Archives for March, 2012
Back in February, I resolved to write a blog post every single day for the entire month. I got the idea from BlogHer.com and I was excited about the idea for the first week. Thrilled, in fact. I wrote about how writing every day would help to quash my perfectionistic tendencies. And, for that first week, it did. But then, I got sick. (I can't even remember what I had -- stomach virus? A nasty cold? Thank goodness bad memories tend to fade. I'm grateful that I can't recall the specifics!) Whatever the illness was, it killed my enthusiasm to write daily. And, technically, I failed. My goal was to write a blog post every single day, and I didn't meet that goal. But life happens. We get sick. Our priorities change. "FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION" The other day, I was taking a walk outside by myself -- something that agoraphobia wouldn't allow me to do only a few short months ago -- and I saw a woman standing on the porch of a house in my suburban neighborhood. She was clutching a purse and knocking on the door with her first. She seemed angry.
I am typing this blog post outside on my deck. The temperature? 74 degrees. The scenery? A backyard tree that's bursting with baby leaves, a just-about-to-flower rhododendron bush in a terra cotta pot, and a cloudless and sunny sky that's got me smiling. The sounds? Wind chimes, a few birds, and some kids yelling and playing soccer down the street. It is unmistakeably springtime. Winter has been long and unforgiving for many of us. For me (and perhaps you), it's also been a time of great anxiety. The short days, the lack of sunlight, the bitter cold...everything about winter serves to shut us indoors, it seems, and away from our natural world. But it's finally time to emerge from those fluorescent-lit caves that we call home during the coldest months. It's time to get back outside and reconnect with nature after avoiding it for so long. Here are a few ideas to get yourself in sync with our natural world again:
This blog is about anxiety. This blog is about panic. This blog is about fear. But sometimes, we manage to overcome the anxiety, panic, and fear. Sometimes, we surprise ourselves. Personal case in point: recently, I took a two-mile walk with my fiance that would have been nearly impossible a few short months ago. (Not because of the weather, but because of agoraphobia.) I'll be clear: I loved that two-mile walk. It was warm. The sun was shining. About a million people were out walking their dogs or cleaning up their yards. We saw a bunch of teenagers playing soccer in the street. I saw flocks of robins. I saw a blooming crocus. Although I'd been feeling apprehensive when we left our apartment, everything went better than expected. It happens. Even when we think it won't.
Yesterday, I wrote about my pet parrotlet named Zerby. If you haven't read the first part of my little avian saga yet, you can do so here. Let's go back to yesterday's bloody bird story. I woke up to find a big sack of dried blood on Zerby's wing. Let's remember something here: I have panic disorder. I don't do well with blood, but I care so fiercely about tiny little animals and my maternal instinct is basically raging. So, I investigated the area. Did he pick the skin open? Was a blood feather broken? I set up a little station on the bathroom floor with Q-tips, cotton balls, corn starch packed into a little shot glass, and a cup of water. I cupped Zerby into my hands as he shook -- he doesn't like being cupped. I felt so bad, and I started to feel queasy. I popped a Pepto-Bismol, then I cleaned off the dried blood. Beneath the dried blood was a broken blood feather -- and blood came dripping out. My bird SCREAMED and I panicked. I felt the pangs of nausea hit hard and suddenly I became so lightheaded that I couldn't think clearly. Zerby ran away, bleeding, while I desperately tried to gently grab him. The only way to stop a blood feather from bleeding is to pull it out with a pair of tweezers. (A broken blood feather, if left attached, could cause him to bleed to death. We surely wouldn't be able to get a vet appointment until the following day, so I had to take care of this immediately.) So there I am, reaching for a bloody, running bird, all the while thinking the following: I am going to pass out. Or throw up. Either way, no matter which one happens, my bird is going to run around my apartment and bleed to death while I am passed out or vomiting. But I managed to scoop him up, cradle him in my left hand, and pull out the broken blood feather with my right hand. Problem solved?
At this time yesterday, my hands were speckled with bird blood. I own a teeny tiny little parrotlet. His name is Zerby and he's hysterically funny -- I've trained him to play peekaboo, do somersaults, and whip pens and other items off of tables. (I kind of regret that last one. There are at least five or six pens on my apartment floor right now.) I'm so proud of him -- and myself, really, for having the patience to train him to do tricks and talk. If he hears another bird chirping outside, he looks at me and asks, "Who's the birdie?". And when he climbs down to the bottom of his cage every morning to play around in his water bowl, he proudly announces the impending activity: "Birdie bathtime! Birdie bathtime!" Oh, and he LAUGHS. Seriously. I taught him how to laugh -- this video proves it:
Once again this month, DC-based panic attack sufferer Grace is holding her monthly anxiety, panic, and phobia support group phone call. The call will take place at 6 p.m. EDST this evening (Sunday, March 11th) and all anxiety and panic sufferers are invited to call in. (Don't forget about the time change -- did you remember to "spring ahead"?) There is no charge for attending the conference call — but keep in mind that the phone number uses a California area code and not a toll-free number, so your normal charges for calling California’s 559 area code will apply. Here’s the phone number and access code:
How do you feel when you accidentally leave your cell phone at home when you go out? Pretty lost, I'll bet. Or nervous. Or terrified. Ever since I read about the Philly Cellphone Jammer, I've been thinking about how important my cell phone is in climbing out of the hole that is panic disorder with agoraphobia. I never leave it at home. And I get very, very anxious when I find myself in an area with no reception. If you haven't heard about this guy yet, here's the deal: the Philly Cellphone Jammer is a bus-riding man from Philadelphia who couldn't handle overhearing his fellow passengers chatting on their cell phones. So, he bought a cell phone jammer on the internet. (If you're not familiar with "jamming," it's the practice of using a special electronic device to block radio signals. They can be used to block radio frequencies for everything from FM broadcasts to shortwave radio to cell phones.) So, Mr. Self-Important (aka "Eric") started taking his jammer on the bus with him to spare him of the great inconvenience of listening to other riders chat. According to NBC10, the jammer seems to have inflated Eric's sense of pride: "I guess I'm taking the law into my own hands...and quite frankly, I'm proud of it...[using a cellphone on the bus is] still pretty irritating and, quite frankly, it's pretty rude." Watch as NBC10 talks with Eric and confirms that the device indeed works:
This week, I'm reaching back in time for help with panic disorder and agoraphobia. Nah, there's no flux capacitor in my bag of goodies -- just a book. (But a good one. So far.) Dr. Claire Weekes begins her 1972 book, Peace from Nervous Suffering, by acknowledging three pitfalls that can lead to what she calls "nervous illness." Ha, wait. Nervous illness. You don't hear THAT kind of phrase tossed around too much these days. It's worth pausing here to mention that some of her language is, well, charming. To be honest, I'm not exactly sure when the phrase "panic disorder" was coined and when it entered the DSM as a diagnosable disorder -- perhaps not by the time '72 rolled around. So, instead of referring to "panic disorder," "generalized anxiety," or any other common phrases, Weekes speaks about "nervous illness." Half of me thinks that her outdated terminology is comforting -- after all, doesn't an "illness" sound more temporary and more curable than a "disorder"? But the other half of me itches to call a spade a spade: the word "nervous" is leagues away from true "panic", after all.