I just scheduled an appointment for the 31st. So I guess I should get my thoughts together. While I’d love to jump right into retrieving memories of being molested (wow, that’s a weird sentence to write), I think it would be more productive to work through my panic first, because I have a feeling that it’s probably rooted in something dark too & may be a good stepping stone into the other memories.
I’ve had panic attacks for as long as I can remember, triggered by repetitive motions (swinging, spinning, rocking etc) and repetitive or constant sounds, especially if they are loud or I feel I can’t “escape” or stop them – the heart of that fear correlates with the “forever factor” that accompanies childhood sexual abuse, so it makes sense, in a round about way – except that I have memories of panicking that precede the memories [that I have] of being molested.
I remember my first ride on a ferris wheel, I was maybe 4 or 5…I remember being excited. And then, as soon as the ride began, being terrified. Not of the height, not of it breaking, or of falling out – I was terrified because we were going in circles, again and again. I remember being horrified by this – thinking that it would never end, I would continue going in circles forever, and it absolutely terrified me. I cried and screamed hysterically enough that they stopped the ride and let us off.
The most common trigger, especially as a child though, was music – music is inherently repetitive, the same beat, the same lyrics, repeated. And that scared me. As a small child, my parents generally responded with irritation (which only served to increase my terror), as if I were just being a brat; I don’t think they understood that I was legitimately experiencing fear and physical responses to that fear, that I felt trapped in that moment as if it would be my forever; and I was too little to articulate what I was experiencing, so I eventually started hiding my fear and suffering silently. And I think those two words about sum up the rest of my life “silently suffering”.
I did learn to anticipate my triggers and managed the attacks better as I got older and understood what was happening/identified that they were panic attacks, but I never disclosed them to anyone because I was afraid they wouldn’t believe me, or they would think I was crazy – so I just continued to suffer through them alone as best I could. How could I expect anyone else to understand, if I myself didn’t even particularly understand WHY these things panicked me. They were generally short lived anyway (5-10 minute episodes) – and I could either breathe through them, rationalize with myself, and/or practice an escape route to give myself assurance that I could indeed get away until the feeling passed; in the moment they were fairly distressing, but they didn’t happen all the time, and they weren’t debilitating by any means…they were just, something I lived with.
And over the years the attacks had actually drastically decreased in frequency, especially since I got married 6 years ago – and almost never happened anymore, despite exposure to all the same triggers as ever and still anticipating panic…I just didn’t seem to be bothered by any of it anymore. Until the pandemic set in; now I experience them almost daily. Everything from birds chirping, dogs barking, the click of my turn signal in the car, the sounds of passing traffic, fireworks (which wtf, were going off for a full month mid June to mid July here), the vibration of the dryer, the swishing of the dishwasher, wind chimes, kids playing basketball in the street, my kids splashing in the pool, their swings squeaking back and forth, the scraping/screeching sound of the see-saw at the park, the springs creaking on the trampoline with every jump, the sound of the spinner whirring around when we are playing games, the clinging of silverware on plates, the rotation of the ceiling fans; just the other day we went to the splashpad with some friends – we got there first, and there was no one else there yet…the sounds of running water, the water spilling into the drains, the buckets dumping every 10 seconds, it was all just overwhelming…I had to walk back over to the car to catch my breath and assure myself that I could escape it. It’s ridiculous. I know it’s ridiculous. I know it’s ridiculous when it’s happening. But the panic is real. My chest tightens, my heart pounds, my stomach churns, it feels like I’m suffocating and my nerves are shaking with adrenaline – that fight or flight feeling kicking in.
Sometimes I just wish I was deaf, it seems like life would be easier.
I can only assume that the sensitivity to triggers decreased as I felt safer/more in control within my marriage, and the pandemic has torn away some of that as it’s practically screamed in our faces via every media outlet that we aren’t safe – we are “living in uncertain times”.
But what was it that originally made me feel so unsafe, that made me feel like I had no control, that made me feel trapped within some sort of repetition that I couldn’t stop or escape? What made me so fearful?