Wednesday, August 18, 2010

It's ain't the water that's troubled, Mr. Bridge!

Ahhhh the bane of my existence, the Joker to my Batman, the friggin worst bridge ever that throws me into a panic attack...almost always!! This, boys and girls is the C & D Canal Bridge to Rehoboth Beach. It spans the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal and is located in St Georges, DE.

Metal and cement and some weird wire design make it a bridge to be marveled ... I, on the other hand, hate it! Not only do I hate, I fear it. To the point of ridiculousness!
I am not sure when the panic attacks on the bridge started-Tho I believe it may have been the summer of 2002. The same year I was attacked in my home. I had driven to the Delaware beaches so many time before with no troubles, when that summer day as I drove over the bridge I felt like I was going to die. I can only assume it's a part of the Post traumatic stress disorder I have suffered from since the attack.

If you've never had a panic attack then you are lucky. They are horrible and can come out of nowhere and strike...even when you are going 65 mph over a damn bridge full of traffic.  Everyone is different in what they experience. Here's what happens to me...My  heart races, the flight or flight adrenalin you feel when you are in serious danger kicks in, which in turn causes my breathing to be more hyperventilation then keeping you alive, breathing. My muscles tense up and at times I feel like i have no control over my legs. Add to those feelings, the idea that I am actually still driving the car, at 65 and if I look wrong or someone moves or God forbid the wind blows, in my mind,the immediate result will be death.

My daughter recently asked me what i was afraid of and like so many others who suffer from anxiety disorders, I honestly did not know. I am an educated, well read, intelligent 46 year old woman. You  would think I could answer that question! But in all seriousness, I do not know why my body reacts the way it does. I am not afraid of falling off of it - other bridges don't bother me.

Panic is a sudden desertion of us, and a going over to the enemy of our imagination.

1 in 58 Americans will suffer a panic attack this year... 1 in 58!! I used to think I was the only one who suffered this debilitating issue until I opened my mouth and started talking about it. I started hearing stories from my friends about how they also suffered from anxiety or panic attacks. A few also had the driving issue,like i do - tho not on the same bridge as me. One of my friends was an acquaintance for years until we started really talking and realized we had these issues in common. That discovery led us to become closer and now I count her as one of my favorite people in the world! Funny what can bring best friends together!

So I have been battling this behemoth bridge and my panic about it for years. Over memorial day weekend I drove to the beach alone and actually made it over my nemesis with little issue. On the way home it was even easier. So when i drove to the beach this past Thursday I figured I had this bitch beat... uh guess again. i drove over the bridge Thursday night and had such a panic reaction i had to pull over and let my daughter drive. Unfortunately riding with my daughter then made the panic worse lol. She drove fine but I always panic when she drives so it was a lose lose. Then when i took the wheel back we ran into darkness and torrential downpours for 30 miles outside of the beach.

It was debilitating, horrible and dangerous. Once at the beach I was fine. Drove all over, no issues, no panic. Then when i drove home I was absolutely fine... no panic over the bridge whatsoever. So now what do I do? How can I move to the beach if I can't drive over the stupid bridge and come home to visit? So I ask for advice... anyone have this issue? How do you handle it? get over it? Deal with it? Please let me know because    I have a lot more beach trips in my future and I need to kick this damn bridges ass! 


  1. How much do you know about systemic desensitization? Here's how it worked for me. I couldn't handle someone grabbing my wrist. Amazing how often this actually happens. People may grab your arm to get your attention; it is random. I needed some way to help me anywhere, any time. I started the process by wearing a bracelet. At first I could only keep a small one on for 15 minutes. Then I wore it longer and longer until I could wear it all day. Then I bought wider bracelets until I finally could wear one as wide as a person's hand. I no longer panic when a person grabs my wrist.
    Possible scenario for your bridge. If there is a park or pull out area close to the bridge stop there but don't drive over. Look at it until you can look at it without panicking. Maybe take your own pictures of the bridge. Have someone you trust ride with you over the bridge. Ride with someone else to see if it is just when you are driving or just the bridge. I wish you luck; PTSD is tough. I am a life long learner. I am learning to take back my life one bracelet, picture, and day at a time.

  2. "I am learning to take back my life one bracelet, picture, and day at a time ,."Ruth - thank you for your inspirational words! I have driven over the bridge with people, by myself and after parking before hand. My biggest issue is the inconsistency of my reactions - some times i can do it well other times how i make it over without an accident amazes me. BUT i will look into this more and will work on it with your suggestions. thank you!! And congratulation to you and your strength in taking back your life!!~Stacey

  3. I agree the inconsistent stresses are hard. I found one web page that suggested writing a journal of what happened before, after and during the event. Pulling apart a reaction can sometimes reveal layers below the obvious. Like, does it happen more in the evening than the morning. One of the hardest things for me was recognizing that I had a whole bunch of reactions one on top of another. It wasn't until my counselor helped me analyze my reaction that I realized that the obvious wasn't always the trigger. You are doing great.