Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Anatomy of a Panic Attack

This is the (true) story of a girl (this girl) who had herself a complete meltdown today.

We need to go back a week, to see the origins of this mess. I was PMS'ing (which I do for a full week, thank you peri-menopause) until Wednesday the 21st. Then I was full-on M'ing for the next five days, until today, Tuesday the 27th. The result of this is lowered iron (I'm anemic anyway--yay for bleeding!). Lower iron means less sleeping (I'm already an insomniac--this just makes the sleeping pills less effective). I had a fairly normal weekend (normal in the broader sense of the term). Saturday night I hung out at a friend's house, Sunday I cleaned and shopped like a maniac for the surprise birthday get-together I put together for my mom on Monday. After a full and busy, productive Memorial Day (yesterday), today should have been a Do Absolutely Nothing So You Can Recover Day, because I did way more over the weekend  than usual.

However... I had a scheduled ultrasound for 1:30 this afternoon. This ultrasound was to see how my blood is flowing, because I've been getting extra cramps in my legs lately and my doctor wanted to make sure I don't have a blood clot. Having never had one of these done before, I thought it would be like an X-ray. Walk in, get some pictures of my insides taken, and walk out. Easy-peasy, right? No-o-o-o-o.

After a night of not sleeping well, I got out of bed around 9:00am. Plenty of time to prepare for the 1:30 appointment. Except I was over-tired and extra stressed because the one thing they told me I had to do to prepare for this was not smoke ahead of time. So no cigarettes to relax the nerves. Then, in my brain, I thought the appointment was at 2:30, so I didn't start getting ready to go until it was TIME to go, even though my mom had just said around 11:00 that we should leave around 12:45. Result: I had to rush.

Rushing makes me anxious. I like to be EARLY for appointments, not on time--on time = late. But we got there right at 1:30. I realized on the way into the clinic that I'd forgotten to put my wallet back in my purse, so I didn't have my insurance card or ID on me. Instant mini-panic, because they always ask. Somehow managed to avert that, since I was already in the system. Got called back. Went into this room with a treadmill, a cot, and a lot of equipment. The ultrasound tech started explaining that I'd have to change into the gown and then relax for 10 minutes because even walking back to the exam room raises the blood pressure and they wanted me to "come down" to normal. She didn't know this, but I hadn't been "down to normal" since I woke up.

Then she started telling me how they'd be hooking my entire body--arms, legs, ankles, etc--up to blood pressure cuffs, checking each one for blood flow. And then she said I should prepare to be lying on the cot for about an hour. I can't lie on a cot for an hour. I can't even lie on my bed for an hour without hurting. And after all the blood pressure cuff stuff was done, I'd be walking on the treadmill for 10 minutes. Hi. I'm the girl with broken feet. I didn't wear my special broken foot shoes today, because I knew I'd have to take my shoes off for what I thought was a simple X-ray. Walking on a treadmill for 10 minutes in my non-special broken feet shoes would be like taking a hammer to the bottom of my feet.

The whole time she's explaining these things, I can feel the vein in my forehead pulsing. My ears started ringing. I couldn't breathe. And then, just like that, I burst into tears. She stopped mid-sentence and said, "Oh, honey, are you okay? What's wrong?" At which point I told her, "I'm freaking out. I thought I was just getting an X-ray." I babbled on about my blood sugar being low and I didn't know I'd have to wear a hospital gown and I can't walk barefoot for 10 minutes or lie on my back for an hour on a cot, and... and... and... AUUUUUGGGGHHHHHH!

She was so cool. So calm. So understanding. She said, "Would you like to reschedule? Now that you know what to expect, next time won't be so bad, right?" And I heartily agreed that rescheduling would be best. I kept crying, because at that point, I couldn't stop. I almost hyper-ventilated. I sobbed. My heart was racing. I'm sure if they'd taken my blood pressure reading right then, they would've admitted me to the hospital. I must have truly been a mess, because when she walked me back out to the waiting room, she hugged me. LOL

As soon as we were back to the car, I took a Xanax for the anxiety and chain-smoked for the next half-hour. I'm now in the down-stage of the panic attack, which is like the after-effects of an adrenaline rush. I'm pukey and exhausted and still a bit on the weepy side.

So there you have it. Exciting, no?


I know it's not exciting. And if you've ever had a panic attack, YOU know it's not exciting, too.

I live with these things. Somehow, I live. With these.

If anyone you know suffers from panic attacks, remember that the feelings they experience are not just "a bit nervous." They include terror, helplessness, hopelessness, and sorrow--followed by extreme humiliation and guilt for putting others through it. Be kind. And forgive them if they lash out. That adrenaline rush-feeling they get when in panic mode is the same as the "fight or flight" instinct, and they may feel no other recourse than to lash out at whomever is nearby.

Time to take a nap for this girl.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Promises, Promises...

A week after Spring officially began (3-27).
So, last November (or thereabouts) I promised my Facebook world that I would limit my Minnesota Weather Complaints to ONE. Meaning, I would not have as a status update anything negative about the cold, the snow, the ice, the cold, the snow, the driving conditions, the absofrickinlutely horrifying state of existence that is six months of the year here.

I kept my promise. Albeit, there were probably two or three passive-aggressive complaints, but they were, for all practical purposes, merely statements of fact. And while I complained in comments on OTHER people's complainy weather posts, I didn't outright come out with a negative post myself. Instead, I kept a journal (of sorts) in the form of badly-drawn cartoons--sometimes with words--of my angst. Now that it is supposedly not winter anymore (currently, it is 40F and snowing, thank you very much, Mother Nature), I have decided to share my cartoonish complaints all in one place.

Enjoy! And remember: these are not masterpieces. I did not intend for them to be critiqued for their artistic amazingness. They are for your amusement. Or Bemusement. Or whatever. Some have dates; some do not. They are out of order because I dropped them in the process of scanning them. My bad.

Oh, and the eyeball one. I don't know what it symbolizes. It's what I was feeling. Maybe one of those 50 below 0 evenings when I was outside trying to enjoy a cigarette, and the resultant frozen eyeballs had something to do with it.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Real Me

Back near the dawn of the 21st Century, when my home computer finally had the miracle of a dial-up modem connection that attached me to the Wonderful Wide Web, I discovered the brave new world known as Yahoo Chat Rooms.

This was, in my mind, fortuitous timing, as I was becoming more and more home-bound due to some pretty darn severe physical limitations (and, arguably, some pretty darn severe mental limitations, as well). I found myself frequenting one particular chat room more than others, a chat room that, if you found yourself there, you would agree had a life all its own. It was affectionately nicknamed “CC1,” and it became my home within my home. I found it as intellectually stimulating as a philosophy class at university, as diverse as the United Nations, as heart-warming as the friendliest social club, as crazy as the psychiatric ward, and as maddeningly aggravating as any dinner-table conversation in my own house (translation: lively, combative, over-the-top, funny as hell, and disturbing as heaven). I was in love.

Now, I can only speak for myself, but this is what happened when I found this on-line life: I created a persona that allowed me to be as freely Me as I chose to be. But unfortunately, I chose to hide one very important part of myself—my physical appearance. In retrospect, I believe this is because I was at my worst physically, and I was ashamed. I didn’t want the people with whom I interacted to belittle me or judge me based on my appearance. So, I did what only the anonymity of the Internet can do—I chose to use a profile picture that was not of me. For the most part, I presented honestly. After all, the computer gave a pretty safe boundary for everyone to share their (strong) thoughts, opinions, emotions, and ideas. I found myself arguing, debating, teasing, taunting, and flirting with the best of them. I also had some intense heart-to-heart conversations in “PM” (Private Message), but for awhile, even those relationships did not bring me to reveal the true nature of how I looked.

Me, on my 30th birthday (2002)
That all started to change, though. Why? Well, simply put, because I started to actually like these people. Many of them were now FRIENDS. I don’t like the terms “real-life friend” and “online friend,” because Online, in this world we live in, is just as real (potentially, at any rate) as Offline. The line was blurring, and I didn’t want to hide who I was from these friends. So, I came out, you might call it. I slowly began having private conversations with my friends, revealing my real face to them. They already knew me (it took some convincing for some, who felt betrayed by the lie of my profile picture—understandably), but eventually, I was boldly displaying an actual picture of actual me, and miracle of miracles—no one ran away! I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you that the Haters used it against me. People I debated in CC1 who didn’t know me personally would respond to my sometimes belligerent attitude by resorting to name-calling. But I took it with a grain of salt. After all, that’s all they had going for them; I was smarter, and they couldn’t beat me intellectually, so therefore they would just call me a “fat bitch” and hit the IGNORE button on their monitors.

I am happy to say that, because I owned up to my real self, I became free to actually meet several of these friends. Doing a quick count in my head, I would say I’ve probably met “in real life” about two dozen “online friends,” and I hope to keep upping that number, because these people are FABULOUS.

I stopped going into Yahoo Chat around 2006, mostly because my daily life had grown busy with activities that didn’t involve being around a computer. Also, this was before everyone had the Internet in the palm of their hand, and it was before FaceBook had really taken off.

When I joined FaceBook in 2007 and started building up my Friends list, I found (or was found by) friends from as far back as Kindergarten, people I hadn’t seen or talked to for decades. I found (or was found by) friends from the old CC1 Yahoo Chat Room. I found (or was found by) friends I’d met at the bar the week or month before, friends I saw every day at work, friends I emailed regularly or saw at every party. If you’re reading this, you probably know how FaceBook works, so I won’t elaborate too much on that. To sum up: it was a huge reunion, a clashing of worlds, and frankly, a bit daunting.

I hadn’t really thought much about how my worldview had changed since I started “hanging out” online, but a conversation on FaceBook a couple of weeks ago brought it into clear focus for me.

Confronted with a subject that was bound to bring up differing viewpoints, some of my friends from different worlds ended up discussing these viewpoints on my FaceBook page. Let me make it clear: I have no problem with clashing viewpoints. I cherish open forums for opinions, intellectual conversation, and even heated debate. What brought me home to what I’m thinking about right now, though, is this: the one thing that has dramatically changed for me in the last 15 or so years is that I now value kindness more than I value winning.

I’m not condemning anyone who will debate, discuss, disassemble, and dissect until there is a clear victor—if that’s what someone wants to do, that is absolutely within their rights. But a friend of mine called me out on it, right there on my FaceBook page. He said, in part, “….if you didn't agree with my sentiment then i would know you're not literate in critical thinking. and since i know your literacy personally, i am going to say you agree with me, whether you voice it or not. critically sharp individuals have extreme issues with people misrepresenting themselves and others. we have issues with willful and blatant ignorance, rampant stupidity and a love affair with apathy. knowing me as long as you have, did you really expect me to respond in a loving and caring way to a display of the aforementioned attributes?” [sic]

To be fair, I was trying to settle the conversation down. I didn’t want to edit anyone, but I also didn’t want to offend anyone. What it came down to, really, was my having to take a good hard look at what he said, because he was right. I actually agreed with what he was saying, I just did not like the parts that included name-calling, and that’s what I mean by my valuing kindness over winning. I responded to him with this: “I didn't expect or not expect anything. I refuse to censor people, which is why it's fine that everyone here is saying what they're saying. And you're right, respect is earned, but my personal opinion is that kindness should be the first response, if among friends. I know [they] are not your friends--they're mine--and so are YOU--so my hesitation is because I value each of you. You aren't under any obligation to do so, and I'm not reprimanding anyone, not in a "shame on you" way, at any rate. / Please, feel free to continue.”

I have not stopped thinking about this.

Where I once boldly shared my opinions, thoughts, and feelings without apology, I now keep my mouth shut. And yet, perhaps ironically, here I am writing on a blog I call “Confessions of a StuntGirl,” because I believe in airing my truth. So is this a contradiction? Am I talking out of both sides of my neck?

I’ve thought a long time about that question.

I don’t think I am.

I think that there is a place for diplomacy. It’s not for everyone. Some people are put on this earth to proclaim from the rooftops exactly what they see, and popularity, hurt feelings, and political correctness be damned. And that is okay. I also think that my Way is to be diplomatic. For clarity, the definition of diplomacy is this: tact. It’s just what works for me.

Me, on my 38th birthday (2010)
To bring this post full circle (I hope), here’s the connect: I have found that the more I desire to be seen for who I truly am, the more willing I am to offer up equal parts of intellect, honesty, and kindness. I don’t want to be seen as only smart (proud); I don’t want to be seen as only kind (doormat). I want to be both. That’s MY truth. That’s being fully who I truly am.

It’s a picture of the real me.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Meanie Me

I have been
so very
mean today.

(Shame has a hold on me.)

I've apologized
to the
people who
received this
I still feel
like I
need to
I'm sorry

(I want to know I'm okay in their eyes.)

is stronger
than the

(I hate that I get that way.)

If you
how that works
you have

(Am I allowed to be human?)


I never used to feel shame. I don't know if it was a coping mechanism or some sort of reaction to feeling too much of it for one reason or another, but when I first started experiencing honest-to-goodness guilt for my behaviors, I was horrified.

I let it go fairly quickly, because the part of my brain that is usually active doesn't believe in feeding that particular emotion. But I think it's alright that I acknowledge it, when it's a true emotion, when it's warranted.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

No Resolving--Just Continuing!

Seagulls attacking French fries.*
I don't make New Year's Resolutions.

What I do is continue with the stuff I'm already working on, sometimes with the extra oomph all the strong vibes of a new calendar year bring with it. And, of course, being a dynamic human being (as we all are, or we would be un-living) I often find new things to work on, over the course of time. It happens.

So here is my list of things I've been working on, and will keep working on:

1.) Reduce cigarette smoking. Eventual quitting of it. No set date, because then I just start chain smoking like the neurotic anxiety-riddled person I am.

2.) Eat healthier. This comes and goes in waves, as I imagine it does for most people. I fail to avoid the junk food when the junk food is actually in my house, but I'm trying to provide myself with consistently better alternatives.

3.) Move more. This is easier when it isn't -20F outside, but it's really no excuse. I've started walking the halls of my apartment building. No ice to worry about, and quite warm. Like, pretty much too warm. I just pretend it's July.

4.) Be nice. Surprising as this may be to some of you, I can be a real B-word. Especially to those closest to me. This is exponentially worse the less I smoke cigarettes, so it's kind of a negative loop. I'm trying to practice the "walk away" rule, which is basically this: if you are engaged in an argument with someone, walk away. Physically leave their presence. It helps the conflict from getting out of hand.

5.) Write more. I was just talking with my friend, Dane, about how I get way too distracted with the Internet. I wrote books before the Internet was at my fingertips. BOOKS! Like, not just the one that's published, but six other ones, as of yet unpublished! And I've got about 100 more in my head, just waiting to be put down on paper. But I bring up a blank Word document, and then I'm notified of a new message from someone, and then I check my email, and then I watch 17 youtube videos, and then I have a response to my response to that message, and then I'm LOLing and forgot all about working on character development and plot lines.

So... I am thinking about designating an actual "no Internet time slot" to my days. This may or may not happen in any way, but if I don't at least put it down, I'll forget that I had the idea. This will also mean that, for practical reasons, I'll have to go back to writing on a typewriter.

6.) Save money. Oh, yes... the old save money goal. It is hard to do, when it's in short supply, but that's really not an excuse. Obviously, if I achieved #1, this would follow behind quite naturally. But I was also reading about the Jar-Box-Bag rule. You get money, you put 1/3 in a jar (savings), 1/3 in a box (sharing), and 1/3 in a bag (spending). Or maybe it was Box-Jar-Bag. Whatever. It's an interesting concept. And less frightening than a bank.

7.) I don't have any more, but six seemed like a weird number to stop at, so I'm adding a seven.

Whatever you decided to do, whether it's eat less chocolate, drink less beer, or swim more laps, I hope you don't give up just because you didn't do it perfectly. If you are starting goals on this day of January 1st, that's okay. Keep going! And if you're like me, and just continuing with goals already in progress, good for you! Keep going!

If we stop growing, stop learning, stop trying, we might as well stop everything. And I have no intention of stopping until it's time. Which it's not.

Happy New Year!

*The picture of the seagulls attacking French fries has absolutely nothing to do with this post. But, if you can find allegory within it, please share!