TSA & choices…

This past weekend, I flew to America… It sounds surreal to be writing that… but, I did… I flew internationally for the first time in about 20 years… and I flew alone…

I was incredibly anxious about the trip… I worried that I’d get lost; not be able to cope on such a long flight; and the big one… I was terrified of the authority figures associated with the trip – in particular the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA). I have seen the videos, and read the blogs about some of the horrific encounters that people have experienced with TSA over the years… The inappropriate pat-downs, the x-rays, and the arrogance of the officers were all mentioned to varying degrees… I’d managed to reality check some of these stories by talking to Allison and the friend that I was going to visit; but, the fears still lingered.

My trip started out really well… I made the trip to Auckland easily, making it through customs and the departure process as if I’d done it before… It’s easy to forget that the process is set-up to keep the flow of people moving, so there were lots of signs and people available to help. The flight from Auckland to Los Angeles was great… I watched movies (The Intouchables was brilliant), and I even managed to get a bit of sleep. When I got to Los Angeles, things again went smoothly… I cleared customs, found the area to forward my luggage to the next flight, met my friend, and took some photos…

Theme BuildingThen, it was time for our connecting flight… We found the terminal, and despite the best efforts of a very slow elevator, we arrived on the right floor for our departure… All we had to do was get through a TSA checkpoint… The queue of people seemed to be moving fairly quickly, which gave us hope that this would also be an easy process… I cleared the identity check, and emptied my gear into the trays to be x-rayed… It was all going smoothly… The person in front of me had to go through the scanner twice, but that didn’t bother me, as I knew I had nothing to hide… Then it was my turn… I stood on the foot markers, raised my arms into the air, and was scanned… I exited the machine, but was immediately sent back into it due to some “anomalies” that were detected… the scan was repeated… Again, there were “anomalies”… Then I heard the words I feared the most… “We need a supervisor for a female pat-down…”

I couldn’t believe it… I stood in mute terror… My friend gathered my gear from the luggage scanner and stood waiting on the other side of the barrier… Then, we waited…

And waited…

And waited…

My anxieties sky-rocketed… I couldn’t stop my legs from shaking…

My friend asked what the problem was… but, all the TSA officer would say, was that there were “anomalies”…

What seemed like hours passed… but, I now know that it was about 20 minutes before the TSA supervisor arrived. Two female officers escorted me to a small curtained area in what appeared to be a staff locker room. They asked my friend if he wanted to go with us, and he thankfully agreed…

He mentioned that I experience anxiety and didn’t like to be touched…

We both repeated that I experience anxiety when the supervisor asked me if there was anything that they needed to be aware of… I think they were wanting to check if I had anything on me… but, I knew I didn’t…

I was told to face the wall and hold my arms out… She explained what she was going to do, just before she did it…

Did she pat down my arms first? I think so… I don’t remember her touching near my neck, but I think she did… I think that’s when the tears started…

She asked me to turn around…

She patted down my legs…

I remember looking straight ahead… trying to stay present so that I didn’t make things worse…

I remember my friend telling me that I was doing really well… that it would soon be over…

It seemed to go on forever, but I know it was quick and efficient…

After she finished, I followed them back to the check point where the supervisor tested her gloves for substances…

It was only then that I was given the all clear…

I was vaguely aware of the other people in the queue looking at me… all I could manage to do was pull on my shoes; and, at my friend’s insistence, sit down on a bench nearby…

This is where I finally collapsed… I couldn’t stop shaking… I took some anxiety medication and waited for that slow easing of the pain wrapped around my chest… the tingling in my face and hands… the hell of the panic…

I don’t know how long we sat there… I remember being doubled over, worrying that my obvious agitation might make the TSA people uncomfortable… I didn’t want them to feel bad for doing their job…I didn’t want anyone to feel bad… all the while, the internal chaos kept escalating…

I felt so violated… I had been touched against my will… my friend had told me that I was doing well for allowing that touch…

It triggered memories of the past… of people touching me against my will… of people who should have protected me, ignoring what was happening… It was all too much…

I questioned my friend… a part of me felt betrayed by him… lost… confused…

It wasn’t until the next day that I could stand back from the situation and look at what really happened… In the past, people made the choice to hurt me, others made the choice to turn away from my pain, and I became lost within their choices…

In the TSA situation, the officers were doing their job without the intent of hurting me… they did everything possible to make the process easier for me… My friend did everything within his power to make the process easier for me by reassuring me… by standing with me… by being present with me during my chaos…

He was my anchor…

I lost that distinction for a time… my hurts overwhelmed me… the pain was too great… But, the motivations of the choices that the people who hurt me in the past, were very different from those made by the people around me in the present…

For that, I’m very thankful…

A day of clarity

It feels as if I woke up this morning with a sense of clarity and grounding that has been missing for months…

In some ways today has felt no different – there are still urges for disordered eating, and there was a dissociative panic when I went out for a walk… But, in other ways it has all felt very different – I’ve managed to resist those urges to engage in disordered eating, and I went for a walk during the day (I usually walk at night so no one can see me).  This may not seem like much, but it’s so different from what has been happening over the last few months.

I know that one of the reasons for the clarity, is the passing of Christmas and New Year.  These holidays are particularly difficult for me… they’re associated with triggers from the past, and societal expectations in the present day.  That potent combination has meant that for the last few months, I’ve been a dissociative mess.

Adding to my anxiety, has been the knowledge that I would be staying in my home-town for Christmas…  For the last few years, my mother has come up to stay with me for Christmas and New Year; but this year this somehow got reversed, and I travelled to her.  I know that when I made the arrangements, it was with the thought that being in my home-town would be safer than being alone.  I say “safer”, but I realised that the balance between the safety provided by being with someone during the holidays (with all of the associated structure that provides); and the potential triggers of being in my home-town, were debatable.

It was an “interesting” visit home… being around someone else for such long periods of time provided a stark reminder of how much I dissociate – for example, I apparently went for a walk at 2am one night… I found that if I didn’t sit in the aisle seat at the movies, I become so anxious that I basically shut down and nearly fall asleep… I proved to myself that I could go for days on end without one form of disordered eating; but there seemed to be a trade-off to other forms taking over… When I did engage in the disordered eating, I hit new lows – something that I’m not proud of, but am trying to learn from… I found that I could cope being in my home-town, as long as I didn’t visit the satellite town where I spent most of my childhood… I found that I liked the peace associated with living in a retirement village – although the residents do tend to be in everyones business! … I discovered that I could sit with my aunt and mother, and we could talk about real issues…

In the past, my relationship with my aunt has been strained… She seemed to see me as this “perfect” person, who never did anything wrong, and resented me accordingly… considering how much I strived for perfection, I find this rather ironic.  But after we’d been to see the movie Quartet, we had a rather raw and honest conversation… my aunt was in an abusive relationship for several years, and my mother was married to my father (enough said).  We didn’t talk about the respective abuses we experienced; but instead talked about its effect on us… how my aunt tried to encourage her abuser to take responsibility for his abuse, by forcing him to pay for the plastic surgery on her face after he pushed her through a pane of glass… how my mother has purposefully forgotten chunks of her life, just so that she can cope with it all… how the abuse caused all of us to doubt ourselves, our truth, and devastated our self-esteem… and one thing that my aunt observed, was how much my behaviour is defined by my abusive past.  I found my aunt’s statement to be interesting, as she is not aware of my childhood abuses, just my marriage.  It was also a little scary… is my dysfunction that obvious?

As for my relationship with my mother… well, that had its ups and downs.  She was incredibly accepting of my odd habits, and even suggested ways that I could do things in a similar way to I did them at home – I’m still not able to do simple things like hang clothes out on the washing line.  But in other ways, she showed how unaware she was… I was talking to a friend via video on Skype when she came home, and she basically took over the video call.  My mother can be larger than life, especially when she’s trying to impress someone – and she was trying to impress my friend.  I get so overwhelmed by her personality when she is like this… I become this small, vulnerable being, who is unsure of how to react, except to play along… So I smiled, laughed, and played the game… anything to make sure that my mother doesn’t get her feelings hurt…  The call ended soon after my mother walked away from the computer… but what was interesting, was that while my friend also played along, and interacted with my mother; they noted my distress… a distress that I wasn’t aware of showing. They asked me how I was, and I admitted that I was close to tears… it wasn’t that I feared my mother trying to “steal” my friend, but that I felt so overwhelmed by her personality, and became so lost as a result… who was I???  I no longer knew…

Despite these ups and downs, I do think that my visit home was a positive experience.  I learned new things, made connections (internally and externally), and was able to keep promises that I’d made with myself – including attending Midnight Mass…

I’m not sure how long this clarity will last… but, I’m glad I experienced it…

And now for a random photo I took while away…
Sweet pea against the sky

—————-
Now playing: Tracy Chapman – The Promise

Fathers Day awareness

Sunday was Fathers Day in New Zealand.  As the day was approaching, a friend asked me how I reacted to the day – whether it needed to be something on my radar of potentially rough, or triggering days.  My response was a rather confident and nonchalant…  “Oh, it’s no big deal.  I usually hide out and withdraw, but am fine”.  I wasn’t minimising anything with my response; I was answering from a place of honesty, based on what I remembered from previous years.

This year however, was different…  Very different…  I was swept away by overwhelming emotions, lost great chunks of time, and felt the need for demeaning forms of self injury.  On some level, I remained functional… I tweeted, cleaned the house, did some gardening, and finished some chores.  But, I also had flashbacks that left me curled up in terror, I easily became disorientated as to time and place, and experienced an emotional roller-coaster that left me shaking like a leaf.

I say that this year was different, but I wonder if it really was.  Did I react differently to it; or, was I just more aware of my reactions to the day?  This is the question that I’ve been asking myself… I wonder about it because if I’m more aware, then that indicates a level of healing that is positive in the long-term… But, if this year was bad purely because I approached it in a different way, then that could indicate that I’m back-sliding by “looking for triggers”.  Either option is possible, but the latter seems more likely.  I feel less connected to everything and everyone than I did at the start of last year, so find it difficult to believe that the awareness is about positive healing…

As soon as I type that, a voice of dissent that speaks up… Allison has seen improvements in my functioning, and being aware of the chaos has to be a good indicator, doesn’t it?  And so it goes on… this continual to and fro.

Then, I see the internal arguments for what they are… another form of distraction.  If I get caught up in an internal argument over my progress, or lack thereof; then I can avoid reflecting on the weekend…  Instead of paying attention to the pain and associated feelings, I can start intellectualising.  Climb back into my comfort zone of internal debates about what constitutes healing, defines progress, etc…  That’s one step away from beating myself up for not being “healed” yet (whatever that means).

Ahhh Distraction Land, I know you well…

I know that we all need to distract sometimes; but, I need to learn to face my experiences as well.  No matter the reason why I had such a rough weekend, it was rough.  I need to learn how to cope with that… to learn how I can manage those times better… to heal…

In this instance, it was my emotional reaction to Fathers Day.  It would be really easy to now put that event in a box within my mind, label is as a triggering day, and store it away.  Yes, that plan of action would help me prepare for next year, but what can I learn from it to help my everyday life?  I think that’s where my healing will come from… I’m already really good at compartmentalising things, and what I really need to learn, is how to ease those compartments so that they blend into my everyday existence.  I’m always going to experience triggers – that’s just life.  I need to learn how to cope with those triggers better every single day, not just on triggering days…

An indication that I still have a long way to go in my healing, is that I deliberately chose to go to the lake on Fathers Day to take photos… On one level, this was a good decision, as I often feel a sense of calm by the water; but, on other levels, it was such a bad choice…  It was Fathers Day, after all… that means families playing together, and in particular fathers being the centre of attention within those families.  At times these images can be positive, and act as a reminder that not all fathers hurt their children… at other times, they can cut like a knife through my wounds.

Was it wise to go to the lake?  Probably not.  Another friend once told me about looking for the windows of opportunity in a situation… the windows where there is the possibility for you to choose a different option, or way forward.  I had one of those windows when I was deciding where to go to take photos… I could have chosen somewhere less triggering, but I didn’t.  This was reflected in the photos I took… Some reflected my pain…

While others reflected my ability to be in the moment…

Sparrow

I’m not so good at being in the present moment…

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Now playing: Eddie Vedder – Don’t be shy

Eating disorder assessment

Note: This post will discuss disordered eating thoughts, behaviour and issues.

On Thursday, I was assessed by Eating Disorder Services (EDS).  To say that I was terrified, would be an understatement.  I have so many conflicting views about the assessment, and the reality of my disordered eating…  I constantly question whether I have an eating disorder, or not.  I hold up the evidence that suggests what I’m doing isn’t a big deal… my BMI is in the healthy range; I eat three “meals” a day; and I don’t do many of the stereotypical behaviours attributed to those with an eating disorder.

Then, I stand back a little, and look at what I’m doing… I have lost a substantial amount of weight over the last 18 months, to the point where people I haven’t seen in over a year, no longer recognise me; I’ve had an increasing number of people telling me that I need to stop losing weight; my diet has become narrower, and narrower over time; and my exercise regime has started to become a little obsessive.  Then, there are the physical issues… I’m losing hair; my skin is becoming dry; my fingernails are constantly breaking; fatigue hits me more frequently; I get sore muscles for little, or no reason; and my digestion is obviously compromised.

But, probably the scariest thing, is my eating disordered thinking.  I never really comprehended what people were talking about when they referred to the all-consuming thinking of an ED… now, I understand it a little more.  In the past, when I had issues with food, I would get glimpses of the odd logic and reasoning that I could come up with… I’d start to eat something, and then suddenly become repulsed by it… I’d look at food, and it would morph into something unpalatable and impossible to eat… or, just the thought of food would make me have a panic attack.  Often there would be no context for these previous issues with food, and they seemed like random occurrences.  I could attribute some of them to stress, but not all of them…  Now, things are different, it’s like I’m living in that space all the time.  I think of food, and become scared.  I’m not even totally sure what the fear is about… yes, there’s an element of “food = calories = weight = bad” to it; but, that’s not the real story.  That’s the veneer that is acceptable to describe, but there is so much more to it all.

I’m well aware that there is a mix of the past influencing my thinking…  My father was a butcher during many of my formative years, which has resulted in me always struggling to eat meat of any kind.  My mother has had many issues with her weight over the years… as part of her own issues, she would often make derogatory comments about my weight…  My ex-husband considered himself a chef, which has probably triggered one the most destructive of my food issues… an inability to eat salad.  Yes, I realise how silly that sounds… I mean, salad is good for you, right?  But now, I find myself frozen in front of the salad aisle of the supermarket, totally unable to pick-up any of the healthy food in front of me…  Part of the reason for this, is because my ex-husband made such a performance about making amazing salads; so there’s a negative association.  But, a bigger part of my issue with food, is an inability to touch it in order to prepare a meal.  To give you an idea, the last time I helped to prepare a meal from scratch, was last Christmas… I don’t remember the time before that…  I’m not totally sure how this fear developed, but I think it may have to do with touching raw meat, and the feelings generated as a result… associations with my father, and the butchery… flashbacks… fear… terror…

It’s for these reasons, that when I told my mother that I was going to be assessed for an ED, she commented that she wished them luck as the things that I eat are so limited.  It’s this sort of reaction that helps me realise that my disordered eating isn’t about trying to get attention from my family.  When my oldest brother was in his early 20’s he developed Bulimia Nervosa… the comments he received from our parents were hardly supportive… my father called him a skinny wimp, and my mother ignored it.  My brother managed to find his way through his eating disorder without outside help… but he still struggles with food 20+ years later.

With all of this baggage, I went into the assessment on Thursday… it was pretty much a disaster.  It was meant to be a 90-120 minute assessment, but the nurse called it off after 45 minutes.  I was at my tongue-tied best… staring at the carpet and becoming more and more anxious, despite taking medication prior to the assessment.  The only good thing, was that because EDS are part of the Mental Health Crisis Team, she had my notes which outlined my abuse history and diagnoses.

There were some harsh moments leading up to the assessment… having an ECG was a reminder of the physical damage that I could be doing to my body… the fasting blood tests were an odd contrast to what was meant to be achieved… but, the worst thing, was the terrible drive to restrict food as the assessment approached.  There were fears that if I wasn’t “serious/light enough”, they would call me an attention seeker; or, that they would force me to eat, so I had to counter that by going in as light as possible; and then there were the conflicting views about what being accepted, or not, by EDS would mean… all of these different reactions played out in my disordered eating.

I wish those fears, and behaviours had eased with EDS accepting me into their services… but, they haven’t.  The assessment ended with me being given the diagnosis of EDNOS, and being asked to add some cereal and milk into my diet.  The assessing nurse kept telling me that the changes would be slow, and about helping me to gain health, not weight.  But, I’ve been looking at the cereal in my pantry like it’s the enemy…  I wish I could just pour some in a bowl and eat it, just like they showed in those misguided made-for-tv ED movies of the 80’s and 90’s.  I guess real life isn’t like the movies after all… stink!

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Now playing: INXS – Beautiful girl

The fallout

In my last post, I sound as if I had “dealt” with the visit to my hometown… I was wrong.  What I’d done, is stuff it all in a rather large room in the back of my mind, and closed the door.  My main thought was that I’d gotten through the past two weekends, and that was all that mattered.  I had expected that once those weekends were over, then the anxiety and dissociation would magically disappear… because I wanted that so much, I started to live it.  The trip became a “good, healing experience”, and I couldn’t even remember the weekend of the conference… they became like another couple of headlines in the newspaper, nothing more.

On Thursday, the little fantasy that I had created for myself, came crashing down.  I saw Allison, and we talked about the trip.  She didn’t force anything, but it ripped open the door that I had firmly shut.  We talked about my family not recognising me as I got off the plane… my sister-in-law who talks about her abuse history as if it’s a badge that everyone has to see, and know about… the doubts created when places weren’t exactly as I remembered them…  The session was “intense” according to Allison’s parting words.  So intense, I had to sit in the car for over an hour, talking to a friend in order to ground myself and stop the shaking.

This was when the real fallout began… flashbacks; lost time; constant internal chatter about how bad I am; images of self-injury; and so on.  Intellectually, I decided that the main issue was the denial created when details of the pub weren’t exactly as I remembered; so decided to do some research.  The pub has a history page on their website.  When looking for old photos of the building, I found a photo of my father.  I also found out he’d been given awards for his input into the organisation.  Again, denial slammed into me… was I falsely accusing this man, who was respected in his community, of horrors that had never happened?  It didn’t matter that I wasn’t accusing him in court, or that I have no intention of doing so… all that mattered was whether it happened or not.  I’m used to the dance of denial… it’s one I’ve experienced throughout my life.  In some ways, it’s comforting to know that the denial and doubt touch every single aspect of my life… it’s not just the abuse that I doubt, but everything.  At times my life just seems to be a big question mark.

I realise that I’ve already glossed over the impact of seeing the photo of my father.  I remember seeing the photo as a child… one of my brothers is also in a photo nearby.  It’s disconcerting to see those two, who look so similar, so close.  To say that it’s disconcerting to see how much I look like my father, is an understatement.  I hate genetics.  I hate knowing how much I look like him.  That’s part of the reason I can’t look in the mirror… I see his face and the cross that he wore around his neck during my teens.  Yet another reason to hate how I look, and who I am.  When I see him in my reflection, I become him, and part of the things that he did – not just to me, but to the family, and community.  He is an alcoholic narcissist, and has left a trail of destruction behind him, fitting of such labels.

Sorry, I know this is becoming disjointed… I need to write it out.  I need to try to make sense of it.  But, I don’t know if that’s even possible anymore.

Thursday night, I decided to clean out my wardrobe.  During the clean out, I found jewellery that my father had given me, as well as the lingerie purchased for my wedding night…  I don’t know how these items had lasted so long.  But there they were… a cruel reminder of my doubts, pain and confusion.  If you’re wondering why I doubt the abuse from my father, yet still react to him… well, apparently I’ve always reacted to him.  My mother once told me that one of the factors which caused her to separate from my father, was talking to me in the kitchen when he arrived home… she said that as soon as I heard his car, I looked to confirm it was him, then my face changed, and I walked away to my room without finishing the conversation.

While my reaction to finding those items didn’t help ease any denial, it added another layer of stress and provided more fodder for flashbacks…

What does all of this mean?  Well, the short version is that I’m a mess… the long version is that I’m a total and utter mess.  I’m reacting to the slightest of triggers… unable to concentrate on anything for even moderate timeframes… want to go out and get totally drunk… the list goes on.  I’m trying to remember that the world keeps turning, and that means that this turmoil will pass… please, pass soon… please.

Path to self-destruction

Every now and again, I stand back, and wonder what in the world I’m doing.  This is one of those times.

I’ve just made it through the first of the two stressful weekends that I have previously mentioned.  I don’t remember much about the past weekend… just the noise (a group of librarians is very noisy), the suffocating crowds, the alcohol, and the panic… the ever-present panic.

People laughed during my presentation, but apparently it was because I was funny… go figure!  I was even congratulated afterwards by my bullying ex-manager… although, I always wonder what her motives are for anything that she does, doubly so when it seems positive towards someone else.  Yes, paint me suspicious.  She did seem genuine though… it was a little unsettling, to say the least.

I tried so hard to stay safe… I went back to my room early, I went for a walk to take photos… I avoided obvious triggers.  But, by Saturday night, things were starting to crumble.  The drive to get hurt was incredible.  The pressure of presenting to a large group of influential people; trying to act sane; and having to eat dinner in front of others, was too much…  The only thing that kept me safe, was an inability to access methods of self-injury.

People have tried to tell me that getting through the weekend uninjured was an accomplishment.  So, why does it feel like a failure?  A part of me is very confused, and feels rejected by the lack of pain… in some warped way, it’s almost as if I wasn’t “good” enough to be hurt.  Allison tried to explain the theory behind the feelings to me, but that brought little comfort.  Instead, it has upped the stakes for the coming weekend…

This weekend, I’m returning to my home-town for my birthday.  There are positive plans, such as wanting to see the ocean, and taking photos of some of the parks around the city; but there are also plans to go to the rugby club, and school where I was abused.  I need to go alone to these places.  I need to see what they look like… are they as I remember them?  Have they changed?  Will being there trigger any memories?  Will I see any of the men who abused me?

I read that paragraph, and realise the insanity of it.  What do I hope to accomplish?  Nothing positive can come from it.  If they look the same, what will it prove?  I know that memory is influenced by a variety of factors, so it wouldn’t ease my denial, or magically resolve my questions… so, what is the point?

All I can think of, is that it is a futile bid for acceptance over the past.  But, it’s unlikely that the men who abused me will be willing to sit down and reminisce.  It’s not really a fit topic of discussion to have over drinks on a Saturday afternoon, is it?

Strangely, the part of me who wants to go back to the club, doesn’t want to see the abusers.  I want; no, need to see the building, that’s all.  I want to see the men’s toilets, the changing rooms, the downstairs bar, and the office.  The place must be empty.  If there were people there, it would make it too real.  It would give faces to the shadows, and that isn’t wanted.

There’s a clinical detachment in knowing their names, without seeing their faces.  A form of safety… denial.  I’m a librarian, I could find their pictures if I wanted… but, I destroyed all of my childhood pictures, so why would I want to see their faces?  Seeing their faces would be like having proof that I remembered them for something… that they mattered…

I know that so much of my thinking is a study in contrasts, as well as a dash of very young logic. It’s becoming a constant struggle to stay grounded in the present…  The past and present seem to be merging more often.  I’m losing more time.  The intellectual part of me is struggling with the infirmity of it all… there’s a need to get back on solid ground now, and ignore all of these diversions… The thing that is so confusing, is that I don’t know what is the diversion anymore… is it work, the dissociation, or the past?

I know I’ll be fine this weekend.  I know it will be a jolt to be back in my hometown, but I do have many good memories there…  It may feel like a path to destruction, but that’s my anxiety talking… I need to listen to it, understand, and acknowledge it; but also reality check it all.

—————-
Now playing: Brooke Fraser – Shadowfeet
via FoxyTunes

Anxiety vrs reality

One of the ways that anxiety manifests for me, is the fear created when I imagine the worst case scenario that could happen when facing a situation.  It feels all-encompassing.  There is no relief from its control.  This morning, all of my distraction techniques, grounding methods, and even my prescribed “emergency” medications haven’t helped ease its grip over me.

It feels like I’m in some invisible tug-of-war between reality, and anxiety related scenarios…  Anxiety is winning!

Here are some of the issues causing my anxiety…

Scenario 1:  My abusive ex-husband will be in town this weekend for a special event.

Reality tells me that he will obey the Protection Order that I have against him, and will not approach the house.

Anxiety shows me (in great detail), all of potential scenarios where he will come to the house… He might want to show the people he’s with, where he lived with the “fruit-loop”… He might want to see if I still live here…  He might be curious as to what the house now looks like…

Within my mind, the anxiety scenario becomes bigger, and badder.  I see him driving up and sitting outside in the car.  I see him standing at the door.  I hear the taunts that I know he can throw at me.  I see him in the house.  I see him hurting me.

My imagination weaves abuses from the past into the potential scenario, making them seem all to real.  It becomes more and more difficult to reality check what my imagination is creating; and anxiety hits in wave, after wave.


Scenario 2:  Next month I have to present at a weekend conference in another town.  There will be several people going from work – including the co-worker who has sexually harassed me on a couple of occasions.  Everyone from work will be staying in the same hotel.

Reality tells me that my presentation will be fine – it’s a small conference, and the topic of my presentation is interesting.  The co-worker will not do anything to harass me at the conference.

Anxiety tells me that the presentation will be a total disaster.  The person following me in the program, is my former bullying boss, and she will take great delight in telling everyone how bad my talk was, before starting into her own presentation.  I will lose all of the respect that my former team leader has for me, and the audience will try, but fail, to smother their derisive laughter during my presentation.

It also tells me, that I’ll be harassed by my co-worker in a more direct way.  It will evolve from verbal harassment, to physical.  I won’t be able to stop it, and I’ll end up dissociating in a strange town with no access to my usual support network.  I’ll end up self-injuring, badly.

Again, my imagination weaves images that I’ve seen in the media, or my own experiences, into the scenario.  It becomes bigger, and badder than any known reality.


Scenario 3:  I’m going back to my home-town for my birthday. 

Reality tells me that it’s only for a couple of days, and everything will be fine.  It might be a shock to return there, and possibly disorienting; but, it will be fine as long as I remember the skills I’ve picked up in distraction and grounding.  It’s all about staying in the present.

Anxiety tells me that I’ll be swamped with memories.  My mother will invade my space by going through my possessions – I have proof that she has done so during her latest visit.  I’ll be forced to interact with my sister, and my sister-in-law… both people I would rather avoid.  I’ll be overwhelmed, and end up self-injuring.


I know that my fears are driving these anxiety scenarios… fear of failure, being hurt, humiliation, and being seen.  At times, I can step back from those fears, and reality check them; but, at the moment, they are all I see.  I was hoping that by writing this out, they might ease their grip over me… that I could intellectualise the scenarios, and put the fears into the boxes on the shelves in my mind.  If there was only one of the scenarios happening, I would try to feel the emotions, and ease them that way.  But, with all three, it feels too big…

The first scenario was talked about with Allison this week; but it was more a process of giving voice to the fears, rather than establishing any action plans.  I’m going into the weekend anxiety filled, and unable to remain grounded.  I’m experiencing derealisation, and panic attacks.  Yet, I’m sitting here at work, as if I’m fine…

I’ll be fine… I always am.