Saturday, November 21, 2009

Learning to live without my drug

I woke up invigorated to begin tackling my assigned exposures this morning. I didn’t get started with them as soon as I would have liked, because I had to work through some unplanned, unexpected exposures first. Unexpected “exposures” are definitely more intense and require a ton of energy; however, life is unpredictable, so part of my fight is learning appropriate and healthy ways to deal with the unexpected.

As I walked through the living room this morning, I noticed another resident in the sun room taking a nap on the couch with his shoes on! Immediately my heart began to race, I was short of breath, my thoughts were unbridled. My chest tightened, my shoulders tensed and my stomach restricted. A sensation of heat ran from my neck down to my upper back. I felt panicky. I wanted to do something, anything, to make my anxiety go away. I felt awful. I was in physical pain. I wanted it all to go away. I had tremendous urges to give in to some sort of ritualized behavior. I wanted my drug. All of my energy was going into fighting off compulsions. Emotionally, I couldn’t hold up, and I began to cry. I went to my room, sat on my bed and cried until my head hurt. I wanted to be in my room because I felt embarrassed…ashamed that I was crying and angry about someone who unknowingly triggered me to such a state of mental chaos. I knew that isolating myself in my room helped me not feel so embarrassed but would not help the greater cause of reviving my free spirit. I grabbed a couple tissues and headed to the living room. I was still extremely stressed and upset, but I was going to fight this out. I continued to cry as I sat in the living room. I went on a walk outside and cried as I breathed in the crisp fall air. I began to calm down, and once inside again I felt exhausted from the last 75 minutes of emotional, mental, and physical pain I had experienced as I confronted one of my fears.

As I walked past the sun room again, the same resident was still relaxing with his shoes on the couch. My anxiety peaked again, but amazingly, at a slightly lower level. I knew I didn’t have the emotional strength to fight it out again, so I avoided the situation by leaving the room completely and calling my family. Avoidance can be just as destructive as compulsions as it can lead to isolation. I’m working on it…. One major knock-down, drag-out fight a day is all I can handle. The rest of my day I continued to face my fears, one “small” battle at a time.

The 5 “small” battles, or exposures, I am focusing on until I do them with such ease and calmness that they seem ridiculous to me are:
1.) Borrowing a pen from staff. No washing, rubbing, or cleaning afterwards.
2.) Touching the sink handles with two fingers, rather than using a barrier such as a paper towel or avoiding the touching by using my fingernails.
3.) Touching my makeup containers without sanitizing them first or washing my hands afterwards. (In my mind, my makeup got contaminated at my last treatment center when I was only allowed to use water for 5 minutes every 3 days.)
4.) Move one item out of place in my closet.
5.) Watch staff touch a door handle and then touch their own face. (I generally don’t feel triggered when I see people touch handles, but if someone touches a handle then touches their face or hair, I have tremendous anxiety, feeling as though they are “spreading germs” or “cross-contaminating.”

I fought hard today.

1 comment:

  1. Kristen, it is so nice to be able to hear about your progress in treatment. I am so proud of you and all the hard work you are doing. I miss you and hope that you are meeting people that are half as cool as we were :) (jk)! Keep fighting and remember that with God, all things are possible. I will be praying for you.