Anxiety – Part I: Halloween 1987

My intent is to write, in two blogs, about my experience with anxiety and panic attacks.  Think I’m crazy if you must, but those of us who must endure these events are well aware we’re not nuts.

It’s a big subject.  One I think a lot of people are afraid to talk about which, of course, leads to more anxiety.  If you have an anxiety attack that in turns leads to more of the same because once you get through one, you are simply just waiting for the next one.  It’s a seriously vicious cycle.

The topic of anxiety and panic attacks have come up several times recently (in my life anyway) so it seems necessary that I address it.  Before I do that though, I need to share a story because this story is most of the reason for mine.  See, over time I’ve been able to trace back to this particular night as the trigger for my panic attacks.  After you read, you’ll probably understand why.

It’s Halloween, 1987.  Been a fairly normal day.  I’ve never been a big fan of Halloween.  I mean, it was just never a big deal for me and my siblings growing up.  We weren’t big into the trick-or-treating/costume thing and mostly we did church stuff. So, I personally was not doing anything special this particular night and I stayed home.  My Daddy was married to a woman named Patsy (The Step Bitch) at the time.  To say I hated her is an understatement.  I despised every fiber of her being and knew from the beginning what she was about.  She was a whore, a tramp and simply using my Daddy.  Back then, we had money.

Anyway, my younger brother and steps brother/sister were going out that night.  I think they were all going skating or something.  I don’t remember.  Evening approaches, and The Step Bitch Patsy oddly decided to give everyone a later curfew than normal, something she never did.  Everyone but myself, my Daddy and The Step Bitch left for the night.  I hung out in my room, spent a couple of hours on the phone with my boyfriend at the time, then went to bed I believe around 11ish.  At 11:30 or so, The Step Bitch wakes me up to tell me my brother has broken down “somewhere in Griffin,” she didn’t know exactly where, and asked me to go look for him.  Now, at the time, this did not raise any questions because I’m sure I just assumed my brother was drunk (par for the course) and so I threw on some clothes and set out to find him.  From where we lived, Griffin was about 15-20 minutes away.  So I drove…and I drove…and I looked.  Couldn’t find him anywhere.  This was before the entire planet had cell phones so I couldn’t call home, I just headed back.  When I pulled up in front of my house, it was CHAOS.  Blue lights flashing, ambulance, cops all over the place. Naturally, I flew out of my car only to have a neighbor stop me.  When I asked what happened, the neighbor told me my Daddy had been shot.  They had just closed the ambulance doors when I pulled up.

Shot?  My Daddy?  No f****** way!  Who would do that to him?  I mean I know his career as a Private Investigator was a bit questionable at times, but he was so careful to shield me and protect me from anything iffy that I didn’t think for one second maybe an “associate” had hurt him.  I broke free from my neighbor, ran into the house and noticed The Step Bitch wasn’t there and IMMEDIATELY I knew what she’d done.  There was no doubt in my mind it was her that had shot my Daddy.

Fast forward a bit…I start calling people because I had no damn idea what to do.  I know at some point, my older brother Joe showed up (he was a cop back then) and I know eventually The Step Bitch came back to the house where I hear my brother tackled her and put the cuffs on her before she could even make it to the front door.   I didn’t see this happen, but I recall someone telling me it occurred.  The Step Bitch’s sister showed up I think, or one of them.  Eventually my brother and step sister/brother got back to the house.  I recall throwing a very heavy lamp at somebody – I think my step brother.  There was a police officer there, Dormer was his name, and he was basically my rock while I was at the house that night.  He got all of the people related to The Step Bitch out of the house.  This was MY house, the one I grew up in and they were INTRUDERS and needed to GET OUT so he made that happen and quickly.

Now understand, I am extremely close to my Daddy.  I am a genuine Daddy’s Girl down to my core.  He is my hero, my savior.  There are no right words to say how much I love him or how much he means to me so I won’t try because it won’t do how I feel about him justice.

Things begin to settle down just a bit.  Most of the police are gone.  The Intruders have been kicked out.  My boyfriend shows up and he takes me to the hospital.  I get to my Daddy, see him and FLIP OUT.  Hysterical flipping out.  He’s hooked up to all of the machines, tubes and blood everywhere…it’s just bad.  Very bad.  I beg my boyfriend to take me to the police station, telling him I want to talk to someone to find out exactly what happened.  What BF does not know is I really want to go there to kill Step Bitch.  Seriously.  That was my plan.  Irrational though it was, I wanted her dead and I was going to make that happen.  Against BF’s better judgement, he takes me.  I bolt out of the car, into the station and the first thing I hear is her talking.  I’m headed straight to her and it so happens Dormer is there and catches me – physically catches me and has to hold me back.  After a time, BF and Dormer manage to calm me down and it seems they decided the best thing to do was to not take me back to the hospital but get me somewhere so I can chill out and maybe sleep. Sleep?  Ha!  Didn’t happen.  BF takes me to a friend’s house, stays with me for the night but there was no sleep.  Mostly I just cried.

The next days are a haze.  I’m not even sure what happened to The Step Bitch’s kids.  I know I did not see them again…ever.  I don’t even know where my brother was and I don’t remember seeing him for a long while after that night.

More details I do recall:

Spending the night with my Daddy in the hospital where, in his sleep, he would be dreaming about the night he got shot and I got a replay of what his night was like because he would talk in his sleep.  See, he watched The Step Bitch shoot him.  While he was sleeping, she unplugged the phone next to his side of the bed.  She fired the first shot – woke him, of course – and he watched the rest happen.  She left the room and he rolled over, somehow managed to plug the phone back in and called 911 himself.  He passed out on the first call but they had already dispatched police to the house.  He was friends with most every copy and judge and lawyer in the county we lived in at the time so the response was quick and a lot of people responded.  Can you imagine how that must’ve felt for him?  To watch his wife try to kill him?

While he was in the hospital, it was left up to me to get the house back in order, including his bedroom.  This meant dealing w/ the bloody mattress.  It was soaked and completely covered.  I had help but that didn’t make it any easier.  A friend and I got the mattress to the street for trash pick up.  We flipped it so the bloody side didn’t show but would you believe someone actually knocked on our door asking if they could take the mattress?  OMG!  All I could say was “You are more than welcome to take it but know my Daddy was just shot and the other side of it is covered in blood.”  They were speechless and left without saying a word.  For whatever reason, I decided to vacuum his bedroom and accidentally vacuumed up his teeth that were knocked out by a bullet.  Which was sort of funny and I can laugh about it now but not so much back then.

He ended up with six bullets in him.  Strangely enough, while cleaning up his room, I found her target practice things – you know those sheets of paper with the outline of a person on them?  Ironically, the shots she fired during her practice were in almost the exact locations of the bullets she fired at Daddy.  Coincidence?  I think not.

Daddy spent weeks with his jaw wired shut.  There was some debate about taking out all of the bullets as one was lodged extremely close to an artery so it was decided that particular one would stay.  Once he came home, he had his gun with him at all times, even taking it to the bathroom with him.  I’ve no doubt if The Step Bitch had the guts to show up at the house, he would’ve shot her and if he hadn’t, then I would’ve.

She spent only a week in jail.  I’ve nothing to say about that but I’m sure you can guess how I feel about it.  Daddy did not want her prosecuted.  However, Daddy spent many years afterward getting his own brand of justice so don’t assume she wasn’t punished.  She was.

Someone told me once that our neighbors reported hearing  “loud popping noises” around 10:30 that evening.  If you’ll remember, I said earlier she woke me up at around 11:30.  I’ve been told the reason Daddy forced himself to get the phone plugged in and call for help is because he was afraid I was in the house and she’d shot me, too.

There is a 911 tape floating around somewhere of Daddy’s call, but I don’t want to hear it.  Not now, not ever.

It is YEARS later.  I just realized it’s almost 25 years later.  Shit.  Long time.  Our family has recovered…sort of.   It was quite awhile before I could talk to Daddy about that night and eventually we did.  For at least 20 years I had nightmares for the entire month leading up to Halloween.  Terrible nightmares.  It was until I actually started talking about the nightmares that they started to go away because all that time, I never told anyone.

I still hate being alone on Halloween.

So, this is where my anxiety comes from.  If I go out alone or at night or I’m alone at night the panic attacks creep up on me.  They can happen even if I’m not alone but they are worse when I’m by myself.  My particular anxiety has a name and I’ll get to that in Part II, but it’s real.  It’s very real people.  It’s real and it’s scary.

Author: Lisa Summerlin

The Smoking Squirrel is my way of bringing happiness to the world. I firmly believe that laughter is the best medicine and sometimes we all need a negative-free zone. This is it. Enjoy!

10 thoughts on “Anxiety – Part I: Halloween 1987”

  1. Well, I can give you the reasons I believe she shot him…she got mixed up w/ some heavy duty drugs, she would’ve made a lot of money from his life insurance since she was the beneficiary, she got greedy and she thought he was cheating on her. Yep, definitely a horror – the entire night and weeks and months and years afterwards.


  2. OMG! I think that’s the most amazing thing I’ve read on a blog.
    I understand the anxiety and panic; I’m pretty good at both. I think you are very brave to confront your anxieties in public. I hope that writing about your experience helps with the healing.


    1. Thank you! It’s hard…really hard to write about all of this but lately, I’ve had friends tell me about their problems with anxiety and it just seems some of them are afraid to discuss it w/ their loved ones OR their loved ones just don’t get it. So, it feels right for me to just throw all of my issues out there. Maybe it’ll help someone. I don’t know. I certainly hope so!


  3. I’m sorry you had to go through something like that. I’m glad your daddy lived. I have PTSD too. We have a lot in common but as bad as my stuff is, I can’t imagine going through what you’ve been through.


    1. Ya know, after I wrote all of that I realized that it was a rather selfish blog. I wrote it from such a “me” perspective and didn’t give my Daddy enough credit for how brave and strong he really is. The man is truly incredible. Think I feel a Daddy blog coming on. He is absolutely without doubt my biggest hero.


  4. I think year, you should do something FUN and make a point to end the anxiety. I, personally, would try to get new associations ingrained so that she no longer had that kind of power over me. Not saying it’s going to be easy, but I do think it’s entirely possible.

    And I would love to know what your Daddy’s brand of justice entailed. 😉


    1. I’m working on it. Constant forward motion, trying to rid myself of the anxiety. I don’t believe this event causes me anxiety now but know it is what began the problem. My Daddy and I have since discussed that night in detail so that talk has been had and everything we needed to say about it has been said. His brand of justice? He’s very subtle. Right after this incident happened, she hooked up with a friend of his (WAS a friend) who owned a truck-stop. She was a waitress there. Every single Halloween for years, he’d go, sit at her table, just order coffee and watch her. Never said a word, never caused a scene. Just sat quietly, drinking his coffee and watching. It would freak her out in a very huge way. He can be incredibly intimidating w/o uttering a sound. Thank you for your comment! xo


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