Thursday, November 10, 2011

Learning to Speak (part 1)

I have suffered from claustrophobia ever since my assault. It was like a switch going on - I never felt claustrophobic, and then I did. But I learned to adjust to it.  I live and work in wide, uncrowded spaces. I am healthy enough to take stairs instead of elevators. I always get theater tickets on an aisle. I always sit on the outside of a booth. Most of these things have just become second nature to me.

Work has sometimes been a dilemma. I usually show up at meetings very early to insure a seat by the door. Occasionally I would show up too late, and the only seating left would be in the back. And I would actually leave (even if it was required that I be there) - so strong was the fear of being closed in. One day my therapist asked why I didn’t just ask a person sitting near the door to move. My answer was that I couldn’t go into the reasons for my claustrophobia. And she asked why I thought I needed to. Umm, I don’t know.

So the next time I went to a meeting where there was no comfortable seating left for me, I went to up to this woman and simply said, "I have wicked claustrophobia, would you mind letting me have your seat by the door?" She was sweet as could be, and said of course, and moved. And that has worked for me every single time. Once a gentleman looked at me kind of sad and said that he was claustrophobic too. But then he got up, brought an empty chair up, and skooched around so that we could both sit near the door.

People can be incredibly kind when given the opportunity.

Today I went for my final breast biopsy. Stereotactic. I was told that this would be the hard one, where I would be lying down, with my breast in compression, for about 45 minutes. I had been in a slowly ascending state of anxiety all week. Laying face down, not being able to move, I knew would be a major trigger for me. But then a friend suggested I let them know what the problem was. Again, I knew that I would never be able to come out with the real words, but maybe could say something.

When I arrived, I had myself in a near panic mode. A technician who was getting things ready asked me how I was doing. And I said that I was very nervous about the set up and blurted out that I had some trauma issues. She came over to me, put her hand on my arm and said "I will get someone to help." She came back with a woman who pulled up a chair in front of me, took my hands in hers, and said "we will get through this together."  Okay, which was really more of a question than a statement.

I was laid out on a table, one breast hanging down through a hole, and clamped into place. (Really, there has got to be a better way.)  I was told I could not move, which again started the panic rising.  This woman got warm blankets and asked if it was okay to put them over me. She then held my hand and asked if she could put her hand on my back. (I suspect this woman had once had some issues of her own)  Through the whole procedure, which took almost an hour)  she rubbed my back and asked me questions about my family and work    If I started to fade out she would snap her fingers and say "stay with me here in the present" and kept me talking. 

I have always felt that there are angels who show up when I need them. She was definitely one.

I am slowly coming to recognize and trust the therapeutic benefits of speaking about trauma, more of which I hope to discuss in a later post. For now I am basking in the delight that there are so many people who are amazingly kind and willing to help without needing to know the details. Angels who are worthy of trust and will not let me go.

And for all you other angels who were saying prayers and sending calming energy, I thank you.   They worked!!!   This was a huge, huge hurdle for me.  All the tests are now over and I am waiting for the results to determine the next step.


  1. So glad that it's over and that it went well. I am thanking the gods for your angel.

    Let the chocolate binge begin!

  2. People can be incredibly kind when given the opportunity.

    An important thing to remember...thanks for the reminder. I'm glad there was an angel there for you.

    And I'm with Ren--CHOCOLATE!!!!


  3. I just ran across this quote -

    "Angels come in many shapes and sizes, and most of them are not invisible." - Martha Beck

    and then read your post.

    For all the bad that is out there, it is good to be reminded that there is kindness too.

    I continue to pray for you and please let me know if I can, in any way, be an angel to you.

  4. Holy smokes. I'm cryin' over here. So glad you had that angel with you today.

    And - sending good thoughts your way for what comes next.

  5. One of the absolute most healing things for me has been to be open about trauma in my life and to bring it to the light of day. It is AMAZING how many of us have shared experiences and once someone opens up, it's like the floodgates part and I realize that nearly every single one of my friends has suffered something. I don't meant to minimize what you have gone through, please don't take this in that way. I say this because with trauma as deep and as wide as yours, it must be even that much more difficult to open up; I just cannot imagine.

    I know though, that by taking that small bit of risk, I have learned more about the women in my life and have deepened relationships and turned them into solid, long lasting friendships. It's hard, but people surprise me more often than not.

    I'm glad you've had the same experiences.

  6. 8, this is so moving. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. In the end it is so very positive.

    I have a question. I work in radiology ~ the department where you have spent far too much time of late. I would love to send this to my friend who works in Mammography, it is exactly the kind of information that they should have about patients' needs. I can copy and paste it into a simple word document, thereby maintaining your anonymity. What do you think?

    xoxoxoxo to you, strong and determined woman!

  7. e - Absolutely. I trust you to use it however you feel appropriate. And I will send you an email about some other ways they were so very helpful to me.

  8. It cam take an enormous amount of strength to ask for help.

    I pray for your health and that you will always be surrounded by angels.

    And chocolate.

  9. A mutual friend, Michele, suggested that I check out your blog for inspiration. I have been poking around and have been very inspired! I am a survivor but derailed my healing with very destructive behaviors for a very long time. I am trying to get back on a healthier path and would love to talk to you privately, if possible?

  10. Rebecca - Of course. Email me at 8thdayplanner@gmail dot com.

    I would be happy to chat with you.