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Derailed by panic Common occurrence triggers PTSD

The Tribune - 6/13/2018

Stricken. There’s no other word for what a panic attack feels like.

Did you know that before lightning strikes the air sizzles? I can’t say that it happens every single time, but I’ve felt it enough to know that’s what probably usually happens.

That’s what it feels like, for me anyway.

It starts with just being uncomfortable most of the time. It takes a little longer than the lightning’s sizzle but it grows and intensifies like a burning that starts in my blood and spreads under my skin and in my organs and fills my lungs.

I always start by breathing.

As long as I can breathe I know I will be OK.

Slow deep breath in. Pause. Slowly exhale.

You can do this. This moment will not last forever. Just keep breathing.

Then the moment strikes — instead of being trapped by a moving train in downtown Elkin Thursday afternoon, the train had stopped.

And so had breathing.

As long as I can breathe, it will be OK. But now I can’t breathe.

Great Spirit I cannot breathe!

That’s when the war really begins.

The thoughts race uncontrolled through my head running everywhere from visions of suffocation and memories of darkness descending, to the people who have outright condemned me for my panic.

That’s why even once my brain automatically kicks in with all the breathing exercises I’ve practiced the war is still only beginning.

The shame at my weakness is almost more overwhelming than my fear in the moment.

It does not matter how many times my mind tells me that the things that I went through are every bit as worthy of these reactions as anything anyone else survived, my spirit cannot seem to accept it.

Normally I am grateful to be able to maintain long enough to go home and have a good cry. After that my sensible brain will kick in and I will be able to adjust my perception and see the bright side of things.

Thursday not so much.

Maybe it is remaining calm through several confinements in the past couple of weeks and several intense minutes with multiple unexpected fly-overs, but this one was been different.

The train moved before I had a complete meltdown and I was able to get to the office to have a good cry.

That should have been the end. For several years now that’s the way it has been: trigger, panic, cry, rest and keep on going.

My chest started hurting as I approached my car to leave the office later.

I was crying by the time I forced myself to turn the key and I knew if I didn’t pull out right away I wasn’t going to be able to go at all.

I cannot go through this completely alone!

You should have seen me when I approached the train tracks.

I almost cheated and took the other lane and, although I will probably stick to the escapable lane in the future, it was important to take that fear head on.

I know I am going to have to make it a point to do that when there is a train coming again, but that ain’t going to be today folks.

Because I cried all the way home, which is currently not the short trip it had been, and when there was a car behind me, I could not figure out how to both breathe and drive.

I only had to pull over a couple times.

I sit in the car and I struggle with telling myself that this is silly and this moment is absolutely no different than the last time I was here and that I am perfectly safe.

Yes, that’s right. I said I was still in the car. Because now I was terrified to get out of the car.

This car is one of my few familiar places left over from my previous life so I imagine there is some kind of subliminal comfort to sitting here with the doors and windows open.

I am truly blessed to be able to be here.

I am blessed to be surrounded by trees and sunlight and no people except those I choose to invite into my space in this moment.

I am blessed to have this place where I can sit here and be in this state where the singing birds and the soft breeze can remind me why I am here.

I am blessed to be able to reach out to individuals who don’t ever need to know why I require it, but will offer any comfort they are able and are the reason why I chose to remain in this community.

So if I am going to be trapped someplace where better than between Jonesville and Elkin?

I can do this, and I can do this because I know that here I am blessed to have exactly what I need in any given moment.

Thank you for giving me the strength to become my better self.

Beanie Taylor can be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Facebook at