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UPDATE- How do you "get back on the horse" after something traumatic?

jenna8984jenna8984 clam bakes & patriots member
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edited August 2014 in Chit Chat
I have been a runner for my entire life since I was like 8 years old. I used to genuinely love it and it was my morning release and time to myself to clear my head. A year and a half ago, I was attacked by a dog while on a run. It broke it's chain in half and jumped it's fence to chase me. I had headphones in so I didn't hear it coming, it started biting from behind before I even knew what was happening. I screamed bloody murder. It was 5:30am and dark out in a residential neighborhood so there were no cars driving by, no one around. I don't know exactly how long it took the owner to run outside (probably 2-3 minutes) but it felt like an eternity to me. It was scariest thing because I just kept thinking that no one was coming and I was going to be taken down and mauled to death and no one was going to save me. (After the original bite to the leg and then hand, he just stood next to me growling as I screamed. So he wasn't trying to take me down but I didn't know if he was about to any moment). Once the owner secured him and brought me in her home (it was 28F degrees out) I almost passed out from my heart racing so fast combined with no breath from screaming. The wounds were serious and I needed a good deal of medical attention for the following 3 months. I was still really lucky that it wasn't my face/ throat/ organs but still. 

Well, I haven't been running since. I went to the gym a few times but couldn't afford to keep my membership and a treadmill won't fit in my home if I could afford one. Plus I just don't really enjoy that, part of my enjoyment of running was being in nature. Last night I decided I really wanted to get back out there and not let it dictate my life. And then I had a severe panic attack about it and started bawling and hyperventilating as I relived it in my mind. FI had to rub my back and get me to breathe and calm down. He really wants me to get over it and enjoy running again but I just don't know how. I get so freaked out even thinking about the possibility of it happening again. Have you been through anything like this, or do you have any tips to make it more manageable? 

                                                                 

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Re: UPDATE- How do you "get back on the horse" after something traumatic?

  • larrygagalarrygaga Czechoslovakia member
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    Carry pepper spray and don't wear headphones! It's interesting that you are terrified of running and not dogs. How scary!
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  • JaxInBlueJaxInBlue member
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    edited August 2014
    I've not ever been through something so traumatic personally but wanted to share some (not-a-mental-health-person, this is just what I might do) thoughts. First would be that if you are experiencing such significant anxiety, it might not be a bad idea to talk with someone.  You may be able to find some help with your Employee Assistance Program or a similar situation. A few sessions might help you process the experience and gather some coping techniques.

    The other things I might try are enlisting a running buddy, someone who knows what happened and who would be willing to actually go your pace, both in speed and distance, but also in willingness to stop should you feel anxious, or looking to see if there are non-gym but also non-street places where you could run. Is there a high school/college track near you that's publicly accessible? Getting started in an outdoor but non residential environment might help you make the transition, develop confidence and focus on what you enjoy about running.

    Good luck!

    ETA: paragraphs
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    larrygagajenna8984jules3964
  • Ditto what Larry said! And maybe start running around the same dog-free block over and over, rather than running further away distance-wise, until you get your confidence up.

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  • I am a Social Worker who has worked in the mental health field and second the suggestion of talking to someone.  The anxiety is getting in the way of you living your life and doing something you enjoy, so I highly suggest addressing it.  

    I also like the idea of a running buddy and finding a track to run on, at least to get you started.  Taking a different route might help too.  As could changing the time of day you run.  Basically, make the experience as completely different from that day as possible.  That's one of the things I used to recommend for clients who had to do certain tasks but past trauma associated with the tasks made it difficult if not impossible for them to complete those tasks. 
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  • jenna8984jenna8984 clam bakes & patriots member
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    I actually am really scared of dogs now. My friends put them 'away' when I come over. And if I hear a bark in public I jump. But I'm generally Ok at someone's house because I know there are people around to save me. My fear is more at times when no one is around to potentially save me.

    I have thought of having FI come with me and I have thought of going to the track in town where there's likely to be others around. I did buy pepper spray but for some reason still don't feel safe. Guess it wouldn't hurt too look into some counseling of some sort.

                                                                     

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  • I'm a psychologist and I would echo what mysticl and PPs about seeking some kind of treatment. What happened to you *was* very traumatic and it's totally okay that you're still having some issues associated with it. That's pretty normal.

    What I'd suggest is kind of creating a fear hierarchy in terms of what is bothering you. Start at the low end of anxiety (like maybe going for a walk in your neighborhood) and the increase it (going for a walk near that house, being alone near the house, running in the dark etc...) whatver it is. It might help to write it all down and see what is easiest to tackle first. When you start with the first things, just make sure you're using all your good coping skills like taking deep breaths and reassuring yourself. I really hope that helps and you can get some peace of mind! Good luck!!
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    jenna8984doeydo
  • I'm so sorry you had that experience... I don't really have any suggestions that PPs didn't mention but I think its worth reiterating them:
    - talk to someone... EAP was a great suggestion, they are not only for work related issues and can often refer you to counseling services for a few free sessions.
    - run a different route.
    - run with a group (search for local runners clubs... if you're in a metro area, even the burbs, you probably have some).
    - run at a high school track to get started again.
    - don't run with headphones in (hard, I know).
    - even if he doesn't run, get your other half to go with you once to mark out a new route.
    jenna8984doeydo
  • FutureMrsN3312FutureMrsN3312 Dirty Jersey member
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    I've never had an incident with a dog but I was a "victim" (ugh I hate that word) of gun violence. Once when I was 11 at an ATM. And again at 22. I walked into a store while it was being held up at gun point. For me it helps if I have someone go out with me. Especially at night. During the day I'm fine. But just having someone with me brings down any aniexty. I'd see if FI can go with you. Also seek counseling. It helps greatly. I didn't after either event. It came out years later in therapy that I started for something unrelated.
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  • I've never had an incident with a dog but I was a "victim" (ugh I hate that word) of gun violence. Once when I was 11 at an ATM. And again at 22. I walked into a store while it was being held up at gun point. For me it helps if I have someone go out with me. Especially at night. During the day I'm fine. But just having someone with me brings down any aniexty. I'd see if FI can go with you. Also seek counseling. It helps greatly. I didn't after either event. It came out years later in therapy that I started for something unrelated.
    May I suggest the word "survivor" instead?
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  • Is the dog in question still living at that house?
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  • WinstonsGirlWinstonsGirl The Cold North member
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    Ditto others, and check out run groups. We have the Running Room in Canada, and while they offer group clinics you can pay for, they also offer free practice groups Wed and Sundays. They always get a bog group going. Running with a group will give you the comfort of having people around who could help you if something were to happen again, which it won't cos you'll be with such a large group.
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  • JCbride2015JCbride2015 Dirty Jerz member
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    I'm so sorry that happened to you.

    I've mentioned a few times on here that I have PTSD as a result of events during Hurricane Sandy.  It was an extremely traumatic incident and I still have trouble with certain triggers.  Honestly, Although I saw a therapist off and on, I never committed to going enough to feel totally resolved.  That's priority #1 once I get my health insurance in the fall.

    Things that help for me:
    -- Avoiding triggers.  For you this might mean running a different route or at a different time of day.
    -- Exercise.  That's a win-win for you, seriously, because the endorphins or whatever you get from running are really helpful.  You might want to consider finding a DVD workout or something else you enjoy so you can exercise regularly even if you aren't up for a run.
    -- Sleep.  I had to take melatonin for a while to sleep, but I felt so much better when I was really taking care of myself with sleep and exercise.

    In the end though, therapy is really necessary.  When I was seeing a therapist, she was able to explain how PTSD causes actual neurological changes in the brain and she put a scientific explanation to a lot of the things I was feeling.  Just knowing why I felt this way really helped.  I've also learned that no matter how much time has passed (1.5 years in my case), you may still need therapy to heal.  I am partway there but I can't wait to go back when I have insurance again.
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    "I'm not a rude bitch.  I'm ten rude bitches in a large coat."

    jenna8984
  • jenna8984jenna8984 clam bakes & patriots member
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    @steph11814 No it's not still there. It was a few houses from my own.  I had a big battle with the Selectmen in my town in order to get rid of it because they didn't want to that was unacceptable to me. 

    I live at the end of a dead end so I have to pass that house no matter what to leave my short street. That's what sucks, if I want to run another route I have to drive somewhere. FI said he will come to the track with me tonight. 

    @jcbride2015 Thanks for your advice. I'm also sorry that you had to go through that! I honestly can't imagine my home being destroyed and just the panic and despair that must have surrounded that area. I'm sure everyone who lived through Katrina has the same as you. I think I will see about counseling/ therapy because I can sit here all day telling myself that I'm over it and I'm strong but then when it comes down actually going out and doing it I freeze! I'm glad you'll be able to go back in a few months! 

                                                                     

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  • climbingwifeclimbingwife NYC 'burbs member
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    I'm really sorry that happened to you. I'd also look into finding a running buddy, or joining a running group.

  • Do you own this house? I know this might be extreme but if you're renting, I don't think considering finding a new apartment is absurd. 
  • jenna8984jenna8984 clam bakes & patriots member
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    Do you own this house? I know this might be extreme but if you're renting, I don't think considering finding a new apartment is absurd. 

    Yea we own. We plan to list within a year though so a new neighborhood might definitely help!

                                                                     

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  • cupcait927cupcait927 Western NY wine country member
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    That's great that you got back out there! And you have an awesome FI for being so supportive and going with you. I'm glad that you're getting back out there. My biggest fear when I'm running is being attacked by a dog - FI says that he's chased more runs than not so it's a prevalent problem.

     

    Have fun in NYC this weekend! 

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    jenna8984
  • That sounds perfect!

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  • Awesome!  Glad it went well and yay for FI for getting involved!
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  • That's wonderful! Congrats :)
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  • KatieinBklnKatieinBkln (NO SLEEP TIL) Brooklyn! member
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    I am so sorry that happened to you! I echo the PPs thoughts on therapy and running buddies, and I'm thrilled for you that your FI took you to the track! For me, working out is its own kind of therapy, so I can't imagine how tough it would be to have that outlet "taken away" from me the way running has been taken from you. Good for you for doing what you need to do to take it back! This is a gift to yourself, and you deserve it.
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    This baby knows exactly how I feel
    jenna8984
  • wandajune6wandajune6 Chicago-ish member
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    Good for you! Congrats! And enjoy Central Park!
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