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Nov 28, 2007

The Bridge

She was running a little late as she got in the car. "Damn," she thought, "I have to get gas somewhere." She looked in her bulky, black purse and found four lonely dollars.  Well, she thought, that will get me there and back.

She was going to see  a new therapist.  She had had her initial consult, and felt comfortable talking to the nice lady with the short blonde hair, and gentle, kind smile.  She was almost at ease from the beginning.  A difficult feat to accomplish in the best of times, she knew.

Cranking the car, she backed out, and headed for the bridge.  She liked the bridge now.  Once, long ago, she had developed a fear of bridges, but she had overcome that, and now found pleasure watching the waves and small boats, as she crossed the James River.

As the bridge came up, she accelerated to keep up with the traffic. 

She looked in her rear view mirror, and found a large truck riding her bumper. She hated that.  She felt like he could run over her. 

Out of nowhere, she suddenly began to feel an uneasy feeling, like she might wreck.  That's absurd, she thought.  The steering wheel seemed to take on a life of its on.  She felt her pulse begin to race, and sweat broke out and dampened her back.  She turned the heater down, and looked worriedly around, feeling trapped.  She began to frantically check the rearview and side mirrors.

I feel like I'm going to faint, she thought, horrified.  Just the idea of it sent her panic out of control.  Her heart racing, she desperately wanted to pull over and stop, but there was no place to stop.  Nothing to do but go forward. 

She kept tapping the brake, and worried how the other drivers would keep from running into her.  She felt deeply afraid, and felt tears of frustration and anger fill her eyes.

The road before her seemed to be getting longer rather than shorter.  The bridge seemed to be growing and she wondered if she would ever get to the end.  She clutched the steering wheel with sweaty palms, slowing her speed, hoping the other drivers would race ahead of her.

She knew she might wreck, she could feel it coursing through her system, like electrical volts. God, she thought, what the hell is going on!! 

Frantically capturing her racing thoughts, she focused now on one objective.  Keeping the car and herself in control.  She could see the drawbridge ahead.  After that it was a short distance to Jefferson.  "Oh, God, she cried aloud, please don't let me die."

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That's me on the bridge today.  Having a panic attack that I haven't had in two years.  Not since my first visit to Arlington by myself.  When I did reach my therapist's office, I felt so charged up with adrenalin, and fear, I wanted to avoid everyone in the waiting room.  I felt they could see the fear on me, smell the fear like wild animals.

My therapist managed to calm me down, but recommended I call my doctor, to see about my medication.  He never returned my call, and I don't expect him to.  So, now I wait, and know that when I cross the bridge again, it won't be the blue waters of the Chesapeake bay I'm concentrating on.  I will be locked inside myself, taking inventory of every little change in my behavior, valiantly trying to stave off the beast that is panic.

30 comments:

alphonsedamoose said...

Just me: I will ride in the car with you. Together we will brave the traffic. When we get to the bridge, you will be in control of the car and yourself and we will make it safely to the other side.
I know you can do it.

Babzy said...

I can go too. I'll ride in the back seat and tell you how to drive. hahahaha

Seriously, don't worry. You can do it. Is your doctor going to phone you back eventually? Keep phoning even if you don't want to. They're not like lawyers charging by the minute.

BBC said...

Is it just me, or are we all becoming more depressed? It seems to me like this planet just keeps getting sicker and sicker.

I've been to the Chesapeake bay, had some pen pals there before the days of the Internet. Met them when they put a request in Mother Earth News to meet people in the west as they where going west on a trip.

They spent two days at my place in Washington and I've been to their place in New Jersey three or four times when I was trucking.

We went out for a soft shell crab dinner, I really found it interesting and liked it.

Geez, that was like 20 years ago.

*Goddess* said...

Are panic attacks caused by certain, known stimuli? Cuz I've crossed that bridge and it scared the HELL out of me.

just me said...

bbc, I have spent more than half of my life by the Chesapeake Bay. It is beautiful. Yes, I think, with the world the way it is, people are feeling more and more hopeless.

Moose, Babzy, you can ride with me anyday. However, I do not want you two fighting over who sits in the front seat. Especially Babzy.

I think panic attacks come from PTSD. The flight of fight mechanism in the brain is just over stimulated, always on. The only thing I know that gets rid of them is an SSRI. The SNRI's work fairly well, but, I believe its just a chemical imbalance in the brain. I keep thinking of all the junk food I have consumed. Is this the result? I just don't know.

I do believe that some people, high screeners, who seem to absorb all incoming stimuli, are more prone to panic disorder than low screeners...the laid back guy who never let's anything get to him. Lucky bastard...

just me said...

That's fight or flight! Meaning when your body decides whether its going to fight an unwelcome situation, or flee. Repeated trauma I believe keeps that fight or flight mechanism that saved us from saber Tooth Tigers, and such, activated. Certain chemicals, serotonin, noradrenalin, and dopamine seem to regulate this whole sequence of events. The disorder of panic occurs when you experience anticipatory anxiety when confronting a place or situation where a panic episode took place. Damn, I had one in a library.

Any other ideas out there?

Spadoman said...

I know about these attacks first hand. Some time ago, I was in the hospital for my second heart bypass operation. This was in 2003. I was antsy to the max! I went into a real time panic attack and was ready to flee.

They knew of my diagnosis of PTSD as I was in a VA hospital in Palo Alto, CA. They gave me some drug called adivan. Since I was there for heart surgery, they put it right into my bloodstream via the tube that was there, ready and waiting, in my arm.

The adivan worked really well. When I would be getting stressed while waiting for the surgery, (I was there over a weekend waiting until Monday), Mrs. Spadoman would ask the nurse for some of that, "Attaboy". It calmed me right down.

In my situation, if I don't go to the hospital trying to kill myself, they will not prescribe drugs that will actually calm me down. They go with antidepressants and experiment with doses. The last time I tried one of their experiments, I threatened to kill my landlord and almost killed my brother in law while on a visit there. That was a year ago, in November. The side effect of the drug was agitation, go figure.

What I do now when I am overcome is pray. It's a hard process to explain because it conjurs up so many things to so many people, but it is just a matter of taking things into your own hands and talking it over, but only after you decide to believe in yourself.

It is so hard to go it alone. So, you learn to trust yourself, (and like yourself), and listen to what you're telling yourself when it's bad and when it's good.

I have plenty of friends, but they are not with me at 3a.m. when I am alone and vulnerable. Like they weren't in the car on the bridge with you. The concept is if you are with a person you like, yourself, you are not alone, because the spirit you pray to is within and it isn't always God.

Peace to All. Peace to You.

just me said...

Spadoman, an excellent comment, and it sounds exactly like a VA hospital, I am sad to say. The best antipressants I have found for panic attacks are zoloft, paxil, prozac, and paxil cr. Effexor will work, but you have to get past the first two weeks of drug therapy, which a lot of people can't because they are two jittery. Lexapro will work, but it is a lot like Effexor in its side effects. What I have done, is tell the doctor I am sensitive to these medications, and start with the lowest dose possible. It takes a long time to reach a therapeutic blood level, but it helps stave off the side effects while your body adjusts to the medicine.

So many men will not seek treatment for these kinds of disorders, but I know, that being a vet with pstd, it is paramount almost that you get some kind of relief.

Prayer is good. Many times I have calmed myself down, driving 65 miles an hour down the interstate, just saying God, please help me get through this, over and over. Learning to control your breathing is good too. You goal is to slow it down, and reduce the surge of adrenalin.

Hell, I didn't know I knew that much about this stuff...;)

Babzy said...

Jeez Deb, you should have been a doctor!

High screeners (at first I thought you wrote high screamers) are probably the same as highly sensitive people. They take in all the stimuli. 20% of the population are this way because in the cave man days they needed someone to detect danger.

We should open our own practice. HA

Babzy said...

I just noticed your beautiful header picture of the misty forest. It looks like British Columbia. I'm going to steal it.

dawn said...

You should have gone to Med school, but seriously you need to get this under control, even if you have to find new doctors. I have to tell you your writting is still fantastic, I thought I was reading a new novel
Love ya girl!

alphonsedamoose said...

Deb, I think spadoman makes a lot of sense. After my heart attack(11 years ago) I was put o Ativan. It really helped but I think it must be addictive to a certain extent. I take one each night to relax enough o fall asleep.If I don't, I don't go into a deep restful sleep but sort of stay partially awake.
You should have been a Doctor or writer

just me said...

Babzy, I'm a high screamer! Just ask anyone on the James River Bridge. I would like to have been a doctor, and someday, I would like to be a writer. Maybe when I grow up. (never)

Right now the doctor has me taking cymbalta, neurontin, and abilify. I mention these drugs by name, because they don't seem to help with panic disorder.

Ativan is a class of drug known as benzodiasepines. That includes drugs such as valium, but it works a little differently, and is not as strong. Some lesser known anti-histamines also work well for their calming effect. Benadryl, probably the best known, and drugs such as Versed. I love that shit. I only get it before surgery, but it also makes me feel high as a ga pine, so would not be a good choice for me. Abilify works with the dopamine receptors in the brain, the supposedly feel-good receptors, which are also targeted by cocaine and heroin.

Ok, I'll shut up. I should write my thesis on this crap, if I ever do...HA!

BBC said...

I don't do any drugs, I just buck up and take life like a man, the best I can anyway. Oh, wait, I suppose beer is a drug. LOL But at least it's cheap and easily gotten. :-)

Humor is also a great drug, need some of that everyday.

Mary said...

I don't know anything except that my sister was prescribed Ativan for her panic attacks.

Here's what I want to know. Did you take writing classes or is it a natural gift?

Spadoman said...

Yes, like Mary is asking about your writing. Very good stuff. And you are quite knowledgeable.

The biggest problem I have is this:

At the VA, they told me I have PTSD. They have identified the symptoms that give me the most trouble. They want to medicate me so these symptoms don't bother me so much.

They dish out the pills, with no explanations, half the time I find a drug interaction with the other drugs I take for my failed broken heart and my diabetes.

It is the nature of PTSD to not trust these bastards that drafted me and ruined my life. It is the nature of PTSD to not be patient and wait 6 months to a year to see if their pills are working. It is the nature of PTSD to be in control and go it alone.

Sure, take this, come and see me in 2 months. In the meantime, when you get depressed, go out and get involved with something you like to do.

Okay, I have PTSD. I like to drink until my fucking head is numb. Should I do that? They never tell you how to get over being powerless to make the changes you need to make or how to get involved with something you like to do.

I want adivan or valium. Before surgery, they gave me a heavy dose of valium. I didn't care if they were going to cut open my chest. In fact, I didn't care if they were going to cut off my balls, (Looks down, checks again). I promise I won't abuse it. I just need it when I'm on the freaking bridge!

Thank you so much, Deb, really. I know you and others want to help. It is so damn hard to just get started. Each day the time gets shorter as I get older. I have this powerless feeling about waiting for the pills to work, and it is a crap shoot. With PTSD, I don't want to waste my time for I might be gone tomorrow while I was waiting for the pills to work.

This is a very real personal perspective of how the situation looks to me. I accept the inevitability of lonliness as I struggle to be understood.

Queenie said...

Its been a couple of days I've been away clearing the poo (trying not to swear) around my blog, I get back and find that you forgot I've given you "Queenie protection". You must remember, my Knights and Guards are locked together with everyone who loves you to stop anything hurting you.
I bet your thinking I need to see a therapist now? Thats ok I'll be in the car with you then!!!!
((((HUGS))))

No said...

I understand PTSD very well. It takes one to know one.

Enemy of the Republic said...

I hadn't suffered from panic attacks in about 2 years, then they began hitting me regularly starting this Sept. The first one felt like a heart attack, and to this day, I don't know the trigger. The others were related to very bad events in my life--things happening that brought home my lack of control and flashbacking to something that I had thought I had conquered. I'm sorry you had to go through this.

Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

Traumatizing situation you’re experiencing. I offer my hugs and prayers.

singleton said...

Oh, Deb, I think I was riding in that car with you, could see it, hear it, feel it, just reading it.....
and
how many many times I've been caught in it, suffocating, scared, can't stop the maddness....
Bless you, sweet Girl! Wishing you peace and freedom from fear...

Catmoves said...

Deb, you just put moose and Babzy and me in that car with you and I promise you a hilarious, pain relieving, ride as we slow that bloody idiot in the truck down to 4mph. Hehehe.
As for the Va, if yuo want the emergency room's attention, just walk in there clutching your chest, tell them your nitro isn't working and you need attention NOW. Works every time.
We're really on your side, you know. I got your back.

Babzy said...

Where are you?

just me said...

No, you comments as always leave me puzzled. I never know what you mean exactly, but they are welcome.

Mary, I took 4 years of honors english in high school, and in my senior year worked on the school newpaper, (oh, one of those!) and a year of creative writing. Learned not a lot from that course, just was told to write.

Spadoman, I do understand. What I think is people who are given medication for panic, don't take it enough. Ask them if they will give you clonipin. You want to keep a steady state blood level, meaning, that the drug is in your system all the time. That works best. Hell, if I had been through what you have been through, god only knows where and what I'd be.

The bottom line is you do what you must do to survive.

Cat,Moose, Babzy, Dawn, let's all go for a ride...all are welcome.

No said...

I guess what I mean, Deb, is I have suffered much the same as you have. That is what I met.

I, too, worked on my school newspaper and majored in English in college with an emphasis in creative writing....

I just think we have a lot in common..that's all...that's what I meant..it takes one to know one...

Glad you're okay..wondering where you've been.

SJ said...

Am glad you managed to go thru it unhurt - I wouldn't want anything bad to happen to my favorite crazy old woman :)

The Future Was Yesterday said...

You may or may not, wish to read This.

just me said...

SJ, my main man in cyber land is back in town. The boy is back in town, the boy is back in town.....(Now, I've really dated myself.)

just me said...

Well, of course I went and read that. Hey, it weren't nothing but a thing, as the kids say. That is one post I wish I would have kept to myself. sometimes my sarcasm goes a bit far. In that regard, I should never have posted it, knowing it would directly hurt someone else. That's my temper showing its ugly ass.

When it comes to Iraq, religion, and a few other topics, I don't have any brains. It's like I gave them a big kick, and out the window they went. Some would argue they never came back.

Water under the bridge, but your sentiments and words made my day. Not because you admitted to something you felt was unwarranted on your part, but now I can stop feeling guilty for secretly reading your blog. :) It takes a big man to say what you said.

Which makes me think, just how big are you? See, I shouldn't have written that....

Babzy said...

What did I miss?