There’s a Fresno Grizzlies game tonight, and it’s church night! The seats were priced right, and lots more people from our church bought tickets than we had expected. I have my church shirt and my Grizzlies hat and even got some cash for the ridiculously expensive concession stand. I filled my gas tank yesterday and I know where I’m supposed to park. I’m all ready to go . . .
. . . and I’m having an anxiety attack. I’ll probably stay home feeling guilty and relieved in equal measures.
I went last time. I rode with someone else who didn’t want to go alone, and because my back was really bad then we agreed that we’d leave when I was too uncomfortable to stay. We got there a bit late and left just after the 7th inning stretch. It was lots of fun and I was really looking forward to going again . . .
. . . but I’m having an anxiety attack. The idea of getting out of my car in the parking structure and walking to the stadium and then trying to find my friends is overwhelming me.
It’s the being surrounded a huge crowd of people, but not entirely. It’s the walking into a huge place full of strangers by myself and not knowing exactly where to look for my friends, but not entirely. It’s the driving to a strange place by myself, but not entirely.
It’s the not knowing for sure that I will be safe - entirely. It’s PTSD.
I can’t tell you how often I am all ready to go to an event I really want to attend and an anxiety attack keeps me home. Then I have to contact someone who is expecting me to show up and come up with some lame excuse because God forbid I should get honest and say, “I’m having an anxiety attack that is keeping me from leaving the house.”
I’m not an expert on PTSD, so I keep realizing new things about my particular variety of the disorder. Like today, when I finally realized that the reason I have anxiety attacks that keep me from going to events I REALLY WANT TO GO TO is PTSD. It’s not one symptom or another. It’s not social anxiety or agoraphobia or introversion. It’s the whole Post-traumatic Stress Disorder thing. In the years since I was first diagnosed I have learned that PTSD is not always a reaction to one specific traumatic experience. In some cases (like mine) it is a response to a series of events. So not one punch to the face or kick to the spine, but a lot of physical abuse over a period of years. Not one rape, but repeated rapes. Not one instance of emotional abuse, but so many insults and put-downs from so many people over decades.
Unlike the fact that I’m afraid of heights because one time when I was 12 I was in a tree house when it fell out of the tree, a fear that I have been steadily working on eradicating, the events that caused my PTSD were spread over decades. I know what some of my triggers are, and I recognize some of my symptoms and reactions to triggers, but not all of them. It took years to realize that the panic attacks when I am not sure where I am while driving were because I didn’t know how to get to a safe place, and that they were PTSD related (and I am SO grateful for SIRI!). And today I suddenly realized that my anxiety attacks before going to a new or crowded place by myself are also PTSD related - because I do not know for sure that I will be in a safe place.
I’m getting better at dealing with my anxiety attacks. I’m much more willing to go to events where there will be strangers as long as I am with friends, and as long as my friends understand that I might have to leave suddenly if something triggers me. But I still end of sitting in my house way too often instead of being someplace doing something I’d really like to do . . .
I suppose I really should always find someone to go places with me, someone who is wiling to leave when I need to because the crowd gets too much for me. I suppose I should be more open about why it is so difficult to go to new places or crowded places at all, never mind going by myself. I suppose I need to finally get around to finding a new therapist who can work with me, and help me learn how to function better in situations like today.
Meanwhile, I guess I will stay home tonight. Again. *sigh*