Chapter 27 – Panic Attack
“Ok Hoyt, yes I’ll call him.”
“Sookie, I’m sorry I’m puttin’ you in this position. I’m just real worried about him.”
“Why don’t you go over there with dinner and I’ll plan to call him at about your 7PM?”
Eric stopped in to inform Sookie that they were filming into the evening so he would miss dinner with the girls and would eat later. “Ok Eric. Will you be done in time to do bedtime?”
“I’ll come in for a few moments at some point once they are home and I’ll know the exact time better.”
“I told Hoyt I would call Jase at 8PM.”
Sookie was now a bit nervous. Eric said he would be done work at about 8PM when he came in to see the girls. Now it was going on 9PM and she could still see the lights from the filming area glowing brightly from her house windows. ‘I promised Hoyt I would call at my 8PM, which was an hour ago. I also promised Eric I would wait for him….should I call?‘
In the end she called. Hoyt answered and told her that he informed Jason to expect her call and that he was staying the night if needed. He then put Jason on the phone.
“Jason, I heard you had an accident. How are you?”
“I’m doing OK. I broke my leg. I can git ’round the house, but need someone to drive me. Hoyt’s been real good about helpin’ me out.”
“Hoyt’s a good friend Jason.”
“How ya doin’?”
“I’m good Jason. All healed. We just got back from a mini vacation to New York.”
“He really loves ya’?”
“Yeah Jason he does.”
“You think ya can forgive me?”
“I still love you Jason and I think I can forgive you. It’ll take a while for me to trust you though. You hurt me Jase.”
“I understand. Ya’ think we can talk more while you’re workin’ through it?”
“Yeah, we can do that. So tell me about missing your PT appointments.”
They spoke for a while longer. Sookie was still hurting, but she could tell from his tone and from Hoyt that Jason was too. ‘What’s the point of withholding forgiveness? Dealing with my hurt and trust WILL take time.’
“So Sookie, have they found Bill yet? I ain’t heard anything?”
“No Jason, nothing yet.”
“Daum, so he’s just running around loose?”
“Um, Jase, I cain’t talk about that. Please?”
“Uh, OK, but how are you staying safe? I mean, if nobody knows where he is.”
“Jase! Stop!. We have guards. I cain’t have ya fillin’ my head with that shit!”
“Jason, did you talk to Bill before I went to Louisiana about my trip? I’m trying to figure out how he knew my exact flight.”
“No Sook, I swear. He caught up with me after he was here.”
“Then how did he know?”
“Hell, Sook, I dunno.”
“Look Jase, I’ll call you later this week. I gotta run.”
“Ok Sook, thanks for callin’.”
Alcide had come into the house to tell Sookie that filming was going to continue for about another hour; he ran into Pam first so he asked her to tell Sookie. Pam suspected that Sookie had gone to her office to call Jason even though Eric was not back from filming. In addition to delivering the filming update, she wanted to be sure Sookie was alright. She peaked into the office and Sookie was sitting in her chair and shaking. “Sookie, are you OK?”
“Yeah Pam, he just brought up Bill and how he’s still running free. I try not to think about that. I’m going to bed Pam. Thanks for checking on me.”
Eric walked in about an hour later and Pam explained that Sookie was in bed. “Godric was relentless on some of the takes tonight. At least we start a bit later tomorrow. Can you take care of the girls for us in the morning?”
“I guess she’s upset that she didn’t call Jason.”
“Um, she did…..”
“Shit, did he upset her? I wanted her to wait.”
“She was shaking when she went to bed. So you know, she did wait for you for a while, but finally decided to call.”
“I better go check on her.”
Eric went to the bedroom and found Sookie was still up. She was lying on her stomach quietly. “Sookie, you’re still up?”
“Yeah, I can’t get sleep.”
“Because calling Jason upset you didn’t it?” Eric was tired and he didn’t mean to sound so harsh, but that’s how it came out.
“Eric, you were running very late and I’d already told Hoyt I would call at a time we both thought you would be back.”
“Dammit Sookie, Pam could have called Hoyt to discuss the situation. I knew he would upset you, and I asked you to wait.”
Sookie flinched at his words but she bit back. “And it’s OK for you to upset me now?”
Sookie was breathing erratically during the argument, then she started hyperventilating and she ran to the bathroom to throw up.
He tried to help Sookie but she just yelled at him to get out. He called Pam on her phone.”
“Pam, can you come to Sookie’s room? Sookie isn’t well.
“I’ll be right there.”
When Pam arrived with Mor, Eric was trying to talk to Sookie from the doorway. “Sookie, what is it?”
“Just give me a minute, I’ll be right out.”
“Eric, leave me alone.”
Pam, Mor and Eric waited in the bedroom while they heard Sookie washing up. Mor asked, “What happened Eric?”
“She was already in the bed. She had been trying to sleep but she was awake when I got here.”
“And you were upset that she called Jason.”
They all heard the shower starting. Pam would check on her in a minute, but she had a theory.
“Of course I was. She called him without regard to how she was going to feel during and after the call. She only cared about her promise to Hoyt that she would call, not her own wellbeing.”
“And you told her as much, maybe in your angry Eric voice.” Pam accused.
He winced. “Yeah.”
More quietly Pam said: “And you were undressing at the time?”
“Yes, I was getting ready for bed.”
“So let’s put this together. Sookie is reminded by her brother that Bill’s still on the loose and could come get her. Sookie is in bed.” Eric nodded. “You were mad at her.”
“I wasn’t ma….”
“How about, your tone was angry, and your words indicated it was anger directed at her.” He agreed that time by nodding. “Then you start unbuckling your belt.”
Mor looked at them both blankly. “I don’t understand.”
Eric couldn’t even respond. He sat in the chair in the corner and put his head in his hands.
“Mor, can you wait for me in the family room. I believe Sookie’s feeling a little overwhelmed right now so I’m going to check on her. When I know she’s OK, I’ll meet you there and explain.”
Mor nodded and left the bedroom. She began straightening up, mostly because she needed a little something to do while she waited for Pam.
Pam knocked on the bathroom door while she walked in. Sookie might be mad at her for going in, but she was not leaving her friend without checking on her. Sookie was curled in the corner of the shower, crying. Without concern for her outfit or hair, Pam stepped in and cradled Sookie while the shower rained down on them. Sookie accepted the comfort and continued to cry. Pam wept with her friend. ‘I have been wondering when she was going to crack. She never dealt with the emotional baggage from the abduction and tonight, the circumstances lead to the perfect trigger. Fear of Bill being on the loose, feeling that someone was angry at her …it was all too much at once.’
Eric peeked in from the doorway and he felt like he had been punched in the gut. ‘One more fucking day! I was going with Bart to meet the psychologist tomorrow.’ He grabbed some towels and helped Sookie from the shower; then Pam stepped out. They wrapped her in the towel and he carried her to the bed. The start of the hiccupping meant that the crying was slowing down and Eric indicated to Pam that he would take care of her.
“Don’t blame yourself Eric. It was all normal little things that triggered her panic.”
“Could you forgive yourself?”
She shook her head and headed out to meet up with Mor.
“Sookie, I’m sorry.”
She turned and looked at him, but didn’t speak. She put her hand on his cheek to guide him into the bed closer to her. They were quiet for several minutes.
“Pam’s right, it’s not your fault. We should be able to argue. I don’t know what happened.”
“Sookie, what happened is you never dealt with the emotional scars from your time with Bill. You’re going to be mad at me, but I already have an appointment with a psychologist tomorrow. Bart and I were going without you to see if she could provide guidance on how to get you to go willingly. Will you please go with us?”
“I don’t want to spend time on Bill. I want him out of my life. If I go though talk therapy it will bring everything up.”
“Sookie, I don’t think ignoring it will work. Can you just go once? Tell this Claudine what you just told me. ….Just once?”
“Ok. Can you help me into pajamas then hold me?”
“Yes my Love.”
In the family room, Akita was visibly relieved to finally see Pam. Since she was still wet, Pam suggested they go to her room so she could dry off while she explained. Akita had seen the marks on Sookie, but never asked about them. She was shocked to hear the story. ‘I’m pretty sure I preferred my ignorance, but I want to help. Maybe knowing what triggered this panic will enable me to be there for Sookie, or at least prevent a panic attack in the future.’
“Thank you for telling me Pam. You were quick in assessing the situation.” Akita was quiet for a moment. “Maybe Sookie will get help now. In many ways I understand her reluctance to talk about the situation to anyone. Talking brings it back. Keeping it buried, while it obviously didn’t work, kept it away. Until now that is.”
“Ironically, Eric had an appointment tomorrow with a psychologist. He was going with Bart to see if she could help them with how to encourage Sookie to see her, or anyone about the abduction. Maybe Sookie will go with them now. Well, I better get to sleep. I’m going to be up early to take care of my teacups in the morning.”
“I’ll get up early to help you Pam.”
“Thanks Mor. I can’t tell you how happy your being here has made me.”
“The feeling is mutual.”
Eric had shut off the alarm clock so Sookie woke in a panic when she saw it was almost 9AM. Eric heard her hurried movements and came out of the bathroom. “Calm down Love. I asked Pam to take care of the girls this morning. They’re already at school.”
“Oh, thank you. What time is the appointment?”
“10:30 – I was just about to wake you so you could get ready.”
Sookie sat quietly for a few minutes then finally said, “Eric, I’m scared.”
“I know. I’ll be with you if you want, or if you prefer Pam or min Mor?”
“Maybe we should pack everyone in the SUV just in case.” Sookie tried to laugh like she was joking, but she failed.
“We can all go if you want.”
“Let’s get some breakfast and then I’ll think about it.”
In the end, they all did pile in the car with Maxwell driving. Sookie joked that they should grab Alcide, Jesus and Lala as well. Eric felt good that she was joking. It was the first smile she had cracked all morning.
They arrived at the office in about 20 minutes and Bart was waiting for them in the parking lot. At Eric’s request, Pam had called Bart to explain the panic attack the previous night so he ran over to hug Sookie and ensure her that she was safe with Claudine. “I called ahead to Claudine to tell her you were coming and that you had a panic attack last night. She assured me that we would not need to wait for our appointment; we can go right into her office.”
As promised, Dr. Claudine Crane was waiting for all of them in her reception area. Bart handled the introductions and Claudine instructed, “Well, anyone sitting in on the appointment, please come this way.”
Sookie had already requested that Bart and Eric participate at least at first, so the three of them followed down the hall and into the office. As Sookie warily spied the white noise machine that was running outside the door, Claudine said, “We are a bit away from the reception area, but I want my clients to be assured of confidentiality.”
Sookie just nodded her understanding.
“Please be seated.”
With great effort, Sookie refrained from curling up on Eric’s lap and simply sat attached to his side. Bart sat on her other side and took her hand.
“Sookie, Bart has taken the liberty of filling me in on the timeline of your abduction. He did this with the understanding that we were discussing your story under professional confidences.”
Bart turned to Sookie, “I know you don’t like high handedness, but I wanted to give you the option to not cover the minutiae of the story.”
“Bart, I’m too raw from all this to think about being mad. I’ll accept your telling her as help. Thank you.”
“Sookie, why don’t you tell me why you have been reluctant to get help after your ordeal?”
Sookie described her thoughts ending with the panic attack yesterday. “Until that happened, I thought I was doing a good job of just locking Bill and the situation out of my head. Guess that didn’t work.”
“Sookie, honestly, I’m glad you had the panic attack yesterday as it happened.” Sookie looked shocked and was about to say something but Claudine cut her off. “You were home, in a safe environment, the children weren’t witness to it, and Eric and Pam were able to care for you right away. Now you know you should at least explore help before it escalated. You could have panicked in public or with the girls.”
Sookie’s eyes widened. She hadn’t thought of that. “You’re scaring me.”
“I’m trying to….a little. I don’t coddle my clients, Sookie. I want you to get help. It’s rare, not impossible, but rare for someone to have gone through what you experienced without some fallout. If we talk for a session or two and realize you have nothing to discuss, then you move on. What do you think about that?”
“OK. How do we start?”
“Well, today we have time for a double session. Let’s start by having you tell me a little about yourself. How you came to Pennsylvania? How you met Mr. Hotty here (everyone chuckled), maybe we can invite the ladies in the waiting room in for an introduction as well? Also, with your permission, I would like to record the sessions.”
Sookie smiled, “That all sounds good and I was prepared for you to record the session.”
After Pam and Akita joined them, Sookie introduced everyone in the room again, but not just by name. She described who they were to her; what they meant to her. She wanted Claudine to understand the circle of support she had. After the introductions, Sookie discussed her life in Louisiana, Sam, their move to PA, the birth of the girls, Sam’s death (well, murder) and Eric. Claudine asked only a few questions to clarify or stop Sookie from moving on to another topic before she felt she had given the whole story. With the background in place, Claudine suggested a break and when they resumed that only Eric and Sookie return to the office.
Sookie went to the ladies room and Pam followed and surprised Sookie with a hug after she exited the stall. “What was that for?”
“I’m proud of you for doing this Sookie. If you continue, I’ll come with you anytime you want or need me.”
“Thanks Pam. Though, what we just covered was the easy part. I have a feeling that the next part of today’s session or subsequent sessions won’t be as easy.”
“Well, the sooner you start, the sooner you heal; let’s get you back in there.”
Pam walked Sookie back to the office while holding her hand. Depositing her next to Eric, she leaned in and said, “Come get me if you need me, don’t let anyone stop you.”
Pam left and Sookie turned to Claudine expectantly. The time had come for her to talk about the abduction.
“Sookie, you are looking at me quite intently. You can relax; I’m going to ask Eric some questions for a bit.” She turned to him and asked, “I’d like to hear your perspective of the time Sookie was taken. Let’s start at the beginning; tell me what you were doing when you got the call about Sookie?”
“It was Saturday morning, the day before Easter. The scenes using the inside of Sookie’s house were being filmed while Sookie was away, and several of the cast were in the dining room waiting for the crew to set-up in the kitchen for the next scene. Pam called; she had just returned from taking the girls to the park while Sookie was getting the Easter baskets together. She knew something was wrong as soon as she pulled up to Jason’s house. Lala and Alcide knew I was panicked after I hung up and waited for Pam to call me back while she tried Sookie’s phone. When she called back, she locked the girls in the car and walked into the house while she stayed on the phone. I heard her calling Sookie several times, each time getting more and more desperate. She finally completed a search of the house and Sookie wasn’t there. Sensing something bad was happening, Lala and Alcide moved me to Sookie’s office and we waited. Alcide called Russell, Sookie’s friend and Lawyer, and they stayed on the phone while I was on with Pam. Lala started looking up flights for Louisiana. I was frozen with fear. While I stayed on the line with Pam as she spoke to the police, Alcide, Jesus, Russell and Maxwell stepped up to the plate. They had a flight booked for all of us, bags packed, including mine, and we were on the way to the airport. By the time Pam was done with the police, we were boarding the plane. I didn’t know what I was going to do in Louisiana, but I had to be there.”
Eric’s hold on Sookie grew tighter as he spoke. A few tears escaped his eyes at the memory. Claudine took a moment to let everyone breathe before she started speaking. “Sookie, Eric, one thing is very apparent to me. You have many folks who love you and would obviously do anything for you – like jumping on a plane the day before Easter.”
“We’re both very lucky.” Eric responded.
“Sookie, had you ever heard Eric’s story of that day?”
“No, I never asked, I’m sorry.”
“Oh, Sookie, I didn’t bring this up for you to feel sorry. You have no reason to feel sorry for any of this. I wanted you to hear it from his perspective so you could understand his absolute need to get you back. I felt it, did you?”
“Yes. I felt it when he just told the story and every day since I have returned.” She turned and gave Eric a kiss on the lips the smiled.
“So Eric, a few questions.” Claudine already knew some of the answers, but she wanted to open the door for a conversation with Sookie.
Eric nodded for her to continue. “You said, ‘Pam knew something was wrong’ when she arrived at the house. Why did she suspect something had happened?”
“Sookie fought her way to the car. According to Pam, flower pots and porch furniture had been knocked over. Knowing Sookie would never have left Jason’s a mess, she knew something was wrong. Once she got into the house, she saw that there were broken knick-knacks, pushed over furniture and smeared blood on the door.”
“So Sookie, what were you thinking while Bill was taking you?”
“I wanted Pam to see that there was a fight when she pulled up. I wanted to let Bill know I was not going willingly. I wanted to get evidence on the door of a struggle, and I was hoping the blood on my hands from scratching him would provide the identity of my captor. I was pissed and I wanted to do my damndest to make sure Bill was caught.”
“I also heard about young Robert’s escape and the sign he left?”
“Yes, he was our hero. He used sticks to spell HERE, in the dark behind the house we were being held in. He thought of that all on his own.”
“He is a hero. How did he escape anyway?”
“I hopped the cot over to him and undid the D ring that was holding the chains.”
“That escape must have taken quite a bit of strength and courage. I’m certain Bill had threatened you about escape attempts.” Sookie nodded. “I understand you recorded his confessions?”
“Tell me about that, please.”
“Well, it was luck honestly. I happened to have a stuffed bunny purse in my hands when Bill arrived. He ignored it when he was dragging me out. He didn’t know inside the purse I had a fully charged Flip video recorder, the purse was just the wrapping as it was a gift. Anyway, I managed to get the purse with the recorder to Tara and she turned it on when Bill was with us. Poor Tara, she gave up a chance to take care of her personal needs one time since it was in her hands and Bill would have seen it to unlock her cuffs.”
“Sookie. I am in awe. You provided physical evidence, DNA of your abductor. You provided Pam with early warning that something had happened. You recorded his confessions of the murders of your husband and grandmother. You freed Robert knowing that Bill was going to be furious. Then he wrote a word in sticks that was seen by a helicopter. I dare say Mr. Compton had no idea what he was up against when he set his sights on you. I’m curious. How do you feel about those statements?”
“I wish poor Robert and Tara had not been a part of it.”
“Of course you do. I wish you’d never been abducted either. I want to know how you think of those statements relating to you.”
Sookie took a moment to think about her question. ‘Honestly, when Claudine said all those things, I was surprised to hear them all together and the impact that each little thing had on our escape/release and Bill’s future if he ever surfaces’.
“I’m surprised. All those actions put together sound like a great TV episode about abduction. I never planned each thing, I just took action each time I saw an opportunity.”
“I could see the surprise when I was listing everything. You should feel proud in securing your own release and Bill’s long incarceration when he’s finally caught.”
“Sookie. I want to cover one more topic before we end today. Your panic attack yesterday.” Sookie nodded. “I got an overview from Bart, but I would like to hear from you and Eric what happened. Sookie, can you tell me about it?”
“OK, well where do I start?”
“I have a bit of background, so let’s start with your call to Jason.”
“Sure. I called Jason since we heard from his friend Hoyt that Jason wasn’t doing that well. He was injured at work and while physically he was improving at first, he was stalled and possibly getting worse. Hoyt was concerned that Jason was wallowing in his feeling of guilt about his role with my abduction.”
“Wait, Jason had something to do with your abduction?” Sookie nodded. “Well, let’s be sure to cover that during a separate session. For now, please continue with yesterday. I want to be sure we cover some tools for any time you start feeling panicked.”
“Sure. Talking to Jason yesterday was the first time we spoke since I left Louisiana. He asked several times about Bill’s capture. I asked him to stop since I really don’t like thinking about the fact that he is running around free. After I hung up, Pam was at my office door; just to be sure I was ok. I went up to go to sleep since Eric was still filming and it was getting late. I never really did fall asleep and was laying there when Eric came into the bedroom later. We kind of fought a bit since I had promised I wouldn’t call Jason until he was with me. I started hyperventilating and then needed to throw up.”
“Eric, tell me your perspective.”
“I returned to the house much later than planned and spoke to Pam. She told me that Sookie was pretty shaken up by her call with Jason so I went to see her. She was awake, and we started talking about why she couldn’t sleep. I was upset she had called him without me, and I was tired from filming so late. My words came out angrily and I could see her wince. As Sookie said, she hyperventilated when I started undressing, then she ran to the bathroom. I never put it together until Pam did. I never meant to cause a panic attack.”
Sookie jumped in. “I know you didn’t sweetie. I don’t want you walking on eggshells. We’re going to fight sometimes. I should be strong enough to have a fight without thinking about Bill.”
Claudine could see the pain on Eric’s face. “Eric, Sookie is right. You should be able to have a disagreement without worrying that Sookie could panic, it just could take time – or this could a onetime situation. For now, let’s talk about some tools to prevent Sookie from panicking.”
They both agreed.
“Sookie, I want you to take some responsibility for Bill’s capture. You can do this by knowing how the hunt for Bill is going.” When Sookie looked confused Claudine explained. “I take it Eric is talking to folks who are searching for Bill and getting updates?”
Eric answered, “Yes.”
Sookie looked surprised. “I was not aware of that.”
“I’m not asking you to stop Eric. Just include or update Sookie. She needs to take ownership of her need to see Bill caught. Additionally, I know you have security now. I saw him drive the car here and he’s standing outside my front door as we meet.”
“Yes, that’s Maxwell. We have other guards as well.”
“OK, I want Sookie to participate in their scheduling and any personnel changes. Again, this is an ownership exercise. Instead of Sookie feeling helpless and needing to be cared for, she is taking responsibility for her safety. In addition, I think you should review some personal safety type training. How to fend off an attacker, some type of defense fighting, tools you can use in defense – those types of classes or sessions. Your ‘homework’ will be to research the types of defense training available in the area and we can discuss the options at your next appointment.”
She paused while Sookie took in her homework. “Finally, Sookie I want you to practice some calming exercises, and use the techniques as soon as you start to feel any panic. Let’s try some now.”
They practiced some calming exercises for a few minutes and scheduled the next session. Sookie thought once a week would be fine, to her surprise, Claudine schedule her next session for that Friday. “Sookie, I don’t think we are looking at long term therapy. I want to help you examine your time with Bill and move past it. I don’t think we are looking at years of weekly psych sessions. Let’s just get you past this situation.”
“That sounds really good Claudine. Thanks.”
Sookie started her assignment on the way home from Claudine’s. “Maxwell, did Eric tell you I was wondering how Bill knew what exact flight I was on?”
“He did and I reported that to Kahn. What are you thinking?”
“It’s not a coincidence. He boasted that he was there and I had no idea.” She added as a mumble. “He called me stupid.”
Mor jumped right on that. “Well, you proved him wrong on that.”
“So who knew? Can you think of the names for us, write them down? When you have a list, we can call Kahn together.”
“I’ll work on that when we get home.”
Pam was sitting with Sookie brainstorming who knew about the flight.
“Everyone that stays in the house or B&B.” Sookie started.
“That includes Victor; he should be on the list as a concern.”
“But how would he know about Bill? I agree he should be on the list, but I don’t think it’s him.”
“What about the crew? Preston? He’s on top of everything.”
“Wait, Pam, do you remember the weekend before I left? I had guests that weekend that joined our gang for dessert one night.”
“Sookie, we talked about your trip! Do they have any connection to Bill?”
“They were a new couple, Grimwald or something like that. I’m going to check my records.”
Sookie found their name and reported the details to Maxwell and Kahn. She asked Maxwell after they ended the call, “What happens next?”