Getting better from an episode is a little bit like being in the middle of a sagebrush field during mid-May. You know there are rattlesnakes of illness, famished and angry, anxiously awaiting the next strike in the new warmth of the sun. Despite what may be hidden in the underbrush, you must continue to move uncomfortably, lest you find yourself trapped by a fear larger than reality.
I recently had the opportunity to go out with friends for the first time since falling ill, and it went something like this:
Mistrust was not just an occasional fancy, it was an obsessional terror in my mind. I knew for certain that even my most trusted friends whispered in hushed tones behind my back about my illness and general instability. Paranoia would only begin to describe the fearful suspicion my mind created at all times, making it impossible to relax or “lighten up.” This fed into a never ending cycle where I was hyper-tensed, causing paranoia, which caused hyper-tension (literally and figuratively speaking). There was more than one time (or was it just the once – lasting the entire time? – ) that I felt my pulse would simply explode, leaving me to bleed out on the barn floor.
This was coupled with the uncertainty that I was ready for a social experience. I wasn’t sure my capabilities to hold a casual conversation or enjoy a song on the radio (or even stay on task doing simple chores) were up to par as yet. Performance anxiety would be a good way to describe it. The Lord knows it came with shaky limbs and sweaty palms for certain, and required several hours of decompression (and a goodly amount of medications both during and following the event) just to settle down.
These two fangs threatened to sink deep into my muscular tissue, ensuring a long and painful death to follow. I knew though that the anti-venom of socialization lie just beyond the next outcropping of sagebrush, and I didn’t dare tarry along the way, lest I be bitten and the poison would reach my bloodstream, toxifying the vital organs of my sanity. I hung in there and made it through with social acceptability (at least outwardly) to the point that I got invited to the next incident in which I will need to employ my snake charming and navigational skills. In the mean time, I reassure myself with the mantra “they’re more afraid of you than you are of them. – they would rather flee than bite.”