Painting by Roy G. Tabora
My kids were in high school and I wasn't working. One day after school I picked the girls up and stopped to do some grocery shopping. I had a full shopping cart and was headed to the checker when all of a sudden, my legs became leaden. I could hardly get one to move in front of another. I became panicky, not having a clue what was happening and told my oldest daughter to park the cart along the side of the store and tell the checker we'll be back. I had to get out of that store and the sooner the better as in RIGHT NOW. The girls were alarmed, not knowing what on earth was wrong with me, thinking maybe I was getting a migraine. We went out and got into the car and I actually couldn't drive because we had a stick shift. I had my oldest go find a pay phone and call my husband at work and tell him we were stranded and needed help. He came and paid for the groceries, loaded them into the wagon. By this time I had calmed down and could drive so he followed us home. I had no idea what had come over me.
Shortly after that episode, I went back to work. A couple of years later, this occurred: I left the office to walk the two blocks down to the Bank of America building to drop off some papers. It was an average day - not too cold, not too warm, just average. I worked at an insurance office as a fire and casualty agent. The street was one of our main streets, across from the court house; lawyers and their clients hustled up and down, briefcases in hand. It was just a typical business day. I finished my business and started walking back up to the office, crossing a side street. As I got in the middle of the street an interesting thing happened. I couldn't get one foot to move in front of another. Try as I would, it was as though my feet had become mired in tar. What's up, I thought to myself, trying to move my very uncooperative feet.
Then they started to shuffle a little, as if I was a 90-year old stroke victim instead of a forty-year old. What was going on? I turned around and headed back toward the bank since it was closer than the office, taking these little shuffling steps, sometimes moving, sometimes not. I felt like some strange lurching creature had all of a sudden inhabited my body! Making my way to the bank seemed to take an hour, in reality it was just minutes as I performed this weird other-worldly dance with my feet and legs. Of course, I just knew everyone was watching me, wondering who was this strange marionette entertaining them.
I entered the bank and to my relief, the pay phone was just inside the huge front doors. I fished through my pockets and found a quarter, another huge relief, and called my office. One of the younger agents answered and I said, "This is me. Can you come pick me up? I'm at the bank and I can't walk." She started laughing, thinking I was playing some sort of joke. "No, I'm serious. Something's wrong. Please come pick me up." She wasn't real happy but said she was on her way. She pulled up next to the curb and it took me some time to make my way to her car. I collapsed on the front seat and she said, "What the hell is wrong with you?"and started to laugh again. I assured her it was no laughing matter! She pulled up in our parking lot and went on in as though I had really wasted her whole morning, leaving me to jerkily make my way in on my own.
The other woman I worked with was concerned and as I made my way through the front door, she met me and asked what was going on. I sat down and told her what had happened. She brought me my coke and I nearly downed it in one swig. After a while, I got up and walked around as though nothing had happened! My feet and legs worked like they were supposed to and I figured I must've had some weird kind of muscle cramp.
A few weeks later, I stopped at the grocery store after work for a few things and it happened again. At least this time, I had the shopping cart to hang on to. I made my way to the checkout stand as though the proverbial corn cob had availed itself of a certain part of my anatomy. I got to the car and drove home without any problems.
There were occasions at church after services where we would be visiting with friends and I would be overcome by a sensation that I had to leave. Even though I was in a room full of people I would feel as if I was totally alone. Often times I would leave and go sit in the car and wait for my husband and the kids, totally overwhelmed by a sensation of sadness.
My son was a huge source of stress in our lives. I had had to call the police when he threatened me; he tormented his sisters and step-brother; we were fairly certain that he was abusing drugs but didn't know what to do. There was constant fighting and yelling. He hated us and made no bones about it. He hated us because we tried to police his actions. It became violent one night when he cursed at me and my husband (his step-dad) grabbed him by the front of his shirt and hauled back to hit him. I calmly took his hand and told him, "It's not worth it." My husband was extremely protective of me and had reached the end of his rope, especially since my son was almost 18, not in school, not working, and we were 99% certain he was using.
There was a period of approximately six years of constant stress with problems with children's issues, my mother's death and removing my son from the house. This is a small sampling of the things we dealt with. All families deal with everyday stress and some not-so-everyday stress, like death, bills and kids, and we are no different. What is different perhaps, is how my nervous system is wired. Somewhere around this time we started with a different insurance company and I saw a counselor who explained to me that I was having panic and anxiety attacks and prescribed the appropriate meds.
Even though the stressors no longer exist my body has suffered from the compounded effects of stress. It is accumulative. So even though something happened ten years ago, ten years later your nervous system is still misfiring. This also means that living with my former husband of thirteen years and all the ups and downs of his alcoholism has left its mark as well. I'm not blaming him or anyone else. It is genetics and learning how to correctly react to stressors and most of all, take your meds!
Every job I've ever had has been extremely stressful. They've always required an extreme amount of customer service and that is stressful when you've got all the dots on your dice! When I short-circuited in early '06 all of that stress had succeeded in melting all of my wiring together. I took off for about a month and had just gotten back into the groove of things when Doug passed away. Even though I am confident in an afterlife and am also confident of his position in that afterlife, the stress of losing him completed the job of meltdown. Now, I'm trying to live in the here and now, with my limitations and not letting them reduce my significance as a human being.