Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Jumping Back In

I have a huge problem.  I am registered to compete in my first Olympic level triathlon on July 25th of this year.  It happens to fall on the one year anniversary of Garrett's funeral.  No, it's not a coincidence, that I thought that would be a good day to prove to myself that I can still triumph.  Now, I'm thinking I may have wasted $120 on a race that I may never even start.

I have mentioned plenty of times that up until July 12, 2014, swimming was my life.  I was raised around water, I lifeguarded for several years, I was on swim team, I taught swim lessons, I even taught lifeguards how to be lifeguards.  Isn't it ironic and cruel that of all people, it was MY son who drowned?  So on that horrible day last summer, I suddenly became a person who can't so much as look at a wishing fountain in a shopping mall without going into shut-down mode.  There are so many triggers that take me right back to that moment when I found Garrett and into the days surrounding his death.  I can't escape the triggers because they are a facet of every part of my life.

Water.  It's a huge problem for me now.  I can't even give Devin a bath; Cody has completely taken over that job. How on earth am I supposed to swim one mile in July, when I can't bear to look at water, let alone get IN water?

In school I've been studying all about Exposure Behavioral Therapy.  In a nutshell, a person is gradually exposed to a fear or a trigger, little by little.  So if you have an irrational fear of spiders, you start at the bottom of the fear scale and move up.  At first you may just be exposed to the WORD spider.  Then a picture will be introduced, then maybe a tickle on your arm, etc.  This happens over several sessions with the ultimate goal being the ability to look at a real live spider and not go into hysterics.

But here's the tricky part.  When you begin exposure to one scenario, and it DOES send you into hysterics, you can't leave the scenario until you have calmed down and your heart rate goes back to normal.  If you flee in the middle of a panic attack (per say) before your ride it out, it will make you backslide in the progression scale.

So when I'm standing in the grocery store and a song comes on the sound system and it's a song Garrett loved to listen to in the car, if I run out of the store mid-attack, it will only hinder my progress.  I have to stand there and listen to the song, letting it all happen, and then find recovery within the situation in which I was exposed.  I am very, very bad at doing this.

Swimming.  Chlorine.  Sun shine.  Swim suits.  Sunblock.  Pool floaties.  Beach towels.  Oh, the list is endless.  You know I can't even use house cleaners with bleach in them because it smells like chlorine and it can make me run and hide in my closet?

Tonight in therapy, we talked all about EBT and how I'm going to be swimming a mile on July 25th.  It's all about the baby steps.  I'm grateful that this swim takes place in a river, and not a sparkly blue chlorinated swimming pool.  But...all of my training must take place in a sparkly blue chlorinated swimming pool.  Not only that, it must take place at the Rec Center where I spent so much of my one-on-one time with Garrett.

Step one. Allow myself to drive by the Rec Center.  When it's on my route, I purposely take roads that go around it.  I can't even LOOK at the building.

Step two.  Drive into the parking lot and sit in my car.

Step three.  Drive into the parking lot and face the building.

Step four. Get out of my car and stand in the parking lot.

Step five. Go inside the lobby of the Rec Center.

And on, and on, and on.  This is something that will take place over the course of many weeks.  I don't know when I will get to the point where I can actually step inside the natatorium and smell the chlorine and see the swimming pool.  It seems like it's light years away.  And if I do one of these steps and fall to pieces and people are watching me?  I have to stay there, in that spot, until the tears stop and I gain control of myself again.  So people can watch, I don't care.  I'm a mother who lost her child in a horrific way and as a result, I'm have a nice case of PTSD.  Bring on the weird looks and the whispers as I sit in the corner and cry because I'm scared of the water that lay five feet away from me.

Bring it.  I'm tougher than that.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Food Pantry

Two years ago my Girl Scout troop did a service project for the local food bank, and I fell in love with it.  I fell in love with the people who worked there, with their hearts, and with the way they run the place.  As a result, I tried to make a more conscious effort to donate to them, but it usually only happened around the holidays when the grocery stores are jam packed with food donation bins.  On a normal day in a normal life, buying extra groceries for people in need is the kind of thing that slipped my mind.  I think that's what happens with most of us, anyway.

A couple of months ago we were at a really low place (let's face it, every day is a really low place but some days are worse than others).  Cody suggested we do something for charity, some sort of service project, to help distract us from our own pain.  It's the kind of thing that is a very short-lived fix, but that's okay.  A little bit of service is better than no service.  We decided that from there on out, we would put aside $100 a month to buy food for the Food Pantry, and make a whole night of it.  This is the second month we have done it, and it has proven again to be oh so gratifying.

It's amazing what happens to your heart when you step out of your own world of misery, and think of someone else's world of misery.  The good feeling doesn't last terribly long, but these days we take any sort of relief we can get.  Last month, the first month we did it, we ended up having a pretty good time at the store.  The kids got very involved with picking out the food and using their math skills to estimate, round numbers, and add.  We taught them about getting the most bang for your buck, buying house brand verses name brand, etc.

I think we've decided to make a family night out of this activity on the third Tuesday of the month.  Tonight was a good night, and the kids were even more involved and as a side effect, more excited.  They did everything from pick out the food, put it in the carts, load it onto the belt at the check out, load it into the van...you get the idea.  At the check out we waited with bated breath to see what the total would be.  Last month we came in right at $87 and change.  Tonight we came in at $99.64!  We all cheered and Cody said that we should go on "The Price Is Right".

The Food Pantry has a giant scale that we load the items onto.  Tonight we decided to make it interesting and all the kids made bets on how much our lot would weigh.  Ethan guessed 150 pounds, and it was 148 pounds exactly.  We celebrated by going to dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant in town.






 





As with every second of my life, I thought of Garrett the whole time tonight.  Although I tried to put my grief aside for a little while, he was never away from my thoughts.  I have this picture taped near the steering wheel of my van and he is always in my line of vision.  As we drove home this evening, I looked at his face and hoped that he was aware of what we were doing.  How we are trying to heal.  How everything we do is to make us stronger, more fortified, more aware of the Bigger Picture.  Garrett, I..... am at a loss for what I want to say to you.  Maybe you can look into my heart and find the words because they are there, but they can't make it past the lump in my throat.  I love you.  I love you so much I can feel the ache in every part of my bones.  I hope you are proud with us.  I hope you will continue to help us be strong.

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