A shadow. I only just realised it was there. Actually, more to the point, I knew ‘it’ was there, I just didn't know what ‘it’ was. It was a year that has changed my life irrevocably. The effects have been felt right to my very core, slowly but surely it has seeped into every area of my life.
I am writing this for myself. To document it, to try and puzzle more sense, because while I try and explain it to you, it becomes clearer in my head as well. This post may appear a little whiny or ‘poor me’ at times - I wont apologise for that. I am not after sympathy - I am just trying to get it straight in my head. And then I can commence running - or turn around and face it. Whatever is more appropriate.
It could get long though. I hope you have time. Refer to warnings of Deep Vein Thrombosis for sitting still too long in one place - move around a bit if necessary. :)
What happened in 2005. Several things.
- My youngest child started kindergarten and my eldest started high school. Three kids in three schools. This also led to pressure for me to start working more then the 4 hours a week I had been doing previously.
- I took my kids to the first of the ‘me and them, no dad’ holidays. This was due to his work commitments at the time - but has become the norm since. I drove us to Canberra to stay for a week with two different friends that had recently moved down there.
- On the way home we were to stop at my elder brothers home in western Sydney for a night.
- I started having panic attacks during the trip between Canberra and Sydney. I didn't know what they were so totally fed it. It ended up being a MAJOR attack with shortness of breath, chest pain, woozy head and severely heightened anxiety. This attack ended up lasting over 16 hours - three of which were spent stuck in a traffic jam that saw us taking three hours to travel about ten kilometres. I honestly thought I was going to die. For some reason, I kept it all to myself and suffered in agonised silence.
- A long standing significant friendship broke down.
- My mothers health deteriorated to the point where I thought she only had months, if not weeks, to live. (I might add she is still alive and kicking - well, not kicking exactly, but alive)
- My eldest child started ‘hanging with wolves’. This was when the first of several friendships with much older girls began. These girls were not ‘nice’ girls and had quite significant behavioural issues. My daughter had always been the quiet and subdued girl in the background. Emotional bullying had been consistent and relentless over the previous three - four years and settled down once they went to high school. All of a sudden, she had girls up to four and five years older then her hanging around. This set a pattern that lasts to this day.
I think that's about it. There were lots of other smaller offshoots that were caused by the above points - but there are the basic issues.
Like ripples in a pond - slowly and surely I have allowed that annus horribilis to affect me.
I guess the biggest and most debilitating thing is the panic attacks. I suffered them in silence for quite a number of months, even years (?), before I was describing the feelings to Michelle and she gave a name to what it was I was feeling. I had suffered while driving, while in crowds, while shopping, during ‘intense’ conversations…. although they were lessening over time and becoming less and less intense. I was able to make sure I didn't get myself into situations where I knew I would have trouble. I would stand in the doorway of the hall during school assembly (on the odd occasion that I had to go), instead of sitting with the other parents in the chairs. White lighting myself helped, but had to be constantly visualised, the moment my attention lapsed, bang, back it would come.
These feelings of powerlessness and being out of control seriously undermined my self esteem (which was already on the shaky side), made me doubt myself in almost every area. I started second guessing myself, questioning my own decisions and ability to cope. My daughters, mainly the eldest, who was already beginning her ‘rebellious stage’ (she is still in this stage), sensed my indecision and pounced on any crack in my resolve and used it against me. A vicious circle of over reaction and badly handled tantrums ensued, and continued to wear away at whatever resolve I had. Gradually I started to regain control over myself and begin to mend the damage to our relationship, but I fear that full healing is a long way off yet. I cant get through to the eldest, and it seems that there is a permanent ‘fuzzy grey area’ between us, and any communications passing through this area get mixed up and mis-understood - offence is often taken where none is intended. Plus she has the horrendous bad attitude of a 17 year old.
Powerlessness is the key word here. Powerlessness and indecision.
I have spent some time talking to a psychologist about this. She explained to me the physical reasons for panic attacks. She also talked to me about how to prevent one from occurring and how to stop one if it starts. I can do all that now. The damage was done though. It was done during all that time that I was frightened and had no one to turn to. I was too afraid to go to my doctor, I hinted and touched on it with a couple of friends. I didn't tell the whole story to anyone though. I tried to tell my husband - he just scoffed at me and looked at me like I was an idiot. That didn't help.
I think that is a big part of it too. I have no one that I can rely on. No one to help me when things get tough. Sure I have friends - but they are all going through their own shit and are all at some kind of ‘coal face’ themselves. What I mean about no support is this. My mother and mother in law are both too old to help. I have no other family here. I don't have a sister. My brother and his wife are too busy climbing the corporate ladder to worry about me, my other brother lives in another city. I have no aunts, or uncles and my cousins all live in other cities and states. Alone. No help - no one to come and watch the kids for me, or, more of a dream, to take them for the weekend to give me a bit of a break. I am not one to come forward and ask for help either. The harder things are for me, the more I isolate myself. This isn't a good thing really, but that's just how I am.
So here I am, alone and powerless. I feel myself sliding into the abyss and I don't know what to do about it. My husband decides that now is the time he would start to withdraw himself from me also. I cant explain it. Maybe he didn't know what to do - so he withdrew. This set his pattern that also continues to this day. A pattern that will culminate in my moving out soon and taking the kids with me. That's another story. My tenuous grip on controlling the wildly swinging teenage hormones is slipping and I sometimes resort to getting angry and yelling to try and stay in control. This fails miserably as we all know it does - however in the grip of it all, I cant think of anything else to do.
Time moves on and the kids grow older and their issues and situations grow with them. As they do.
I become involved in a group of very strong women who become one of my few remaining rocks. I wish from the start that they had known me before. I wish that they knew me when I was gutsy and strong. When I didn't take any shit from anyone and didn't care what anyone thought. Well, within reason, you know. I was strong in my convictions, and my faith. I knew where I was coming from and embraced the mystery of what was to come. Don't get me wrong, I had lots of uncertain moments and made plenty of mistakes. I just didn't let them get me down and I learned from them. I wish you knew me then. Within that group I regrew some wings. Wings that were very different to the ones I had before, but wings nonetheless. Quietly and steadily I started to heal. Certain areas of my life I am very very strong. I have regained my faith in the universe and my own set of beliefs that take from and span almost every known creed in the universe. I am everything and I am nothing. So mote it be.
Other parts of me are way way less certain. I am ‘scratch and sniff’ emotions. They are so close to the surface 24/7 that it only took the slightest provocation and I would lose it. The camel was always one straw away from having a broken back. I was trapped in this dubious emotional state for at least three years. To some extent it still haunts me. Although I am nowhere near as emotional I was before - thank the goddess - I am still far from where I was originally. I have always been a deep feeling person though. Even before I was a deep feeler and a deep thinker. This has been my undoing on numerous occasions. I have managed to drag myself away from the edge of that abyss so that I am not falling in with every slight and upset. Town crier - I have worn that badge for a while now. I guess I allowed myself to feel my feelings where I felt safe to do so - until I was told by one I trusted “oh stop crying, we are sick to death of it”. That snapped something in me - trust for one thing - and it made me keep it even further trapped indoors.
I am tired now - and I congratulate you if you have made it this far through this post.
I will come back and finish it tomorrow. I promise.
There is so much more to tell. More to unravel. More to tie in.
The path to healing. That's how I see it. If I am to escape this shadow I must see it for what it truly is. old news.
I must get over it and move on.