Dr. Levang, For the last two nights, I've not been able to sleep very well. In the early morning hours, I've been having these crazy dreams where I will hear a loud bang or sound and I will wake up with an adrenaline rush, unable to fall asleep. This morning, totally exhausted, I dropped my kids off at school and came home to crash on the couch. I think I was only asleep for maybe a half hour, when I thought I heard someone knock on my door. I woke up, looked out the window, saw nothing and nearly fell back to sleep. Again, a knock at my door...it was a federal investigator! This my 5th security clearance interview for my neighbors since I've lived in NOVA and I still nearly pee my pants in fear every time. So with heart racing, body shaking, and sweat running off me like I just ran a race, I stood outside on my porch answering questions about national security all the while I really wanted to throw up. This fear of the police is going to kill me. I have no more xanax left and I'm still trying to get myself together. How can I conquer this fear? I'm so tired of living like everyone in the world is out to hurt me and steal my life away. It was just an interview that had nothing to do with me, so why do I feel so traumatized? Can you talk to me?
I just picked up your question. Give me a few minutes to read it and respond.
I wonder if you can call the department responsible for sending the agent to your house and have a chat with them about how impactful this is and your desire to be called in advance of such interviews.
This situation would frighten anyone! No one feels comfortable having police at their door...no one.
I've only been called in advance once...all the others were unannounced.
They do that on purpose so that you cannot be coached or influenced by person who will be undergoing the background investigation.
Then demand that you be called in advance every time. And...if someone comes to your door...tell them to leave and that you will respond to them when you are not so overwhelmed by their appearance at your door.
What's all these investigations about?
They are government security clearance interviews.
They are done by federal investigators from the Dept. of Justice or Defense.
Perhaps you could get Dr. A to write a letter saying how upsetting this is for you.
It is TERRIFYING!
How can it NOT be?
I'm still shaking!
I can only imagine how upsetting this is.
The issue is - as you well know - that it triggers old memories for you. And that you have little way to control the impulse you have to feel frightened.
Crazy thing is that my van was in the driveway, and I heard him as he was knocking say "Maam, I'm a federal investigator" through my door.
I would bring this up to Dr. A...see what he suggests. My best thought here is to call the investigator department and to see what can be done to conduct these investigations in a manner that is not traumatic for you.
It just instantly puts me though my flight or fight paces! Nothing will make my body react quicker. I cant control it...that is the worst part...I'm on a physical and emotional ride that I cannot get off!
I feel psysically threatened.
Take a couple of deep breaths.
When you talked to the investigator...were you able to understand that he was not there to harm you?
The thing is, I never know what it is about until I'm shown the badge, ID number of the officer and thier credentials. Then I get the scoop. But until I hear what it is about, I do not know if in fact it is not about me. I always have this fear that it is, and I react as if I'm getting ready to go to jail.
I think your reaction is perfectly normal. I don't know anyone that would go to the door under those circumstances and not immediately feel that they did something bad/wrong or that something terrible had happened.
However...that's not to say that this isn't terribly frightening for you and sends a wave of panic through your body.
What can I do to stop it?
Perhaps the way to look at this is what to do once it happens.
So...you hear a knock on the door. You are woken from sleep. You go to the door...hear and see the investigator. Your immediate thought is that you are in trouble.
So you stiffen up...the adrenaline pours through your body...you are on high alert.
What happens once the officer begins to talk to you?
I continue to shake--it's almost like I have a fever. My whole body will react. Even my teeth chatter. I have a hard time talking, and I always get the look like I might be crazy--which just adds to my misery. My heart races and I feel out of breath. It is the strangest reaction, it is a scary reaction, and it takes a long time to get over. Do other people experience this?
Yes...to some degree...what happens is that your body goes into fight, flight, flee, appease.
Do you invite the person in? Or do you talk on the front porch? Are you standing or sitting?
I NEVER EVER invite the police into my house. I take my keys and lock the door behind me. I don't trust them at all. I put my shoes on and and I prepare to leave, just in case.
I always stand!
Ready to run...which is what my mind screams at me.
once they have identified themselves...are you able to calm down at all?
Sort of, my rational side of me knows that I'm not in trouble, but my body is still running through its paces, so I feel trapped in this mind/body tug of war. Does that makes sense? It's so embarrassing, and I hate it so much. Is this a normal reaction? I'm just trying to not feel so freakish.
It is a panic attack? What the heck happens?
Are there people out there who go through this?
The issue is that once that alarm goes off in your head...your body goes into fight, flight, flee, appease. So your mind attempts to make a choice....to fight to take flight, to flee the situation, or to appease by staying. Your body has already sent the chemicals coarsing through your body to accomplish the task. It can't STOP the chemicals. That's why you feel the rush of energy..the nervousness or panicky feelings. So..what you have to do is to calm yourself down. That might mean drinking some water, taking deep breaths, telling the officer you need a few minutes to calm down. This part is up to you.
You can tell him/her...go sit in your car for 5 minutes and when I feel sufficiently calm to talk to you...I'll come get you.
They KNOW they scared you...this happens to them all day long. So..you asking for a few minutes to calm down is not unreasonable.
It's not necessarily a panic attack. Some of the same chemical reactions are happening...but if you are able to catch your breath, to speak reasonably..and so forth..it's not a panic attack.
Is this making more sense?
Yes, it is. I am so tired of living my life like everything is going to come crashing down at any moment. I really do (irrationally) believe that I'm being carted off to a jail cell in that moment. I was arrested 20 years ago and it's never left me.
That fear of authority renders me completely powerless.
But...in this case..you know after some minutes that there is no possibility that you are being carted off? Right?
I think I believe that there is still a chance, right up until they are off my property.
So...when you realize that a) the officer is here on legitimate business b) that business is to ask you some standard questions c) the officer is not going to jail you....can you then take a few minutes to gather your wits...maybe crack a joke or two...get something to drink...and take some time to calm down.
LOl with the off your property comment!
Okay...seriously...what would change the equation?
What could the officer say or do that would allow you to get it into your head that this is NOT about you...but about the neighbor..or whomever?
I don't know because I've never done it.
Let's play this out in your head then...
I don't think they could say or do anything.
I think this is about being conditioned to respond in a way that doesn't induce instant fear.
And absolutely that is true...your body has been conditioned to react negatively to suspected/suspicious things/people.
On a smaller scale, I also react the same way when someone calls me and I dont recongnize the number on my caller ID. I'll get an adrenaline rush from that. I swear, I'm going to die of a heart attack!
But...that means that your body CAN learn to react differently.
so...the issue is widespread and impacts several areas of your life...
Yes, but when they only come a couple of times a year, it's not easy to prepare!
Yes...I understand that.
Yes, it affects other areas of my life.
But...this is a good area for you to be working on.
Have you ever thought about taking yoga or martial arts?
Both are good for learning how to calm down the body.
Which is really what you need to do...calm yourself down so that the adrenaline rush can dissipate.
Also...here's another good subject for Dr. A....
Actually, thats why I go to the range. I don't feel any stress when I'm there.
True. That's another way to practice calm.
But..in this instance...you could not point your gun at him!
Or even pretend to...
So...you need to practice getting to that place of calm without the gun in your hand.
Not unless I wanted jail to become a guaranteed reality!
That's where yoga, deep breathing, marshal arts, or other disciplines come into play...
I only ever feel safe when I have my pistol in my hand. How sad is that?
It's understandable given your history.
That just gave me a thought.
What other non-lethal item could you hold in your hand that would give the same sense of power and control?
I don't know.
I'm thinking of another "tool" or "item" you could use to visualize the same feeling as your gun.
It's like people who stop smoking...they need something in their hand..so they use lolipops.
You get where I am going here....
Yes, makes sense, but what?
Everything I think of, I could kill someone with.
I'm so on edge all the time, that I always feel like I'm in danger. I even scan my driveway before I get out, scan the parking lot at the store, I contantly scan when I drive and if someone follows me for to long, I start to get panicked. It'
it's just a crazy life.
What if you got something for your keychain that had some weight to it (like a gun) and you could grip similarily?
But I have to be able to defend myself with it.
Maybe something that felt like cold steel...
Yes...I understand the scanning and why you do it....it's self-protection.
I just want to be normal.
Yes...I understand that Tanya.
And...you are making progress...you must hold on to that.
This incident was very unfortunate...it is such a stark reminder of all you are dealing with.
It was a reminder to me as well. After it all happened and he went away, I was thinking about how heavy all this pressure is on me, and how on earth I function feeling so much stress all the time.
I do think it would be beneficial to talk to Dr. A about it...but also to consider a "transitional item" - that is...something you can carry with you to symbolize your gun.
And what did you conclude from thinking about that?
That I really do live under a tremendous amount of stress and how it really affects every part of my life. Today, it felt crushing.
Thanks, XXXXX XXXXX check it out~
The above is a short "blog" on transitional items that you might find helpful.
Yes...I can only imagine how pervasive this all feels...
And how much you wish that a knock on the door didn't set you off...
The officer was doing his job. And you soon realized that. But not until a cascade of emotions went through your body.
I think I'm going to be insightful for a second and say that I have got to condition my mind to not say "I've got to find a way to fix this" and let someone else give me suggestions (and follow through) on them. Because my way does not work.
I really do encourage you to take the time you need to get to a place of calm in such instances. That officer could have cooled his heels while you paces around the yard or did whatever you needed to set down. This is one of those times when you have to put yourself first and foremost.
How would you apply that thinking to what happened today?
I do not feel like I have that option in the moment, but next time, I think I will just ask him to leave and call me for a mutually agreed upon time. That way I can expect it and prepare.
My problem is that I cant stand letting people help me. Your way is not the right way, your way won't help me, and I convince myself of that. It's impossible to actually get anywhere, when your way lands you in the same place everytime and leaves you unhappy and miserable. I've got to lay down my sword and let someone else help me in the fight. I can't do this alone anymore. I'm going to therapy but I don't accept help.
YES! If you stay in control of the situation...you will be able to handle this much better.
This is a huge revelation Tanya!
Yes...you must begin to allow others in to your life to help you through these tough spots.
You do so well in the majority of your life...but there is a window of pain that keeps interferring and knocking you down.
I didn't even call my husband after this happened. I didn't reach out to anyone except you. I know my husband would have supported me, but it didn't even occur to me to call him.
The challenges take more than you to solve!
I imagine that you didn't call him because you knew exactly what he would do and say and today that just wasn't sufficient.
Again...you KNOW he has your back...but today you were unwilling to let him be part of the solution.
Yes, I suppose thats right.
This is what you do...you extend a hand and sometimes allow someone to take your hand...other times you pull your hand away..or maybe even slap the other person's hand away.
Dr. A has been trying...in his own way...to extend his hand. He says welcome when you come in the room. But you are unwilling to be welcomed by him. Perhaps it is time to accept his welcome and take that as an honest to goodness invitation to work together.
I know he wants to help me, I have to just let my guard down enough to let that happen. Again, it's about trust. Can I trust just a little bit to get the process going, or will I just keep this concrete wall around myself and live like an emotionless, pananoid, scared 36 year old. I'd rather it be the former, but the later is like inviting the monster out from under my bed.
What would you tell your kids about the monster under their bed?
Would you say...let mommy help you and we will look for and conquer that monster together??
We have go away monster spray that keeps them out at night! :)
I've seen that spray!!!! LOL
It's totally great!
The point is that you have a tool...right? and you do it together...right?
Same thing here!!!
Yes, same thing! I get it! I want help to get this part of my life back. Anxiety is crazy hard to live with everyday. It's exhausting. If I end up in a crazy hospital, with the straight jacket, pumped up with haldol....we'll I just consider it a pharmacological vacation.
Glad you can throw a little humor at this Tanya...
But the similarity is the same..you would NEVER ask your children to face the monster without you...and the same is true here. That's Dr. A's job...along with supportive others in your life.
Ha! You know me well enough...I always find a funny side!
But they are kids...I'm an adult!
But someone you have it in your head that only you can do this...and that has never ever been true.
That doesn't mean a darn thing here...
I don't feel like I deserve the same kind of support.
when you were harmed by these monsters you were a kid...
and today the fears, anxiety, depression bring you to your knees like a kid
Yes...you absolutely deserve the same kind of support.
If your children were adults and something terrible happened to them...at work...at college...where ever...you would do the same thing you do today...you
would find the monster spray and you would step right in to help them.
You are right. They are my babies. But my parents are not there for me like that, and asking nearly a perfect stranger for that kind of support makes me feel like I'm not living up to my potential as a mother, wife, grown woman!
Do you see how you do everything you can to inhibit support!
People go to therapists all the time...
You go to a physician when you need to...
Yes...because when something is physically wrong, it's obvious...everyone can see it. When it
it's in your head, you suffer with no one noticing. Its deep seated, you want to just get rid of that feeling.
There is no difference between the two situations...
In both cases you cannot heal thyself!
It's pain in it's most insideous form--it's hurts like hell...sometimes you feel it and it's so painful that it's all you can think about. Your world narrows to nothing else except that feeling.
In both cases you need others to assist you.
Yes...I need to trust.
Trust has been violated to often in my life, that to even consider it, seems like mission impossible.
If I do things on my own, there is no need to trust you.
But I can't.
I don't know how.
How do you learn what so many take for granted?
How do you relearn the assumption that the world is a safe place?
How does a therapist possible do that in 50 minute increments?
Yes...that darn trust issue is so huge for you...and it keeps getting in the way...
Yes, it does.
Without it, you can't really function in the world in the way you should. I sacrified trust to gain control over my life and be successful. That worked when I needed it to, but now I'm no longer in my teens and 20's. Now I need a different coping skill.
And right...if you do things on your own you don't have to rely on others....
But the problem here is that everything is on your shoulders...you get no breaks...you always have to be on high alert...and its exhausting!!!!
You have no idea!
It drains everything out of me...it sucks out my soul!
And yes..you need a different coping skill. A coping skill that let's some of things go and allows others to step up to the plate.
And right..you can no longer carry the same burdens you did when you were in your 20s. Your life today is very different then back then. You have a husband, children, a house....etc. You can not continue to function in that old way.
In a way...you have a wonderful opportunity to re-invent yourself.
That ought to be an exciting thought!
It is! I feel very fortunate that I can. I think I'm very lucky. Because the truth is, that I can afford therapy, I have the support in it, and I also have support in you. I get to literally change the way I think about everything, and I hope that someday, I won't be so scared anymore.
You have set a wonderful goal for yourself...and you will succeed!
I will say good-bye now. I hope this chat has been helpful to you Tanya!
It has! Thank you, XXXXX XXXXX! Have a great night!
Hey! I got an email from justanswer yesterday informing me that I am only allowed to ask Mental Health questions one time per month under my subscription plan. If I want to talk to you more frequently, I have to either open up a new account OR turn off my subscription (which I just turned on) and ask for a flat fee each time, like before. I really only want to talk to you, but after our conversation last night, my husband and I got into a big fight over my gun. That thing is so damn contentious! It's MINE and I think I should have access to it whenever I want, but he take it to work with him (which could get him fired) and he "babysits" it when he's home. He keeps asking if I'm ok, which I find seriously annoying. I'm fine! I want my pistol back...right now!
Well, I've not been able to sleep for three nights now. He just recently took my pistol and changed out the sights (for night sights) and put a new trigger in it, called the APEX.
I've been feeling really low lately. Yesterday's events didnt help. I'm trying soooooo hard to be myself, but it gets really hard for me to do that every minute. If he senses anything, and I mean anything that seems off to him, he kind of panicks. He keeps asking if I'm ok, he starts calling more, texting more, coming home during the day from work. I know it's because he's worried, but it feels smothering. I just wish he'd take me for my word, but I think he fears I'll blow my brains out while hes at work. If I really wanted to, I'd do it with or without access to my gun, so he should just hand it over.
The snow was so wet is was like shoveling water out of a pool with a shovel. Didn't stop my kids from making a snow man though. It was fun. I spent the rest of the day doing what I love which is reading. I started researching atypical depression after I ran across an article about it and it seemed earily familiar. Is atypical depression a type of Major depression or a seperate diagnosis all together? I'm trying so despretely to understand what it is that mind and body are going through. I just feel this crushing pain sometimes that I really want to stop...right now! I feel happiness and joy with my husband and kids, but its always so short lived, and then these thoughts and feelings come creeping right back in...no escape!
Also, Can I ask you questions in the relationship catagory? That one is included in my subscription. Can I request you from there? Will you see it? Let me know. Thanks.
Hmm, some of the symptoms I think apply to me, others not so much. I think my perception of what depression is, doesnt seem to fit what I think and feel. For instance, I do not feel intense sadness much of the time. I feel intense sadness at certain times--when I'm alone especially. I don't ever feel teary, but I could sleep all day if given the chance. Playing with my kids, cleaning my house, doing laundry, etc. feel like I'm carrying cement blocks around. Its just feels like it take a crazy amount of effort to do anything. I think a lot of these symptoms are psychosomatic because I'm able to turn them off when I have to. I can switch it like a light when I'm in situations that require me to seem "normal", but as soon as I'm alone--in my car or walking, I instantly turn inward and wage war on myself. If I'm alone you can guarantee that my inner critic is hard at work, I'm feeling worthless, hopeless and I start having suicidal ideation. This happens every single day. It's the pretend me and then the horrible "real" me.
I've suffered from depression from a very young age. In my teen years, I really hit bottom and attempted suicide twice with lethal intentions and means. Once I was thwarted with a shot gun, the second time, I totaled my car on purpose, but obviously lived both times. I still to this day regret that I didn't die. This is no life to have to feel like you are constantly swirling around in a pitch dark vortex. I wouldnt wish this life on my worst enemy.
I'm sorry to keep bothering you. Dr. A canceled on my yesterday because of the weather and I've just been feeling like I'm under a lot of pressure. Thanks for always talking to me.