It started when I phoned Julie Monday night.
“Hi gorgeous! How are you?”
“Hey, hi! I’m fine. How are you?”
“I’m doing good,” I replied, “Are we still on for tomorrow?”
Silence. My heart began to beat a little faster.
“What are we supposed to do tomorrow?” she asked, cautiously.
“I have my appointment with my psychiatrist at ten thirty.”
“Oh no, I think I screwed up, let me call you back.”
Julie is my safe person. She normally drives me to all my appointments and comes in with me. Having agoraphobia and panic disorder I get very nervous when I drive. I’m a white-knuckle driver who tends to hyperventilate. To me, driving isn’t safe. There are too many variables; speed limits, traffic lights, and other cars are just a few. My phone rings.
“Hi Julie!”, I say in an over-bright voice.
“Hi. I did screw up. I forgot to write the appointment down. I have to take DB to physical therapy. I’m so sorry!”
My heart sinks for a moment and then kicks into overdrive.
“That’s okay” I say, trying not to let the fear show, “I can drive myself Don’t worry about it. I’m fine!”
“JoAnn, how are you going to drive yourself to Winchester? I am so sorry!” She is truly upset.
“I will get in the car and drive. I can do it.” Oh no you can’t! “Seriously don’t worry about it, I’ll be fine.”
“Okay, if you’re sure …” she is hesitant.
I reassure her, “Trust me, I’ll be fine. I’ll call you when I leave here and call you when I get there, same for on the way home, okay? I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
We hang up. My husband asks what’s going on. I explain, he offers to take the day off. I tell him no. I’ll be fine. My heart is racing and my head is spinning. How the hell am I going to do this? I can’t cancel, I have to go. I know, I’ll take half a Xanax to keep me calm.
“You’re very quiet.” my husband says.
“I’m thinking.” I reply. More like panicking, but I can’t let him know.
We go to bed. I wake up at midnight in full panic mode. I get out of the bed and come into the kitchen where I get on line. I post what’s happening and how I’m feeling to my support group. I get a lot of positive reinforcement. I’m up for an hour and I go back to bed. I talk to my son, he makes me a deal. If I go to my doctor’s he will turn in his paperwork to become a substitute teacher.
I wake up early and check my post. Messages of solidarity, encouragement, and belief in me. I feel a little better. I drink my coffee, take a shower and meticulously apply my make-up. If I think I look good, then I feel good. Sort of. My appointment is at ten thirty. It is nine fifteen. Oh goody, more time to panic!
I call my husband. Yes, I’m fine. Yes, I’m sure. Yes, I’ll call you. That was nerve-wracking. I am trying so hard to fake my way into being okay with this. Time to go.
I get my tea, my cigarettes, and my purse. I leave the safety of my home and get in the car. I stick the key in the ignition and it starts. I take that as a good sign. Seatbelt on, I shift into drive, but something is wrong! The car acts like it has no power! Shit! Now what am I … oh wait, the emergency break is on. Okay that’s better. I leave my driveway. I clutch the steering wheel as though it were a life ring and I am drowning. Cautiously I drive down the mountain to the main road. I stop and call Julie. I tell her I have left and am doing what’s the word? … fine. She apologizes again. I tell her not to worry.
I turn on the main road and light the first of many cigarettes. I turn up the radio to distract all the negative thoughts I’m having. Oh my God! Are you crazy? What are you doing? What’s the speed limit? Did you pee before you left? Yes, you did! I get about halfway through town and my phone rings. It’s Julie. I hate answering the phone while I’m driving.
“Where are you?” she asks.
“Passing Arby’s,” I reply.
“Is there somewhere you can pull over” Is the next question.
“Why what’s going on?” I ask, gulping air.
“I’m going to meet you and go with you.”
“But how? What about DB?”
“Things got changed around, I don’t have to take him. So where can you pull over?”
“Oh my gosh, I don’t know. I’m passing Hess. I don’t know what to do! Where do I go?” Now I’m panicking again!
“Go to Wal-Mart, I’ll meet you there.”
“Okay, I can do Wal-Mart.”
I pull off to exit into the Wal-Mart shopping center. I get to the parking lot and breathe easy. My phone rings, it’s Julie.
“Hey, I know how you hate to be late. Why don’t you go ahead and drive to the doctors and I’ll be right behind you?”
“Okay.” So much for breathing easy! Put the car back in drive and away I go. I feel like there should be circus music playing in the background. Back on the main road and I’m repeating a mantra in my head: Just get there! Just get there! I light another cigarette. Cars and trucks go whizzing by and I try to keep up. The sign says “Winchester 11 miles” New mantra: eleven miles, eleven miles, eleven miles. I come up to a stoplight and it’s red. I take a sip of tea because I am parched. Light turns green, accelerate, keep going! I’m going to make it!
Light another cigarette. Another red light! What time is it? I check my phone, twenty past ten. I have ten minutes to get there. I can do this! I am doing this! Yay me! It really sucks! Yay me, anyways! I am turning into the parking lot. I find a spot, park and breathe. Julie is not here yet. I call my husband to let him know I made it, He’s very proud of me. I’ve got five minutes to get to the doctor. Still no Julie, I go in by myself.
As I’m checking in I feel a hand on my shoulder. It’s Julie. I am so glad she made it. She goes in with me to talk to my doctor. It’s what we always do. Then I had a really good session. We had brunch at Ihop right next door. Then, it was time to go home. Back to the car for the drive home.
But you know what? I’m fine!