When it all comes back
It all started when I attended a new Orientation for a program I was being placed on for probation. I had to report in the middle of the day on a wednesday for a 2 hour orientation. They set us up in the same meeting room I was in the day I got out of jail when I officially started Probation. I was immediately brought back to that day. It was like a refresh button was hit inside my head and all of a sudden,I was filled with frustration, I was mad that I had to go through this feeling again, and I was annoyed with how the probation officer was delivering information.
The new probation program was supposed to be a “pat on the back, you’re doing a good job” step in our probation. An ode to show how well we have done this far, this was to be our reward for having completed a good stretch of time with no issues.
The new orientation program is called “defender link” just another subtle way of telling us who we really are.
The benefit to us: we don’t have to make physical appointments to see a PO we just call in to a phone line and a robot prompts us to answer questions. The Benefit to the state: hundreds of cases are put on an automated system which only requires one or two probation officers, verses having several cases in which the probation officer actually has to talk to each person on probation, once a month, to ensure we are compliant.
Defender link is supposed to be an accomplishment and should have been delivered that way, but The entire orientation was just to reiterate that we were criminals, and that probation is the alternative for jail,and that if we mess up, there will be serious consequences.
Not only did the new orientation make me feel degraded as a person, it made all my previous accomplishments and everything I had already gone through or completed, seem like nothing.
I got in my car and cried. The images of jail tearing through my head, taking over my thoughts. The feeling of being strip searched. The feeling of being trapped, the feeling that I had no control over my life, flooded me. I cried on my drive back to work. I tried to pull myself together but some of my new coworkers could see I had been crying. My new boss pulled me out of our offices and into one of our meeting rooms and just asked “you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to, I just wanted to make sure you were OK” I couldn’t tell her that I had just gotten done with a probation meeting, so I lied and told her that the OBGYN said I had abnormal results (which is true , it just wasn’t why I was crying in that moment)
Another added stress of probation and everything that comes along with it is you can’t tell people exactly what’s going on, you have to lie and make up excuses about how you truly feel, what you are actually going through, and then determine if you are overreacting or if this is how a normal person would feel under this type of stress.
The next week I had some dark times I knew my anxiety and depression were lurking, Waiting for me to let my guard down so they could attack.
I was exhausted. One day I came home right after after work and fell asleep immediately. I slept almost 13 hours. When I woke up in the morning, I was in the middle of a brutal dream, much like the night terrors that haunted me for months after jail, either I was trying to kill someone, or someone was trying to kill me. There was blood everywhere, I couldn’t tell if it was coming from me or from someone else. I woke up in a sweat, my heart pounding and I was terrified.
I calmed myself down, tried to brush it off and get ready for work like normal. The rest of the day I was in a funk. I made it through most of the day but I had this anxiety growing in me. It was World Mental health day, so I was going through the internet to try to find a few good motivational or educational pictures to post to my instagram with a brief description and reminder that mental health is important.
After reading a million of the Anxiety and depression excerpts I deeply wished I didn’t have to deal with it all. I wished that what I was reading about didn’t relate so closely to what I feel. I wished it wasn’t me. I wished I could be an advocate and to help others without having to suffer myself. It built and built all day. The thoughts and spirals had started
“Why did I sleep for 13 hours, surely that’s not normal, and I still feel tired, how can that be. God I have felt tired for days, why didn’t all that rest help me? whats wrong with me”
by 4 pm I was crying in my office. I was unhappy. I was wondering why it was all happening now, and why couldn’t I just control this emotion until after I left work. One thing that was said to me during a meeting at work put the cherry on top of my building anxiety, and I broke down. Quietly wiping my tears in my office, I snuck out the back door, got to my car and let it out. I was devastated with the way I was acting, I was upset with the way I couldn’t manage the feedback I received. I was mad that I have been feeling more depressed, and I was mad because I felt like it had won.
It won when I slept for 13 hours. It took my time away from me. It took me away from the world and I didn’t like that. It had won when I started crying in my office, and It had won when I started hating myself for having to deal with it.
That night I called my parents, my sister, and my best friend in Miami looking for someone to answer and just listen. I felt like I was crawling out of my skin, I was so upset and sad, I couldn’t calm myself down. I was in a ball in my bed, under the weighted blanket my mother made me, yet my thoughts were everywhere I couldn’t put them to rest.
The thoughts made me feel like I was right on the edge of control, like standing in the ocean at a depth you know is maybe a little too deep, walking just an inch deeper on your tippy toes, knowing one inch deeper and you have to tread water, but one inch back you feet can touch the sand and your head is above water. That’s what my thoughts were doing, pushing me forward and pulling me back to barely above water. It was as constant as the tide, pushing and pulling, my thoughts fighting with each other bickering in my head. And it was so incredibly exhausting just trying to breath and keep my body from being pushed either direction..
“This feels so terrible when will it go away. How easy is it to make this feeling go away?” I cried and cried. I couldn’t breath. I couldn’t think rationally. I was thinking of all the bad from my past, and I let it all play on repeat in my brain. Every failure, every embarrassing moment, the last time I was drunk, that night I was at the police station, the moment I was put in handcuffs the moment I was in jail and was stripped of all my dignity. All the thoughts filled my mind and it was overwhelming. The refresh button had been pressed and all of those emotions were coming out to play with me, to kick me down in the sand and bury me alive
I wanted so badly to get in the car and drive the hour to my parents house, but they weren’t answering the phone, I wanted to not be alone, I wanted to just feel OK for a minute. But I couldn’t.
I finally got ahold of my best friend who told me something to make me laugh. I talked to my sister who told me to look how far I had come and not to look back at the past as if it’s always chasing me and trying to bring me back with it. She also made me laugh about some of her own work drama and I finally felt some release to my tension.
A few days later I decided I would go to my parents house right after work for the night, they told me they had gotten tickets for a movie. I feel like we always go to the movies, a favorite activity of my family. It wasn’t until the movie started I knew I was not going to enjoy it.
They didn’t mean to do this, because how could they have known that the entire movie they picked would be a trigger. We were in a theatre for “A Star is Born” and I cried probably 85% of the movie. The movie is about a struggling drug and alcohol addict who is also falling out of fame, who meets a young girl, trying to make a break in the industry with a great singing voice. He takes her under his wing and helps her to make a break in the industry. There are scenes that felt like scenes I have lived through, there were AA classes and group therapy and apologizing for the horrible things that were said and done while being intoxicated, and every fiber in my body related to all of those moments and I felt so much guilt and hatred toward myself. How could I be so selfish to do what I did. “I cannot do this again and end up like this movie, he’s barely holding on, its cute and funny and charming, but in real life its not charming, and its not cute and you’re blacked out half the time” I was scared. I was angry at myself, I felt like I was watching a film about myself, myself about 10 years later, a version of myself if I hadn’t gotten the DUI when I did. If I hadn’t sought help.
I saw my future crumble into a mess again, and just as the depression and addiction for the main character became too overwhelming and he hung himself, I left the theatre and had a panic attack in the bathroom stall. “What if this gets to a point where I dont think im going to make it” “what happens then??? What if you don’t come back from feeling this way, what if you disappoint everyone in your life all over again. What happens then?”
I was in a small stall in the bathroom trying to take deep breaths, trying my hardest to calm down. Trying so hard to not think about where I was or that anyone had seen me run out of the movie theatre. I was in a bathroom stall, which is another trigger from Jail. It triggers me at the most random times. I don’t like feeling trapped. The color grey was too close to the color pallet in jail. The scenes from the movie just kept replaying, but instead I was the main character and I was the one hanging from a fan in the garage, pushed by the world over the limitations of my depression and anxiety.
My parents met me outside the theatre restrooms and apologized for taking me to that movie, not knowing it would be so intense. I tried to talk through the tears to tell my mom what was wrong, that this story line was too close to mine, that everything he had to do, I had to do too. That it’s really hard to watch someone give up like that. She gave me a hug but once we got in the car, my parents went silent. I wanted to explain why I reacted the way I did but it didn’t feel welcomed. It felt like I was expected to just pack away those feelings and move on. But that’s not how it works. I think maybe they thought it was an overreaction to emotions. But It was SO much more than that. All they saw was the very tip of the iceberg, but we all know what lies below the tip of the iceberg. I tried for a moment to explain, and noticed that they didn’t really want to hear about what it felt like or what was going through my head. The movie was intense and a lot of people cried. But I wasn’t just crying, it wasn’t just hyperventilating, it wasn’t having to run out of a theatre crying, it wasn’t just feeling like the stall walls were closing in on me. It had been building and building into a debilitating panic attack.
I was in a rut, and I felt as if I had made no progress. These feelings don’t ever truly subside, I had been doing very well, and with the transition in my job,, and the trigger of that probation meeting, it all came back.