Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Once in a while you get shown the light...

Last week I was down at Ft. Stewart.  We got in town a little late, so Terry decided he would just drop CAROLINE off on Wednesday morning.  I had no idea what was in store for me, and don't think I could have prepared for it.  We met at the Mod in the morning, and I was surprised to see Buf and SALLY there.  Terry told us a little bit about what we were going to be doing that day, and then we set out for the commissary.  I only made it about 10 feet into the store before I froze.  I got really overwhelmed, anxious, upset, and started to have a panic attack.  I backed myself into a corner, and Buf, Terry, and I just sat down on the floor while I tried to pull myself together.  Terry and Buf were both very supportive, and talked with me while I got a handle on my anxiety.  Terry let me know that CAROLINE wants to take some of that energy from me, I just have to open up to her and let her do her job.  I tried to focus my attention on her, I couldn't even look up to see what was going on around me.  The plan was to move just a little bit at a time, and we got up and went about 10 feet and I had to stop again.  There was something different about this time in the store compared to the other times I've been out.   Whenever I felt this stress and anxiety, I always gave up and left the area.  The last trip I made, Terry made it very clear that I could not continue to do that if I wanted to get any better.  This time in the commissary, I pushed through the stress, and tried to use CAROLINE as a sponge to get some relief. 

I really wasn't in any kind of shape to go to lunch, so I went back to the hotel with CAROLINE while everyone else went to get some food.  After lunch we met at Lowe's.  Terry likes to give me an assignment when we go there, and this time it was to find the nails.  You would think that nails wouldn't be hard to find, and I was positive that the first aisle I went to had them.  I was wrong.  It seemed like we had to walk all over the store to find them.  CAROLINE started to get a little bit of an attitude, and would just stop walking.  She wouldn't obey any commands, and would just stand there.  She did this several times, and it really started to get on my nerves.  One thing I have noticed is if I show any kind of frustration with her, it usually only makes the situation worse.  So, I talked to her, tried to encourage her, and eventually she came around.  Then we found the nails, and she found the cool floor to lay on.  She wouldn't get back up.  I remember her lifting her head up off the floor, looking at me, and then just laying her head right back down.  It was kinda funny, but made me mad. 

After Lowe's we went to Walmart.  This place was a zoo.  Buf and I went to the pet section and there was no one there.  I think we both felt a little more at ease since no one was around, and we hung out there for a good bit.  After we picked up some treats for the dogs, we went back to the front where everyone was.  These two little children came up to us, and I just remember thinking, they better not reach out and try to pet CAROLINE.  Right about that time Terry stepped in and asked if they wanted to pet CHENEY.  It was definitely time to go at that point.

Dinner was good.  We went to a seafood restaurant and CAROLINE behaved very well.  I was not all that stressed while I was there, and I think CAROLINE responded to that.  After dinner I had planed on going to a recovery meeting, that was near the restaurant.  My Dad thought that I was going to drive myself, and I think my eyes about popped outta my head when he said that.  I certainly wasn't going to drive to an unfamiliar place, at night, for the first time. 

CAROLINE really likes to lick people, toes and legs especially when she is under a table.  The woman that sat next to me at the meeting was wearing shorts and flip flops, and I just knew that CAROLINE was gonna keep scooting closer and closer to her until she could lick her.  I kept her on a really short leash, and checked on her to make sure she wasn't finding her way over there.  At the end of the meetings we always say the Lord's Prayer.  I learned that I need to just step on her leash, and keep her on the ground in front of me because she went to visit with the person to my left and right.  I apologized to the people that CAROLINE was sniffing, and they said they didn't mind at all. 

That was probably the longest day I have had in the three years I have been out of the Army.  By the time we got back to the hotel, I was spent.  CAROLINE crashed not long after we got in the room.  I was sitting at the desk playing a game on the computer, and every now and then she would get up and come put her head on my lap.  She would lay down next to me, or go under the desk and lay on my feet.  I really like when she just comes by to say hello, she has me pet her for a few minutes, then she usually finds her way back to the bed.

I just knew that on Thursday Terry was gonna push all my buttons again,  I was pretty anxious, and not feeling all that great when they came to the hotel Thursday morning.  I got a huge shock then.  Terry told me to go home, and take CAROLINE with me for the night.  He planned to come by the house and take her up to Charlotte the next day.  That really made me feel like I had accomplished something.  I had pushed through my anxiety, and managed it with the help of CAROLINE.

CAROLINE was really excited when we got to the house.  She was trotting all over exploring and sniffing her new surroundings.  On the way home we called my brother and told him that she was gonna be at the house.  CAROLINE was a little startled when she saw Rob.  She has obviously never seen anyone that is 7 feet tall, and was hesitant to approach him at first.  I just told Rob to sit on the floor, and have her come to him at her own pace.  It didn't take too long before the licking started, and she warmed up to him pretty quick.

I'm not real sure how this whole process has motivated me to finally start trying to move forward, and get a handle on my PTSD.  I have been in some sort of treatment, whether it be for alcohol, drugs, or PTSD since 2006.  Every single counselor or therapist has gotten a little frustrated with me because there is something going on that makes me want to hold on to this anxiety.  I have never really opened up to anyone until recently.  I have never tried to break the barriers that I have surrounded myself with until just recently.  The trip to the commissary was a huge step in a positive direction.  That was the first time that I really dug deep, and stuck with it.