Wednesday, April 22, 2015
Jumping Back In
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.
Posted by Veronica