Randy was killed in a car wreck. About a month after his death I found myself having small episodes. They didn’t feel small until they were over. The were scary as hell while they were happening. I didn’t know why I was having them or what was causing them. I felt on the edge of sanity for much of the time anyway, so when I started having these episodes, I thought I might have dropped off the edge of the cliff!
I would be driving, or watching TV, or even trying to nap when all of a sudden, my heart would race, I’d sweat and shake, and all I could see was visions of Randy in various stages of the wreck, rescue, and hospital. It lasted for what seemed like an eternity, but in reality was probably about a couple of minutes.
All I knew was that it was extremely unsettling, very scary, and probably unsafe. They happened on the couch, in the car, in the store, at my daughter’s school and without warning.
It didn’t take long to figure out the triggers. My favorite show at the time (ER) triggered it every time. Helicopters flying over also triggered them. The most common of the triggers, ambulances.
After several weeks of therapy with my grief counselor, I finally was brave enough to mention it. She knew immediately what it was. To my relief, it wasn’t insanity. I was simply having panic attacks. It didn’t feel like a simple anything. They were terrifying!
She assured me we could get through it. I had been through a significant trauma and my brain was trying to protect me. Funny thing, it didn’t feel like protection. It felt like an attack! I trusted my counselor. We did work through it together.
I worked on deep breathing while slowly counting. And, eventually, the panic attacks subsided. Luckily for me, I didn’t need medicine. Everyone is different though, don’t feel like less of a person if it takes medicine to help you move past it. It doesn’t really matter how we get through this, it just matters that we do get through. We need to do it as safely and efficiently as possible. Rushing through just to say you are better is probably not the answer. Feeling like you are on the edge of a cliff is never a fun feeling. I’d rather feel like I am on the edge of a cliff than pretend I’m not and fall off the cliff.
Just know, what you are feeling, someone else has felt. In fact, someone is probably feeling that way now. You are never alone. As I have said before, there are those who have walked before you, those who will walk after you, and those who walk along you. There is little comfort where you are now. Let there be comfort in knowing you can heal. It takes work, it takes time, and it’s never perfect, but it can happen.