Tag Archives: anxiety attacks

Recovering: Calmer but Still Anxious, yet Determined

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Today has been a day of recovery from the physical and emotional stress of being run off the road last week. Despite having dealt with the effects of PTSD for almost a decade and pretty well versed in what happens in the brain and body during a traumatic event, but it has been a long time since I have actually been through something this traumatic.

It’s funny, when it happened I was pretty much pumped up on norepinephrine and cortisol. They control the  fight or flight response, and norepinephrine is similar to adrenaline. When I pulled my damaged car into the grass median I didn’t have anyone to fight. So the initial rush wore off and my anxiety and fear began to build. Since I went over that yesterday, I’ll move on.

Judy was a tower of strength to me over the weekend. She understood and even this morning was willing to take me to early fat boy PT, then to the Naval Medical Center for my other appointments and the pharmacy. I thanked her but said I needed to do it on my own. I was nervous on the road, but extra careful. I gave myself lots of time, kept good following distances, and kept a sharp eye out.

My early morning PT was good for me, as was the aquatic physical therapy. I think they helped release some endorphins, which combined with some time in the sauna calmed me down. Of course I had to wait an ungodly amount of time at the medical center pharmacy for my antidepressant prescription, but such is life. But, I was able to get my paperwork to the orthopedist so he can approve me to take the Physical Readiness Test this fall.

The past two PRT cycles after the fall that injured my knees, ankles, and hip, and has resulted in so much pain and inconvenience as I tried to recover, I wasn’t cleared to participate. The injuries, the failed treatments, and failed meniscus surgery left me unable to physically do much, so I gained weight and got depressed because I saw no hope in sight. I could only walk with the aid of crutches or a cane for months. Of course I gained weight and came in over my maxim body fat allowance.

Since then things have changed. I was switched to aquatic physical therapy and the orthopedics Department Head made me his patient. Despite the injuries to my knees, I am not yet a candidate for knee replacement, so he decided a last ditch effort to relieve my pain, which had been a consistent 7-10 on the pain scale for months. He decided to repeat the gel injections in both knees before trying any other surgeries. This time they worked and soon I was walking relatively normally without the aid of crutches or canes, and the pain level went down to the 2-3 range. I do a lot of walking and swimming and since the first week of June have lost about 17 pounds. My goal is to lose another 10-15 pounds by the 15th of October. I am now up to walking, on a good day, 8-10 miles. I hope  by eating nothing but soup, salad, fruit, and low carb/calorie yogurt over the next week that I meet my allowed body fat allowance by next Monday, on the next “fat boy” weigh in. I think I need to lose about 5 pounds to make it. That won’t stop me from working to lose all I need for my last official weigh in before retirement. If I don’t succeed, under the revised regulations it could screw up my retirement. I won’t let that happen, even if I die in the attempt.

So until tomorrow I leave you with less anxiety, more determination, and a desire to kick ass and take names. I’ll start catching up with current events tonight and tomorrow.

Until then,

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

 

 

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Emotional and Physical Recovery from a Traumatic Event

Pearls Before Swine Comic Strip for August 07, 2017

Comic, Pearls Before Swine, (c) 2017 by Stephan Pastis

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

On Thursday afternoon my car was run off the road by an inattentive driver with a very loud exhaust system.

I honestly thought I would be better the next day, but late in the afternoon when Judy took me to get the car, I got in the driver seat and I felt sick to my stomach and was trembling. I got the car home and she drove us to Gordon Biersch where we had a nice night.

I didn’t sleep well, lots of nightmares and I didn’t leave bed, except to let the dogs out until about 1 PM. I knew I had to get a few groceries at Kroger and Wegmans so I made the trip. Until I got to the Kroger parking lot the trip went well. Then it seemed that every old lady was trying to crash by cutting me off or taking up most of a lane. I was doing into panic mode, but took a deep breath, regathered myself and instead of going directly to Wegmans I stopped by Gordon Biersch for a one and done to calm the nerves. Since I no longer take a specific anti anxiety medication, I stopped taking the minimal PRN dosage of Xanax a few years back because I was experiencing less anxiety.

The crash has re-triggered that anxiety, something I will talk to with my shrink on Tuesday and my psychiatric medicine manager Wednesday. But yesterday I needed to calm down. I texted Judy and posted my situation on Facebook. A good friend came over and spent some time with me at the bar. I then did a take out order since Judy told me that. Wegmans could wait.

Judy reminded me of the chemical chain reaction that trauma sends through the body, and how it takes time for that to play out. I am lucky to have her.

This morning we planned to go out to breakfast, but since neither of us were hungry we stayed in bed with the dogs. They have been very comforting, especially my girl Izzy. Judy is about to drive us to Biersch for dinner so we can get out of the house.

Tomorrow I am up really early for fat boy PT, then I have to drive to the Naval Medical Center for aquatic physical therapy and to get my antidepressant refilled  since I have gone without it 5 days and don’t want to crash and get suicidal. Then I will go in to work.

About the cartoon. That is how I have felt all weekend. The cartoon is Pearls Before Swine by Stephan Pastis. This particular cartoon ran in August of 2017. His comics can be accessed at GoComics.com, I hope that since I didn’t ask permission to run it that you will flood his site with hits and buy his books.

So until tomorrow, and hopefully better times,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

 

 

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Filed under Loose thoughts and musings, mental health, Military, PTSD

I’m Leaving on a Jet Plane…Reflections on the Islands of Unhappy Travelers

The 80’s group Blondie had a hit called “Island of Lost Souls.”  I love that song; it is kind of quirky and fun.  However, there is a time when you run into a place where the song seems more true than not. Airports are one of those places, they tend to be some of the most angst and anger filled venues known to man, excepting of course Fed-Ex Field where Dan Snyder is doing his best to destroy the Redskins and drive off their fans. However, I digress as I couldn’t care a whit about the Redskins because they are a football team, though I have sympathy for the fans that have been banned from bringing signs into the stadium.  With that exception and maybe the U.S. Capitol building and the set of any Cable Television talk show where politics is being debated the airports have to be pretty close to the top of the hate and discontent list.

I had to travel to Florida in the spring for chaplain conference.  Since I came back from Iraq I do travel a lot less well than I used to and to make matters worse conferences of almost any kind at best come close to pushing me to the edge.  Sleep tends to be difficult for me, especially before I travel on commercial airlines and endure the hell of airports.  The night before I travel, I try to anticipate every contingency, going through my packing list and ensuring I have everything that I need. Then after I go to bed I get up an hour later to make sure that I indeed get everything. Once I am sure that I do I go back and check the multiple alarm clocks that I have set just to make sure I don’t miss my flight.  I know why I do this. Before Iraq I traveled a lot and got good at it.  However in Iraq a did a lot more of this and got into a routine of checking, double checking and even triple checking to make sure that I had everything that I needed.  Over there I knew that if I forgot something, even something simple that it would not be available the places that I was going or places that I might get marooned.  I have carried that experience back with me.  I pack and lay out all my clothes the night before I go to work.  I actually use the same pack that I carried on every mission in Iraq.  It is an excellent piece of gear, made by Blackhawk.

Anyway that day was a hellish travel day. The weather across the east coast was crappy.  My first flight was delayed an hour, my second flight as well. If that was not bad enough the good folks at Delta airlines failed to have people at gates and jet ways when gate changes happened, leaving people to miss flights and nearly miss vacation cruises.  On our connecting flight at Atlanta’s Harts-Jackson Field was delayed, in my case that was a good thing as had it been on time I would have missed it.  While in line waiting for the flight announcements were periodically made, each one either delivering a later flight time or excuse for the delay.  The excuses often were inconsistent.  I began to think that they were lying to us.  Now I’m not saying that an airline would lie, but it seemed to my little pea brain that the excuses conflicted and each new excuse contradicted the last pathetic excuse.  I hate bad liars.  Let’s face it, if you are going to lie be consistent and strive to make it believable, politicians, lawyers and TV evangelists are great at this.  Unfortunately the people lying to us were not very believable.  However it may have been that they actually believed what they were saying which would be as George Costanza once said: “It’s not a lie if you believe it.”

As I waited that day I surveyed my fellow disgruntled travelers.  I was deep into a PTSD induced ass kinking anxiety attack.  By the time this was going on time I had taken both of my extra meds as well as my 8 AM and 1230 PM doses of Samuel Adams Boston Lager.  Normally I’ll wait until dinner for a beer, but I knew that I needed a bit more on that trip.  I try not to self-medicate and over the past year have gotten a lot better in not doing this. However there as something about airports and airline travel that almost inevitably pushes my buttons and so I will do this to take the edge off and keep me somewhat sane until I can get to my destination and hide.

I went to a conference in Orlando in the summer of 2008 shortly after my PTSD diagnosis and that about put me over the edge. If you have PTSD the Gateway to the fricking “Happiest place in the world” is the portal to hell.  Thus only a few months after coming out of a combat zone I discovered that Orlando during the height of the summer pilgrimage to Wally World to see Randy Rodent and Doofey is not a fun experience.

Thanks be to God for her good care during this trip.  She ensured that my doctor had given good drugs and the airport pubs provided good beer not to mention a Chili Dog with mustard.  Thus by the middle of the afternoon I was doing far better than most of my fellow travelers.  It definitely sucked to be them.  It was then that the Blondie song came into my mind.  Atlanta’s airport was not the Island of Lost Souls but the Land of Unhappy Travelers.  I listened to some of the folks around me as they lamented their situation and it sounded like “Lemony Snickets: A Series of Unfortunate Events.” Atlanta had become the vortex of very disgruntled travelers who had missed flights, been bumped from flights or delayed endlessly.  If you don’t believe in the Catholic in the doctrine of Purgatory just try Atlanta on a day like that, which is about 362 days a year.  I looked around, and though barely holding on myself I was able to find some gallows humor in the midst of this agony.  I looked around the people around me and said “Ladies and gentlemen it is my distinct displeasure to welcome you to the land of unhappy travelers.”  I actually got a few laughs.  I then made a comment about the airline, which I had not flown in a couple of years, saying “I’m glad to see that some things stay the same, our airline still has same crappy service that they had a few years ago.”  As we started boarding we boarded by zones as some airlines do.  I personally prefer the first come or first signed in first seated way that Southwest does things, unfortunately the government contract was no longer with Southwest. As they announced “boarding zones one through five,” I commented, “Yep, you guys in zone 92 still have a while to wait.  On each flight we had bad weather, turbulence and on one flight the air condition did not start kicking in until we were getting ready to land.

When I got to my destination I heard stories even worse than mine, all focused around the vortex of doom that swirled around Atlanta.  The only place that I thought it could have gone worse was Washington Dulles, where my experiences have been nearly all bad. I survived but by the time I got to my hotel my ass was kicked. At the end of the day I had survived.  A few beers and a bit of wine with good fellowship with friends made things better.

Saturday I get to fly again and make my third trip to California to see my folks.  I am already making my list and getting mentally prepared for the trip.  I get to fly though Chicago O’Hare and on the way back LAX and O’Hare.  Thank the Deity Herself that Atlanta is not on the itinerary. I’ll do my best to at least find the humor as I pass through these islands of unhappy travelers, so pray for me a sinner.

Peace,

Padre Steve

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PTSD²: Learning to Live Together When Both of You Have PTSD

Judy and Steve[1]_edited-1The Abbess and Me

The Abbess and I have been married 26 years.  We have dealt with PTSD for all of that time. Now we did not always know this was the case, not until she received the diagnosis back in 1989 and even then we did not really appreciate the effect that it was having on her and us.  She has written a wonderful piece over at her place, the Abbey Normal Abbess’s Blog entitled “The Abbess talks about a household with PTSDwhich I have linked here:  http://abbeynormalabbess.wordpress.com/2009/09/18/the-abbess-talks-about-a-household-with-ptsd/

Any regular reader of this website knows that the host, Padre Steve deals with PTSD, a gift that he brought home with him from Iraq.  There are a decent number of articles here that reference my struggles in coming to grips with this, how it affects me and how I am working with Elmer the Shrink to figure this surreal, confusing, illogical and sometimes frightening mess out.

Now before I came home with PTSD and actually figured out what the hell was going on with me and why I was falling apart I had little understanding of what the Abbess was going through.  She suffers from childhood PTSD, abusive father, generally un-protective mother who probably had her own childhood abuse issues going on and a sister who physically abused her.  She also was traumatized when she was between two and three years old when a Doctor removed a cyst from her face without anesthesia, that is one of her earliest memories and for many years caused her to fear going to the doctor.  When we started dating the family was probably in one of their more peaceful states but there were plenty of times where I saw some scary shit going on.  At the same time the Judy that I knew was the confident young college student, gifted artist and President of the Delta College German Club with a vibrant faith.  There were hints back then that she was damaged by her family of origin but I just took it as something that she would simply grow out of.  I had read about PTSD in Vietnam veterans but kind of brushed that aside and had no idea that someone who had not been to war could suffer from PTSD.

After she was diagnosed with childhood PTSD neither of us really knew what to do with it and most of her therapists did not deal with it and instead focused on depression and one even tried to diagnose her and turn her into a sufferer of Dissociative Identity Disorder the diagnosis formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder.  That was a fiasco brought on by “Christian” therapists who tried to find demons in everything.  Of course if there were demons involved or Satanic ritual abuse that made it easy, you didn’t need to deal with the PTSD or any of the psychological components to what was going on.  I think that these therapists, one of who is now famous for his diagnoses of former NFL star Hershel Walker did great harm to Judy and others in making a psychological diagnosis based on unsupportable “spiritual” causes.  These spiritual “causes” were not based on fact, but rather the therapist’s suppositions which were based on conspiracy theories   usually involving how police worked with satanic groups to conduct satanic rituals and then return the victims to their homes.  If we know what we had known now we would have made a malpractice suit against the therapists and pastoral counselor involved in Judy’s treatment at the time.

It was not until I was on active duty in the Navy that a therapist began to work with Judy’s PTSD.  Even still with her getting treatment I was still learning how to grapple with all the reactions that I had seen for years because to me they were still not logical.  I am a methodical and logical person and if you know anything about PTSD you quickly find that much of what happens to a person has nothing to do with logic, but what the brain and the nervous system are doing and not how a person is deciding to act at a given point.  So when Judy would startle or have some kind of meltdown I would try to counter with logic.  This to my surprise never worked and I was always left frustrated.  Over the years I became a bit more understanding but still would have trouble with the severe startle reflex as well as the occasional meltdowns which over the past couple of years have gotten to be less severe because of a conscious effort to help her work through her PTSD symptoms and become more aware of what was happening and triggers.

Doonesbury ptsd-pmsPMS -PTSD Judy’s Best friend said to me “You’re a girl now”

Then I went to Iraq and came back with PTSD with all the trimmings.  I think that she started figuring it before me so when I finally crashed on June 16th 2008, I do remember the date well, she was not surprised when I came back and told her that the doctors thought that I had PTSD and were referring me for treatment.  The good thing for me was that they did not refer to the Psychology or Psychiatry clinic but to the Deployment Health Office where I met and began to work with Elmer the Shrink.  My first visit to his office I got a copy of the Doonesbury book dealing with coming home from war and PTSD.  I laughed and cried all the way through the book.  Until I went to Iraq I had never been a big fan of Doonesbury but I really appreciate it now.  Military.com has a link to the Doonesbury at War series which I find quite nice to have.

http://www.military.com/warfighters

I appreciate the help and understanding of people that I work with.  That helps; I don’t have the sense of abandonment and isolation that I experienced the first 8 months that I was back from Iraq.  I think that my medications are getting managed a bit better as well.  One thing that is hard to understand when you first start getting treatment is that you are kind of an experiment in progress as the doctor’s figure out what works and what doesn’t work.  This I think can be very frustrating to people who want “fixed” right now.

doonesbury ptsd onsetSome of my dreams get pretty physical

Before I went to Iraq she was the more observant one of us.  Now I am the more observant. The one value of PTSD that I don’t really want to lose is my awareness of what it happening around me.  It has I’m sure been more help than hindrance getting me out of dangerous situations quickly because in many cases I sense things even before I see or hear them.  As I have pointed out in other posts this has come in handy especially in our nutty Hampton Roads traffic and the “kill or be killed” mindset that you have to have to survive on I-64 or I-264.  While I like the ability to do this the startle response that I have now is really annoying.  We have a phone in our house that the ringer sends me into orbit.  If I am sitting in the living room when it goes off it scares the absolute shit out of me as it does Judy.  It is interesting to see both of us almost jump through our asses when that damned thing goes off. Inevitably it is the damned Rite Aide Pharmacy automated line or a equally damned telemarketer that does this.  Other loud noises get me.  I was driving to work and there was a vintage Chevy Camaro just ahead of me and in the adjacent lane to my right. It was still in that morning twilight when the Camaro started backfiring out of its twin exhaust pipes.  The backfire sounded like a burst of semi automatic weapons fire close up and the flashes from the pipes looked like muzzle flashes.  Other unexpected loud noises get me as does the sound of helicopters, especially at night.  I don’t do crowds well unless they are at a baseball game.  I went to do the invocation yesterday at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard to kick off the annual Combined Federal Campaign.  I was expecting a small rather sedate event.  It was nothing of the sort.  There were at least a couple of hundred people in a relatively small auditorium, a band, reports and photographers, a color guard and drill team from a local ROTC unit even balloons and banners.  The noise and light, many moving pieces gave the event a pep rally feel which drove up my anxiety level pretty bad. I was able to keep from having a panic attack or a meltdown, but it took work not to fall apart especially with the week that I had had and the fact that in the previous 31 hours I had only 3.5 hours of sleep.  I don’t like my outbursts of anger which can border on rage depending on the sense of danger that I feel although some expressions that I have come up with in these events are pretty funny as I question the parentage and oedipal tendencies of some people.  Anxiety, tremors, muscle tension, insomnia and nightmares are no fun either.

I guess for me that the war is not over and I know that if I was to go back I would do just fine. I almost think that another deployment to either Iraq of Afghanistan would help me in some ways. I guess I might get another shot at it as things continue to develop over there.  Personally I think I need it to close the loop and one day when peace comes to Iraq to go back there to visit some of the Iraqis that I got to know while there.

Dundas at HitSomehow I was More Relaxed in Iraq than I am Here

So now I am much more understanding of what Judy has lived with since childhood.  She has been a help to me in understanding my struggle as well and what I have experienced has helped me have a lot more compassion and understanding for her.  The only one without PTSD is our little dog Molly so it does make for interesting living around our little household.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Last Visit with Dad, Beer with Breakfast and Musings on my Visit to Mudville

Me and last last pic

Dad and Me 15 May 2009 in our matching Giants Apparel

I got to the airport I had a better time checking in that my trip out.  I had time to get breakfast in the Home Turf Sports Bar. As readers of this blog know I do not do travel or airports well since I came back from Iraq.  I used to travel quite frequently and while I can do well I have a lot more anxiety in crowds and lines.  Thankfully Sacramento is not too bad today.  Even so I decided to get breakfast.  Had scrambled eggs, bacon and home fries washed down by a couple of pints of Sam Adams Boston Lager. I find that a good beer takes the edge off of the anxiety and taste a lot better than Xanax.  The first time I did this was in between flights going to and from Bahrain at Heathrow in London.  A pint goes very well with breakfast, which over there included eggs, potatoes, toast, tomatoes and rashers of bacon. Despite this when I got into the crowded line I have a decent anxiety attack.  The flight to Chicago is full and there are a lot of less experienced travelers and families with small children on board. Thankfully none of the kid’s has started screaming….at least yet, may the Deity Herself keep the kiddo’s quiet.  The most miserable fights I have been on have been the ones with the screaming kids.  I really don’t like the beer on aircraft since it is always in cans.  Beer doesn’t taste as good out of a can, even decent beer.  I prefer beer on tap or in a bottle.   However this afternoon I decided I could use a beer.  The crowed flight was beginning to get on my nerves, especially the young gentleman sitting in front of me who kept adjusting, readjusting and bouncing in his seat. He had almost caused me to spill my Diet Coke.  I went back to the aft galley and the flight attendant when he saw my military ID gave me a complimentary beer and thanked me for my service to the country. That was pretty cool, and though it was a brand I might not normally drink, it tasted better than any domestic beer I have ever had on a flight.   Way to go Southwest.

I do not know when I will get back to Mudville.  I assume that it will be sooner rather than later given my dad’s condition which is obviously deteriorating fairly quickly now.  At least we have gotten some of the hard things done.  My brother and I have continued to grow close and continue to find just how much alike that we are.  The only thing that we might disagree on is our taste in beer, that however is nothing to fret over.  I love his family, he’s a great dad.  Somehow all of us will get through this time.

A couple of other high lights of the trip were having a pizza, salad and beer over at my nephew Eric’s pizza parlor.  The place is called appropriately enough Eric’s. He bought it from the previous owner who had hired him as a teenager.  Then it was called Rick’s and it is still a local fixture in Mudville. Eric runs a great place and frequently is recognized as having the best pizza in Mudville.  As a pizza expert I can say that it is some of the best I have ever had.  Truthfully I like what I like better, Eric’s crust is a bit more substantial than mine, I like the really thin, light and soft New York crust.  Eric’s is definitely a New York Pizza and incredibly good, if you go to Mudville he’s on El Dorado Street.  Tell him I sent you.  He also serves Newcastle Ale on tap. That is also a major selling point for me. He has good taste in beer.  Whenever I go there we always have a nice talk.  He’s a good family man and business man.  It is hard to believe that I have known him since he was 8 years old.  I had dinner at Arroyo’s Café one night.  For the unenlightened Arroyo’s has some of the best Mexican food around.  If you are in Mudville it is worth the visit.  The portions are good sized, taste good and the prices are very affordable.  Finally I had a great time with my buddy Rob from elementary school and junior high school.  I hadn’t seen him since 1979 or 1980 and it was good to reminisce as well as catch up on things.

Today also marks a milestone.  It was 13 years ago today that I was ordained as a Deacon.  I’ll write about that experience another time.  Like most things in my life it was not an ordinary day or boring event.  I guess the surprising thing is that I survived 13 years as a Deacon and as a Priest.  Once again the Deity Herself continues to protect this miscreant Priest.  From the moment that the Blessed Sacrament was lifted high out of the Paten by a gust of air from an errant ceiling fan before the horrified eyes of the blue haired ladies at the cathedral where I was ordained, my service as a Deacon and Priest has not been ordinary.

I’ll get back late tonight and head over to Gordon Biersch with Judy for dinner and a couple of Marzen’s.  Tomorrow I’ll try to take it easy and rest.  I look forward to Monday night and the Tides game.  It has been over 10 days since I’ve been to a game.  Thankfully the Tides were out of town for most of this time.

Thank all of you again for your kind words, thoughts and prayers over the past week. They have been most encouraging.

Peace, Steve+

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Filed under alzheimer's disease, Baseball, beer, healthcare, Loose thoughts and musings, PTSD, travel