I failed today. It’s as simple as that. I tried all the self-talk and the relaxation techniques, and the tricks I learned over the years; and the best that I can say is that I survived the day.
My wife approached me early this morning with the idea that we should “get away” and “just take a drive somewhere.” That was enough to trigger panic. Getting away meant leaving the house: agoraphobia. Just taking a drive without a specific goal: obsessive compulsive disorder. Having to make plans on the fly and find food along the way: fear and anxiety disorder. And being someplace amidst strangers: social anxiety disorder.
This was definitely out of my comfort zone, but I said yes anyway because I promised not to give in to my fears. I put on my bravest face, tried to stay calm, packed my camera as a way to divert my attention from fear to my hobby, and hopped in the car – heart racing all the while.
It started out fine. I was having fun. And I learned a few things along the way. I learned that it is hard to take a picture of yourself while riding in a car. Likewise, when you try to capture a magnificent field of ripe corn, it comes out blurry (see below if you don’t believe me.) I also learned that George Washington looks a lot like Napoleon from a distance.
As luck would have it, we got lost. This did not help my anxious stomach, and things started to spiral out of control. We had a GPS to get us back on track – to wherever? – and some music to try and sooth me, but it didn’t help.
Soon, my stomach was empty – a trigger for nausea and its related panic issues. We managed to find a place to eat, but by then, I was struggling even more. I tried to calm myself down by thinking about my blog, and trying my hand at the blogger’s old standby: taking pictures of your food. That seemed to help distract me – even make me chuckle – but I didn’t like the attention I drew to myself as I pulled out my camera and snapped away. The results: a tossed salad, hot turkey sandwich with gravy, and ice cold water.
Are we having fun yet?
After lunch, we walked around the town, but the exercise confused my “triggers” so that I wasn’t sure if I was panicking or not. Try as I might, I could only delay panic, not make it go away.
I did, however, have some fun looking for interesting signs:
After retuning to the car, we drove to the outlet mall, which was hot and crowded. Inside one store, I became “flooded” (a term which means unable to prevent being overwhelmed by sight and sound input) in a store that was packed from floor to ceiling with merchandise and strangers milling around, crowding into my space. My stomach again clenched and I felt tightness in my chest. My wife noticed that something was wrong, but I didn’t say anything about it. I managed to stick it out, make it through the day, and return home, where my panic is still unraveling as I write this.
So, why write this? Why talk about a bad day? Won’t this just discourage everyone and make them quit? No, it wont, and here’s why:
When I have a bad day like this – not a total failure but close enough – I just tell myself, “So what?” “Big ‘^$%*-ing’ deal!” I toss it away. It won’t stop me. Everyone has a bad day. Not every day is a huge success filled with laughter and fun and good outcomes. On days like these, you just need to survive. You just need to tell yourself that you can and will go on, you can and will fight, and you can and will have better days.
That’s all. Release it. Better days are ahead. Stay strong my friends!