Trudging down the paved neighborhood trail she plunged her hands into the pockets of her fleece jacket and breathed in deep lungfuls of crisp spring air. It was a blissfully cool, somewhat overcast day and sweet relief from the blazing heatwave that had swept the Pacific Northwest that week so far. Feeling the chill in the air and seeing the gray in the sky had inspired Hannah to hit the pavement and walk to a nearby cafe for an afternoon treat rather than languishing in the condo for yet another afternoon as her dark mood tempted her to do.
The trail was surrounded by fern, trees, and wildflowers, the pavement darker than usual from the morning's rainfall and sprinkled with pine needles. More often than people, Hannah came across a variety of slugs braving the expanse of pavement despite the dangers of human foot traffic. She was happy to see that only a few brave slugs had met their makers while the vast majority slugged forward in pursuit of their sluggish goals. Reviled by many, Hannah happened to enjoy the slimy critters and their special relationship to the local environment, possibly because she'd never had lettuce or gardens nibbled by the persistent animals.
As she neared the coffee shop, Hannah felt a familiar tension rise in her chest and in response to the anxiety she trained her breathing into a deeper, slower pace to soothe herself as she entered the cafe. It was moderately busy with most of the tables occupied by office workers, stay-at-home-moms, youthful fashionistas, and one pair of elderly yogis. Walking to the cashier at the front of the store she continued to breathe in practiced, paced waves as she waited her turn, thinking to herself over and over; You are safe. You are okay. You are safe. You are okay.
"Hey there, having a good day? What can I get for you?" The barista smiled broadly and cheerily drummed his fingers on the counter near the register.
"Enjoying this cool weather, that's for sure!" Hannah grinned and gulped a deep breath, "I'd like a 12 ounce double shot Americano, please, for here."
"Absolutely! You need room in that?"
"Nope. No room. Thank you."
The barista gave her a total and she handed over a small pile of dollar bills and told him to keep the change before shuffling toward the pick-up counter to the left. She smiled to herself and reassured herself in time with her continued slow, deep breaths; You did great! You are safe. That was friendly. You are okay. The anxiety still drummed in her chest but the slowed breathing and self-assurance helped her avoid the worse symptoms of light-headedness or tingling or breaking down into sobs. With any luck she would be able to soothe herself out of the anxious state and into a calmer mood after a few sips from her espresso once she was settled into a comfy chair or secluded table.
"12 ounce Americano for Hannah? Here ya go. Uh, hey ya wanna hear a joke?" The perky barista at the bar raised her eyebrows and smiled a toothless grin with resplendent red lipsticked lips.
"Uh, sure." Hannah shrugged, her eyes trapped by the woman's sparkling teal eye shadow and mischievous grin.
"Mr. Johnson walks out to his car one morning and finds his windows all broken up, two long wooden sticks shoved in the front seat, 15 colored balls all over the floor, a white ball in his cup holder, and a blue square of chalk on his dashboard. Do you know what the note left on his windshield said?"
Hannah shook her head, trying to school her alarmed expression as the barista described the hypothetical damage.
"Sorry about the carpool. Ha! Get it? It's a weird joke, I know, my kid brother told me it yesterday..." the barista clapped her hands, shrugged, and said, "You have a great afternoon now, ya hear?"
Hannah nodded and smiled, a little bewildered, as she took her Americano and wandered over to a small, unoccupied table near the back of the cafe. Noticing that the barista's odd joke had distracted her from her own anxiety, Hannah smiled to herself and mentally recited gratitudes as she settled into the chair, thankful for the small victory of venturing out for a coffee without having to resort to prescription medications to control her anxious feelings.
"Here's to me and getting out of the house," she murmured, lifting the ivory mug to her mouth, "One baby step at a time!"
In other news, it's been a rough day but I've been utilizing the DBT skills and trying my best without putting too much pressure on myself. I went to the lab this morning, got my bangs trimmed and my eyebrows waxed midday, and then went out to the gym and toodled around suburbia in my beater to kill some time this afternoon.
The anxiety seems a little less intense and I only had one panic attack but the sadness and dark feelings like regretting having Baby Banananface or feeling a lack of identity or anchor to the world was more troublesome. I finally fessed up about these bad feelings to the hubby and he wondered if going down on the Latuda might be leaving and opening for the depression to creep back in. We're going to have to see.
One hour at a time, plodding forward, one hour at a time.