It’s been almost four months since we moved away, and I’ve been doing really well. In fact, two of my closest friends said that I sounded good; different, but good. One of them even said that I was beginning to sound like the old Dee and because she’s known me for decades, I thought I must be doing well for her to have noticed. So, I decided it was time to push my limits and try to do something I used to do prior to being held up.
I asked around and found a farmer’s market about 20 minutes from where we’re living and decided to ask a girlfriend if she wanted to go with me. Keep in mind that when I asked her I was having a good day; one with very little anxiety. Plus, the fact that she and I were sitting on the deck at the trailer having a few glasses of wine and I was feeling pretty brave.
We’ve always had a vegetable garden during the summer and we’ve always grown things like corn, beets, peas, swiss chard, tomatoes and lettuce, but as you know we’ve been far too busy building a house, so I wanted to go to a farmer’s market. That way I could push the limits and face some fears, as well as get some grocery shopping done at the same time.
When the day came things weren’t quite so kosher, and it was all I could do to not make an excuse as to why I couldn’t go, but we needed vegetables, so I went.
When we arrived at the farmer’s market, there were cars parked everywhere and I immediately started to panic. We found a place to park about a block away from where the market was, so I parked the car and reluctantly got out and then I walked around to the back of my SUV and opened the hatch to let Laddie; my service dog, out of the car.
Laddie was sitting there looking at me with those big hazel eyes and I reached out and put both my hands on his neck in hopes that I could ground myself and he took the opportunity to lean forward and lick my face. I placed Laddie’s jacket on his back so that he knew he needed to go into work mode, and as I reached around him to fasten the clips, he licked my face again.
Some of you might think that his licking my face is gross, but I love dogs and I see this as his way of putting his arms around me and giving me a reassuring hug. He’s a dog and dogs know that you’re stressed before you do, and he could smell the sweat and stress hormones emanating from my body and licking my face was his way of saying, hey, it’s okay, I’m here.
I finished putting his jacket on, gave him another pet on the side of his neck and told him to jump down out of the car. He jumped down and the next thing I knew we were walking in the direction of the market and hundreds of people.
There were people everywhere and I thought to myself that if I had come alone, or with Gary, I would have turned around and headed back the way I came – without hesitation. But I wasn’t with Gary, I was with a friend and she didn’t know the extent of my PTSD, so I tried to pretend I was okay and I started to walk towards the crowd. Unfortunately my heart wasn’t on the same page and it started to race and that was when the sweat started seeping out of every pore of my body.
I reminded myself to breathe, and then I took my eyes off the crowd and moved my attention to Laddie. I told him to watch me, which was his signal to start working and then we both started moving forward. My legs felt like they were made of rubber and I was really unsteady on my feet. I sensed the tell-tale signs of a panic attack and my head felt like it was literally going to fall off my neck and topple to the ground.
My only thought was that I had to get out of there, but how? We had just arrived and other than making up an excuse that I was sick, there was no getting out of the predicament I had gotten myself into. I was worried that if I told my friend that I wanted to go back to the car and wait for her there, she would ask all kinds of questions and I didn’t want that, so I forged forward.
Later when we talked about it, she said she had no idea that I was freaking out, only that I was walking so fast, she had trouble keeping up with me.
Honestly, I don’t remember much because when I’m that freaked out, I kind of go into a… zone for lack of a better word. It was almost like I was detached from my body and watching what I was doing from a spot over my head; like I was a bystander and all I wanted to do was get the heck out of there!
The worst thing about the situation was as I was trying to work my way through the crowd, people kept mumbling under their breaths (loudly), that dogs weren’t allowed. Not only that, they either cringed as they made contact with us, or they felt it was okay to touch us.
Their ignorance made me really angry and I felt like screaming at everyone to get out of my personal space, but instead, I kept walking forward. With each step, I told myself over and over that I was okay; that the exit was getting closer and then I went into the zone.
If you don’t know what the zone is, it’s my safe place and when I’m there nothing else exists except getting myself to safety. I feel like I’m not fully aware of what I’m saying or doing when I’m in the zone, only that I need to get to safety and apparently this time what I did, was race ahead of my friend so I could get back to the car.
Once I got home, the disappointment in myself and the fact that I couldn’t do something as simple as going to the market, set in and I couldn’t stop crying. I had been in a good place and I really felt like I was ready to be “normal” and do the things that most people are able to do and the realization that I wasn’t ready yet, and might not ever be, really bummed me out.
…but (there always seems to be a but - lol) and it’s a really big but, I stepped way outside my comfort zone and I survived; I may have triggered myself, but I survived. Next time and there will be a next time, I’ll go earlier in the morning so that there aren’t so many people, and I’ll pick a much smaller venue.
Stay safe and stay strong. Thanks for following.