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Finding Happiness

Discussion in 'Accomplishments' started by clothmoth, Jun 10, 2007.

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  1. clothmoth

    clothmoth New Member

    Nearly 12 years ago, my best friend, his girlfriend, and myself were walking back to our car after watching several bands perform at a popular nightclub. It was late at night, and we weren't in the best neighborhood, but that doesn't stop you when you are young. At any rate, as we walked to the car a group of three guys walked past us and one of them bumped into my friend's girlfriend, then kept walking. All three of us got a "funny" feeling in our stomachs, but we kept walking.

    A few seconds later, the guys doubled back and pulled three guns on us. They forced us to the ground, face down, a gun to the back of each of our heads. They took our wallets, watches, loose change, jewelry. . . and told us they would kill us, said horrible things, convinced us we would not live.

    I have no concept of time, or how much had lapsed. . . at some point, after they were convinced they had taken everything from us we had, one of the guys started harrassing my friend's girlfriend. He put his hand into her pants and molested her, forcing her to kiss him while we watched, guns still trained on us. Two of the guys took my friend's car keys and wandered off to steal his car while the third guy guarded us at gunpoint, to keep us from fleeing. He apologized to us several times as he stood watch. I will never forget the feeling that I was going to die, that the end had come.

    We lived, which I am grateful for. I had no idea at the time the pain and suffering we would each experience in the coming years. One of our dads picked us up after we called the police. I ducked my head down beneath window level the entire car-ride home. The gunmen had our wallets with our drivers licenses and home addresses. They told us they would kill us and our families if we called the police. I was sure that I was a marked man. I cried and took cover. No place, not even in a car with a trusted adult, was safe anymore.

    I didn't get treatment in time. I didn't know better, neither did my family. I gradually withdrew from public, couldn't be out after dark without suffering from tremendous anxiety and panic. There were many triggers. . . young men of similar appearance to our assailants, any vehicle that seemed to have a "gangster" appearance driving by, any open space after dark, noises in the night, etc. Soon, I could only relax after a few drinks. A few drinks led to a few more. I found happiness in alcohol, at 17. Or at least I thought I had.

    Eventually, I sought therapy, but was too young and afraid at the time to admit the alcohol problem so it was of little help, just an excuse to leave school early a few times a month. I went to college, still functional but still drinking heavily. Needless to say, I was in and out of therapy several times throughout college.

    I finally confronted the alcoholism when I was around 26, and stopped drinking altogether. In addition, a psychiatrist prescribed me Effexor XR to help control my anxiety and depressive symptoms, which I took faithfully for a handful of years before growing tired of the side effects and weaning myself off of it.

    I relapsed back to drinking a few years later, having convinced myself that since I had been able to quite for so many years I might be capable of being a casual, infrequent drinker. I did a decent job of not all-out binge drinking, but with the alcohol back in my system after an extended dry-spell, something changed in my brain. I fell into the most serious depression of my life at 28.

    I felt suicidal. My panic attacks were so severe that I was convinced I was going to unqillingly hurt myself or someone else, that I was actually going "crazy". I had a great job, a great wife, and a perfect daughter. . . but I was so low that none of it mattered.

    I stayed home from work a few days into this low and called my family practitioner. He put me on Zoloft, and told me it would take a minimum of 4 - 6 weeks for it to kick in. I was terrified, not knowing if I could make it that long.

    I resorted to any and all coping mechanisms I could find, short of more substance abuse. I made myself do crossword puzzles instead of sitting idle, to keep my mind on anything but negative thoughts and ruminations. My wife made me leave the house even when I didn't want to. We took my daughter to the park, went on walks and bike rides, even when I was seemingly incapable. I can never thank my family enough for this, for not letting m give up on myself.

    I have no idea what made me do it (perhaps the grace of God?), but I got out of bed every day, even at the lowest point of my life, and went to work. All day every day I feared for my own life, felt nauseus with depression and self loathing, and the stress of my job threatened to break me down even further. But I still went. This constant motion kept me alive, I am confident of it. I've been back in therapy for nearly a year now, and my progress has been tremendous.

    I am not a particularly brave, or strong, person. I say this because looking back, I know what we are all capable of getting through. There have been several times in my life when death seemed iminent, when I could find nothing left worth living for. In retrospect, I thank God for my own personal cowardice, without which I would most likely have found a way out of the world long ago, during one of my less rational days.

    I don't think my healing path is completely over yet, but have made incredible progress. I DO feel happy more often than not, I have dealt with my fears and can effectively manage my panic and anxiety. Here are my favorite suggestions, those that worked best for me:

    1.) I have taken the most comfort in knowing that others have been through much worse in the history of man, and lived, and found happiness. This may seem like a strange approach, but thinking of the atrocities that many have lived through and comparing them to mine, realizing that so many people have lived through much worse and still been successful and happy, provided me with something to hold onto.

    2.) Staying busy - Idle time, for me, was the devil. I could never let myself stop moving.

    3.) Being creative - Art, music, writing poetry. . . any and all forms of self expression where I was in control, could call the shots, and absorb myself into something. Creative expression has been of immeasurable value.

    4.) Acknowledging that this is your battle. Everyone has a battle. Some people have debilitating diseases, others have horrible families, some feel displaced in their own bodies, etc.

    PTSD, and the resulting depression and unhealthy coping mechanisms, are my battles. Just as others can acknowledge and fight theirs, and choose not to be beat by them, so can I. And I will.

    5.) Tell several people EVERYTHING. Your therapist, your spouse, your best friend, an understanding and close coworker. You never know when you will need someone, and the best thing you can do for yourself is rely on the people that care for you. Keeping everything inside is a disservice to you and an insult to those who WANT to help you.

    6.) Laugh. Make yourself do it. Even if nothing can make you really laugh, go through the motions and fake laughter. Fake a smile.

    7.) Do good things for other people. Compliment someone and see the effects it has on them. Consume some of your brain cycles with thinking of the next nice thing you would like to do, then make it happen. This becomes infectious, and the gratification is relatively immediate. Some of you may feel to low to believe you can plan nice things, or can't find the motivation to get out of bed nonetheless compliment someone. YOU CAN. I did, so I know that you can. Try it once and see how it feels. Then try it one more time. Kindness to others is very powerful; when you don't feel at all good about yourself, being nice and make other people feel good provides you with an instant positive boost, raises your confidence and image of self worth, etc.

    There are so many more I am missing, but my eyes are shutting. I wanted to share my story, and let everyone know on this board that times can get tough, but with a lot of work and committment from you, they can be great again. It's hard to say how many swings I will have in my life, from highs to lows, and how deeply my experiences have rooted themselves. But hand in there, to each and every one of you. Try one or more things from my list, or create your own. Most of all, know that you are not alone.

    Each person on this board, whether posting or browsing anonymously, has demonstrated tremendous resiliance, courage, and commitment to self healing just by taking this step. I have the utmost respect for all of you, and thank you for granting me a forum to work through this exercise, which is certainly therapy in and of itself.
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  3. permban0077

    permban0077 Policy Enforcement Banned

    You sound pretty damn amazing telling your story. You are certainly a breath of fresh air ready, willing, and able (along with actually doing) fighting this fight. Welcome to the forum. Great advice.
  4. clothmoth

    clothmoth New Member

    Thanks, veiled, for the kind note. I am happy to have found this great board!
  5. anthony

    anthony Silently Watching Founder

    Hi clothmoth, welcome to the forum. What veiled said... well said, and well done for your own stance in your situations... fight forward.
  6. splost76

    splost76 Sleep Management Editor

    Always good to hear from someone fighting the fight and to a point winning some of the battle. Its amazing to me sometimes to think that something so long ago can still bother one to this day. But anyways good to hear you are fighting a good battle, praying for your continous success and struggle in the right direction.
  7. clothmoth

    clothmoth New Member

    splost, I couldn't agree with you more. In fact, I just had this conversation with a good friend of mine today, about how something can haunt you so many years later. These days, in my therapy sessions, I don't talk much at all about the events from years ago. I talk about daily struggles with normal things, like the job, family, etc. But I believe that so many of my battles really stemmed off of my traumatic experience and the way I handled it (or didn't at the time).

    A friend of mine told me that "the body never forgets". So true. Thanks to all for the kind welcoming notes!
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