back and listened.
One in a wheelchair.
One in a scooter.
One with cognitive symptoms.
And I felt envious.
Of them.
Me,with my mostly mobile body.
Me, with my mostly cognitive functioning brain.
I felt jealous of each of them.
I felt jealous of the comfort and grace each of them had come to possess upon accepting their illness.
I sat there and reflected over the last 6 years since diagnosis.
The ups and so so many downs.
The relapses.
The symptoms.
The steroids.
Treatments.
Injections.
Sleepless nights.
Crying fits.
Raging fits.
Anxiety.
So much fucking anxiety.
All of it, having led me to this moment.
Waiting for my turn to talk in a 12 step support group.
Their eyes looked to me.
My turn.
I looked around the table.
Less than a year ago, they were nothing more than three strangers. People I would have passed on the street, without a second glance.
Now we share this inexplicable bond.
This illness we all have.
Referred to often as the ‘snowflake’ disease, since symptoms vary so much from person to person.
These three people who now know more about my feelings and thoughts than most of the people in my more immediate circle. These strangers not so different from this lifelong outsider, after all.
I told them I thought that I had accepted having MS.
6 years ago. I heard the words coming out of my Doctor’s mouth and thought to myself ‘okay….so now I have MS.’
I thought that was enough.
I thought that meant I had accepted it.
But it wasn’t until that very minute that I realized, I would never be able to accept MS, until I had also accepted the negative impact its had on my life.
That meant accepting the change in my job status.
The permanent damage to my eyes.
The toll all of it has taken on my already fragile mental state.
Taking all of that in…and still being able to say that while I won’t succumb to it, I have come to terms with having MS in my life. That I’m OKAY with it.
I’m not there…
Not even close.
But I found hope in looking around me.
Which for someone as chronically hopeless as myself, is a fucking lifeline.

‘I Dream My Painting And Then I Paint My Dream.’ Van Gogh

So I did something today

That I hadn’t been able to previously accomplish

I finished an audiobook

No big deal there

That happens very frequently

I should clarify

I finished an audiobook where the main male character has Multiple Sclerosis

I know it might not seem monumental to you

There was no forewarning about his diagnosis in the description of the book

Because in all likelihood

I wouldn’t have given it a listen

I hate to admit that in the past I’d been unable to continue to listen when I got to the point in the story where a character was revealed to have MS

In that instance

I stopped cold turkey

Right then and there

This time around

I had two hours left in an eight hour book

It wouldn’t have been strange for me to not finish listening

There have been many times

Where the romance audiobook character said the word ‘gosh’ too many times

And with only minutes left

I just couldn’t do it and ended that listen lightening fast

Anyway this time

I got to the part where it is revealed the character has MS

I paused the audiobook for a minute

Maybe more

I called Joey to come into the room

Explained the situation

Made him listen to the line

And then

I did something unlike myself

I kept listening

There may have been some tears

The female characters

Not my own

Well

A little my own

But whatever

More importantly

The story kept going

It didn’t end there

With him in a hospital

Talking medical shit with a doctor

The story continued for two hours

Two hours where I continued to listen

I could have stopped

Deleted it

Found something else

And yet I listened to the whole story

Sometimes with tears

Sometimes not

I kept going

I listened until the very last second

I listened until the credits rolled and the audio went silent

And honestly

I can’t think of anything more fucking poignant

‘There Is More Evil In The Least Sin Than In The Greatest Affliction.’ T. Brooks

Some days my damaged eyes feel as weary as my burdened soul

Some days it feels like I carry the world on shoulders that are tensed with anxious thinking

Some days the world feels as chaotic and unpredictable as the disease discarding lesions on my brain

Some days I feel so jittery that my nerves feel like they’re fraying and uncovering more than just damaged myelin

Some nights I lay awake not able to sleep even though my days are consumed by an overwhelming fatigue

Some nights it feels like electricity is coursing through my limbs and extremities

Some nights I feel like not waking up in the morning still wouldn’t be enough to get rid of all that’s wrong

Sometimes there are moments when I think that even a lifetime isn’t enough time

Time to shed all the broken and irreparable pieces of me

Time to start over

Time to begin again

Or maybe a lifetime is all it takes

To be gifted a new body and mind

And leave all that affliction behind

In the past

Where it belongs

Buried and covered

In someone else’s grave

This Isn’t An Ode To Panic Disorder…

I’ve hated you since I started experiencing panic attacks

No

Even before that

I hated you when I saw what you did to my father

How merciless you were

I hated how vulnerable you made him

I hated how scared you made me feel

When I started having my own panic attacks

I wasn’t unsure or surprised by your arrival

I was just upset

I was angry that I couldn’t fend you off

Especially after having seen first hand the damage you caused

I was frustrated

And you grew stronger

I had my very first panic attack waiting to board a plane

That sense of helplessness and feeling of being trapped

Allowed you to flourish

And you grew stronger

I got more frustrated

I became depressed

At what I perceived as my failure

Failure of what?

Outrun you of course

Break the pattern

And you grew stronger

Throughout the years and the numerous times you showed up

You stole bits and pieces from me

From my identity

From the experiences I stopped myself from having

I can’t count how many things I’ve missed out on because I was just too damn scared of you

And you grew stronger

I didn’t know that it was me who fed you

I didn’t know it was me that built you up

I vacillated between fighting you and being so terrified of you that I hid behind medications and isolation

I’m bone tired of fighting

I’m drained of the energy it takes to be afraid

I’ve been living with you my entire life in one form of another

You haven’t killed me

Yet

I was hurt because of you

The people around me were hurt because of you

But it was I, who allowed that to happen

Not you

You were never strong

It was always me that was strong

Always fighting against you

And

Hiding when self preservation took over

I used so much energy trying to not let you win

That I didn’t realize

I could end this epic battle

By waving a white flag

I spent so much time hating you

When I should have been understanding you

Because you were struggling like me

You were the outcome of the bad day, bad week, bad month that I’d had

You were what my body needed to expel to move on

I was too consumed by the symptoms you gave me

The shortness of breath, the stomach cramps, the heart palpitations, the depersonalization

To see that those symptoms came up because I dreaded your arrival

I’m sorry that I didn’t see you for what you really are

You’re me

And we’re in this together

So

If my body and mind feel like they need to have a panic attack…

Well I guess it’s ok

We will get through this

It’ll be uncomfortable

But it will pass

Just like it always has

And I promise to try not to be so hard on you

If you promise to do the same

Who knows?

Maybe one day

I’ll even write a poem about how grateful I am for your existence

I’d tell you not to hold your breath

But we both know I’d be lying

So I’ll just say this

I get it, Panic Disorder

I really do

I’m only sorry that it’s taken me so long

‘Pain Is Inevitable, Suffering Is Optional.’ Haruki Murakami

I need to stop resisting my panic attacks

I know this

From years of therapy and educating myself on panic disorder

I am fully aware that I am not in danger

I am aware that my feelings although unpleasant

Are temporary

And will pass

Yet

My natural instinct is to fight against the discomfort I feel when I experience a panic attack

Thus I remain stuck in the cycle of panic

I read something this morning that resonated with meArticle

The key take away from this article

Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional’

What does that mean?

It means that there is nothing we can do in life

To avoid pain, both physical and mental

What we can do, however, is decide what we are going to do with that pain

Do we accept the pain for what it is (unpleasant feelings)

Or do we fight against it?

Making the situation worse?

Drawing it out?

Allowing it to permeate every part of our lives?

The answer is clear

The real question is how do we accept what feels unnatural and foreign?

We have to go against our instincts

Instead of fleeing

Instead of fighting

Give yourself over to the feeling

Maybe even taunt it

Invite it into your life

This can be done through self talk

Or exposing yourself to anxiety inducing situations

I think both are helpful

I noticed during this last month

How negative my self talk is

When I need it to be the exact opposite

I’ll find myself thinking or saying aloud

‘ I can’t do this’

‘It’s too hard’

‘I’m weak’

How self defeating is that?

So I’m changing the narrative

‘I am able to do this’

‘Just because it feels unpleasant doesn’t mean I am in danger’

‘I accept what is happening right now’

The other part is inviting the uninvited visitor into your life

Come on in

Do your worst

It’s been a hard week, and maybe if a panic attack is hanging around

Let it out

Allow yourself to feel whatever it is

Without punishment

No criticism

Find a place that is comfortable

And let it roll through you like an ocean wave

You know that it will be uncomfortable but it will pass

Makes perfect sense, right?

Now

I just need to practice what I’ve gotten so good at preaching

I will not be a cautionary anecdote that psychotherapists use for future patients

There once was a woman named Angela

Who allowed panic disorder to rule her life

And became isolated and held hostage

Even though she had all the tools she needed

To live

Reflections of a 37 year old

Today wasn’t easy

I wish it had been

Being my birthday and all

But it seems fitting somehow

I went out twice

To celebrate my day

And both times

The festivities were halted

Panic attacks wanted to join the party

I was surprised both times

Although I’m not sure why

I mean

Panic attacks and I are the oldest of friends

Very well acquainted

They’ve been around for nearly every single one of the significant events in my life

From marriage to new beginnings to deaths and endings

Panic attacks are a lot like the uninvited guest

They’ve come along on so many vacations

But the visitor always finds a way to show up

You know, I’d make a deal with the devil

Even if there was only a minuscule chance he would keep his word

I’d shake hands

Sign on the dotted line

Whatever it takes

To get rid of the uninvited guest permanently

This week hasn’t been the easiest

With the change of meds

I felt unlike myself

Which is the weirdest of feelings

It’s like being in the wrong skin

And knowing it

But not knowing how to get out

Somehow

I think I can see a way out

Late last night, I tweaked my meds

Everything felt like it was going too fast

And I need slower pace

After all

I did just turn 37 years old