This past week was a really good week and I was able to get outside in the yard - by myself! Some of you might not think this is something for me to be proud of but it’s a huge hurdle, as well as being a huge accomplishment for me.
Throughout my life, I’ve had many threats that someone was going to “come and kill me” or “shut me up,” and I coped pretty well until I was held up; then I became terrified of the outside world.
Weeks would go by in between me even taking a single step outside the front door, let alone going on a short car ride. Opening the curtains was something I rarely did because I was afraid of who might be staring back at me. So, I lived in the darkness, rarely looking beyond the curtains but feeling okay with it because I only felt safe inside the four walls that had literally become what most people referred to as my jail.
Things started to change for me approximately a year ago when a really good friend gave me a “gratitude” journal.
One of the things the journal asked each day was to name three things that would make the day great.
Right from the first day, I decided that one of my three things was “To get outside for five minutes.” Now, that might seem like an insignificant goal to some people but for someone like me; living with a mental illness, it was like climbing Mount Everest.
The first day I got up, set my alarm for 10:00 am and when it went off, I grabbed a coffee, a joint, and my faithful companion Xena, and I opened the front door. The light hit my face and almost blinded me. My heart started racing a million miles an hour as I scanned the front yard for movement and I felt a panic attack coming on.
Suddenly, a car drove past the front of the house and my immediate reaction was to look and see if it was anyone that had threatened me in the past. My head started to shake and I got that feeling I always get when a panic attack starts... like my head is literally going to fall off my shoulders. It’s the weirdest sensation ever but it’s the easiest way of describing it!
Now, I know there are going to be people that read this and think my thoughts are utter nonsense, or that these thoughts are impossible, but for someone like me these thoughts aren’t impossible at all; my brain always goes to the worst case scenario!
I continued standing there for what seemed like an eternity, trying to reassure myself there was no danger (it was probably only about 10 minutes). All the while, Xena was circling around me and whining, almost like she was trying to herd me outside, so I looked down at her and said “Here goes nothing.”
I walked out the door, took the two steps I needed to, to get to the top step, and sat down. I glanced around me to make sure Xena and I were alone, and I felt like my heart was going to jump out of my chest. Immediately, my body temperature went through the roof and sweat started to come out of every pore of my body.
I had set my alarm on my phone for five minutes and glanced down to see how much time I had left; only twenty-five seconds had elapsed since I had sat down.
I set my coffee down on the step beside me, opened my “weed” tin, took out a joint and my lighter and proceeded to light the joint. I inhaled deeply and as I exhaled, I reassured myself that everything was okay. I told myself what day it was, where I was - and that I was safe. I also told myself that Xena was with me and that if someone came around the corner with a gun, she would bark and run at them, giving me enough time to get back inside without any harm coming to me.
That first day, it seemed like it took me forever to get through those first five minutes, but over the following weeks five minutes became ten minutes and ten minutes became fifteen. I won’t lie, there were times when I just couldn’t cope and I would skip a day, or I would only be able to go outside for a couple of minutes, but over time things got better.
Now a year later, I’m able to go outside for extended periods of time and for the most part, I think about nothing other than how beautiful it is. I also think about how happy I am to be outside blending with nature, instead of being locked inside the house like a caged animal.
Stay safe and stay strong. Thanks for following.