Pushing Back The Boundaries

Let me just put this out here: I am most comfortable when I am sitting at home, in the basement, and listening to music. I can’t hear the outside world, and if I’m all the more comfortable for it. Sometimes the phone will ring and I will stare at it until either it stops ringing or I manage to answer it, but for the most part, sitting downstairs and listening to music is when I’m most comfortable.

The problem is, the outside world exists. I can turn up the music or wear headphones but the reality is there’s a real world out there and I need to be a part of it.

I’ve been having trouble driving for a year and a half now. I am limited to driving in about a 5km radius around the house. It was even worse when I started driving again but I’m getting a little frustrated now because things have obviously plateaued and I’m having a lot of trouble expanding my zone of comfort. I managed to ride the bike around the city, but I’ve always been more comfortable on the bike than in a car, and part of the bike ride was very unpleasant anyway. I really appreciate her help, but I feel guilty that J has to drive me to my Dr W appointment every week because it’s too far away.

I need to figure out how to drive more comfortably and without risking a panic attack if I go too far, and I need to figure out how to calm down my OCD while I’m driving. Changing lanes is very difficult because I turn to look and make sure my blind spot is clear but as soon as I look forward again I don’t believe it’s clear and I’m going to cause an accident. Even when I’m driving a straight line in very light traffic, I get worried that I’ve run a red light or caused an accident because there are no other cars around me.

I also need to get out of the house more. Both Dr W and Dr C have told me many times that getting out – even for something like a short walk or drive – is very beneficial. It can be really difficult for me to do, though. Some days it takes so much effort to get out of bed that there’s no way I’m going to be able to go outside. Even on easier days, I would much rather stay home than go out. I worry about the house – did I leave the stove on? Are the doors locked? Are the windows closed? Is the hot water tank leaking? Is the garage door closed? I worry about missing an important phone call. I worry about missing an appointment if I have one that day.

My anxiety and OCD keep me catastrophizing about every little thing, and my depression makes me want to not even try. It’s a one-two punch that is really difficult for me to work through. I really need to make some headway here, though, because I feel like I’m weighing J down when it comes to things like holidays and when she takes time off. I also feel terrible for making our parents come into town last Christmas instead of us driving out there. It was the first time in 20 years that that’s happened and I would really like to not have to do it that way again. I was also invited by my uncle and cousin to go out East and hang out with them for a while, but again, I can’t do it. I don’t want people thinking that I’m trying to avoid them, it’s just so difficult to get out of the house, and leaving it for a couple of days is pretty much unthinkable at this point.

Even something like cooking food is difficult for me. Easy things like cereal and pasta are no problem, but throw in something like produce or meat and I start to have problems. When I’m opening a salad kit, all I can think of is whether it’s dirty or if there’s been another vegetable recall because of e.coli or something, and when I’m cooking meat, I have a lot of trouble believing it’s done. I’ll use a thermometer to confirm but that’s not good enough to calm my anxiety so I very frequently ask J if she can take a look at it before we call it cooked.

I’ve got to start answering the phone more. It’s such a basic thing but I find it so difficult to do. Even when it’s my parents on the caller ID, I have trouble answering. I get so wound up that work is trying to call me in or the insurance company is calling to cancel my coverage that I can actually start to sweat while the phone is ringing. Even with my parents calling, I worry that somehow work or the insurance company has called them and asked them to call me on their behalf. I know this is irrational and there’s no way it would happen, but I just can’t get it out of my head.

There are so many aspects of my life that I feel like I have little to no control over, and everything is just so much better if I stay in my safe space. I need to fix this.

Two appointments ago, Dr W and I were talking about safe zones and making progress in pushing the boundaries of the safe zone outward. I’ve always seen my safe zone as a little circle with danger and discomfort around it, and when I got more comfortable with one thing, the whole circle got a little bigger. One of my problems is I tend to see the big picture and don’t think about the little pieces. I have to start considering every aspect of my life that my illness has affected as individual things instead of one large problem to solve. That way, I can work on them one at a time and push the safe zone outward like an amoeba’s pseudopods instead of like a circle:When I think of it this way, it also makes it easier to tell which problems I’m making headway on and which still have a long way to go.

As with everything, some things will be easier to work on than others, but expanding my boundaries is a huge part of my recovery. I will have to keep talking with Dr W and Dr P, too – they should have some useful techniques for me to use to help keep my focus.

Stay safe.

It Takes Time

One of the things that frustrates me the most about mental illness is that there is no quick fix. It takes a lot of time, work, and (in my case) medication to be able to claw my way out of the pit and into the sunlight.

You’d hope that antidepressants would work quickly, but a lot of them can take weeks to reach full strength. And, of course, in the meantime you can still experience the side effects. Some psych medications work quickly but their effects are temporary.

I find that keeping my mind and hands busy can be very difficult when I’m having a rough day. All I want to do is go back to bed or plop down on the couch and try to shut the world out. That doesn’t help anything, though, and if I do that too many days in a row it can really cause me problems.

Dr W has told me many times that the best thing that I can do for my recovery is keep active, and anything that bumps my heart rate up a bit and gets me moving is important. He’s right, too – on days where I really don’t feel like doing anything but I manage to force myself to spend some time on the treadmill, I feel better after I’ve walked for even just half an hour.

I look at myself today and see someone who, in many ways, is quite a bet better than a year ago. There’s still so much more I need to do, though, and I wish I could make myself get better a lot faster.

I can’t, though, so I need to make sure I keep doing things to pass the time. J and I watch a lot of movies – that can use up two hours out of a day. I play computer games (not as much as I used to) and that can be a good way to pass the time. Listening to records or any other source of music helps pass the time and cheer me up when I’m in a poor mood. Playing with some of my hobbies is a great way to pass the time but can be difficult to start when I’m feeling down. Even just watching videos on YouTube can take hours out of a crappy day.

Then there’s people. J and I spend a lot of time talking and laughing about stuff. Getting together with friends or family can be difficult sometimes but it sure is rewarding, and even just giving them a phone call helps me with the feelings of isolation that come with the depression.

Meditation, mindfulness, and worry exercises can use up an hour or two a day if I’m able to clear my mind enough. Sometimes just sitting still with my eyes closed for a few minutes can be refreshing and give me a bit of a boost to help me get engaged with something.

All of these things help me pass the time, and on bad days they can take a great deal of effort to do. As the time has gone on, though, I can see a trend that I’m having more good days and fewer really bad days than I used to. It tough to remind myself of this when I’m feeling awful, but it’s true. I just need to remember that getting well takes time.

Stay safe.

What Am I Going To DO?

I’ve been away from work for the last sixteen months and this has given me a lot of time to think. Something I keep getting stuck on is that I can’t go back to where I was or I’ll end up back in the hospital.

I always wanted to be an IT guy. I’ve loved computers for my whole life, from the Commodore PETs that we had in elementary school to the C128D that my parents bought for Christmas one year, to the various PCs that I’ve built or purchased over the years. I’ve done every job from an ISP technical support rep to managing datacentres and networks.

And now I can’t handle it. Any of it. Just the thought of having to fix my computer if it breaks makes my stomach churn – I’d most likely take it somewhere to have someone else deal with it. I enjoy writing on them and playing games but I don’t like sitting in front of them any more than I have to.

J has said she doesn’t want me to go back to my old job, or any IM/IT job at all. We’ve had many conversations about this, and I agree with her.

My employer has a back-to-work program and is supposed to be able to accommodate changes in duties, skills, or abilities. That includes a certain amount of training. I’m grateful for that – it will make going back to work a lot easier when I’m ready.

But what am I going to do? What am I going to be? I used to identify myself as “Mark, the computer guy,” but who am I going to be now? Are there really any jobs for an out of shape, mentally ill, 41 year old who has no training in anything but the field he can’t handle going back to?

If my employer had infinite flexibility and I could pick any job I wanted, what would my next career be?

I have no idea.

J and I have talked at length about this, too, and she has a lot of good advice but I just can’t seem to get any traction on the subject. I would love to be a welder, but who’s going to hire a creaky 41 or 42 year old apprentice welder when there are 19 year olds willing to do the same job? I wouldn’t mind working in electronics, but I’ve lost so much of what I used to know that I’d be looking at doing a LOT of catching up. I wouldn’t mind being an electrician, but again – there’s the “old apprentice” problem. I love microbiology but that’s three more years of university and age would be a factor again.

Where do IT people go when they can’t or don’t want to do IT anymore? I have supervisory skills but they’re five years out of date, and it was an IT supervisor position. I have decent communication skills but can’t answer the bloody phone, and I really enjoy writing but so do a billion other people, most of whom are better at it than I am.

I need to figure this out.

Stay safe.

My Weight

I’ve never been a huge fan of sports, but up until my first year of university, I was a pretty fit guy. Unfortunately, the “freshman fifteen” curse was more like a “freshman thirty” for me, and I struggled to get rid of the extra weight.

As time went on, my weight would slowly creep upwards and then plateau for a while, which would give me time to buy new clothes and get used to things. Then it would start to creep upwards again, and the cycle would continue.

For about five years as an adult, I started fencing three nights a week and lost quite a bit of weight by being particular about what I ate and exercising. My right knee has always been tricky, though, and the more I fenced, the worse it got. Eventually I had to give it up, and my weight inexorably went back to where it was before I’d started exercising.

My first psychiatric drugs were prescribed by my then-GP. Unfortunately, they didn’t quite do the trick and I ended up in the hospital. When I left the hospital three months later, I was taking four different psych medications and had put on fifteen pounds. Those fifteen pounds sure weren’t caused by the hospital food – while the meals were good, they were not not what you’d call “large”.

A little over a year later and I’m now on six psych medications and have put on a total of about 45 pounds. Buying new clothes is an inconvenience, none of my good clothes fit, and I’m concerned about what long-term effects there will be on my health. Diabetes, for example, runs in my family.

But let me tell you this: I will not give up those medications myself. I can exercise and eat healthy foods so I can try to be a “fit fat person”, but I can’t exercise or do anything to help myself or anyone else if I can’t get out of bed. My looks are not as important to me as being a functioning person is.

I’m not saying that I want to keep taking all this medication forever. If Dr W and I decide I don’t need as much of something or that I can go off a medication entirely, I’m all for it. If the only way to keep me stable is to keep taking them, then that is what I will do.

I’ve been told that there are several reasons as to why psych medications make some people put on weight. One is that they can make people crave carbohydrates. Another is that they do something to the gut bacteria so digestion works a little differently. I don’t know how true these are but I am pretty sure I can personally verify the carb craving aspect. I want candy. All the time. And that is bad.

The good thing is that it’s easy to make sure there’s no candy in the house. What I do need are my medications; without them I would be in serious trouble.

Stay safe.

Can’t Stop Thinking About Work

I don’t know why, but work has been on my mind a lot lately. I keep going over the same stuff in my head again and again, and the nightmares have made a bit of a comeback.

J asked me why I was thinking about it. That’s a good question. I know I’m not ready to go back to work, so why do I keep thinking about it?

Part of it is that I used to enjoy my job. I was good at it and it was a good fit for me. I worked with and for good people who I liked and respected, and pretty much everyone got along. Even now, I’m still sad that work pushed me into a place where, after four years of excessive stress, I finally broke down and lost so much.

Part of it is that being on disability is nothing like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – in fact, it’s a lot of work. I have to force myself to get out of bed, force myself to eat breakfast, force myself to take my pills, force myself to shower, force myself to do my exercises, force myself to keep in touch with people, force myself to stay busy so my thoughts don’t take dark turns… It’s not “free time” at all.

Part of it is that I miss my friends. We had a pretty decent group of people working and we all got along pretty well. Most of them don’t even know what happened to me – the last thing I said at work was, “My stomach hurts. I’m going home.” I’ve managed to keep in touch with a couple of them but I don’t see them very often and I worry that we’ll drift apart.

Part of it is that I like being productive. Successfully finishing tasks and helping people out made me happy. So did working as part of a team to track down and fix problems. There were always new problems to tackle and I enjoyed being involved.

Part of it is that I’m scared that somehow my disability insurance will be cancelled. Dr W has assured me that won’t happen, but it’s still something that the irrational part of my brain just won’t let go.

Part of it is that I’m scared that I’ll have to go right back into my old job, with the same problems and stresses that led to my hospitalization in the first place. This is something that both J and Dr W have said I don’t need to worry about but again, I just can’t stop thinking about it.

Part of it is that I feel like I’ve disappointed everyone. J, my family, my friends, people from work… everyone.

Part of it is that I know I can’t do the same job that I did before, but I don’t know what else I CAN do. Assuming I can concentrate and remember enough to be retrained, what on Earth can I be retrained to do?

Part of it is that I’m worried that Dr W or Dr C/Dr P will think I’m faking my condition and “fire” me as a patient. I don’t know what I’d do without their support and skills.

Part of it is that I have no idea how to tell when I’m ready to go back to work. When the nightmares stop, I don’t have a panic attack, and I easily get out of bed for X number of days? When Dr W says so? When the thought of going somewhere outside doesn’t make my stomach cramp up?

Part of it is that there is such a difference between my good and bad days that I worry that when I go back I’ll hit a down, be unable to work, and cause hardships for my co-workers – not to mention the embarrassment.

Part of it is that I’m worried I’ll never be more than a shell of what I used to be. I was GOOD at my job, dammit.

Part of it is that I’m scared that word will get out about what happened to me and anyone I work with will think I’m “Crazy Mark” and everyone will be nervous to eat lunch around me or work directly with me.

Part of it is that I really wish I could turn back the clock or go back in time and tell myself six years ago what was going to happen. Dwelling on things doesn’t make anything better, but I can’t help it.

Part of it is that I’m scared I won’t be able to work in a meaningful way again.

Part of it is this dark, amorphous cloud of dread, anxiety, and sadness that hovers in my periphery, telling me there’s no point in trying because I won’t be able to do anything.

That’s what I can think of right now… I’ll try to listen more closely to my thoughts and if there’s more, I’ll update this list.

Stay safe!

My Forgetfulness

I used to be able to juggle several tasks at once and remember tiny details about things. Since I got sick, however, I have been having a lot of trouble remembering things. I lose my phone all over the house, I have to stare at the calendar to make sure that I make it to my appointments, and I have to set a rigid schedule to take my pills or I will forget. If I’m out at an appointment, I only remember the appointment and none of the things I had also planned to do, like pick something up on the way home. Sometimes I’ll set an alarm on my phone but if I don’t label it, I can forget what the alarm was for.

Thoughts that strike me as important disappear quickly, leaving nothing but a sense of urgency behind. That’s bad enough, but my anxiety and OCD really don’t play well with the thought that I’ve forgotten something. I end up stuck in a panic attack if that feeling of urgency is too strong and I can’t remember what it was or put it out of my head.

I’m not sure why this is happening. The medication I’m taking may be part of it but I was having memory and concentration problems before I met Dr C or Dr W. It shouldn’t be a sleep thing – nightmares aside, I’m sleeping better now than I have in years. It could be related to my depression.

My concentration has improved to the point where I can often read an entire article or make a good dent in a book but my memory doesn’t seem to be getting better at anywhere near the same rate. I worry that I am repeating myself when talking to people or that I’ve been told something important but can’t remember.

I think in a few months I’ll write another post about this stuff, just to see if things have changed. Hopefully I won’t be forgetting much by then!

Stay safe!

My Nightmares

Trigger Warning: this post may contain content that can trigger a shift in mood, comfort, or mental status. Proceed at your own risk.

I’ve been having the same nightmares for the past sixteen months. I can trace their beginning back to an incident at work that I initially didn’t think much of but that quickly started to gnaw on my nerves. The nightmares came on strong and I found myself waking up in a sweat, heart racing, and sometimes not knowing where I was right away. It quickly got to the point where I was experiencing them multiple times every night.

There are three of them. They all start out the same. Someone is calling the police in a panic, saying that some people are missing in the middle of nowhere and nobody can get ahold of them. The police contact the Search And Rescue (SAR) group and relay the message. The SAR crew tries to get some information but their computers aren’t working. Meanwhile, I’m in a room, surrounded by more computers and panicking because the system is down and I don’t have the parts to get it working again.

The SAR plane takes off and starts searching. This is where the nightmares diverge.

Nightmare 1

The SAR plane searches for hours and then finally finds a large orange tent in the snow. The plane comes in for a landing and the wind from the propellers ripples the tent fabric before blowing it away, revealing five people who have frozen to death. I can see their faces, the stubble on their chins, and their clothes rustling in the breeze. The SAR people are upset. For some reason, I know deep down that if they had made it there just minutes earlier, they would have been able to save the people. Minutes they wouldn’t have lost if their computers were working. It all ends up being my fault.

Nightmare 2

The SAR plane searches for hours and then finds small orange dots in the water. The plane descends and finds five people in lifejackets, all drowned or dead from exposure. Again, if they’d made it there just minutes earlier they would’ve been able to save the people in the water. Again, it’s my fault.

Nightmare 3

The SAR plane searches for hours and then finds an upturned boat. The SAR crew can find no signs of life on the boat – all of the crew has drowned. Again, five minutes would’ve made the difference, and again it’s my fault.

There are significant continuity and factual problems with these nightmares, but it doesn’t matter – that’s how they play out in my head. I’ve left out a lot of detail (mainly because it bothers me to think about it) but that’s pretty much how they go. People dead and it’s my fault. In all three of them I can hear and see everything. I can feel the panic and sweat running down my back as I look around the room with all the computers, knowing that no matter what’s wrong, I don’t have the parts to fix it.

Back when the nightmares were really bad, Dr C took me through an exercise where I recorded myself talking about a nightmare in as much detail as I could. Then I would play it back again and again and build up a tolerance to it. It worked very well. At the same time, Dr W prescribed me prazosin which greatly reduced the number of nightmares I was having.

For a while I was almost nightmare free but recently they’ve been making a bit of a comeback.

So that’s what happens to me at night a lot. Ever since I got home from the hospital the first time, we’ve been leaving some lights on upstairs so when I wake up in a panic, there’s enough light for me to be able to tell where I am. Usually I’ll get out of bed and walk around the house a bit, just to make sure everything’s okay. It makes me feel a little better and I’m usually able to get back to sleep within 15 minutes. If I go from nightmare directly to panic attack, it takes considerably longer.

Stay safe!

When The Wheels Fell Off, Part IV

Trigger Warning: this post may contain content that can trigger a shift in mood, comfort, or mental status. Proceed at your own risk.

My most recent stay at the psych ward was brought on by worsening depression and the inability to do anything other than stay in bed. For a while there I was in bed almost twenty hours a day and I felt terrible. I was hearing voices and having nightmares and wasn’t sleeping very well.

When I hear voices, there have always been two so far. One of them has always demanded to know where my Disaster Recovery Plan is (that was one of my jobs at work), and up until this time, the other has berated me and told me I was no good, a loser, a waste of time. This time was a little different. The voice that usually berated me started telling me that everyone I knew would be better off without me. Everyone – J, my family, DA, FA, WG, Dr C, Dr W… everyone. It was frightening and I was having difficulty stopping them. Suicide was on my mind and I was unable to clear my head.

One evening it got so bad that J called the Crisis Line (I was having trouble communicating) and had a good chat with the person on the other end. We got a couple of helpful ideas and planned to call Dr W on Monday to see if he could help.

When Monday came, J made the call, and – bless him – Dr W found a bed for me. Since I was actively having suicidal thoughts they assigned a Nursing Aide to follow me around and make sure I didn’t do anything stupid. The first night I was glad to have someone checking in on me as I didn’t trust myself.

After bumping some of my medications back up and talking to the staff, things quickly started to get better and by the end of the second day I didn’t need anyone to follow me around. That was the first time in all of my stays at the hospital that I’ve been followed around like that. I guess it’s because they’re serious about patient safety.

Once I got used to things, I started to attend the groups and had some good conversations with my nurses. It didn’t take very long before I was feeling a lot better. Dr W says that sometimes people just need to be given a bit of a nudge and they’ll get back on track. I’m very lucky that so many people want to keep me on track!

Every time I get out of the hospital I feel stronger and like some aspect or issue has been “fixed”, and I’m very grateful for that.

If you feel like the world’s a grey and unpleasant place or you’re considering harming yourself or others, please call your local crisis centre, talk to your doctor, or go to the nearest emergency room.

Stay safe!

Don’t Be Afraid To Take Some Time For Yourself

Part of the recovery for any illness or injury is rest. You don’t immediately jump up and down after the doctor puts a cast on your broken leg, and you don’t go jogging when you’ve got pneumonia. Mental illness is no different – recovery takes a lot of work, but also time and rest.

Here are seven of the things that I do when taking some time for myself:

  • Spend some time where I do my best to worry about the things that are bothering me so they don’t bother me as much later,
  • Meditate or do breathing or muscle relaxation exercises,
  • Do my best to get enough sleep,
  • Get some exercise,
  • Eat properly,
  • Spend some time on one or more of my hobbies, and
  • Listen to the kind of uptempo music I like.

I do my best to make time to do these seven things every day. Some days it can be difficult, particularly when I’m feeling pretty down or have a busy schedule. I think it’s okay to miss a day or two here or there, but it’s really important to me to keep doing those seven things. Sleep, in particular, is very important for me. If I don’t get about nine hours of sleep, my mood darkens and all I want to do is hide in the basement.

To set time aside, I’ve had to make some sacrifices. I don’t have as many hobbies as I used to (although J will probably say I still have too many), and I’ve cut way back on the time I spend using my computer or tablet. Part of that is because I don’t enjoy computers the way I used to (in fact, there are many aspects of them that I am really uncomfortable with now), and the other part is that I could see how many hours I wasted just sitting in front of a screen, accomplishing nothing.

I used to have three blogs but I felt that I had to keep posting content and that was stressing me out. I shuttered them all and started this one and made myself a deal: if I didn’t have anything to say on a particular day or not enough time, I wouldn’t post. That has made this site a lot easier and more enjoyable for me.

I think I’m getting a little off-topic here but it doesn’t hurt to look at the things you do and decide whether letting some of them go would make your life easier. Make some time somewhere during the day when you can sit down and take a couple of minutes to recharge. It can make a world of difference.

Stay safe!

Good Day, Crappy Panic Attack

Song: “Freeze Frame” by the J. Geils Band

Mood: 8 -> 3 -> 5

I didn’t sleep all that well last night. I just couldn’t get comfortable and kept waking up to shuffle around. Not a huge deal, more of an inconvenience.

Last night before bed, J put together supper in the crockpot and put it in the fridge to start cooking in the morning. A nice turkey and vegetable meal which would be ready at 5:30. It smelled great throughout the day.

FA arrived around 9:30AM and we had a good chat before we took a look at the stack of records she’d recently purchased at a garage sale. Most of them were 10″ shellac records that needed 78RPM but one was a 33RPM vinyl LP. Just for kicks, we gave it a try on the turntable and, after a round of cleaning, it played really well. Kind of cheesy music – FA said it best when she mentioned that some of the songs would make a good soundtrack for a cartoon. Interesting stuff, and no idea how old it was (other than “quite”).

After that, we started work on her Raspberry Pi. It took a while but I think we finally got it to do what she was hoping it would do. I had a lot of fun working on it with her, it reminded me of the times we hung out way back during our university days.

With the Pi done, we headed off to lunch at the local burrito place. I really like the food there, but today it was particularly good. Lots of good flavours. I probably should’ve remembered what I ordered so I can get it again…

After lunch, FA wanted to go to a specialty kitchen store. This place has everything from spatulas to really fancy knives to mummy-shaped cookie cutters. She was looking for a cheese knife, and after a brief consultation with one of the staff, we were led to the cheese knife section (I told you this place has everything). I was pretty dazzled by the selection (cheese knives!) and had no idea which one was better. The serrated one with the holes in it? The plastic one with the blade made out of wedges? The steel one that was curved backward like a scimitar? My contribution to the discussion was to suggest she get the one with the red handle. Hopefully I didn’t lead her astray.

Back at the house, we tried out some cheese that FA had brought along. There was an old Gouda and another one that had the taste of carmelized onions. Her new cheese knife had its first test and I think it passed. Both of the cheeses were really good, but that onion one… man, that was tasty. I’m going to have to go and pick up some of that myself sometime. Once we were done sampling the cheese, we sat down and had another good chat before she had to head home. I had fun and it was a blast hanging out with her again. She mentioned that she wants to tear down an old fence – I hope I can get out to her place and help her with it!

After FA left, I tidied up a bit and sat down. J got home at about 4:45 and we talked for a bit before getting supper together – which basically required two plates and a serving spoon. The turkey was perfect – you didn’t even need a knife to cut it – it just fell apart. The vegetables were perfect, too, and the starch from them basically turned the broth into gravy by itself.

Everything was going well. It was a great day. Then I mentioned to J that I wanted to go to the store to pick up a pair of pants.

You see, I’ve put on quite a bit of weight over the last year. I had to buy a new motorcycling jacket because of it, and all of my old jeans that I wore while welding no longer fit. I wanted to buy a cheap pair of jeans that I could wear out to the garage and not be upset if they got wrecked. My other plan was to buy a pair of good jeans and sacrifice one of my old “good” pairs of jeans that still kind of fit to the garage gods.

We got to the store with no problems and I went into the change room to try on a couple of pairs of jeans. The first pair was the same size as the jeans I last wore. Not a chance – I couldn’t even get the button done up.

I started to sweat. Not a big deal, I told myself. You’ve put on a little bit of weight, we’ll just try a size up. So I did. They didn’t fit either – not by a long shot.

For some reason – I still don’t know why – I started to panic. J helped me grab pants that were two sizes up from where I was, and those finally fit. Soaking in a full-on flop sweat by now and my world condensed down to only what was directly in front of me, waves of panic were washing over me. Thank God J was there – I passed the jeans to her and asked her if she could buy them while I went out to the car.

I think she knew I was in trouble because she didn’t ask any questions (bless you!) and I fled the store and sat in the car with the air conditioner blasting. After a few minutes, she joined me in the car and drove us home.

Once we got home I headed into the basement and sat in my comfy chair doing grounding and breathing exercises for about 15 minutes before the panic finally broke and left me alone. I made my way back upstairs and talked briefly with J to let her know I was okay. She gave me a hug and told me that if I needed anything to just ask her. I’m really lucky to be married to someone who understands that I don’t always have words for what’s going on with me and even if I do, sometimes I can’t get them out in the right order (or at all) to explain what’s happening.

So that’s been my day. Really good, then really crappy, then getting better. I think J and I may watch another western this evening. We’ll see what happens.

Stay safe!