I was asked to write a letter to my parents, so that I could express my emotions fully to them.
My therapist and I had scheduled a session so that I could ask them how they felt when I was arrested, put in Jail for 10 days, and dealing with my DUI in general. I realize how often I rely on them, and have relied on them through this whole process, but I never asked them how my actions have affected them.
My therapist mentioned that I hold on to guilt from my DUI and that I’m very hard on myself, often times not giving myself credit for how much I have truly overcome, but that I also punish myself based on what I THINK my parents feel. She wanted us to have a session so I could hear their thoughts, find some closure and so that I would stop projecting negative thoughts on them. (Always assuming they are disappointed or really any negative thought I can come up with). My parents don’t get panic attacks, so I really wanted to explain it to them, so they could understand what I was really feeling when I called them mid freak out.
“I want to start by saying that I am so grateful to have such a loving and supportive family. I wasn’t sure what the reaction to my news last year would do to us, and I am so grateful that I had your support through all of it.
I think that panic attacks are something new to our family and we don’t really talk about them. I want you understand what it feels like for me sometimes, so that maybe we can communicate better and share more experiences with each other. For me, feeling like i’m the only one who struggles with things can make me feel worse. I don’t want to be the odd one out, or the only one who can’t do her laundry for 4 weeks. I strive for “normalcy” even though there are so many different forms of normal. Sometimes my brain fights with me over what is, and is not a normal thought or reaction, this is why my best friend and I get along so well, she understands the thoughts and the feeling and we normalize each other by sharing our situations with each other.
If a panic attack vere visible- it would look like a bee hive breaking open and all the bees flying out everywhere, but each bee is a thought and each time a new thought lands on me it stings me, making me fear the next thought and the next thought a little more. It’s the overthinking and over worrying about all my thoughts that can push me into a panic.
If a panic attack were physical (Which it definitely has physical aspects, like crying, feeling numb, tingly, not being able to breath, getting sick to my stomach)
The thoughts make me feel like I am right on the edge of control, like standing in the ocean at a depth you know is maybe a little too deep, if you walk just an inch deeper, you are on your tippy toes, knowing one inch deeper and you have to tread water, but one inch back your feet can touch the sand and your head is above water. That’s what my thoughts do. They push me forward and pull me back to where my head is barely above water. It is as constant as the tide, pushing and pulling all the time. My thoughts fight with each other constantly bickering in my head. Sometimes it’s exhausting just trying to breath and keep my mind from being pushed or pulled either direction.
I try to work on coping mechanism, or things I can do to try to remain in control when my thoughts are trying to drive me. A lot of my thoughts surrounding the DUI are really terrible. I have waves of negative thoughts that turn into spirals of negative thinking which can cause a panic attack.
I feel that there is a certain level of guilt that I should live with, I know that the system has done enough to punish me but most of the time when I am struggling through something, it’s because I am punishing myself for what happened. I talk about spiral thoughts a lot and I think it’s important for you to know what they are too. When it starts, its one or two thoughts that are typically negative or projections of what I think people think of me. Then one thought turns into a whole heap of thoughts that cause me to to dig myself deeper and deeper into a negative thought. Sometimes the spiral is caused by something little or something large such as being in a small stall in the restrooms (reminding me of jail) or going to probation meetings (because they make me so irritated and I have only been compliant with them from the start).
The spiral thoughts usually dig me deep into a panic.I worry about things I can’t control, I worry about the way I have reacted to things in the past, conversations that I may have misinterpreted, or I worry about what I have been through and whether or not its “normal”. I worry about everything.
I Punish myself for what happened that night, because of what it has caused for me, for how hard it has been for me, and then I punish myself for what I’ve done to you.. you have been nothing but supportive of me through this whole terrible situation, and I still don’t know what it was like for you to see me get sentenced, to see me in jail, to see how disappointing I am to you. I know that we joke about me being the wild child or the trouble maker, but I’m not a kid anymore and I wish I never had to put you through what I did. I feel like such a disgrace on our family, and I wish I could take everything back.
I can’t explain to you how terrifying it was to go to jail, and there are certainly aspects of it that are still haunting me today. My life will never be the same as it was before.
Part of the reason I had such a hard time in Tahoe is because I was projecting my negative thoughts on everyone in the room. I felt so guilty that I couldn’t come to the kitchen table with stories of how wildly successful I was, I felt ashamed in front of my sister and her husband. I felt embarrassed and it became overwhelming. My mind can be a really dark place sometimes. I feel much deeper than other people do, my heart has always felt grandiose emotions. After the wild rides of emotions that came and went on a daily basis while in jail and leading up to sentencing, my memories and thoughts trigger certain emotions and it can be really hard to place them back in a box and deal with them at an appropriate time, Sometimes they are overwhelming, I have flashbacks to certain situations when I’m placed in similar circumstances or when I’m placed under certain amount of stress.
Sometimes they come on really quickly and it feels like I’m drowning in thoughts or fear for my life, usually I try to ground myself by calling my best friend and you. It helps me to talk to someone who understands the feeling exactly, and she knows exactly what it feels like as she has the same feelings a lot of times about her own life. Usually when we call each other, we can tell right away what’s going on and the best thing she does is tell me that’s she’s here… she tells me that it will pass, she says it’s OK, and then she tries her best to distract me with something until I’m calm enough to talk about the panic attack.
I wanted so badly for you to understand all the aspects of why A Star is Born was so hard for me. It wasn’t about the tragic love story or the alcohol abuse… it was everything after that. It was once he went to rehab. It took me back to going to alcohol classes, feeling degraded by the instructor, being punished if you were a tad late or forgot to bring the workbook. It was the way he apologized for what he caused her to feel throughout the movie. It was hard for me to watch knowing that I had made someone feel that way about me, to be so worried about someone, and not know how to help them. It was when he was overwhelmed with guilt and fear that he took his own life, that truly scared me.
My thoughts and my story and what I have been through can be so overwhelming that the actual thought of killing myself has come in and out of my head.I don’t want to kill myself, I know that it is no solution to what I am feeling, I know that I need this therapy and I recognize that I have overcome so much.
I have been doing so well coming to therapy has helped me so much. I am really trying to improve myself and get rid of the negative thinking, so that I can be a better person and have a better self image.
Sometimes I’m scared to be alone because my thoughts get too wild. and sometimes I wake up from dreams that i’m dying, or i’m fighting for my life, the dreams are often vivid and terrifying and I wake up in a panic. Or sometimes the anxiety builds for weeks and one night I really just need someone there…
The last time this happened was a few weeks ago, the transition in work and just some other things had been piling up and I found myself crying in my office just wanting to go home. I wanted to just get in my car and drive an hour home, but i couldn’t get ahold of you, and therefore just went home. In the future I would like to be able to just ask for a person, or to have a code or something so that when I’m feeling this very overwhelming feeling, I can count on you to either come up and stay with me, or it could mean “I’m on my way and just need a hug and to feel safe”
I know this has not been a cake walk for any of us, and I really want you to be able to share how you have felt. I want to be able to move past all the guilt and I think understanding your thoughts will help me to release my own projections and find some closure. I don’t want this session to be all about me, but how we can all help each other through it. I expressed that I was nervous about our next vacation and seeing everyone all together again, because the last time we all were together I felt tension and I felt very ashamed of myself. I don’t know how people feel about me, and I know it’s not fair to assume our family looks down on me for my poor decisions.
I need some help from you two, because you have each seen a panic attack and have seen how it can debilitate me. I just want to have a normal family vacation with the people I love and I don’t want anyone to tip-toe around me, but I also may need help addressing the elephant in the room from time to time. If I do start to have high anxiety, I might move to another room to just be alone for a little bit, but maybe using key phrases like Its OK, and I’m Here to help me calm down when it seems like I can’t, would help me on this trip.
My goal is to not project my negative feelings on to anyone, and to stay positive during our vacation. I know we all pick on each other in a jokingly way, but more recently I have been sensitive to feeling like i’m not good enough and it’s really hard to not see it as an attack on me. It’s hard to know the triggers, and sometimes I don’t even know what they are until after it happens.
I love you both, and I am just trying to be OK with myself right now. I try to take things one day at a time, and I hope you can help me find some release to my feelings of guilt or share your emotions with me so I can understand how you have been handling this too.”
I realized how hard t was while I was writing down all my feelings, but when I started reading it to them, it was even harder to truly share my experience. The session went really really well. Better than I could have imagined, I will write another post to describe the dialogue after I read them my letter