One week ago today, I was standing on the side of the road next to my broken car, which I had just crashed. It was cold and windy, and I was having one of the worst panic attacks I’ve had. Because of this, my past week has been no cake walk. In fact, my emotional process has been like an accelerated version of the one I went through when I lost my brother. I have had some of my worst anxiety, have been unable to sleep at night, have had troubles eating, have had horrible panic attacks, and have been unable to drive without panic. Now I know there are people with anxiety that is so much worse than this: I can empathize with you! It is AWFUL. Because I try to be a positive person, I have been trying to look at this as a strengthening and a learning experience. So here is what this week has taught me:
- The only person you can depend on is yourself: There will be times when the only one there for you is you, and that’s okay. Just make sure that you are there for yourself when you need it.
- You have far more inner strength than you think: You learn so much about how strong you are in a situation in which you desperately need another person to be with you, but no one is there. When it feels like it is impossible to face something alone, but you don’t have a choice, you discover just how much strength you have hiding inside yourself.
- Sometimes you do need someone: I am a person who thinks that I can do everything all on my own, that I tend to forget that I can ask for help. But there are things that are very hard to go through alone, and sometimes you do need someone to hug you, listen to you, or simply just be there for you, and there is nothing wrong with that. Needing someone to help you does not make you weak.
- People will talk about things they don’t understand: This is inevitable, and the problem is that it will not always be good things. Just remember, you know the real story, despite what anyone says. And you can use that to your ability in helping people to understand.
- You cannot always control your reaction: Many times the aftermath of trauma is harder to go through than the event itself. People may see this as an exaggeration, or maybe even an act to gain attention, however there are responses and symptoms to trauma that are outside of your control. Just hold on! Your real friends will understand and eventually the symptoms will subside.
- You sometimes feel like you’ve lost yourself: Give it time. You will find yourself again. I’m still looking for me.
- It’s not funny: When people joke about it, they may be trying to help, but to you it may not be very funny at all. Let them know this. It may even me okay for you to make jokes, but not for others. Let them know this too. You can joke about it because it is yours to joke about.
- It will get easier: Every day is a little easier to get through. One day you’ll be laughing with your friends and having a good time, and you’ll realize that you have gone 24 hours without a panic attack. You’ll realize that you managed to forget about it for a while. No matter how hard it is, it will get easier.
Going through a traumatic experience is never fun. It is hard and exhausting. But if you hold on, you will get through it. And if you need some help with that, feel free to hang onto my rope with me.