I Went Out Last Saturday. And I Enjoyed Myself.
Well, each sentence above is its own little miracle. First, I went out. That has become a rarity in my life. Between my extreme anxiety, fatigue issues, and the general mess of chronic lyme, my social life has all but evaporated. It has gotten to the point that I pretty much only leave the house to run errands, go to the doctor, attend family vacations, or for anything my daughter needs. You’ll notice routine socializing is not on that list.
At a certain point, leaving the house for pleasure became unpleasurable.
Meeting friends for dinner seems so simple doesn’t it? Nothing to it, right? You simply leave the house, meet up with your friends, share drinks and dinner and laughter, then head home. No skin off your back. Non-threatening. Fun, even.
That’s what going out used to be for me. But I don’t remember how that feels anymore. Just thinking about such a care free social experience brings tears to my eyes. I long for the time when it was that simple.
But anxiety and major GI issues and fatigue and chronic lyme make life un-simple. And un-carefree.
And when life is un-simple and un-carefree, you just want to stay home. Oh, I fought it for years. I fought it hard. When going out felt like the last thing I wanted to do, I somehow marshaled the strength to push through my physical and emotional barriers. I got myself to that dinner table. And I put on a smile. I probably even laughed. Many of you have dined with me while I was in this condition. I may have seemed fine on the outside, but I promise you I was dying on the inside. I was in agony.
At a certain point, I just didn’t see the ROI in going out. The price I paid in physical and mental suffering became too great. I died a thousand deaths every time I socialized. And then one day I just said “no more”.
That of course, is the anxiety winning. But I didn’t care. I needed a break. I needed to retreat. To heal, reflect, get help. I needed to stay in to figure out how to get out again.
It has been a spectacularly slow process that I could never explain, but change is finally happening for me. I can’t tell you exactly what did it, but a combination of time, faith, the right therapist, the right lyme doctor, and the right support from my family and friends are finally adding up to something.
I am nowhere near normal (whatever that is), but I have this sensation of slipping back into my old skin. Skin where I was more vibrant, less afraid, less tired, less anxious……and more alive. Ever so slowly, I am getting closer to somebody I recognize. Somebody who was happier, less burdened, more free. The person I was before lyme and anxiety hijacked my very happy and full life.
Last Saturday is proof of that. For the first time I can remember, I was actually happy to be going out. I enjoyed getting dressed up. I looked toward the evening with anticipation vs. dread. For so long, it was like a hostage negotiation to get me out to dinner. On Saturday, I went willingly. Make no mistake, I was still afraid. But less so. The voices that said this could be fun were louder than the ones that said I could die from this.
And I enjoyed myself. I enjoyed being out in public. I enjoyed the holiday decorations. I enjoyed flirting with my husband. I enjoyed getting in touch with a little piece of my former self, and our former life.
I used to automatically say no to any social request. And it was a firm no. Now, when social opportunities arise, my conditioned response is still no, as it’s become a habit. But I’ve started to override my automatic no with a yes, or a maybe, which still counts a progress in my book. Maybe isn’t yes, but it’s not a firm no.
I just looked at the above photo again. As I look in my eyes, I see a person who is trying very hard to walk away from a bad car accident. She’s been through a trial. She’s shaken. She may never fully recover. But ever so slowly she can regain little pieces of the life she once knew. Of the person she once was.
And I also notice one more thing: she’s smiling.