I started out with the intention of just adding this to my gratitude blog…but then it seemed too big to encapsulate it into just a sentence or two. Although it might seem simple to many, it’s monumental to me. And so I thought I’d start writing it out here and see where it meanders to.
I’m taking the train tomorrow to go to Toronto to visit with my niece for a few days.
Simple sentence, right? Yes, for many. But oh so much more for me. You see, for years (and years) I’ve been suffering from a baffling case of panic attacks. No rhyme or reason. I just couldn’t go out anywhere on my own. It was so bad at one point that I couldn’t even step outside my front door to get the mail!!! I mean, come on! But I’m serious. I went from being a very active, social, working woman to being completely debilitated by fatigue, depression, grief and fear – overnight. One day I was working in my job as a network administrator fixing computers and running cables through my 6-story workplace, troubleshooting server problems and training users how to use new software (the list goes on ad nauseum)…the next day I simply couldn’t get out of bed. Nothing moved. My body and my brain simply stopped moving and stopped caring.
When I did finally manage to pull myself out of bed, and down the stairs, I was so exhausted I had to lay down on the couch for another hour or so. From that moment, I deteriorated rapidly, spiraling into a deep depression, almost totally incapacitated by severe fatigue and anxiety, and before long, so terrified of everything and everyone that I couldn’t go anywhere unless my husband was with me. And if he left me alone, say, in the lineup at a cashier, I’d start sobbing, uncontrollably, right there in the middle of the store in front of everyone. It would be years before I was able to answer the phone, and even now I still have an anxiety attack, albeit much milder, when I have to make a phone call myself.
It was baffling, humiliating, devastating on many levels and crippling in every possible way.
And tomorrow, I’m taking the train – by myself – to Toronto (one of the biggest cities in the world) – to visit my niece – whom I haven’t seen in almost five years.
A miracle. It’s a miracle. I almost can’t believe that it’s me whose bag is packed and sitting ready by the door with train ticket tucked inside.
Am I frightened? A little bit. It’s a huge step. Each thing in that sentence, including the word “tomorrow”, was once a huge source of anxiety and panic by itself, now I’m tackling all of it at once. “Tomorrow”, “train”, “myself”, “Toronto”, “visit (ie, social event)”, “niece” (some background anxiety there). Not one of those things could have been possible a few short years ago.
Am I ready? Yes. I hope so. Though I know already that no matter how enjoyable the visit will be, I’ll still be counting the hours until I can get back home. I’ll try to stifle that and just enjoy each moment as it comes. I want to focus on the fun and laughter and presence, not on the reality and discomfort of being so far away from the comfort (safety?) of my own home and husband.
I’ve come a long way, baby. Am I proud? YES! Am I grateful? Inexpressibly so.
The last time I tried this, taking the train (to visit my brother, the father of this niece), I cried all the way (all 6 hours) and ended up having to come home a day earlier than planned because I couldn’t handle being away any longer than that…that was just prior to that devastating breakdown (should have been a warning sign I guess). But that won’t happen this time. I’ve grown, and healed, and learned a lot about how much stronger I am than I ever knew before. I want to do this.
And I’ve already planned ahead, loading a Mandarin language course on my teeny tiny notebook computer, so I can keep my mind busy learning Chinese on the 4 hour train trip. If that doesn’t work, I can always connect to the Internet (you can on the trains now, amazing!) and seek solace in my online friends and distraction in my silly games.
But I’m going. On the train. By myself. To Toronto. Tomorrow.
Oh Sharon, you’ve come such a long, long way…way to go, girl, way to go!!