Friday, May 04, 2007

Fear, PTSD, and the Dentist

About two weeks ago there was a hostage, murder, and suicide at my husband's work.

I got a call from B. at about 11:00 that morning. He started out with, "I know you are going to get news very soon from someone and thought you would want to find out from me......" My heart started beating so fast I couldn't think. He went on to tell me the whole center was locked-down, and there was at least one gunman on site. No one had been able to learn what the armed man wanted, shots had been heard, and there were at least two people missing.

The lock-down was about 5 hours long. We got conflicting information from B's office, the local/national news, and the center public affairs office. The Virginia Tech. incident was running through my head along with all the safety training I had been given. B, on the other hand, was calm and almost casual about the whole thing. I worried he would take unnecessary risks, and I kept calling him back with instruction on what I wanted him to do, making sure he was still there, etc. I most likely scared the crap out of my kids as I started calling all of our friends to make sure they were safe too.

The following Monday, when B. went back to work, I couldn't stop crying. I finally called the doctor and went in because I was a wreck and didn't want my malfunctions to spill all over my kids any more than it already had. She tells me I have post traumatic stress disorder. During the day of the incident I broke my bite-guard and shattered two molars. I've spent most of the time since then at the endodontist and/or dentist repairing the damage I did from the stress. Both of them told me their offices were full of similar patients.

I feel like such an ass. Suzanne's baby sister was in the building, had to run for her life, knew the hostage, murder victim, and murder/suicide person. She's back to work in the same building and has been so amazingly brave. She found out the murder had no family in the area and even went to his funeral to make sure he had someone. But Suzanne, big sister and my best friend, reacted the same way I did. What we saw on the TV was not what we were trained to do. She also started calling friends in their offices or on their cells to remind them of center processes. Everyone we talked to on-site said they were doing exactly what they were supposed to, but it looked very different on the news. Suzanne's mom is the early stages of Alzheimer's and had to be shielded from the news until D. was able to get there hours later.

B. never believes anything bad will happen and was very calm throughout. On the other hand, both of my kids have had horrible nightmares and even the 17 year old has had to come and get me to lie down with her after bad dreams. Our 12 year old slept next to his father 2 nights holding on for dear life. I can't help but think my reaction had to have made their situation much worse. I'm just not built to sit, watch, and wait. I've always been at work when danger was near in a big way. I had things to take care of, people to protect, procedures to follow. When did I stop being the calm and capable leader and turn into a trembling Victorian female with a fit of the "vapors?"

I finally had a chance to see my wonderful friend, Carol, today. She was on a mission trip to Honduras while this was all happening. I made poor B. call over to her husband's office and make sure they were following center protocols. Poor B. He wasn't happy to have to make that call. Even though Carol and I are very close, both of our spouses are pretty much of the nonverbal engineer variety and don't make "Hi, I'm just checking on you...." type phone calls to anyone.

All of this stuff happened shortly before I quit my job and really made me impatient with anyone disreputable. But, I also lost my temper with my dishonest employer and can't help but think that was part of my whole over reaction to the events of the previous week. I'm still trying to collect myself. Seeing my girlfriends face-to-face has been a big part of getting back to normal. The kids and I have talked through things. The doctor had great advice for talking with them. My total dental disaster has finally calmed down after two root canals and a new bite guard. B. still seems so sure he was never in any danger. It makes me mad that he's so laid back. Is he trustworthy to act carefully if he's in danger? I also keep thinking of what the world is going to be like when my kids are my age. Raging murders, terrorists, child abusers have me all feeling very pessimistic today.

I'll try to find something more positive to write about soon.


Star said...

You are in my thoughts.

PJ said...

This is the ultimate..this is complicated and complex! I wish you could come over for a cup of coffee!!!!!!! My prayers are with you!

JessaLu said...

I'm so sorry you have to go through this...