Wednesday, August 21, 2019

I Have Anxiety and PTSD. I'm Doing Stuff About It.

                   person holding white printer paper

I struggled for a while with how to approach the topic of anxiety, but I'm posting now because I had a rough week, and it's on my mind. My approach is going to be as haphazard as my thought life has been these last few days. Sorry.

Disclaimer: Not everyone who struggles with anxiety or PTSD struggles in the same way, so I'm not speaking for everyone, just for me.

I've been on medication for anxiety for the past year. It doesn't make me groggy. It doesn't make me loopy. It doesn't make me a bad Christian. The low dosage of Sertraline that I take each night runs interference on what is otherwise an inexplicable, nameless, constant, and sometimes painful white buzz in the back of my head. I say buzz. I mean muted screaming, but it's okay. I can ignore it most of the time. It's fine. Everything's fine. 

There are approximately more or less mostly probably four reasons I have this problem.

1) I really don't talk about this one, but a war zone is no place for a child. Or a human.

*This is a fault line along my most primal responses to crisis, loss, violence, and sudden loud noises. Also packing.

2) There was a person who made me afraid. At the worst he put me into a wall and broke my foot.

*This is a fault line along my reactions to humans who are male. To humans who adhere to the same systems of thought that he did. To myself when I fail to live up to the standard of womanhood I built because of him.

3) I might never be able to talk about this one.

*This is a fault line along ***REDACTED***

4) People will let you down. People will hurt you. That's life. For me that life has just mostly happened inside the walls of church, and that's messed up.

*This is a fault line along my interactions with church people and also the parts of the Bible/the Faith that have been used in ways that hurt me and/or people I care about.

Trauma has a way of planting chemical triggers like little landmines into mental landscapes. When they get hit, the shrapnel hurts the people I care about. 

Just because it is not my conscious intention to react inappropriately to people and/or situations, doesn't mean I'm not responsible for the way that I act. Just because something in my past influences my actions doesn't mean I'm not responsible to shore up those fault lines and be intentional about fixing my reactions.

At this point I just try to make it a point to apologize to anyone who was around me at the time of an episode. I don't apologize for having an attack. That would be silly. I apologize for any ways in which I was unfair or unkind while under the influence of the chemicals surging through my brain. I apologize for lost sleep and lost time. Sometimes I'm too embarrassed or so eager to move on with my life that I don't apologize. I'm working on that.

By the way, there's no way I could have figured any of this out without counseling. Period.
Counseling is really scary. It can also be kind of expensive. I think it's worth it.
If you live in Northern Virginia, and you want to see someone here's where I go.

To Recap: I have an anxious buzz in the back of  my head caused by past traumas (traumi? I want it to be traumi). Even though I go to counseling and take medicine to turn the volume down on the screaming, if a personal interaction or situation hits one of my weak spots too hard, it can be enough to send me into a panic attack or a PTSD episode.

But usually there's a bit more going on.

9 times out of 10 if I'm having a panic attack, I'm dehydrated, and the fastest way to fix me up is to shove water in my face.

4 out of those same 10 times I also need food.

Sometimes this food and water need plus the buzz in my head plus visual overstimulation (such as all the colors and bright lights and cute things in Target) are enough to put me over the edge.

Sometimes (statistics not available) if I'm having a really bad attack for No Apparent Reason, and I also happen to notice a sharp pain in my lower stomach, I am having an attack because an ovarian cyst just ruptured. Literally no other reason. This has happened twice this week, which is part of the reason I've had such a hard time.

The other part is that last week I, in a fit of stubborn self-dislike, went off my meds. Bad. Not doing that again. I apologize to everyone involved.

The point I'm trying to make here is...It's Not All In My Head. I can get through an attack much easier if I pay attention to my body, and I can often avoid one if I just take care of myself in the first place.

                     turned on Focus signage

For most of this post, I've focused on ways I've been able to help myself with my anxiety,
but Jon helps me a lot too.

He knows that the first step is immediately getting me away from whatever it is that triggered the attack. Whether that's turning off a TV show or putting pause on a conversation or walking out of a building.

He knows the second step is getting me comfy and giving me water.

He knows I might need to talk, but also that a barrage of questions: "What's wrong? Are You Okay? Talk to me? Abby?Abby?Abby?" can just make it worse.

He knows that if I do talk to him during an attack, it's probably not my normal self. The person who needs to talk is usually nine, and she emotes like a nine-year-old. If I'm going to be able to talk during an attack (which is often helpful), that's the person he has to draw out.

He knows that depending on which fault line was hit, I might want to be cuddled or I might need to not be touched. Whether or not I can handle touch can change at a moment's notice in the middle of the attack. He knows that it's not personal.

Jon knows that whether or not I can handle touch, I need pressure on my central nervous system. This is why he bought me a weighted blanket. I don't deserve him.

Most importantly, Jon knows that I'm not hysterical. I'm not crazy. I'm not dramatic. Sometimes he does pray with me if it seems like I'm struggling with something spiritual in nature, but that's not his main focus. Because Jon is a Fireman/EMT, he's always going to check on my physical needs first. Where are the Triggers? Thirsty/Need Sugar? Cuddles or Blanket? Wanna Talk About It?

Jon approaches my anxiety attacks like a medical problem. Because it Is a medical problem. Sure it's an emotional one too. Even sometimes a spiritual one. But mostly I just need water.

This has been My Chronic Dehydration with Abby.

Please join the conversation! Leave a comment below. 


  1. You are doing an amazing job or working through it! Recognizing all the triggers and letting the attacks have their moment are the hardest part. I found that once I knew Nic was the one I wanted to be with was when my PTSD got the worst. Like my subconscious knew the only way for me to build a life was to deal with the one I have already been living.. keep pushing Abby and do all the things that work for you!

  2. YES! This is me, and you, my daughter, my mother and so many people suffering with anxiety! A lifetime of watching our backs and being on high alert leads to physical triggers and books don't talk about THIS much. Constant adrenaline eventually wrecks you and then the need for proper hydration and blood sugar levels becomes imperative. I wanted to meet you for the first time because I remembered what it was like walking through the mine field alone. Trauma, anxiety, anger, loneliness.I'd been there and wanted to help if I could. I was angry that people weren't understanding you and treating you well. I'm angry now knowing that the church at large has no clue how to truly HELP people with mental health issues and failed you and your sister. You were so honest, forthright, and witty. Our coffee date was so insightful. Those of us who have survived the crazy life have an open way of communicating that is so necessary. Some people just can't handle it or don't believe it's real. It's heartbreaking either way, but we can never stop because too many people are walking around with mental health issues that they are afraid to talk about. We can change that by speaking up. It's been a while since I've seen you ( I miss you), but I am so happy for you. Meeting the man who will go through this storm with you is amazing. I told my sweetie on our first date that I was on Celexa for anxiety and depression. He didn't bat an eyelash. He was the one and now you have found the one. You do deserve him. We all have our issues and if we are patient God pairs us with who we need to be with. Hugs to you both!

  3. Hold - up - wait - what? That's so funny (in like a sad, dark, depressing way) because I'm literally on the same medication, have similar fault lines (although I wasn't in a war zone when I was a child, so), bought a weighted blanket to help with my anxiety, am triggered by overstimulated and by not taking care of myself. Also, therapy is fantastic. I don't really have much else to say, except anxiety (and I'd imagine PTSD, although I have no experience there) sucks and I hope you're able to push through and have more good days than bad. Thank you for sharing your story