Small Victory

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Granted, it’s the weekend, and the trips weren’t far, but we went to the store and then later swung by a friend’s place to pick up something and stopped off at the drugstore on the way home. And I drove both times.

It’s still a big deal to me to have a day where I do all the driving. I’ve been scared to do so for so long, it feels both wonderful and weird to get back behind the wheel like this. And it’s going to take some getting used to for both of us. It’s habit at this point for me to take the passenger’s seat, and it’s habit for her to automatically get behind the wheel. It’s going to take a little bit of effort for us to break that habit, but I think it’ll be relatively easy to do.

Seven more days to go before classes start. I’ve been excited, but I’m also starting to get nervous about it. My mind keeps trying to wander off to a myriad “what if?” situations but I’m being diligent and stopping those thoughts almost as soon as they appear.

I just hope that will continue once the classwork starts coming in.

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Therapize Me

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Today was therapy day. We started the session talking about rotten eggs.

Apparently there was something in her hot water tap that gave off a strong odor of rotten eggs. When I first went into her office, I went to the restroom, and noticed the smell right off as I was washing my hands. So our session was delayed while my therapist turned the fan on in the restroom, lit a scented candle, and closed the door so we wouldn’t gag on the smell.

So here’s what I’ve managed to accomplish in the last two weeks, without really intending to.

I socialized in person with three friends within a week’s time. Two of those instances were at my suggestion. It’s been weeks since I last socialized with friends.

I drove home from the airport on Friday morning – a trip I’m not intimately familiar with, with a considerable amount of traffic that I was uncomfortable driving in, and managed my panic.

I went out to dinner on Sunday night at a crowded restaurant where there was a wait list. I cannot recall the last time I did this. It’s been at least six or seven years.

I braved the laundry room, a space for which I have a completely irrational panic, long enough to wash and dry a full round of laundry.

I helped my wife through a very rough couple of days without trying to step in and fix the problem – I let her experience what she was going through and supported her through it. (To be fair, we were in different time zones, so I didn’t really have much of a choice but to just be a shoulder; there was literally nothing I could do to fix anything.)

That’s a lot of progress between therapy sessions, at least, for me.

I spent the vast majority of the session explaining all the things that had transpired over the previous two weeks and didn’t really realize I’d done all this stuff and how big it really was for me. (If you’re reading this blog for the first time, I’m on disability, and essentially agoraphobic at this point. We’re trying to break me out of that little by little, so that’s why these things, which seem fairly simple to a lot of people, are such a big deal to me.)

There’s homework that I have to do in future, something that I’ve been asked to add into my regular activities, and I need to talk to my wife about it. But once this starts up, I’ll be tackling one of my panic-inducing situations head on so it hopefully won’t be panic-inducing anymore. Wish me luck.

Laundry Day Progress

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My wife is back in town, and we celebrated by … catching up on laundry.

It’s been hanging over our heads for some time now, but between travel out of state and sore backs and general malaise, we’ve let it pile up. (Again.) Apparently events while visiting her dad made laundry a necessity pretty much immediately. On a related note, my wife changed her first diapers in over 20 years while on this trip.

Because the trip was so rough on her, I wanted to alleviate as much of the stress of doing laundry as I could, so we deviated from our usual system this time. Normally, when there’s this much laundry (don’t laugh, you put laundry off too) I take one basket down to the car and she takes the other, then she drives to the laundry facility on site to start the wash, drives back to the apartment, drives to go trade the washers for the dryers, drives back to the apartment, then drives to go pick up the clean and dry laundry so we can both take it upstairs and both work to put it away, me working on folding clothes and her working with the hangers in the closet. This time I went with her to the facility and helped load the washers, went with her to help move the clothes from the washers to the dryers, then went along to empty the dryers and take the clothes back for us both to put them away.

This is an important step for me in that I’ve somehow worked myself into a panic about laundry. I’m willing to help by carrying a basket down to the car and bringing one back up and putting away the clean clothes, but I’d gotten it worked up into this horrific thing in my head about actually going to the laundry facility. While I was there loading the washers, I had to fight down a panic attack, and the whole experience was just overwhelming to me throughout. I made it through, however, and I didn’t die, nor did anything bad happen the whole time.

It seems silly to make such a big deal out of something as simple as laundry, but then again, I’ve managed to put a lot of everyday activities into that category of “too scared to do.” I still don’t drive unless I have to, and even then it’s almost always back home from dropping my wife off at work, then to my therapist’s office and back home, then from home back to my wife’s office to pick her up. Almost all of that driving is on surface roads, except for a stretch of feeder road from one exit to the next between home and my therapist’s office. Getting back and forth to the airport for my wife’s trip was an exceptionally difficult thing for me to do and I was fighting down panic the whole time.

So today, a little progress, and a little celebration. It was a nerve-wracking day, but I survived.

 

Catching Up Again

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It’s been a busy couple weeks since I last wrote.

Most notably, our cat has been sick. One of the outdoor cats apparently caught a respiratory infection somewhere, and then passed it to our cat through the open, screened window. (Our cat’s a strictly indoor kitty.) She was in bad shape at the beginning, at one point sitting on my feet, head raised up as though she were looking at me, eyes half lidded, and breathing through her mouth, absolutely motionless for close to a half hour. We got her to the vet (we call it the kitty mechanic just in case she ever learns the word) and was prescribed four different medications to give her – two pills twice a day, an oral liquid once daily, and eye drops three times a day – along with questions about whether we were sure about giving her all this medication. We said we’d give it a try and took her home. During the next 24 hours, we got the eye drops in her twice, and one of the pills down once before realizing that if she was fighting us that much while feeling that bad, she’d be impossible to deal with once she got some strength back. So we crated her back up and boarded her at the vet for a couple days before picking her up again, with the instructions to give her the eye drops only.

I am happy to report that our cat is back to normal – in turns feisty and affectionate, eating and drinking normally again.

As far as my own situation goes, since we last spoke I’ve started doing something that I haven’t done in close to a year – driving the car with my wife in the passenger’s seat. I would drive myself to appointments if necessary, but pretty much didn’t go anywhere else on my own. Now I’ve started driving again in low-traffic conditions and doing fairly well with it.

There were also a couple instances where I managed to use the tools I’ve been given to combat negative and irrational self-talk. On Monday of this week, I went to go find my psych medication manager’s new offices so the appointment I had on Tuesday wouldn’t be tied up with me trying to find the place. My wife drove, and we went late at night, after her work, so there weren’t many lights in the area. I fought down panic about not finding the place on Monday night and continued to fight it down while we drove to the appointment itself on Tuesday. Turns out we found the place just fine, and in fact drove through the building’s parking lot, but the lighting was so bad I couldn’t see the street number and name of the building on the side of it in 12 inch high lettering, despite driving right past it. Then again on Wednesday, I panicked about dinner. I pulled the chicken out of the fridge (it had been thawing there for a couple days) in enough time to prep it and cook it before my wife came home on her mid-shift break, and discovered that it was still partially frozen. I spent a few minutes panicking and then realized that if I gave the chicken a tepid – not cold – water bath it would speed up the thawing without cooking the chicken. Dinner was a few minutes late, but well within her window of being home to eat. Panic once again averted.

Yesterday at my therapist’s we started setting goals for my therapy for the next quarter. I’m to continue driving and getting out of the house and around people, as well as putting more emphasis on my own self-care. We’ve implemented rewards for this. For instance, my daily checklist is organized more or less chronologically throughout the day, so I can’t do anything leisurely until I get everything done that should be done before a certain time on the checklist. The overall reward for sticking to this plan for the first quarter of the year, or what’s left of it, actually, is both a reward and exposure therapy – tickets to go see They Might Be Giants in concert at the end of March.

We’re also planning a bit of exposure therapy a week from Sunday, when we’re going to our favorite restaurant/bar to watch the Super Bowl. We’re going to have a plan B in mind that’s a little quieter, just in case, because for the first time in 12 years, my team’s in the Super Bowl! I’m excited for that, but Denver is going to be a dangerous, dangerous opponent.

Anyway, I’ve blathered on about a lot of things that are on my mind; apologies for the ramble through my thoughts.