End of the Tunnel?

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Six weeks have passed since having any hypervigilance. Over five have passed since having anxiety. During these last several weeks, I’ve taken no gabapentin nor other anti-anxiety. The doctor warned that while on gabapentin, if I had any depression, to stop taking the medication. I had come to rely on the drug to help me sleep. For two months, sleep was restorative and refreshing, and there was no grogginess after waking up. It was like a miracle. But a morning came with depression, the kind that makes you not want to get out of bed. The dose the night before was the last.

The last two episodes of anxiety happened within a few days of each other. Both had clear triggers.

The first seems mundane: stepping out onto the sidewalk. Amazing that something so common in a city could lead to feelings that can paralyze, raise heart rate, cause arrhythmias, tension, and hyperventilation.

The second episode’s trigger was entering a medical facility. The anxiety was not strong, but it was definitely there as my heart rate sped up and my breathing became more labored. It reminded me of Brooklyn Hospital the day of 9-11. Outside back then, there was already enough tension to cut with a knife. But inside it was chaos, as if someone sliced it and let it bungee around the room. This kind of energy was not there this time. But something about the way the door opened brought back that memory as if it was happening again.

Sensory Emotional Regulation has been so effective for me that of course I practiced it both times. On the sidewalk, there was tension in my head and a lump in my throat. At the medical center, my head was spinning — like having vertigo but with eyes closed.

For another few weeks after these episodes, I had trouble sleeping. It was like being at square one trying to find ways to fall asleep. White noise from my air purifier doesn’t work as well as it used to (maybe because there’s less noise in my head?).

Then another miracle: the Giants won the World Series for the third time in five years. The commentary was enlivened going on for hours after the winning game. My boyfriend turned on the radio and the talk went on. It put me to sleep.

Now I turn on the radio almost every night. These days I can sleep through the night, waking up at 5 a.m. after six solid hours. I turn on talk radio at a volume so low, only a few words in a sentence can be understood. Enough to turn my attention away from the noise in my head, but not enough to steal it and get me involved.

After 12 years of being in a mental fog, it’s hard to believe my mind has healed. Come to think of it, my heart doesn’t seem to skip much either. It had skipped so often that my primary care physician heard it during a routine exam. It was why she sent me to the World Trade Center health clinic.

Most of the time, I don’t think about what I’ve been through. But I’m amazed when I do and I think about the book I want to write to share with the world what it was like and maybe help someone else with PTSD along the way. I also think about continuing this blog, not so much about PTSD anymore, but more about life in general, and of course motorcycles.

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