For the sake of those of you who don’t know – or who haven’t been paying attention (don’t worry; I forgive you) – I am an agoraphobic. I also have social anxiety disorders and suffer from panic attacks. Yes, I am quite the life of the party.
What this boils down to is that I have a fear of almost everything – not quite as bad as Charlie Brown fears, but debilitating if I give in to them. I have to fight these fears every single day of my life, and perhaps even longer, because who knows what comes after that?
Everything I do is a challenge. It is hard work. But the only choices I have are: either letting them take control of my life (this is the easy path) or fighting them and trying my best to live a productive life (the difficult one.) I have chosen the difficult one. To some people, scaling a mountain is a daunting task. To me, sitting through a movie in a crowded theater is pretty much its equivalent. You get the idea.
A lot of what I will write about will contain tips and advice about how to cope with fear and anxiety. But please note that I will be writing about what works for ME. Everyone is different, and it may not work for you. Still, I have a hunch that just about everyone should be able to pick up a valuable tip here and there and just tweak it to their own needs.
That being said, today I (A.K.A. Captain Shaky) had an adventure. I mowed my lawn.
I know that this seems trivial to many of you, but to me it isn’t. Just leaving my house starts my heart beating fast, so to actually go outside and push around a noisy machine that will attract attention to myself is not my idea of fun. (Many agoraphobics like to hide. We hate attention. That’s why writing a blog is also NOT an easy thing to do.)
The first thing I often do when going on an excursion is to pop a stick of chewing gum (preferably a minty flavor) into my mouth. This seems to sooth me and lessens the feeling of being nauseated. It also gives me something to do, and fresh, minty breath. So, kiss an agoraphobic today and watch what happens!
Sometimes loud sounds trigger panic attacks. Not always. Sometimes they are just a little scary, so it’s a good idea to try to block them out. I bought a pair of noise-cancelling ear protection gear (that look like huge headphones, only no music is played inside them.) I didn’t like them. They made me look like a doofus, and I was afraid that would attract attention. So, I switched to my trusty iPod and cranked up the rock music. That didn’t work either. It felt way too dangerous to be pushing around a swirling blade without being able to hear it. Music took away my sense of control, so I scrapped that idea as well. I mowed the lawn naked (as far as ear coverings go, otherwise totally covered up.)
Once the mower starts, I “retreat” into myself and find a quiet place where I can use positive self-talk to stay calm, but also stay aware of what I am doing to avoid accidents. Then, I tackle the job.
My trusty lawn mower.
Mowing the front lawn is a hundred times harder than mowing the back. Out front, people can see me. Cars can drive by. I am vulnerable. This is where positive self-talk is needed the most. Once you get past the fist 10 minutes or so, the job gets easier. That is because exercise also helps reduce stress. On hot and humid days like today, you can work up a good sweat by the 10-minute mark. After that, all you have to worry about is whether or not you remembered to use deodorant that day (but we will deal with that in another story.)
Often you will find that by the time you are half-way through, you are relaxed. I found that today my thoughts ran to what I was going to write in my blog – and several ideas came to mind, obviously.
Within an hour, the lawn was neat and trimmed, and I could inspect a job well done. Unfortunately, the nerves started to kick in a few minutes later, so I came inside to write. I could have stayed outside longer, but I would have had to use some other “tricks” to avoid panic. (I will write about these soon.)
So, there you have it. Another excursion for Captain Shaky. It may not sound like a lot to you. Then again, maybe you can employ the tips I am sharing on a much bigger scale. They do work. After you read about some of the things I have done, you will see what I mean.
A job well done on many levels!