Travel Anxiety

Over the weekend, my son and daughter-in-law flew into East Tennessee from the west coast for a two-week visit. I should already be there. Two weeks is a long time. At least, it is for me. I wish I could explain to my family the sense of terror I feel when faced with a trip like this away from my home — my comfort zone. I know it’s irrational; yet despite my best efforts, the panic, anxiety, and fear feel so overwhelming. Trips are a complete nightmare particularly challenging for me, even if it’s only 2 to 3 hours away (depending on traffic through Knoxville). For the past few weeks, I’ve spent most of my time trying to stay busy and distracted to the point of not being able to focus on any one thing at all because I still found myself obsessing over this upcoming trip.

Of course, the anxiety has only gotten worse as a result rather than lessening.

I need a new strategy. This isn’t working. Visits with family are becoming increasingly more difficult. More often than not, exhaustion leaves me in a semi-catatonic state, sitting, staring at nothing for long periods of time in an attempt to regain control over my thoughts. I’m finding that mindfulness of my thoughts and practicing thought-stopping techniques to try to prevent panic from taking over require 100% of my energy and attention in order to be effective. It feels like an impossible task. I had several severe panic attacks over the weekend because I couldn’t quite manage the countermeasures — the kind of panic attacks that make me feel like I’m going to blow my aorta while gasping for that last suffocated breath. My only relief is in the emotional numbness that sometimes follows one of these episodes; but I’m left drained, disconnected, every time.

“It’s all in your head. Face your fears.” That seems to be the general consensus of everyone on the planet. Talk about unhelpful platitudes. That one’s at the top of my list, yet I continue to do just that every time I leave my home for simple errands and grocery shopping or take one of these trips back to my hometown. It never gets any easier. Don’t let anyone lie to you about that. It really doesn’t.

I haven’t seen my son and daughter-in-law since last June. I really do want to see them, more than anyone else. Whenever I finally force myself to make the drive, I’ll be staying with my mom since I haven’t visited her since last October. Trips like this would be a lot easier if I could spend my time there exploring, staying busy, actually doing something. East Tennessee is remarkably beautiful and full of tourist-y things to do. I love my mom to pieces, but sitting there listening to her clocks tick for hours on end really doesn’t make for a great visit and is part of the reason why I’m dreading this so much. After a few days of that, I’m more than ready to come home! Alas, my mother’s health is not good; and I should not be complaining. I visit for her sanity, not mine.

A Mundane Injury

I think I really hurt my back. I must have pulled a muscle while fighting with the lawn mower, an old (really old) Snapper that’s seen better days. We have a pretty large area to mow around our house. It takes at least two people working most of an entire day to finish the mowing and weed-eating. KR usually spends one of his two days off tackling this chore. He didn’t manage to get the entire field mowed this time, so I thought I would try to help out by finishing it up.

Little did I know how difficult that lawn mower is to use. Yesterday, my neighbor and I tried our best to get that thing to cut grass; but we failed miserably to work out all of the steps required to do so. We managed to get it running after calling her husband, who told us to “turn the gas on” by flipping a switch on the line. Even the gas cans were giving us issues because they both have child safety locks on them that are apparently woman-proof, too. We ended up making a funnel out of a water bottle and taking the funnel from the gas cans off completely just to fill up the mower and weed-eater!

Still, we had no idea how to actually get the lawn mower to “cut the grass.” We finally gave up on the lawn mower and switched to the weed-eater to trim up around the trailers. Seriously, why does a weed-eater need 8 complicated steps to make it work? My neighbor used it for a bit, but she agreed with me that it’s too loud and jars the devil out of you. KR bought that weed-eater specifically for me to use. I prefer to cut the old-fashioned way with shears. The noise is too much. The vibration is too much. Hell, I would rather use a pair of scissors and spend an entire day weeding than deal with the noise and vibration!

After KR got home from work last night, he told me how to get the lawn mower to cut the grass. The steps are something like this: sit down, turn the key “on,” flip the gas switch “on” — parallel with the hose, push in the clutch/brake, push the button to start the lawn mower, adjust the throttle, use the lever to lower the blade while pushing the blade pedal down to engage the blade (apparently, this is the safety mechanism that my neighbor and I couldn’t figure out), and finally, put the mower in gear and hold on for dear life because the dang thing jumps like bucking bronco when it takes off!

I tried again today, following all of the different steps KR went over with me. I wish I hadn’t. I managed to mow 3 or 4 feet and then got stuck. I kept having to rock the mower back and forth to get it move again. After the lawn mower “got stuck” several more times, frustration kicked in again. I cussed that cursed machine and left it sitting out in the field! At some point during those attempts to rock and push the mower back into motion, I pulled a muscle in my back. It feels like a knife stabbing me in the back, right below my left shoulder-blade.

After the mower cooled off, I went back out to #1 — make sure I switched the gas back off and #2 — cover it with a tarp in case it rains because it will sit there until KR or my neighbor’s husband has the chance to deal with it. Lawn mowers (and weed-eaters) should not be that difficult to use. The more steps required, the greater chance I will lose my patience and give up out of frustration. I’ll be the first to admit that I am weak both physically and emotionally. I’m just not so sure those weaknesses can be “fixed.”


I added a banner to my blog today. I was going for a minimalist expression of an “echo” to match up with the title of my blog. Yay? Nay? Feedback welcomed.

Now, I think I’ll pull out the heating pad and tend to my painful back!

 

Alrighty Then: Going It Alone

I walked into the bookstore last Friday with the intent of buying only one book, The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook, on the recommendation of one of my favorite online LMFT’s (Kati Morton — check out her channel for over 500 great mental health videos). I ended up buying a second book — one that I’ve put off buying for many years, The Courage to Heal by Ellen Bass & Laura Davis. That book was an impulse buy; but in that moment I thought, “I’m investing in my future, my sanity.

The Courage to Heal was first recommended to me in 1995 by the very first therapist I ever saw. I think I might have gotten a copy of it to glance through from the Honolulu library back then; but I know I didn’t finish reading it, let alone try to work through it. Over the years since, it was the most recommended book by my past therapists and social workers. I haven’t opened it yet. I’m reading the DBT book first. I’m guessing that would be wiser.

I wrote a little about my past experience with a DBT group in an earlier post. That first attempt at DBT didn’t go so well; however now, I can see how it would be beneficial after researching it a bit more. The point of DBT is basically to “improve your ability to handle distress without losing control and acting destructively.” [Source: back cover of the book] Ideally, one would at least work with a therapist or in a group setting to implement the behavioral skills.

I have a workbook.

That’s it. (Not from lack of trying, I might add! How many times do I have to ask for help to make it “count”?)

I seem to do things the hard way; but like I’ve said before, I have to see the big picture before I can focus on the details. It’s how my brain works. If I find myself in dire need, there’s one other mental health center in my area that I found that accepts Safety Net coverage. I’ll use them as an absolute last resort if needed, but I honestly don’t have it in me to try again right now.


 

My curiosity sidetracked me earlier, asking “What’s a LMFT?” Short answer: Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. I found a good explanation at “What is a LMFT?” for anyone whose curiosity is also piqued, now. Two quotes on that page stood out to me that I want to share here:

“The expertise which each client brings into counseling is every bit as important as any expertise which the counselor brings.”

“LMFTs understand that each client brings vital and important expertise with them into counseling. That is because each client is the best authority about their own thoughts, perceptions, reactions, feelings, experiences, sensitivities, and their own history.

In case any of you ever doubt it (including me), let these statements be the truth that speak louder than your inner critic or the voices of stigma that sometimes scream more loudly into the void than our individual, tiny voices could ever carry.

We do matter