When the big quake of ’89 shook San Francisco, I was in the hospital almost 8 months pregnant with my twins. It had been a high risk pregnancy as my water had broken at 18 weeks. I spent months bedridden, doing my best to be a good mother to my 2 and 3-year-old running around the house. We were adding on a second story to make more room for our growing family and the constant construction didn’t help my stress level.
My doctor put me in the hospital for observation as I was spilling protein, a sign that I was developing pre-eclampsia. It was a quiet afternoon, like thousands of others before it. The A’s and the Giant’s were facing off at Candlestick for the Worlds Series. Suddenly, life as we all knew it shattered with the ground shaking. I hate remembering the fear I felt standing in the hospital doorway, holding on to the bucking building as best as I could. I knew in my heart that my twins and I were doing to die. I had struggled so hard to get them to a viable gestation and now, we three would perish.
I’m writing this blog almost 25 years later, so we didn’t become victims to the earthquake. At least not with our lives. But I became a victim with fear. I had a wicked case of PTSD. Two weeks after the quake, the twins were born and I put myself into therapy. Immediately all of my past traumas came pouring out of me like a river intent on destroying the dam that holds it back. I had a hard time coping with the feelings. A few years later, when I decided to leave my emotionally abusive marriage, the panic attacks became too much to bear. A visit to the doctor remedied that. Enter Klonopin into my life.
And here I am, 38 months out yesterday, doing my best to heal a damaged CNS. It’s been up and down and sideways. I was getting better last spring. The morning anxiety was much better and the intrusive thoughts and doom and gloom was lifting. I thought I may have a chance at a decent, drug free life. But I pushed too much. My system still needed time to settle down. I got hit with a major wave in June. A lot of my old symptoms came back. I was devastated.
I’ve been babying myself, spending a lot of time curled on my couch resting. I don’t do a lot that will upset my system. I avoid people, places and things that are too stimulating for me. I was just starting to turn a few corners in the afternoons and evenings at least, In fact, yesterday, my 38 month off anniversary, I had one of the best evenings I have had in a very long time. I kept my mind busy and I was able to relax in my body more than I have been able to for many months. I had almost zero tinglings, twitching, burning, etc. It was heaven!
I went to bed and wrote a quick prayer and thank you to God, saying thanks for a good night. I prayed that I could wake up the next day with little anxiety. I went to sleep so hopeful! After almost 4 years of being benzo sick (counting taper) I am SO ready for a good night’s sleep and to wake up calm and happy to start the day.
I woke up at my usual time, close to three thirty, to some mild tingles. I was assessing how I felt when the house started shaking and the earth roared. Quake! My mind raced back to ’89. The shaking gained momentum and it went on and on and on and on….
My benzo sx started up immediately. Burning skin, tingles, hot sweats, flushes, jaw pain, etc. etc. my old anxiety was always a racing heart and shaky legs. Now its colored with benzo sx from a damaged CNS. I lay in bed, terrified and thought, “Really? You’ve got to be kidding me!” I had ONE decent afternoon and evening and was hoping against hope to cobble a few more together. Doesn’t look like that will be happening today.
I went out in the garden and sat in the rocking chair. I looked at the stars. I prayed. I did my best to calm down. I heard neighbors up and about, but didn’t talk to anyone. I texted with my children. My daughter was in Napa, staying with girlfriends. The house she was in sustained damage inside and forced them to seek shelter at a neighbors. She called me in tears. I understood all too well the fear of the ground below you shaking so violently.
I finally went into the house and crawled back into bed. My body was on fire from head to toe. I slept fitfully a few more hours then woke up to face another day of benzo recovery. And I suppose, I am facing my own emotional recovery from the quake that was the start of my nervous approach to life. I have run some errands this morning with shaky legs, rumination thoughts about death, life, whats the point etc.. and I am doing my best to cope with the increased burning, tingling, dizziness and weakness.
The immature side of me wants to pout and get angry with God. But the mature side of me sees this as an opportunity to heal and grow. I am doing my best to float above the anxiety as I know I am safe right here, right now. I am doing my best to ignore the catastrophic thoughts and understand they are generated from a brain that has too little GABA available presently to keep things calm.
I have never liked living in the Bay Area. It has never felt like home. Home is in the Rocky Mountains. If my four children were not here, I’d be long gone. I’ve got to come to grips with the fact that we live on shaky ground. ( I had finally gotten to the point where I could drive over the bridge and overpasses without thinking about them collapsing in a quake!) But it’s not just the ground shaking that I dislike. It’s the fast paced, tech focused, highly expensive lifestyle that everyone is so caught up in. It makes for healing from the damage done by benzos a challenge. I’d prefer to be living in a log cabin tucked on the hillside of a mountain, watching the leaves turn as the seasons change.
I can’t believe I am facing one of my biggest past traumas, just as I was feeling as if things were going to settle down. God has a mighty strange sense of humor.
I pray for everyone who was injured or had property damage. I pray for those whose nerves are strained. I hope no one develops PTSD from this quake. Anxiety is the biggest thief. It takes away the joy of living. I’m ready to kick its ass to the curb and grab some joy. If only I can get my CNS to go along with that plan! I am doing my best. Breathing slow, resting, changing my thoughts, and doing all I can to hold on to the hope that one day, my brain and body will recover from almost 2 decades of prescribed medication.
This too shall pass. I just wish to God it would hurry the f%#@ up and go already!