I was reminded of this a couple weeks ago when I attended a conference at my hospital. I parked in the public parking rather than the parking building I usually park at when I'm getting lab drawn. This was a mistake.
I walked in through the main entrance toward the elevators to head for the concourse. As I walked further into the building, closer to the elevators an overwhelming sense of anxiety and a flood of memories washed over me. These were the same elevators that had taken me to the pediatric and once women's floor so many times for almost seven years. I walked the main and the outpatient entrances countless times, past the gift shop I loved to walk to when I felt better and past the chapel. It was all too familiar and it was all coming back. I just wanted to get to the concourse where I could relax, there was nothing frightening about the concourse. With ten floors, it takes the elevators a while. As I waited, the anxiety increased until my mind kept repeating "Run, Run, Run". My body said to listen, turn around and run out of the building immediately. My feet were ancy, torn between running and waiting. I had to get control of myself before I had a panic attack. I focused on my breathing until I could get to the concourse and I made it. I was nervous until I got to my seat and tried to ignore the memories awoken that morning. By the end of the day, it was too much. I had to walk through the main entrance again to get to my car. The strain of anxiety and flashbacks were showing on my face and others could tell something was wrong. Once I was back in my car I finally released the build up from the day and sobbed, called my husband and my parents for support.
For about a week I felt the lingering effects of that day and I wasn't expecting any of it. I couldn't sleep, I woke up worrying about when I'll have to change doctors and the never ending risk of hospitalizations and what would happen to me. I cried and felt unusual anger. I missed being able to go to my therapist, who recently retired. She was my therapist since high school and understood my health and mental health struggles and helped me manage my PTSD and depression. Although my health hadn't changed, I was faced with the past and what that could mean for my future and how life changes would affect future health complications and flare ups. And it was terrifying.
We can never escape the demons of our past, but how we decide to handle what we are faced with, recognizing what we're feeling and utilizing support we can make it through each hurdle and when we're pushed into the past and the possibilities of the future.