It came on fast, they all did, all 88 of them.
Every day for almost three months after I was nearly strangled to death by someone 70 pounds and 1 almost a foot taller. I would have a panic attack at the same time it happened every day. It took me a little to recognize this was my body’s way of processing what happened. The first time it happened I relied on a recent surfing experience to get me through. I am so grateful for my ability to surf.
I remember the feeling. The tightening in my chest, my lungs starting to inflate and deflate to full capacity to both ends. Faster and faster, over and over again. At first, I didn’t realize what was going on; I had never had a panic attack. The sensation and labored breathing brought me right back to Sunday, March 29. The day I broke my first leash.
I will never forget that day. It was two weeks before I was attacked. I felt like I was initiated into an official #surf club. It was at a break called #littlepoint here in La Jolla. I met my husband there on September 25, 2009. I could have sworn he was Superman.
It was my first time to this break I was 35, five years divorced and six years surfing. I had just moved into a fantastic apartment near #Windnsea. It was one of those `very rare places that you only get in if you know someone. Rent was reasonable, and it was steps from the water. It was an old La Jollan mansion built in the ’30s by a Texan oil tycoon. There was a giant wall around the entire property and a huge side yard. My now superman husband and I would throw blankets and sun ourselves watching butterflies land all around us for hours when we first met. It was a magical time in my life.
I moved to California from Chicago in 2001. I learned to surf in 2003, and my life has revolved around surfing ever since. Little Point is very dear to my heart having met my love there. Also announcing that we were pregnant with our closest friends and family there on Easter Sunday 2010. We love this beach.
When I suddenly found myself thrown into a full-blown panic attack, it felt exactly how it felt when I took my first step on the beach after my leash broke. So many sensations that day are similar to my experience of being attacked. Breathing heavily after swimming in huge surf felt precisely like the panic attack I was having. That day I reevaluated going in big surf. The ocean schooled me; I felt her power. I realized I took a risk and I wasn’t comfortable with it. I realized how drowning could happen. I was fighting to get myself out of the water. Thankfully someone else had also broken their leash on the same set and was also swimming in. People were tracking us from the beach prepared to jump in for a rescue mission if necessary. I was determined to walk myself out of that ocean that day.
The surf was big that day well at least for me it was HUGE. A decent 6-8 feet on the surf reports. I was riding my first official shortboard at five feet eight inches. I had gotten it from my husband for my birthday the November 11th prior and was finally feeling proficient on it. Ducking diving it successfully still sparks joy for me. It is honestly so fun.
On that day I was doing it. I was so out of mind happy. Then some massive sets came in, the tide was shifting, and the swell was turning on for real. I got under the first wave in the set, it shot me out the other side, and I came up laughing. There was another one coming. I got into position got under it and something when wrong it snatched my board right from me. I heard a loud ping noise and found myself floating, suspended with no movement totally silent for what felt like an eternity but was so fast. It is such a distinct feeling to be suspended like floating. Then it all came together, and I realized that I had no board.
One of our best friends was a world champion surfer. She was my hero. She was with us during the birth of my daughter. I loved her and her family dearly. My husband was friends with her for over 20 years. We were all at the beach that day. I had asked her if she was going to get in the water with us, she said yes. But she never showed up. I understand why now!
I was met with a cheering section and a beer. My girlfriend, I surf there with is so good like that, she is a reason to celebrate life. Once the sun started going down, I dashed up to our friend’s house to tell her all about my leash breaking. She was incredible and did what any wiser older more experienced surfer/mother/friend would do. She talked to me about why she didn’t go out, about risk and safety. She has way more experience than I do in the water and has surfed this break for many moons. She knew she could not handle it that day. I heard her. I was tired and hungry realizing I was underprepared to manage such big surf. Good things to understand, you can get hurt, and no one wants that to happen.
Or do they? We had to learn the hard way which our friends were. Trauma has a way of presenting this in our lives. The minute you say Domestic Violence people tend to tune out and say don’t discuss these personal matters with me. I read a quote once…” the domestic part doesn’t matter, violence is violence.” I agree. Domestic Violence with the law made it worse for me.
After being attacked, I immediately lost my sense of safety in the world. I was on high alert, fight or flight for quite some time especially the first almost two years after it happened. Remember you are in court proceedings for a while. She was arrested for Assualt with a Deadly Weapon and convicted. I recognized my body, mind, and spirit wanting to close and I instinctively knew I could not allow myself to give into this. I am safe I would repeat over and over. I know deep down I am always okay no matter what happens to me. Allowing myself to close down would not serve me I needed to bust myself open, and I did.
I decided to not suffer through this panic attack and call a friend instead. The first call was my mom, of course, no answer. Then my best surf buddy, no answer. Then my other best surf buddy, again no answer. I could not call my husband as he was with his daughter trying to figure out if she could handle being away from us at school. I decided to throw the net wider and call a friend that I had not known well yet as she was primarily my husband’s friend, but she said call me if you need me, so I did, yep, no answer. My last effort was to call our world champion surfer friend and no answer but left a voicemail because I was so far along in the panic attack at this point I had to talk it out.
I said to her that I was having a panic attack and it reminded me of the day my leash broke. I thanked her for her advice that day. I rambled on and think I also said things like I survived natural childbirth which she was at so I could survive this. I thanked her for her friendship and apologized for leaving such a strange message and by this time I was starting to come out of it. So I told her I was ok.
My husband had called her the day it happened. We told her what happened. She was also friends with my husband’s ex and was the godmother of my stepdaughter. She was one of the first people we did call of course. She called me back a few days later. I was at my doctor waiting for results from neck x-rays. I answered. She said so sorry it took her so long to call me back. I could hear someone on the other end, and the skin on the back of my neck got a cold and prickly feeling. She was with her, the woman that attacked me. My husband’s EX, my stepkids Mom.
I said I am sorry to leave such a long-winded message like that. She said yes I wanted to talk to you about what you think might be causing you to have a panic attack? Then there was silence between us. A long silence. Then she asked about getting my stepdaughter to her house for a visit. Realizing what this was all about, accusing me of why I would not be into something like that at this point.
All I could say was you need to talk to her Dad, and I have to go.
She proceeded to show up to every family court proceeding for over a year. She wrote letters to the court saying she knew without a doubt that this didn’t happen. She took the stand and testified that her friend could not have done something like this because she was just the sweetest person in the world. I didn’t talk to her again after that phone call until recently. I reached out to try and resolve. She let me know that she can’t handle any more negativity in her life, that she wants to move forward but does not want to discuss her involvement in our trauma. She told me she doesn’t need to read my doctors reports or MRI showing the brain trauma I received from being attacked because they would only say what I told the doctors to say.
Family court cost us over $40K; we would not have had to spend this much if people like this were not involved. Everyone knows how expensive a day in court is. She took the stand; she was dismissed as not relevant and hearsay.
We were found credible, and the mom that attacked me was found not credible. We never requested full custody but were awarded majority custody for schooling purposes. We were awarded a 3YR Domestic Violence Restraining Order that protected our entire family and our pets.
Our “friend” we lost because she sees this outcome not as the truth but as our ability to manipulate everyone. The police, the district attorneys, the city prosecutor, the judges in two courts, insurance companies, the ER doctors, all our treating doctors, school staff and trauma psychologists.
It’s hard to see when your heart is involved, but this is not friendly.
Breathing through life has gotten me far. My energy coach has taught me that without our breath we die, without connecting to our life source energy daily we lose our connection to what makes us most alive. I have used my breath to heal through this trauma.
When I was under the wave realizing I lost my board, I remembered what my suprman husband told me. The safest place on a wave without your board is underneath it. I am grateful for him that day and especially the day I was attacked, I would be dead if he was not there.